We hope you’ve enjoyed reading RENDANG by Will Harris, along with the NCW Book Club. There is still time to join the conversation via our Discord community, writing prompts 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? With some help from members of the Book Club and our friends at the award-winning indie bookshop, The Book Hive, we’ve compiled the following list of novels, poetry, essays, and more, which continue to explore Will Harris’s themes of encounter, family stories, and ideas of self.
And for our next Book Club book, we’ll be reading Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker. Find out more and join us now
More by Will Harris
Mixed-Race Superman (Peninsula Press)
In Mixed-Race Superman, Will Harris explores mixed heritage, masculinity and the figure of the superman. Reflecting on the lives and work of Barack Obama and Keanu Reeves, Harris marries an in-depth exploration of popular culture with razor-sharp analysis of the history of the heroic figure. Just like RENDANG, this is a book awake to the complexities, nuances and fluidity of both understanding ourselves and being with other people.
Joe Hedinger, Bookseller at The Book Hive, notes that Mixed-Race Superman is ‘published by our friends over at Peninsula Press (owners of Burley Fisher Books)’, so by reading the book you can support a brilliant independent press, too.
No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini, translated by Tejaswini Niranjana (Tilted Axis)
The first book in translation to win the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature (2018), No Presents Please brings together Jayant Kaikini’s selected short stories that take the reader under the skin of Mumbai. From cinema to train, cafe to the streets, the stories are alive with the rhythm of the city and the many human lives that meet and diverge within it. Read the book for its humane attention to daily struggle and its beautiful translation from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana.
Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash by Eka Kurniawan (Pushkin Press)
Eka Kurniawan is a star of contemporary Indonesian literature, and this novel surely packs a punch. Joe says, ‘It’s about an impotent street brawler (!) and is chock full of action, imagination, magical realism, friendship… It’s fabulous and like nothing else.’
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood (Penguin)
Patricia Lockwood’s poetry collection Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals is a curious mixture of the sacred and profane. In these poems a man marries a stuffed owl; girls dress as boys and go off to war; a part-human part-hornet joins a cheerleading troupe. Lockwood manages a delicate balance between lyric and narrative, and between surreal humour and serious explorations of gender politics, family and pop culture.
Families and friendship
Not a Virgin by Nuril Basri (Monsoon Books)
Not A Virgin moves between a boarding school and a gay bar in downtown Jakarta and tells the coming-of-age story of four students. As they seek friendship, love and chosen family, they encounter a cast of characters ranging from drag queens to religious fanatics and security personnel. Nuril is famed for taking on topics that remain controversial in Indonesia with humour and compassion.
Nuril was previously one of our Writers in Residence and you can find out more about him and his craft in this podcast.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (Melville House/ Greywolf Press)
Maggie Nelson’s memoir touches on motherhood, feminism, and queer family, and was suggested by Dominic, a member of the Book Club. ‘There’s something about RENDANG that reminds me a little of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts. Though they are very different books (Nelson’s is more strictly prose), there is a lyrical quality to the writing that lends itself to that comparison. There is also some form of movement between genres/forms in both that are done in really generative ways, I think.’
Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill (Granta)
Alena, a member of the Book Club, suggests Department of Speculation because although ‘it is very different in turns of themes, I think there’s a lot of subtle similarities – in particular, the focus on small episodes of the otherwise routine days and finding significance in what otherwise can be seen as insignificant, and this constant feeling of… detachment, I guess?’ In her unique style, Jenny Offill tells the story of a marriage in a refreshing and inventive way.
You might also like to check out our podcast with Jenny upon the release of her latest novel, Weather, in which she talks to writer Joe Dunthorne.
A sense of self
The White Book by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (Portobello)
In this sparse, lyrical novel, the narrator makes a list of white things – salt, rice, hair… – and proceeds to follow them into memory and fiction. Returning to the impact of her mother’s miscarriage, she imagines a sister, one who might have been, and examines how chance and destiny have impacted on all that came after. Kang weaves history, family, and roads not taken into an intricate portrait of an inner life.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Apollo)
Book Club member Christie has chosen Pachinko for its exploration of ‘the idea of how place, location and culture affect identity.’ Min Jin Lee’s novel follows the changing fortunes of a Korean family through the Japanese annexation of Korea, life in Nagasaki and other Japanese cities during the Second World War, and through to post-WW2 life in America and Japan. Exploring themes of power and exclusion, Lee’s characters are shaped by the complex interrelations of history, cultural identity, and diaspora experience. If you love historical fiction this is a fantastic choice for your next read.
Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging by Tessa McWatt (Scribe)
Several of us recommended Shame on Me by Tessa McWatt, which goes to show how deeply the book has touched many of its readers. Blending memoir, family history, cultural analysis and more, McWatt unpicks the legacies of empire, race and the plantation to examine their impact on the lived experiences of Black and Brown people today. Beautifully written, eloquently argued and compellingly structured, McWatt brilliantly balances her personal story with wider questions for our society.
Jackself by Jacob Polley (Picador)
Joe recommends Jackself for its exploration of ideas of selfhood. Starting with the many Jacks to be found in nursery rhymes, folktales and idioms – Jack o’ Lantern, Jack Sprat, Jackdaw to name a few – Polley weaves an intricate and imaginative mix of lyric and narrative. Jackself won the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2016, with the judges calling it ‘a firework of a book; inventive, exciting and outstanding in its imaginative range and depth of feeling’, so it’s well worth adding to your TBR.
Which other books have resonated with your reading of RENDANG? Why not let us know over on our Discord community – sign up here and have your say along with fellow readers and writers.