By Eliza Burmistre and Laura Hasson
Article originally published on The Publishing Post Website on 14/09/2021 as part of Issue 31. You can find the original by clicking here.
Welcome, welcome! This week we speak with Eliza and her ‘international shelf’, about the love she has for global contemporary fiction and reading books in different ways. Join us as Eliza introduces us to three books, she believes should be on YOUR shelves:
Introduce yourself Eliza, who are you?
“I’m Eliza or @aftereliza on Instagram, I love reading and have done since my grandmother instilled a love of reading in me from a very young age. I’ve been reading and reviewing books since about 2012, after Goodreads had become the place to track your reading habits and write reviews. I started my Instagram account back in 2017/18 when I realised I wanted to separate my personal content with more bookish content and so I’ve been posting the books I read on there ever since. I have loved being a part of the bookstagram community, the past few months especially, as I have gotten to know more lovely people.”
Why contemporary fiction from across the world and why reading books in different ways?
“I’ve always really liked and connected with contemporary fiction, whether that was with YA when I read it in high school, to the new adult, contemporary rom-coms I read now, ten years on. What I like most is getting a taste of different contemporary cultures from across the world. Even between books that were written for US vs UK audiences, there are differences in how the characters speak, act, or react to each other, it’s interesting to see the cultural differences or similarities between books published in different areas. I also love reading books in their original languages because it adds a richness to the language that I feel translations sometimes lose.”
“I’ve lived abroad for a large part of my life in countries that don’t always have ready access to the newest releases in English language paperbacks, so I’ve been using a Kindle since 2013. Recently, I got an iPad Air and that’s been fantastic for listening to audiobooks while I’m doing monotonous tasks at work, or getting through my NetGalley list of e-ARCs, which I track using Notion and a very convoluted Excel spreadsheet. I also have access to a local library so I can read or listen to the newest releases in a variety of languages, which is handy and saves me so much money on physical copies. I think the Scribd app is such an underrated service for booklovers. It’s how I discover most of the eBooks and audiobooks I read, and you’re not limited to “credits” like you are with Audible. I’m of course not sponsored to say any of this, but I genuinely use this app nearly every day!”
So, how do you pick a book?
“I love seeing gorgeous covers on the shelves in bookstores and on everyone’s shelves on Instagram. I do some research into why people are loving it and what it’s about, but usually I check the catalogues of my favourite publishers, because if they’ve published one or more books that I have loved, no doubt they’ll publish more. After that, I tend to live by this John Ruskin quote: “If a book is worth reading, it’s worth buying.”
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
“Ariadne is a retelling of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, with a strong focus on the lives and roles of women at the time. It was an honest and engaging look through the life of Ariadne, her sister Phaedra and her mother Pasiphae and how their stories were a part of wider Greek culture and mythology. I thought it conveyed the language and origins of many Greek words well and it helped me relate that to the myths themselves. It was my first NetGalley review, I enjoyed it so much I ordered the very stunning hardcover copy to have on my shelves shortly after I finished it. If you enjoy books by authors like Madeleine Miller or Pat Barker, you’ll surely love this!”
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favourite audiobooks this year. The story follows a Hollywood actress telling her story to a journalist through conversation and flashbacks of how she came to be with each of her seven husbands and how she built her career. Evelyn Hugo reminded me of a LGBTQ version of Elizabeth Taylor, with an incredible career and many romantic dalliances. I picked it after a long time of seeing everyone I follow on bookstagram talking about how amazing it is. They were not lying. I listened to the audiobook on Scribd, and the narrator did such a fantastic job bringing TJR’s novel to life that it felt like I was listening to a documentary about a real Hollywood starlet.”
Jelgava ‘94 (EN: Doom ‘94) by Jānis Joņevs
“Jelgava ‘94 is a story about punk culture in my hometown in the mid-nineties and it’s a real coming of age novel for teenagers. It’s loosely based on the author’s experience in high school. It’s a story discovering identity within alternative culture and how that had the power to bond young people at the time. I thought it was a great representation of what things were like after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kids were still growing up, becoming people and discovering their identities, regardless of the political instability around them, though I’m sure that was an additional influence.
I think we all have such great opportunities to access great books from anywhere in the world and sometimes even for free, whether you’re someone who reads eBooks, listens to audiobooks with a subscription or has access to a great library. There are more literary cultures and worlds to discover out there.”
Thanks Eliza for that insight. Join us next week when we explore another shelf. Happy reading everyone!