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    9 Books That Will Stay With You Long After You've Finished Reading Them

    The best books are the ones you tell your friends to read.

    In case you don't know anything about me (and let's be honest, you don't) I'm a big book person.

    Woman with long dark hair and blue eyes taking selfies in front of a bookcase
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Seriously, sometimes I think my identity is too centred around books. Reading is my biggest hobby, it impacts my career and it's also the reason why I'm finishing up a Master of Creative Writing at university. I like to think of myself as BuzzFeed Oz's resident bookworm.

    I often get sent a huge amount of books by publishers in Australia — which is great because it means my to-read list never ends and I'm often introduced to novels, authors and ideas that I never would have thought to pick up in store.

    Disney

    So, my reading is often a super eclectic mix of genres, old books and not-published-yet books, with a couple of international authors thrown in the mix (generally I like to focus on Aussie authors to support our local literary scene).

    Disney

    I'm a big believer in sharing whatever I read — talking about books and the impact they have can be hugely cathartic — especially when the person you're talking with brings a different perspective to the table.

    Woman with long dark hair looking up at a huge bookcase behind her
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Everyone interprets an author's work differently — being open to these alternate messages that someone draws from a piece of work has led to some of the best conversations I've had in my life.

    And in that vein I wanted to share with you — the lovely people who read book reviews — some great and powerful books I've recently read, along with the next few on my to-read list.

    1. Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

    A blue book cover featuring a young Black woman
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    This is one of the few books on this list that comes from an international author, but I had to include it for a number of reasons. First up, retellings of fairytales have always been a favourite genre of mine. When a retelling is done right, it's got the perfect amount of nostalgia, mixed with thought-provoking concepts on how fairytales affect us and a storyline that has evolved from the original fable to one that's grown up with you.

    In Cinderella Is Dead, the heroine, Sophia, is living 200 years after Cinderella found her prince. Like all the young women in the novel, she has to attend the ball for "choosing" and if she's not chosen by a man — she risks being forfeit. Essentially, Bayron has imagined what would happen if every young woman had to follow the footsteps of Cinderella and what the society that enforced those ideals would look like.

    What follows is a feminist uprising, a heroic journey and a final showdown that I was just enthralled by. It's a perfect read for teens and young adults as, at times, the language can be a bit straight-to-the-point. But, it's also great for anyone who just wants to read a good story.

    One of the reasons I love the book is that Sophia is a queer, Black woman. Digging deeper into the story, it's one of extreme identity oppression — day in and day out Sophia is forced to live by rules that conflict with who she is as a person.

    Accompanying the press release I got with this book was a letter from Bayron. In it she says, "I've spent my life seeking stories that centre on Black women, particularly in YA where I, along with many young readers, often go to find reflections of ourselves at a time when we are discovering who we are and what we stand for. I am humbled to be able to add Cinderella Is Dead to a growing list of works that give readers yet another opportunity to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories".

    I sincerely hope that this review means more readers are exposed to this book and are given the representation in their reading that I've had the privilege of having my entire life.

    2. The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

    Light grey novel cover with "The Morbids" cut out of the cover with the picture behind peaking through
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Trigger warning: This book (and review) deals with death, depression, suicide and anxiety.

    Honestly, if you've ever been a waitress, BUY THIS BOOK. Before I got my job at BuzzFeed, I worked in hospitality for roughly eight years. I worked as a waitress, a bar tender, in events and by the end of it, I was one of the floor managers at The Potting Shed at the Grounds of Alexandria in Sydney.

    I kid you not, I Googled the author after I'd finished the book to make sure some of the characters weren't based off people I used to work with — the characters were just that spot on.

    The Morbids tells the story of Caitlin, who is convinced that she's going to die. Every Tuesday she meets with a group of people who are all affected by death anxiety. For a while, Caitlin is able to cope by distracting herself with work, drinking and walking extremely long distances home to tire herself out before bed. But, she can't keep it up forever.

    I immediately connected with this novel. One, because the author paints the hospitality life so perfectly and two, during the pandemic, the subject of death has been more prevalent to me.

    Ramsey manages to capture the ins and outs of hospitality. I've been where Caitlin has been, where my mind is simply a lists of next tasks, where my body seems to dance to the rhythm of dockets spitting out of the machine and I no longer have to think — I just need to trust my body to do what it does best. I've never been able to describe it to someone who hasn't worked for a long time in hospitality.

