By: Mahnoor Mir
1. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion by Jia Tolentino
Tolentino’s debut book is a collection of nine essays surrounding everything from contemporary feminism to recreational drug use, told through a culmination of memoirish personal insights and carefully collected research. Each essay is both easily digestible and intellectually stimulating while grappling with modernist identity politics that Tolentino claims delude us all. I love reading essay collections during a particularly busy week because the shortened increments of reading always seem less intimidating alongside my workload. My personal favourite essays in this collection are definitely “Ecstasy,” which juxtaposes Tolentino’s experiments with recreational drugs against her experience with religion; and “I thee dread,” which offers personal insight into her reluctance towards marriage.
2. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
I love a good memoir, and this one in particular makes for a fast-paced and entertaining read. Short, sharp, and filled with self-deprecating humour, Fisher explores everything from her childhood to her struggle with alcoholism and bipolar disorder, to her series of tumultuous relationships and life in Hollywood. Recommended for anyone looking for a short one-sitting read, even if you aren’t the biggest Princess Leia fan.
3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of my favourite works of fiction, Americanah takes you through the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, a Nigerian couple that eventually part ways and immigrate to separate countries. Their relationship to each other is explored against the background of immigrant life in both the United States and England, and Adichie offers deeply important sociocultural criticism on American politics, race, the immigrant identity crisis, and how these forces shape our lives. The narrative structure feels reminiscent of a non-fiction social commentary intertwined between a turbulent love story and plays out as a deeply rewarding read by the end.
4. My Body by Emily Ratajkowski
When Emily Ratajkowski appeared fully nude on a plethora of magazine covers time and time again, she argued that being fully enveloped and in charge of her sexuality equated to female empowerment. Now, she’s not so sure. In My Body, Ratajkowski investigates the conflicting ideas of what constitutes feminism in a modern world and examines the hidden power dynamics that were at play during moments in her career she previously had deemed to be completely empowering. These essays explore the often contradicting and difficult aspects of being a woman living under the patriarchy in a brutally honest and intelligent way, and I was surprised at how relatable they were. Ratajkowski does not attempt to offer a black and white explanation, instead she provides sensitive and thoughtful insight into her complicated relationship with her body, her sexuality, and the world at large.
5. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
By far one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read, My Year of Rest and Relaxation follows our unnamed narrator through a year of hibernation and popping pills solicited through an unreliable psychiatrist. The narrator is morally ambiguous and the novel is filled with idiosyncrasies — two things I love in a book. Moshfegh spares no expense to ensure you’re left rattled and intrigued until the very last page. Moshfegh sums up her work best, as she describes to Vice Magazine: “My writing lets people scrape up against their own depravity, but at the same time it’s very refined […] It’s like seeing Kate Moss take a shit.”