Welcome to Shelf life, ELLE.com book column, in which the authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re looking for a book that will comfort you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers of our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will also become one of yours.
Mohsin Hamid says that his fifth novel, the last white man (Riverhead), about a man who wakes up one morning with darker skin, has been brewing since 9/11, when he, born in Pakistan and until then educated mainly in the US and employed in the UK , began to be treated with suspicion and fear.
Now based in Lahore, the international bestselling author is a two-time Booker Prize finalist in 2007. The reluctant fundamentalistwhose film adaptation was directed by Mira Nair and featured the participation of Kate Hudson and Riz Ahmed, and that of 2017 West Exit, which is being adapted by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions and again starring Ahmed for Netflix. (Both discussed migration at the London Literature Festival). Originally I call All migrants through time, West Exitabout a couple transported anywhere in the world by walking through a black door, was also a finalist for the Dayton Peace Literary Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, given for freshmen at UC Berkeley as a summer read, and chosen by the Chicago Public Library for One Book, One Chicago.
After Princeton, where he was a student of Toni Morrison, who reviewed what would be his first novel, Moth smoke—and Harvard Law, Hamid worked as a corporate lawyer, management consultant, and lead storyteller at a creative consultancy. he reads his work aloud as part of your editing process, walk 90 minutes a day, she is married to a restaurateur and likes the Greek islands of Naxos and Santorinithe art of Shahzia SikanderY atlas like a child Dive into new worlds with his recommendations below.
The book that:
…helped me get over a loss:
I left California for Pakistan at the age of nine and never lived there again, and that wasn’t until I read Joan Didion’s book. Bent over Bethlehem 30 years later I realized how much I missed the place and how much it was still there.
…kept me up too late:
james baldwin Another countrywhich starts with probably the best sentence-by-sentence writing I’ve ever read, and it got me thinking, damn it, it’s possible to do this.
…I recommend over and over again:
Pereira maintains by Antonio Tabucchi, an exquisitely small masterpiece of a novel, so long ago, that many people haven’t read but should.
…shaped my view of the world:
When I was in high school in Lahore and about to go to college in America, I read I’m not comfortable anymore by Chinua Achebe, the story of a young Nigerian educated in England who returns to Nigeria, and since then I have thought about it over and over again.
…I would give a recent graduate:
At that age you are ready for your mind to fly and fictions by Jorge Luis Borges will.
…made me laugh out loud:
Nabokov is very, very funny, and for me pale fire it’s your funniest.
…broke my heart:
charlotte’s website by E. B. White. What can I say? If you read it as a kid and it didn’t break yours, you’re a lot tougher than me.
…describe a place I would like to visit:
Bapsi Sidhwa ice candy manthat it would take me to the Lahore of my grandparents, before it changed irrevocably.
…should be in all university curricula:
The Epic of Gilgamesh. If you’re going to read literature, it makes sense to start at the beginning.
… I consider literary comfort food:
by hemingway a moving partybecause it is.
…I would have blurred if they had asked me:
Enheduanna’s hymns, because she was the first named author in human history, over 4,000 years ago, and when I called her a pioneer, no one would have argued with me.
…sealed a friendship:
by Haruki Murakami norway woodthat I gave my wife on our second date, hoping we would never see each other again.
… I would like signed by the author:
Lovedby Toni Morrison, because when I was a student she caught me with a copy of Jazzthat I was devouring, and she signed it but said: “Read Lovedit’s good,” and so I did, and, well, you don’t need me to tell you this, but: it really, really was.
Riza Cruz is an editor and writer based in New York.