Clockwise: The Woman In Me by Britney Spears, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry, The Seven Moons of Maal Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka, Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, Yellowface by RF Kuang
When a wildly successful Asian author, Athena Liu, dies, her friend June Hayward, a white writer, steals her work-in-progress, finishes it and publishes it as her own. Does one have to write about what they know? How much does diversity matter in the book trade? Hayward goes through guilt and justification as the story explores cultural appropriation, the role of social media in shaping careers and cancel culture. Besides the fact that it is zeitgeisty and a thriller that keeps you turning the pages, it provides an inside view of the workings of the cut-throat publishing industry.
Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry
I've read my share of memoirs, and when they're the celebrity kind, there's usually a predictable flow:
A few amusing anecdotes.
A couple of bombshells.
A narrative that makes you sympathetic to the writer.
In Matthew Perry's memoir, which has become more poignant after his sudden death, I wasn't prepared for the raw, forthright, sometimes excruciating detail that would colour each page—none of which absolves him of his life choices. For fans of Friends, he maps out his addiction phases to what was going on in the show, and when you re-watch it after reading the book, you'll know how to spot whether he was on alcohol, drugs or in rehab that season. The book is replete with heart-warming and jarring revelations, and all told with Perry's signature wry wit. What I loved most was learning, through his storytelling style, how much of Chandler was actually who Matthew Perry really was.
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida single-handedly saved me from becoming one of those grown-ups who no longer read. I interviewed Karunatilaka in January, a few months after he won the Booker Prize 2022 for this book, which pushes you into its world from the get-go with the sheer smartness and wit of the narrative. It compares the afterlife to a hospital waiting room, for one. The novel starts with a dead person addressing himself in the second person, which lasts throughout the novel. It's centred around Maali Almeida, "photographer, gambler, slut"—and now ghost—who has seven days to find out who killed him. Set in Sri Lanka during the civil war in the late 1980s, it is a thriller, a satire, a gay love story, and a heartwarming narrative about friendship, politics and betrayal, all rolled into one. This is a book you shouldn't miss. Also read: Top 10 best books to read: From Stephen Schwarzman's memoir to The Essential Business Storytelling Handbook
Cassandra In Reverse by Holly Smale
This book was a Reese's Book Club recommendation, and it is a story about Cassandra, a neurodivergent woman in London who discovers that she can travel back in time and uses that ability to get back with her boyfriend. As she keeps going back in time to fix every tiny thing that goes wrong, she realizes that it was not the events of her life that she was trying to correct, but herself. Smale's writing does a good job of keeping you hooked to the story, helping us get into Cassandra's head and look at the world the way she would. Although it drags a wee bit midway, the narrative soon picks up pace and becomes a story of warmth, sisterhood and self-acceptance. DARIELLE BRITTO'S PICK
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
From a childhood shaped by tough love to the pinnacle of fame and success in Hollywood, Academy Award-winning actor Mathew McConaughey chronicles his unconventional life journey within the pages of his autobiography Greenlights, published in 2020. McConaughey shares personal anecdotes and pivotal moments guided by the metaphorical "green lights" illuminating his path. By sharing his experiences and reflective insights, McConaughey invites readers to find meaning in the journey for those seeking to navigate their own path.Listen to More Book Reviews: From the Bookshelves of Forbes India
My forming years were about learning English and trying to look cool in front of our metropolitan cousins. Knowing who Britney Spears is and being able to sing her songs (word by word) felt like an achievement. Her dance routines and wardrobe were impossible to imitate, but using her music to understand the fascinating American pop culture was a rabbit hole I willingly entered all the time. But this Britney Spears was a persona created by an intelligent PR machine and cruel, heartless parents who only cared about fame, name, and money. Britney was never there. She was always locked in the shackles of toxic conservatorship. After the court ended this invisible imprisonment, she finally got the chance to tell her side of the story, and every word blows your mind as it pierces the decades-old facade. The Woman In Me is a fan's opportunity to finally meet someone they could only see and feel in the songs.
Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism By Yanis Varoufakis
The name Yanis Varoufakis and the phrase 'technofeudalism' made me pick up this book in the first place. I was not familiar with the word 'technofeudalism', but I was familiar with Varoufakis's general thinking ever since he became Greece's finance minister in 2015. And therefore, I was curious.
What he says in the book is—if you have read, even on and off, all that has been written about how the nation-state has become increasingly irrelevant with the rise of Big Business and Big Tech—is not entirely new. It mostly summarises global-scale events, decisions and actions over many decades. But what he does so brilliantly is join the dots, apart from explaining some of those dots in ways that you might not have considered earlier. Given my own personal political and ideological leanings, it made my hackles rise in rage now and then. Yes, you can argue it is confirmation bias. But he presents facts, not opinions. And facts are very difficult to deny. And given the gargantuan rise of Big Tech in the recent past and its stranglehold on every waking (and sleeping) moment of our lives, these facts are even more difficult to ignore.