Summer is in full swing: this is the time to escape work and responsibility, and instead flee to the beach or the mountains with a good book and the people you hold dear. In this occasion, the editorial team at K2.0 has decided to compile a small list of books we can recommend, in case you still have room on your reading list — or even better, if your reading list is empty.
The aim was to select a “light summer reading list,” but there are limits to how “light” the literature recommended by a group of journalists and editors can be. Nevertheless, we hope that some of these books can serve you during your limited escape from reality, and that they are “light” enough for your brain to process in the midst of this deadly summer heat.
Iliriana Banjska, Managing Editor: “Blue Mondays” by Arnon Grunberg
My recommendation is “Blue Mondays” by Arnon Grunberg (a Dutch author). His style is very unique, it’s a bit of a mixture between “realism” and “brutalism” in Bukowski’s style, but his prose flows much smoother. The funny thing about this novel is that he wrote it when he was 22 on a dare and it became a big success in The Netherlands (he wasn’t an established author then).
What I love about it is that is breaks with the idea that novels should have some grandeur about the story. This is a tale of a bored, very simple and normal teenage guy in Amsterdam who just lives a random life. The reader goes on a random, and at times weird journey with the character, since Grunberg uses a language so simple that it’s romantic in its authenticity and banality. I think that this is the modern day answer to Sartre’s “Nausea” or Bukowski’s “Factotum,” but a version that has been stripped off its literary tricks.
Nidžara Ahmetašević, Regional Editor: “Under Pressure” by Faruk Šehić
Bosnian author Faruk Šehić is a poet and a war veteran dubbed by some literary critics as the “Bosnian Hemingway” due to his writing style and the topics he writes about. In this book of short stories, Šehić writes about the war in the ’90s when he was an active soldier and unit commander in the army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the war, broken and with PTSD, he is trying to understand the war, people and Bosnia. It is well written and different from anything one typically reads about the war and Bosnia. The book was translated and printed in English thanks to a Kickstarter campaign on the part of the Balkans specialist publisher, Istros Books.
Sindre Langmoen, Editor: “Moominpappa at Sea” by Tove Jansson.
While most people who are familiar with the Moomins know them from the television series, the books are the real treasure — and should be read by adults and children alike.
“Moominpappa at Sea” is seen by many as the book in the series that marks a transition. Previous books were aimed specifically at children, while the later stories would take on additional depth of character and complexity in the themes treated.
In the story, Moominpappa sets off with his family on a journey to a lighthouse at sea, disillusioned with an easy life in which he feels unfulfilled and unneeded. Finding the lighthouse to be a cold and desolate place, they all have difficulties finding themselves at home. All members of the family go through individual introspective journeys of growth. Moominpappa attempts to find fulfillment by coming up with invariably failing projects, leaving him facing the sea; Moominmamma seeks refuge by painting all the flowers from their home, the Moominvalley; Moomintroll is faced with the Groke, who is loneliness, cold and death personified.
The book was dedicated to Tove Jansson’s departed father, and serves as a portrait of a complex man as well as a heartfelt farewell.
Trendelinë Halili, Video Assistant: “Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye” by Rudolf Arnheim
Art and Visual Perception is a psychological book about the creative eye. I recommend this book if you are into understanding the visual language. It explores how our brain reads and understands things like lines and shapes. Since half of the human brain is devoted to processing visual information, this book will help develop your perception of things, and help the observer in creating visuals.
The book deals with what can be seen by everybody, but helps us see better and approach works of art.
This book is for those who want to go beyond the basics and get into science of visual thinking — but be warned, it is not an easy book to read on the beach.
Nerina Guri, Journalist: “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang
I recommend “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang — an unorthodox economics book in many regards, treating topics such as: how “free” the free market actually is, and whether it really exists in the state that is often explained by mainstream economists and politicians; how one might not agree with putting economists and politicians in the same group, but that one cannot truly separate the economy from politics; why the washing machine might be viewed as a more revolutionary invention for the economy than the internet itself, etc.
Following a very authentic approach, the book is constructed by first presenting the mainstream explanations of key economic concepts and themes, which are heavily influenced by the neoliberal dogma, and then by explaining the same through some heterodox and pragmatic lenses. Its structure is built in such a way that the reader can read the whole book through, pick certain chapters in order to understand a topic, or pick any chapter and still understand it. Last but not least, its style and language make it an easy read and accessible to a wide audience, not just for people with a background in economics.
