I’ve got a love/hate relationship with books that are hyped to the max.
And yes, as someone who constantly recommends reads and writes about literature, I fully understand the irony of my previous statement.
The thing about book publicity is that on the one hand you hear so much about a novel that you actually lose interest in it, but on the other hand you can’t help but want to read it to satisfy your curiosity about the book that almost everyone seems to be talking about.
If you’re intimately acquainted with book twitter, and follow a variety of publishers and bookstores, you will inevitably come across works of fiction or non-fiction that people tend to talk about more than others.
Sometimes they end up being worthy of their inevitable bestseller status and sometimes the story is just a hot mess.
Here are a few that I found are definitely worth the investment.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If there’s one book that’s going to be making my list of top 5 2017 reads, it’s going to be this one.
It’s the young adult fiction novel I like to recommend to a) racist people (just to piss them off, but also with the hope that if they do read this, they can experience how their privilege affords them a life where they don’t have to worry about being shot by a cop because their skin colour isn’t automatically equated with the status of being a criminal), b) pseudo woke people who use the “All Lives Matter” rhetoric and c) people genuinely interested in understanding the need and importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means to be an ally.
The story, which revolves around Starr, a 16-year-old girl who witnesses the shooting her best friend at the hands of a police officer, has been dominating the New York Times Bestseller’s list for months.
This quote resonates deeply:
“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen—people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right. Maybe.”
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith is no stranger to the bestseller’s list. Her critically acclaimed novels include White Teeth, On Beauty and The Autograph Man.
In Swing Time, she once again proves just why she’s earned and cemented her place in the world of literature.
This ambitious story focuses on two brown girls both dreaming of becoming dancers, except one girl has the talent for dance, while the other has a natural leaning towards ideas about rhythm and movement.
The plot seems simplistic in concept, but Zadie packs a punch with a variety of themes throughout the novel. It’s a work of fiction that takes a look at wealth structures, privilege, the strength of friendship and offers social commentary on how various social constructs impact on the way we live our lives.
Our reviewer on Swing Time:
“Bristling with constant dissonance and binaries, Zadie Smith seems to highlight the futility of seeing the world as black and white (or rich and poor, male and female, rural and urbanised, love and cynicism).”
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinsborough
I’ve included this thriller in quite a few pieces this year. I’ve had it on my list of Books I’m looking forward to reading, Thrillers you’ll want to read in one sitting and Plot twists that shook me to the core.
Plus, I’ve made at least three of my colleagues read it – all of them loved it and were 1000% thrown off guard by the ending.
If that’s not a standing endorsement, then I don’t know is. Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes gained a lot of traction with its #WFTthatending hashtag - and it’s easy to see why. Because nothing draws a reader in like the possibility of a book with an unpredictable ending.
This genre-bending psychological thriller focuses on a seemingly perfect couple, a woman drawn into a game she never sees coming and the unravelling threads of a diabolical plot that will make you question everything you’ve read in the book.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber
As a fan of both fantasy and magical realism, Caraval by Stephanie Garber was a read that I knew I’d love.
This book was quite hyped and received quite a number of comparisons to Erin Morgernstern’s The Night Circus – which only cemented my need to read it as The Night Circus happens to be one of my favourite novels of all time.
Was the hype worth it? Absolutely.
The descriptive and creative world Garber created had me swept up in a world where illusions, magic and trickery all formed part of a story that surprised me in the best kind of way. I particularly loved the synaesthesia element threaded throughout the book, making this fantasy novel an utter feast for the senses.
“From bottled dreams, and sand made of snow, to gingerbread-shaped houses and fortune tellers whose tattoos predict the future, Stephanie Garber’s Caraval will launch you into a world filled with enchantments both charming and dangerous.”
But, because I don’t just want to talk about the books I loved, I asked book twitter to share some of their favourite reads that lived up to the expectations created. Here are some of their responses:
Leigh Bardugo is a clear favourite
Six of Crows fo'shizzle.— Monique Bernic (@UrbanisedGeek) September 1, 2017
A talent in the making
it's only just out, but My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Talent definitely lives up to the hype.— Amy Heydenrych (@AmyHeydenrych) September 1, 2017
If you read one story about Uganda’s history, make it this one
Just started reading it (and had to pause for exams) but Kintu is so much more than the hype. It's a contender for my best book this year— kea?? (@mido_mosata) September 1, 2017
A zombie novel with heart
The Girl with all the Gifts. I was leary of it for some reason, but it's so, so good!— Masha du Toit (@mashadutoit) September 1, 2017
America’s favourite South African comedian
Women in science
Lab Girl. Was worried, with "girl" in the title about a woman. But it was better than promised. Homegoing was another that met expectations.— Tiah Beautement (@ms_tiahmarie) September 1, 2017
You can’t go wrong with Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt! (and if you do a list of books that did not live up AT ALL - The Power by Naomi Alderman)— Helené (@helenayp) September 1, 2017
What are some of your favourite hyped-to-death reads? Share your recommendations or reviews with us.