We're Back! & What We're Reading Now

After a short hiatus, the blog is back in business! This month, we wanted to start a new blog post topic: Recent Reads!

Recent Reads will be a twice-monthly blog post talking about some of the books we've been reading here at Breathing Books. So many of our readers, and so much of the book community at large, supports each other through word-of-mouth, sharing new books and authors we wouldn't find without these discussions. So we're thinking of this as a way to put back into this community, to share a slice of the books that we think are doing exceptional things out in the world right now.

This month, marketing manager (and writer-of-blogs) Liz Purvis is kicking it off with NW by Zadie Smith, Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar, and LOOK by Solmaz Sharif.

File Oct 03, 5 51 44 PM.jpeg

What genres are these books? Tell us a little bit about them.

LOOK and Calling a Wolf a Wolf are both full-length poetry collections. NW is a novel.

NW follows the lives of several different Londoners, all living in the area known as NW. Her writing style is very different here than in On Beauty, for example, which I wasn't quite expecting. But it works; I think Zadie Smith is such a skilled crafter of language, and that in some ways this book pushes a little on the boundaries of what prose and novels look like.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf is Kaveh Akbar's first full length poetry collection, and full disclosure that I think he's wonderful. He's doing tons of important work in the poetry community (he founded Divedapper, and does these amazing in depth interviews with contemporary poets. This book deals with addiction and recovery, and grace and faith and gratitude and identity. It defines nailing down a bit, for me, but it's a wonder to hold in your hands and read.

LOOK is Solmaz Sharif's first full length collection, and it takes the language of war - official terms language from the US State Department - and uses it in a poetry that looks at decades of US-Middle Eastern conflict. This book examines war's effect on families, particularly immigrant families, as well as the costs of "winning the war first, and working out the meanings afterwards."

If you could summarize each book in one phrase, what would it be?

LOOK - what's lost to war ; Calling a Wolf a Wolf - can't. incandescent. NW - slice of London

Reason you picked up each?

Last summer, I went to a poetry reading that was also the book launch of LOOK at Skylight Books in LA, and listening to Sharif talk about and read her poems just blew me away. I hadn't read her before then, but I've been carrying this book around with me for over a year, reading and re-reading it. 

Kaveh's book I pre-ordered; we met a few years ago and I've been following his poetry online since. I'd read all the poems he's published in magazines that I could get my hands on, and knew I wanted to experience the full collection.

Zadie Smith is a ridiculously brilliant writer who's had a ton of good press lately, and I remembered reading two of her books in college, which stood out well against some of the stodgier English Lit picks from professors. I'd heard really good things about NW, and I also studied abroad in London. A heaping dose of nostalgia later, I had NW. 

Favorite line?

Calling a Wolf a Wolf - "Besides, little goat, you can't just go around asking for mercy.:

LOOK - "we have learned to sing a child calm in a bomb shelter / I am singing to her still "

NW - “Not everyone wants this conventional little life you’re rowing your boat toward. I like my river of fire. And when it’s time for me to go I fully intend to roll off my one-person dinghy into the flames and be consumed. I'm not afraid.”