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One of our followers on Instagram requested recommendations for short classics—so our booksellers put together some favorites!
This raucous classic, finally out of the archives and into print, by Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay, is a whirlwind taking us back and forth across the Atlantic and expounding on disability, queer and straight lives, politics, and dancing. It begins with Lafala lying in a hospital bed. By chance he lost his legs, and, since in America, he sued the company responsible. With money in his pockets and corks on his stumps, he’s heading back to Marseille to try to woo his lady love, a prostitute named Aslima. But things never go smoothly, and a rag-tag group of dockworkers plus a socialist join his efforts while others try to take advantage of him or seek revenge. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and wheeling from one wild mishap to the next. -Kaitlyn
Following WWII the UK experienced a labor shortage and encouraged people from the Commonwealth to emigrate to the “Mother Country.” The Housing Lark places us squarely within a group of friends, all immigrants from the Caribbean living in 1960s London, who may (or may not) have found jobs but are all experiencing extreme housing discrimination. The “lark” is their plan to pool their money to buy a house, and lark it seems as these dreamers waste their savings and imperil their hope. This novel is a wonderful bridge between Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. What I loved most of all was how funny it is—not what you typically expect in postcolonial literature! -Kaitlyn
I read this novel for the first time in my freshman lit seminar in college. While discussing a pivotal scene of violence, another student slammed both the book and his mind shut, refusing to keep reading because he disagreed with a choice that a character made, calling the book unrealistic because he could never picture himself doing what she did. My professor asked us to look at our own lives, at the ways in which we were protected from ever having to make such a choice, to consider that other lives force choices that may seem unimaginable to us. For the first time I saw the potential for reading to cultivate empathy, how it can be used as a tool to break open our narrow perspectives and show us other facets of the human experience. Morrison’s writing is stunningly visceral, and I revisit this novel when I need a reminder of what incredible writing is and of what it can do. I hope that someday that student finished the book. —Kelsey
This book reads like a lucid dream. Revisiting the murder of a friend that occurred 27 years prior, the narrator wanders through the memories that surround the event like a psychedlic haze. The weather, dreams, wild parties, hangovers, sex, and (misdirected) passions of these characters create a confused, surreal mosaic of the murder, the plans of which were known by everyone, including the victim - so how could it have happened? The question creates a spiral with no clear, central answer; as we move toward the center, the pace of the story escalates, its humor darkening and thickening and culminating in brutality. Short and spell-casting, this book is ever-relevant, a meditation on accountabiliity and respsonsibility within our communities. —Madison