Art & Culture

Books to Gift For Every Age Group

More recommended reads

Honor by Thrity Umgar
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
My Education by Susan Choi

A decade in the making, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s debut novel is an exercise in appreciating one’s passing.

Before diving into Nagamatsu’s How High We Go In the Dark, I was hesitant to read a novel set during a global pandemic.

Set only a few years in the future, the book presents the reader with the simple stories of people who survived and how they grieve. These snapshots of human life gently imprint on one another, with characters from one story appearing in another, a reminder of the interconnectedness of life on Earth. 

In one sketch, parents bring their ill children to a theme park for their final moments together. In another, a man desperately tries to preserve the ability of a robot dog that is encoded with memories from his dead wife.

Readers will enjoy the pacing of the novel but might find the tone a bit monotonous as, although the perspectives shift in each chapter, the tone of the narration remains quite unchanged. 

Cursed Bunny: Stories by Bora Chung
Korean author Bora Chung makes a splashy debut in the English translations genre with “Cursed Bunny: Stories,” a collection of 10 short stories. By “splashy,” I mean that literally, with the first story, titled “The Head,” about a monster that grows in a woman’s toilet, using the woman’s waste products to form itself. While that narrative and the second from the book feel like social commentary on a woman’s place in a patriarchal and patronizing world, the title story and those that follow are where Chung really shines. 
Chung is brilliant at creating folklorish tales where monsters and humans converge. “Cursed Bunny” recounts the fate of a family whose trade is making cursed fetishes, and the aftermath of one such curse. “Snare” tells the legend of a man who comes upon a wounded fox that bleeds gold. “Scars” depicts the story of a boy who grows up in a cave, imprisoned by a monster that sucks at his spinal fluid and the boy’s eventual escape as a young man. The stories are at once enthralling and horrific reads, but not all the narratives fall into this mythic category: another is set in a cyberpunk-feeling future, about a person trying to preserve the memory of their first robot. For readers who like a bit of a scare and don’t shy away from unhappy endings, “Cursed Bunny” is the perfect collection of tales.
Fatty Fatty Boom Boom: A Memoir of Food, Fat, and Family by Rabia Chaudry 
Do you live to eat or eat to live? For those who fall into the former group, “Fatty Fatty Boom Boom” is a perfect pairing. Following the life of attorney Rabia Chaudry, the memoir traces Chaudry’s life and love for food back to the marriage of her parents in Lahore, Pakistan, to nearly the present day. Chaudry is the friend of Adnan Syed, the subject of the record-breaking true-crime podcast “Serial.” After the success of “Serial,” Chaudry went on to write a bestselling book “Adnan’s Story” that argues that Syed was wrongfully convicted of the murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, which was made into an HBO special in 2017. Over the course of telling her life’s story, Chaudry gives readers a feast for the mind and also provides recipes at the end of the book for those hungering to try a taste of her culture. 
Food is centered in all aspects of Chaudry’s life, in ways that are beautiful and questionable — the image that is forever seared in my mind is of her mother giving her sticks of butter to soothe her gums as a teething toddler. Her love for food bounds off the page in the sensuous descriptions of not only Pakistani food but also American fast food that the Chaudrys were exposed to when they immigrated to the United States. As the memoir continues (to be honest, it is more of a biography than a memoir), we see Chaudry’s struggle with the realization that her love for food has become an uncontrollable obsession, something that may be apparent to readers who have struggled with being fat will instantly recognize. The book will have you salivating page after page, but what truly marinates is a new understanding of what it means to be part of a Pakistani family.

This was an except from “Books to Gift For Every Age Group” published by Mochi Magazine.

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