World Book Day: 5 books inspiring awe and wonder

All comers are welcome here on World Book Day. Paperback, hardback, Kindle, audiobook – immaterial. Fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction – it matters not. What lures us in, makes us laugh or gasp or cry, brings us back time and again is story-telling.

Maybe that’s why SV has its very own book club (we’re even on Goodreads!). Maybe that’s why I read prolifically. Maybe I’m basically just an oversized version of that 4-year-old who read The Dead Tree and became fascinated with science, because it brilliantly told the story of an ecosystem’s lifecycle. Here are 5 books I’ve read so far in 2019 that inspire the same awe and wonder.

1. Ghost Wall

Sarah Moss’s searing weird-folk-fic examination of why the good ol’ days weren’t, really, is prescient and haunting. I just about crawled out of my skin as the tale unfolded, unable to put a stop to the events. Gorgeous, urgent writing. The end was a relief that left me with an ache that I can’t quite let go of.

2. I Contain Multitudes

Accessible and charming, Ed Yong’s popular science book starts with swabbing a pangolin and stays interesting for 300 pages. A comprehensive tour of the latest in microbiome research, there’s sure to be some aspect relevant to your interests. Definitely food for thought with respect to some of the therapy areas we work on here at SV, though not as enthusiastic as my favourite book of the genre, March of the Microbes: Sighting the Unseen.

3. My Sister the Serial Killer + 4. Convenience Store Woman

I’m cheating here because I read these two sensationally good books in close temporal proximity, and they became accidental companion pieces about what it is to be a woman outside the norm. They ask uncomfortable questions about how you define family and home and trust and fulfilment, and what it means to find your place in all of it. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut is a what-even-is-weird delight, while Sayaka Murata (translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori) joyfully picks apart the status quo. Of note: Woman is the second Granta Books entry on my list (Ghost Wall being the other), so congrats to them on all the amazing work.

5. Shadows on the Tundra

Ugh. I keep telling myself I’m going to stop reading really depressing Eastern European stuff, but that’s like expecting references to “take just a few minutes at the end.” Delija Valiukenas’s translation of Dalia Grinkevičiūtė’s memoir (part of Lithuana’s literary and historical pantheon) cuts to the bone, with its frank, vital story-telling. Bleak, but extraordinary. Actual medical advice: Afterwards, I unreservedly recommend Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-man Omnibus for re-lifting the spirits. Brian Michael Bendis and Co. have done a spectacular job reinvigorating an old mythology.

Off the shelf

Med comms professionals would do well to remember the importance of telling a whole story, even as we painstakingly double-check details in our work. Reading widely opens windows into other points of view and other fields, and helps us make connections between seemingly disparate concepts. Most importantly, reading for sheer pleasure – however you do it, whatever your preferred medium – is a boost for your brain and a weapon against stress. So: what are you reading?

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