We hope you’ve enjoyed reading In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri along with us at the NCW Book Club. There is still time to look back over the conversation via our Discord community, and explore our writing exercise and questions for readers to help you get the most out of reading our chosen book.
If you’ve finished the book and would love something similarly brilliant to add to your ‘To Be Read’ pile, why not try one of these recommended reads? We’ve compiled the following list of books across fiction, non-fiction and the curious space in between, all of which continue to explore Lahiri’s concerns around language, unfamiliar places and the line between memoir and fiction.
Our Book Club choice for August and September 2021 will shortly be announced. Keep an eye on the main Book Club page for all the latest updates.
More by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest novel, written in Italian and translated into English by the author herself, follows its unnamed protagonist around an unnamed city. Written in episodic chapters the narrative takes us from the streets and shops and into the character’s memory. As we become acquainted with the details of her everyday life, we see the impact of her past, and a new future that awaits. If you enjoyed In Other Words for its spare, elegant and occasionally dream-like prose, we highly recommend Whereabouts, too.
Unaccustomed Earth (Bloomsbury)
Lahiri’s most recent book of short stories is the perfect choice if you’ve enjoyed the themes of belonging, alienation and travel in In Other Words. The eight short stories in this collection explore experiences of migration, family life and movement between North America, Europe and Asia. While each story is its own world, they are connected as they reach back to India through memory and family legend, along with Lahiri’s thoughtful, polished style.
Living in languages
Fifty Sounds by Polly Barton (Fitzcarraldo)
Former NCW Translator in Residence Polly Barton won the Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize with Fifty Sounds, a personal dictionary of the Japanese language. Tracing Polly’s journey from eager student to literary translator, the book is a hymn to the power of learning another language, and a tribute to the language and culture that has been stranger, obsession and home to the author.
‘How can you love a language that has previously been used as a weapon against you?’
Translation as Transhumance by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz (Feminist Press)
How can you love a language that has previously been used as a weapon against you? This is the problem that faced Mireille Gansel when she began to translate from German, after her family had lost everything at the hands of the Nazis. In this slim but powerful book, Gansel traces her apprenticeship as a translator, the recuperative relationship that grew between her and the German language, and how translation can be a defiant act in the face of conflict and division. Attentively rendered by translator Ros Schwartz, this book is a moving meditation on exile, empathy and beauty.
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo (Vintage)
Student Zhuang arrives in London looking forward to a year of studying English, in Xiaolu Guo’s novel about language, love and finding your place in the world. We follow Zhuang as she learns her way around her new city, accompanied by her trusty dictionary. When she meets an older, British man, her perspective will change forever. Guo’s writing makes palpable the moments of confusion, frustration and triumph that are part of learning something new, be it a language, a place or a relationship.
Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler (Little, Brown)
In spare, razor-sharp prose, Yara Rodrigues Fowler’s debut novel follows its narrator through childhood and young adulthood while living in the space between languages and cultures. Rodrigues Fowler brings the bilingual experience to the page through linguistic play, startling honesty and unusual form, making this book the perfect choice for anyone who loves innovative fiction and a coming-of-age tale with a difference.
Everyone Is Watching by Megan Bradbury (Pan Macmillan)
Megan Bradbury’s critically acclaimed first novel shows New York City as you’ve never seen it before. Tracing the lives of some of its most electric personalities – including Walt Whitman, Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith – Everyone Is Watching is a fresh and intimate new look at the evolution of the city in all of its seductive and sordid complexity.
Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden (Dialogue)
Finding himself in an unfamiliar city, a film director meets a local woman who agrees to show him around. As they wander its streets she tells him of the histories of the place – both public and personal – and gives him the idea for his next film. Turning the archetype of the flâneur or wanderer on its head, this is a creative and unexpected novel from a writer at the top of his game.
In The End, It Was All About Love by Musa Okwonga (Rough Trade)
This thoughtful and moving memoir weaves together past and present as it traces Musa Okwonga’s move to Berlin. Finding himself simultaneously beguiled and excluded by the city, Okwonga writes unflinchingly of the ups and downs of the creative process, love and friendship. But as Okwonga nears his fortieth birthday, it becomes clear that his family’s past has followed him and he must make another journey, this time to Uganda, where his father lost his life so many years before.
Memoir or fiction?
The Coward by Jarred McGinnis (Canongate)
Memoir? Fiction? Whichever The Coward might be, Jarred McGinnis’ debut book comes highly recommended by NCW. The story follows Jarred as he finds out he will never walk again and moves back in with his estranged father, combining wry humour and a searching exploration of how the characters got here. The Coward is a seering critique of an ableist world and unflinching exploration of the stories we tell ourselves as we search for forgiveness, healing and love.
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie Ndiaye, translated by Jordan Stump (Influx Press)
The most autobiographical of multi-award-winning Marie Ndiaye’s books to date, Self-Portrait in Green is a book about place, womanhood and time. Our narrator’s diary-like meditations reveal her fascination with the women in green around her, and the nearby river that seems to both give and take from those who live near it. As we move through the narrator’s childhood and into the future, the easy categorisations of genre wash away and are replaced by something stranger, truer and utterly captivating.
Black Wave by Michelle Tea (And Other Stories)
With the narrative drive of a novel and the honesty of a memoir, Michelle Tea’s Black Wave is a stylish, riotously witty and self-aware read for grown-ups. Young, queer writer Michelle has moved to San Francisco where the creative community that nourished her starts to fracture in the face of addiction and gentrification. A new relationship and a move to LA promise the change of scene Michelle needs. But how do you make a fresh start when the world is ending?