    I've also been where Caitlin has been, tired from too many nights out with the staff after work, the sense that you're drowning in the never-ending rotation of new staff, the realisation that you're not who you used to be and the friendships that you lose along the way with your weird shift hours.

    The death anxiety is a new concept for me and one that keeps the book moving. While I may not have given it thought before 2020, I sometimes catch myself wondering what would happen if I caught COVID-19, if I died, or if someone close to me did.

    3. The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

    Book showing two people sitting on a rocky outcrop, below there's a river and waterfall while above there's a floating city
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Sometimes while reading, I feel like it's not fun anymore. I read for work, I read for uni and there are times when I feel frustrated when I pick up a book that doesn't captivate me. I used to read non-stop from morning until well into the night as a kid and it was honestly because I couldn't put books down. It had been years since I'd been that immersed in a book and I was worried that it was because I had, quite literally, just grown up.

    But then I saw this novel and I was beyond excited. Mostly because I read the Starbound Trilogy these authors co-wrote when I was in my late teens and I was OBSESSED with them.

    Immediately, it felt like I was a teenager again — wrapped up in a different story of course, but comforted by the fact that I remembered the authors' voices and their ways of writing. It also helped that the story is a complete fantasy, but the way these two write it makes me think, "Huh, I reckon this could be real."

    Each chapter in The Other Side of the Sky alternates between the perspectives of two main characters — Nimh, who is a devine being that lives on the ground and cannot be touched, and North, a prince from the Cloud Lands who falls down to ground.

    It's a story about love, faith and magic. But, to be completely honest, I didn't exactly learn anything amazing from this book — other than to be reminded of how great it feels to finally pick up a good book again.

    4. When We Have Wings by Claire Corbett

    Woman on the cover with her dark hair up in a bun and with giant white wings
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    This book was recommended to me by my current Masters tutor — as a way to help with my own work. But, truth be told, I should have read it a couple years ago when Claire Corbett was actually my tutor.

    First published in 2011, I wish that I had found this book earlier. Set in a time where some people have wings (as in, the rich can afford wings), this book deals with the classist issues emerging between the flyers and the non-flyers. It follows the story of Peri, a young girl from the poor regions who has turned into a new flyer, and a private investigator, Zeke Fowler who is trying to find her.

    The story is absolutely amazing, the characters rich and the amount of detail Corbett goes into flight patterns and wing structure is incredible. Every time I picked up this book I was reminded of what my writing tutors would always say: Do your research.

    But the real reason I loved When We Have Wings was the world-building. Corbett didn't just build a world where some people flew. She changed the architecture, she changed the landscape, she turned the sky into terrain and, through Zeke, she raised all the ethical questions that come to mind about the sort of body modifications and operations new-flyers have to go through.

    I highly recommend reading this if you love being swept up in a good story, or if you're struggling with your own setting in your writing. In When We Have Wings, Corbett does this excellently and shows us how all the small details can make the biggest difference to the reader.

    5. Clade by James Bradley

    Bees converging in the middle of the book, trying to get to the honeycomb in the middle
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Alongside When We Have Wings, this book was also recommended to me by my tutor to help with world-building. But honestly, after the first couple of pages of I kind of forgot all about that and was just frantically turning page after page, trying to figure out what was going to happen next. First published in 2015, this book seems to read like a warning of what is to come and a story of human resilience.

    That's because Clade deals with every nervous worry I have about the future. From whether or not I should have children because of climate change, to what climate change and the disasters it brings could look like in the future and how the world would respond in the aftermath — hell, at some point there's even a pandemic and one of the characters has to leave the city and go somewhere not overly populated to avoid it.

    Each section of the book deals with new characters, but for the most part, they're all connected, so it doesn't feel like you're reading a collection of short stories. The sections jump ahead in time, so as the reader, you can see that while the previous chapter seemed devoid of hope and full of loss, the next one shows you that the human race and the characters, have found a way to continue. If you're suffering from anxiety about the pandemic, I don't recommend reading Clade right now. But for me, when I put the book down I felt hopeful.

    Now that we've gone through the books I have read this month, we can jump into the novels I'm most excited to read next.

    6. Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai

    Woman in bed with her eyes closed and a miniature version of the book open on her covers
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    "Sleeping is a modern superpower. Stories are old magic."

