Books that Might Just Change the World

It is just about time to pull a shirt over your newly minted sunburn and head back to the office (or study). You may be facing this new year with a raft of resolutions, hopes and dreams or you may be dragging your feet with reluctance and perhaps a trace of despair.

However, wherever you find yourself, these three books will light a fire somewhere inside you. Potent, anarchic, provocative and soul-rending. These books are powerful stuff, written by authors who want to challenge the status quo. They are books of protest.

Whether it is a slap in the face or the gentlest tug of your heart strings, after reading these novels, you will be inspired to make news years resolutions that will last a lifetime. Because it wasn’t just the modernists who wanted to make the world a better place. One reader at a time, these contemporary novels of protest may just change the world.

 

your heart is a muscle the size of a fistYour Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa

Out this month, Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is the debut novel from new literary talent Sunil Yapa . . . wow! Talk about a rabbit-punch to the guts.

Set during the intensity of the 1999 World Trade Organisation Riots, this book deals with the big stuff and the small stuff. Yapa narrows in on people who could have been part of these historical protests giving a face to history, while at the same time, illuminating into the bigger global picture. Police brutality, civil war, governmental injustice, free trade, murder, estrangement; this book does not shy from the big issues which are still sickeningly relevant seventeen years on.

Sunil Yapa has been noted as an author to watch. His voice is refreshing and challenging, it rocks and rolls with emotion and is high with the smells and texture of Seattle. You feel as though you are there with the protesters, in lockdown, tear gas raining on your face and your hands, held vicelike in your neighbour’s as you yell together, ‘THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!’

 

the god of small thingsThe God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy 

Set in Kerala, India in the year 1969, The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, reveals the unspoken rules of love; of what is forbidden, secret and shameful. Told through the various members of one family and based in a society that is entrenched in a historic caste system, this book is also unnervingly relevent in western society today.

The confronting honesty of this story is beleyed by Roy’s vivid and textural prose. You will taste the mangoes, and smell the heat of the city. You will be completely transported by this novel. It is a story that is at once confronting, tragic and unerringly beautiful. It is a book that calls us to treasure one another and to throw off societies’ restrictions and rules about who should be loved, how they should be loved and how much.

I cried when I finished it. Not a common occurrence for me.

 

prodigal summerProdigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver 

Set against the backdrop of a struggling farming community of Appalacia, Virginia, Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver is, at its heart, a story about saving the world, one organic farm and reintroduced species at a time.

Three key plotlines weave throughout this novel. A research biologist watches the return of coyotes and tries to protect them from poachers, a newcomer to the area turns to subsistance farming to raise goats (which run amock in the local area) rather than growing tobacco and an elderly local strives to keep the local Chestnut tree alive (despite logging and a fatal fungus) while arguing with his neighbour about the use of pesticides for farming.

This book is enlightening but it is also emmersive. Kingsolvers’ challenge to us is told through the eyes of characters that are as believable as your next door neighbour. You won’t really realise how much you have learned about ecology and green living until you have finished the book and can’t wait to start an organic veggie patch in your own back yard.

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Libby likes to think of herself as widely read but is probably more of an eclectic hoarder – anything from NZ poetry books to Japanese novellas to chick-lit set in Manhattan crosses her bedside table. However, if a curator was looking through her bookshelves in order to find a link between all of the pages, it would probably have a bent towards literary fiction (think Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Mitchell), short stories (Yoko Ogawa, Susan Orr, Dave Egger) and novels with a nod to history (Tracy Chevalier, Arthur Golden, Kathryn Stockett).

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