This post is inspired by Laura Sackton, who wrote about “When the Books You’re Reading Start Talking to Each Other.” In the last two years, I’ve read three serendipitous book pairings that I’d like to share with the group:
On Refugees: The Queue, by Basma Abdel Aziz, and Live from Cairo, by Ian Bassingthwaighte
Both of these books feature desperate people who are trying to leave Egypt (or a place like Egypt). The Queue gives us a Kafka-esque battle by locals against a determinedly ineffective government. Live from Cairo also features a frustrating bureaucracy, but from the perspective of outsiders who want to help but can’t. The inside/outside perspectives on refugees casts a critical light on a broken, inhumane system.
On Reincarnations: Reincarnation Blues, by Michael Poore, and The Trials of Solomon Parker, by Eric Scott Fischl
Both of these books feature two men who get the chance to remedy their mistakes. The idea is that they are supposed to learn from those mistakes and become better men, but they go in completely different directions. Reading them close together set me to thinking about questions of human nature, whether we really can learn from our mistakes, and what it means to be good.
On Hunger: A Square Meal, by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe, and Red Famine, by Anna Applebaum
These two books cover contemporaneous periods of time, during extreme deprivation, yet show two extremely different government responses to hardship. In the United States, unregulated speculation caused a economic collapse. So many people were out of work that existing charity was swamped and (albeit reluctantly) the government finally stepped in to help. Meanwhile, in Soviet Ukraine, impossible grain policies lead to a man-made famine that killed millions. Aid was deliberately refused. These two books are stark, fascinating contrasts.
Does anyone else have any recommended book pairs?
How fun! I’ll have to think about the books I’m reading more carefully to see any common themes; this would be a great meme for teachers to look through when considering books to teach in a classroom that could have overall themes working together. Great pairs!
LikeLiked by 1 person