Fitim Salihu, Journalist: “The Sirens of Baghdad” by Yasmina Khadra
Yasmina Khadra is the pen name used by Algerian writer Mohammed Moulessehoul. He was an officer in Algeria at the time of writing his first books, and in order to escape censorship, he decided to intentionally write with the pseudonym of a woman.
“The Sirens of Baghdad” is the latest novel of his trilogy that deals with the impact of religious fundamentalism on the daily life of Middle Eastern citizens. The book plot takes place in Iraq at the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime and in the first years following the American invasion. The novel’s pillar is the effects that religious fundamentalism can have on everyday lives of ordinary people.
In this novel, Khadra also deals with the dilemma between living in an authoritarian and dictatorial regime — but which provides social welfare and security, but lacks in freedom — and living in a regime with freedom of speech and choice, but which has neither security nor economic well-being.
In fact, all of Khadra’s novels are a very accurate picture of Arab societies and through them, one can learn a lot about everyday life in these places.
Arian Lumezi, Journalist: “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” by Melinda Gates
As co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda works extensively on projects that aim to achieve more progress and equality by empowering women. After years of traveling, extensive research and humanitarian work, and also living herself with people suffering from these problems, she offers a brutally honest story about suffering and argues how equality influences the well-being and prosperity of families and of the economy in general.
The book also focuses on cases of inspiration, like a girl who reached an agreement with her father that she would agree to undergo female genital cutting, on the condition that she would continue attending school.
It is also interesting that some of the examples in the book related to the lack of gender equality seem similar to what happens in other societies, like in Kosovo, such as the custom of certain African countries where the wife and kids have to wait for the husband to eat, before dining on what’s left on the table. I think that everyone should read it.
Dafina Halili, Journalist: “The Woman Destroyed” by Simone de Beauvoir
“In three immensely intelligent stories about the decay of passion, Simone de Beauvoir draws us into the lives of three women, all past their first youth, all facing unexpected crises… Suffused with de Beauvoir’s remarkable insights into women, “The Woman Destroyed” gives us a legendary writer at her best,” wrote The Sunday Herald Times (London) upon the book’s 1969 publication in English, a comment that I find does fairness to this remarkable fictional piece by de Beauvoir.
I got it as a gift a few months ago, and now I cannot stop recommending it to every female friend I have. Three long stories will make any reader reflect on, if not question, their ideas about freedom, dependence, fidelity, sex and relationships, among others. If you have read “The Second Sex,” just imagine how the prominent philosopher, feminist and political activist put her social theories into a work of fiction and into the lives of three women that we undoubtely will recognize.
Ngadhnjim Avdyli, Journalist: “Terxhuman” by Idlir Azizi
The story unfolds in Tirana, in September, 2004, when Albania’s National Football team played against Greece, a few months after the latter won the European Championship. A journalist from London’s Financial Times comes to cover the event, but to do this he needs a local who can translate, find context and explain the context to him.
The other character is the “fixer,” or the “terxhuman,” after which the novel is titled. Terxhuman accepts the job since it is paid much better than the average job in Albania, but it still doesn’t compare to the journalist’s wage: despite the fact that it is impossible for him to finish his job without the terxhuman’s help, and that all the intellectual work is done by the “fixer.”
In spite of this, the journalist holds the primacy in their relations, often being arrogant towards the terxhuman, but also lecturing him about postcolonial science, progress and equality, even though his actions do not match these claims.
On the other hand, the terxhuman is very critical of the journalist, but he keeps his criticism to himself: even when the journalist demands “exotic” subjects about Albania, which puts forth the idea that this is how stereotypes about Albanian society are maintained (even beyond the Albanian society) and dominate in media or among European exponents.
Tensions increase further after the journalist meets another character, a former professor of the University of Tirana — a complex, cynical, challenging figure, a denunciator of Albanian society. He deconstructs Albanian society, which he describes as “unopen, with open legs.” He argues with intellectuals, politicians and NGO’s, which according to him are only interested in preserving the status quo and prioritizing their wealth. The professor continuously attempts to deconstruct dominant lectures in Albania.
In spite of this, the journalist is indifferent toward the professor.
Through this novel, Azizi attempts to analyze Albanian society, their relations with internationals, the political powerlessness of the Albanian state, survival and lack thereof, as well as dominant lectures in this society.K
Feature Image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.