    Before I met my partner, I used to climb into bed with a book. Now, we snuggle down and watch 30 minute episodes of our favourite show, before the two of us drift off at separate times. And before you start screaming at me that watching screens in bed is bad and that it can mess with your sleep, I know all that. It's just a habit we've formed and as anyone can tell you, once a habit starts, it's hard to stop.

    Enter Nothing Much Happens, a collection of bedtime stories for adults, that I am so excited to try out. Nicolai is another international writer on this list, based in Michigan. The book is based on her podcast of the same name, which was downloaded over 10 million times before Nicolai realised that there are plenty of adults out there who need some help to dozing off.

    This book is more than a collection of bedtime stories. It starts with an introduction to sleep: How to doze off when you wake up in the middle of the night, how to use the book and how to relax. It then opens up to a double page graphic of "The Village of Nothing Much" with cute little illustrations showing places that (I assume) pop up in the stories. Scattered throughout the book are tips on meditation and calmness — from ideas on how to start your day, or on walking meditation.

    I read a couple of stories in preparation for this — so I could tell you all why it's sincerely on my list. The entire book radiates calmness and flipping through the pages with the pastel colours and cute graphics makes me want to just take a deep breath. Each story ends with the epigraph "sweet dreams", and I don't know about you, but that just reminds me of my mumma helping me fall asleep as a kid.

    This book is a different kind of hug to help you drift off and I can't wait to give it a go.

    7. Lowitja by Stuart Rintoul

    A photo of a portrait of Lowitja O'Donoghue
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Written by Stuart Rintoul, this authorised biography is about the life of Lowitja O'Donoghue — one of Australia's most respected Indigenous leaders. Throughout her life, she gained titles such as Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Australian of the Year, National Living Treasure, Companion of the Order of Australia, and Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

    When she was two, Lowitja was taken to the missionaries of the Colebrook Home and cut off from her people and her culture and was meant to become a servant. However, she became a nurse, a public servant and an unparalleled leader. Lowitja chaired the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission to help give Aboriginal people self-determination and negotiated native title laws with prime minister Paul Keating.

    In short, Lowitja is a powerful leader and an advocate for Aboriginal people. Following a controversy in 2001 about whether or not Lowitja was stolen, she returns to Central Australia with the author, searching for her past as a child. This biography delves into this journey and chronicles the life of this remarkable woman.

    I can't wait to get stuck into this one, not only to learn about Lowitja and her life, but to also educate myself on the trauma that First Nations People suffered from (and are still suffering) after invasion.

    8. Future Girl by Asphyxia

    A drawing of a young woman holding a pencil and paintbrush in her hand
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    Have you ever come across a book and just thought to yourself, "That is the coolest book I've ever seen"? Well, I do it a lot (and yes, I do judge books by their covers), but Future Girl is, hands down, the best one I've seen in a long while.

    The book has been described as a "visual extravaganza of text, paint, collage and drawings" with the pages filled with pastel colourings and little pictures or doodles in the margins. It also acts as the journal of the 16-year-old main character, Piper, who is Deaf and lives in Melbourne. As her city suffers from an environmental catastrophe, Piper learns to celebrate her Deafness.

    When writing Future Girl, Asphyxia — who is a Deaf activist, writer and artist — wanted "readers to experience Piper's Deafness in a visceral way, as if it is happening to them...to develop . empathy and hence instigate change."

    I haven't gotten much farther than the first few pages, but already I can tell this is a book that forces you to experience life in a different way.

    9. And finally, Out by Miles McKenna

    Colourful book with Miles  jumping up excitedly on the cover
    Clare Aston / BuzzFeed

    McKenna is a queer and trans activist who transitioned online in front of his millions of YouTube subscribers and this book is his survival guide. While the book mentions resources for US readers, there is a shoutout to Aussie and New Zealand readers on page 11, directing them to the back for local resources.

    Divided into four sections (with some little extras thrown in here and there), the book follows McKenna's experience from before he came out, to coming out, through to his transition and where he is now. It's a vibrant work of art and after reading the introduction I am immediately hooked. His voice is clear, earnest and honestly feels like a best friend chatting to me about their life.

    In his introduction he writes, "If you're reading this, you might be questioning your gender or sexuality, getting ready to come out, or maybe all or none of the above. You might have family or friends who are experiencing those things, or maybe you're just a curious ally."

    Whatever your reason for reading, it's a book I think many people will benefit from reading.

    There we have it guys — everything I've been reading lately! I hope this has given you a new stack of books to get stuck into!

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