Before museums start closing down due to the Coronavirus, don’t miss ceramic artist and author Edmund de Waal’s Library of Exile opening today at the British Museum. It’s a temporary library, located in one of the British Library’s gorgeous oak panelled reading rooms, which houses 2000 books written by authors in exile. The idea came about as de Waal, while scanning his own bookshelf, realised how many of the books there had been written by authors living in exile, far from home, surrounded by a foreign language and sometimes hostility, as we see in our own times. It’s also a celebration of libraries (amidst a wave of closures in the UK) and a monument to destroyed ones (many are named on the walls of The Library of Exile). After a six month stint at the British Museum, the books in the library will end up in Mosul, Iraq where the university library was burnt to the ground by ISIS in 2015. A poignant and moving piece of book art. Go see it.
I’m reading South Korean bestseller and #MeToo novel Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo at the moment and can’t think of a better novel to recommend on International Women’s Day. The novel tells the story of a South Korean woman’s life and how it’s shaped by systemic sexism from the moment (actually, even before) she is born. It sent shockwaves through South Korea’s patriarchal and traditional society and fired off a hefty debate which, judging by this book, can’t be a bad thing. Full review to follow.
Of these 16 books we suggest starting with Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman is in Trouble, Weather by Jenny Offill and Girl by Edna O’Brian. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is not out until the 31st March but that would be next on my list. If you feel brave (it’s 900 pages long), Hilary Mantel’s last book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, has had amazing reviews. What will you pick from this list?