The best books for believing you've found a home

Rabindranath Maharaj Author Of The Amazing Absorbing Boy
By Rabindranath Maharaj

The Books I Picked & Why

A House for Mr. Biswas

By V.S. Naipaul

Book cover of A House for Mr. Biswas

Why this book?

This is the book I open whenever I need inspiration. The evocation of a landscape and a community, the author’s precise attention to detail, the mix of comedy and tragedy, the range of characters, are all unforgettable. The story follows a man who dreams of owning a house but it’s also about the search for identity and the fear of oblivion. Throughout the novel, Biswas seeks to understand his purpose and disentangle himself from the binds of tradition and community. He realizes that in a colonial society, ownership of property signals his right to exist. Everything about this novel is remarkable.

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The Mosquito Coast

By Paul Theroux

Book cover of The Mosquito Coast

Why this book?

I have a weakness for eccentric characters raging at the world while trying to find a place in it. Allie, the protagonist, leaves America for Honduras, where he tries to create an alternate universe, free from what he views as the ills of America. I read this book while living in the Caribbean and Allie’s pronouncements about imperialism and materialism, though clearly paranoid, contained, I felt, a germ of truth. The ebullient characters, the restless energy, and the dark humour, all characteristics of the novelist’s later books, are on full display here.

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Midnight's Children

By Salman Rushdie

Book cover of Midnight's Children

Why this book?

This novel deals with the partition of the Indian subcontinent and the birth of India, related by an unreliable and unstable narrator. Rushdie’s style, the coinage of new terms, and the mix of myth and history, reminiscent of, and likely, indebted to Borges, is the perfect vehicle to describe the tumultuous birth of a nation while cautioning about unfettered nationalism and unforeseen fractures. Throughout the novel, Saleem seeks, through his fevered mind, to understand and to explain to the reader, this new nation, the home into which he has been propelled.

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A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging

By Dionne Brand

Book cover of A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging

Why this book?

This travelogue is so exquisitely written it is possible to admire it simply for its lyricism. But it’s much more than a travelogue. Embedded in the book are familial narratives, personal accounts, musings about other writers – Coetzee, Naipaul, Walcott, Galeano, for instance – all with the intent to chart the black diasporic experience. It’s a deeply personal book, yet studded with brilliant observations on belonging. “Black experience in any modern city or town in the Americas is a haunting. One enters a room and history follows; one enters a room and history precedes. History is already seated in the chair in the empty room when one arrives.” This book is best read slowly, savouring its insight. 

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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

By Souvankham Thammavongsa

Book cover of How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

Why this book?

In these stripped-down stories, the minute observations are just as significant as the broader strokes the writer uses to depict the lives of refugees, people at the margins. Told mostly from the perspective of a Laotian adolescent, the characters are each trying to understand the steps they must take to fit into their new barricaded lives. In spite of the claustrophobia that encloses the characters, the stories are funny and tender. 

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