Covers of Exit West, Who Are We, Girl Woman Other and How to Change It, on a yellow background
Covers of Exit West, Who Are We, Girl Woman Other and How to Change It, on a yellow background

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Evaristo’s eighth novel follows 12 different people – mostly women and mostly Black. Sweeping between the past and the present, from England to the US, it’s a portrait of Black woman told in a distinctive prose verse style.

Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize in 2019, making Evaristo the first Black woman to ever win the prestigious award.

Topics/themes: Feminism, racism, class, arts and culture

Who Are We? by Gary Younge

Who Are We? explores the issues that bring the powerful elite and the poor immigrant together, and combine Younge’s personal story with a wider national, and international, look at politics.

From Stevenage to America, the borders of Europe to South Africa, Who Are We? asks readers to search for a common and higher ground. Younge’s other books include No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the American South, which won the Guardian First Book Award.

Topics/themes: Politics, British history

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In Hamid’s novel, Nadia and Saeed meet and fall rapidly in love, but their future is threatened by war. In the world they live in, doors are opening that lead to other cities and countries, and Nadia and Saeed make the decision to find a door and step through.

Exit West, which is Hamid’s fourth novel after The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Discontent and its Civilisations, combines a love story with commentary on the refugee crisis, told via a novel that blurs genres.

Reviewing the book in The New Yorker, writer and critic Jia Tolentino said: “Hamid draws enchantment from abstraction, in the style of a fairy tale, and his narrative vantage point shifts through time and space with a godlike equanimity.” 

Topics/themes: Refugees, war, immigration, love

How To Change It by Joshua Virasami and How To Build It by Niran Vinod and Damola Timeyin

These pocket-sized guides are both part of the How To series from #Merky Books.

In How To Change It, artist and organiser Virasami sets out lessons for successful campaigning, drawing on the work of movements including Extinction Rebellion, Occupy and Black Lives Matter. The book is introduced by Patrisse Cullors, artist, organiser and freedom fighter from Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter.

How to Build It is a book about growing your brand and giving it longevity, written by creative strategists Vinod and Timeyin. The book includes creative tasks and personal insight from the two authors.

Topics/themes: Activism, business

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

This debut novel tells the story of the displacement of Asian people from Uganda in the 1970s, via the stories of two men decades apart. In the present day timeline, Sameer is a successful lawyer about to embark on a job in Singapore when a tragedy calls him home to Leicester. There, he figures out that the key to his future lies in his family’s past. In that past is Hasan, who writes letters to his late wife as the country he lives in, Uganda, decides that he and his family are no longer welcome.

Zayyan won the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers' Prize with a partial draft of this novel.

Topics/themes: African history, immigration, colourism, British history

Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera

Journalist Sanghera looks at the legacy of imperialism and the British Empire on UK society today in his first history book.

Combining memoir and history, Empireland is split into sections examining topics including politics, British exceptionalism, racism and more. Through the book, Sanghera makes the argument that the UK needs to talk about its history – mainly via education – if it is to truly combat some of the worst aspects of present-day society.

Topics/themes: Colonialism, British history, racism

Books by other publishers

Cover of Woman at Point Zero

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Published by Zed Books

Egyptian writer El Saadawi founded the Arab Women's Solidarity Association and co-founded of the Arab Association for Human Rights, and was one of the most famous feminists the Western world hasn’t heard of. She authored more than 50 novels, short stories and non-fiction works, centring on the status of women, and was jailed for her activism in 1981, before being forced to flee Egypt in 1988. She eventually returned to Cairo in 1996, and lived there until her death in 2021.

Her seminal feminist novel Woman at Point Zero is the story of Firdaus, an Egyptian peasant girl who is currently in jail. Firdaus shares her memories of violence at the hands of men including her abusive father, her much older husband and her deceitful boyfriend-turned-pimp, violence that leads her to take radical action. First published in 1975 in Arabic, the book is still as relevant and sharp today.

Topics/themes: Violence against women, feminism

Cover of The Buddha of Suburbia

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kurieshi

Published by Faber & Faber

Kureishi’s debut novel is about dreamy teenager Karim, desperate to escape suburbia and experience the forbidden fruits of the 1970s. When he gets an unlikely opportunity to work in theatre, he starts to get the attention he craves, although the results are unexpectedly rude and raucous.

The Buddha of Suburbia was made into a BBC television series with a soundtrack by David Bowie, and in an essay Zadie Smith described the book as a “lovely, funny, honest” novel. It won the Whitbread Award for best first novel (now the Costa First Novel Prize).

Topics/themes: Coming of age, humour

Cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Published by Bloomsbury

Eddo-Lodge’s book was inspired by a blog post of the same name that went viral.

In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which sparked a national conversation and a genre of similar books, Eddo-Lodge explores the link between class and race, the eradication of Black history and more. Other books to read on similar topics included Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish) and Akala’s Natives.

The paperback of Eddo-Lodge’s book saw her become the first Black British author ever to take the number one spot on the non-fiction paperback charts in the UK.

Topics/themes: British history, racism, class

Cover of Dance of the Jakaranda, a red snake on a beige background

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

Published by Telegram Books

Set in Kenya in 1963, when the country is on the verge of independence from British colonial rule, people from all backgrounds come together at the previously white-only establish, the Jakaranda Hotel. There, the resident pianist is Rajan Salim, who one evening is kissed by a mysterious woman in a shadowy corridor. Unable to forget her, he sets out on to find her, stumbling on the journey on the murky, shared history three men: his grandfather, British preacher Richard Turnbull, and Ian McDonald, owner of the Jakaranda and former colonial administrator. What Rajan learns will open his eyes.

Kimani is a Kenyan journalist and author, and Dance of the Jakaranda was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. 

Topics/themes: Colonialism, Kenyan history

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