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Four books every under 30 should read

Nov 09, 2017

Authors Aura Xilonen, Zohab Khan, Jade Chang and Ruth Ware

The annual Hong Kong International Literary Festival is up and running this week, and you've still got time to check out the amazing line up of award-winning authors who will be hosting talks and workshops around Hong Kong until November 12. But if not, we've picked the brains of a few writers present and asked them one very important question: What book do you think all under 30s should be reading? Here are their answers:

1. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love, first published in 1945, is Nancy Mitford’s most famous novel, a satirical look into British aristocracy in the twenties and thirties through the adventures of the Radletts, where word has it, is loosely based on Mitford’s own rather unconventional family.

Picked by: 

Ruth Ware, author of psychological crime thrillers like In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game.

Favourite quote:

'But I think she would have been happy with Fabrice,' I said. 'He was the great love of her life, you know.''Oh, dulling,' said my mother, sadly. 'One always thinks that. Every, every time.'

2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

All good stories always start with a group of misfits. This book tells the tale of a group of New England college students, who under the influence of their classics professor, discover a new way of living that separates them from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries but slowly find themselves slipping beyond the boundaries of normal morality into corruption and evil.

Picked by: 

Jade Chang, an arts and culture journalist, whose debut novel The Wangs vs the World, came out last year.

Favourite quote:

"If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn."

3. Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid

A contemporary look at Pakistan that is much more distinctive and often troubling, the novel follows protagonist Daru Shezad as he turns to crime after falling down on his luck, and finds himself on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed.

Picked by: 

Zohab Khan, an educator, poet, motivational speaker, didgeridoo player and hip-hop artist who built a formidable career in spoken word poetry. He is also the co-founder of the Pakistan Poetry Slam.

Favourite quote:

“Many boys, probably most boys, have a first love before they fall in love with a woman. It begins the moment two boys realize they'd die for one another, that each cares more for the other than he does for himself, and it lasts usually until a second love comes on the scene, because most hearts aren't big enough to love more than one person like that.” 

4. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

The 1955 novel follows Juan Preciado, who travels to his late mother’s hometown to find his father but finds it to be a literal ghost town, populated by spectral figures.

Picked by: 

Aura Xilonen, who won the prestigious Mauricio Achar Prize in 2015 at only 19 years of age. Her first novel, Campeón Gabacho, was published in English in 2017 as The Gringo Champion. Her work deals with the difficult issue of migration through an endearing character.

Favourite quote:

The first paragraph of the book reads as follows (translation below):"Vine a Comala porque me dijeron que acá vivía mi padre, un tal Pedro Páramo. Mi madre me lo dijo. Y yo le prometí que vendría a verlo en cuanto ella muriera. Le apreté sus manos en señal de que lo haría; pues ella estaba por morirse y yo en un plan de prometerlo todo."

"I came to Comala because I was told that my father, a man called Pedro Paramo, was living there. It was what my mother had told me, and I promised I would go and see him after she died. I assured her I would do that. She was near death, and I would have promised her anything."

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