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The Big Read 2021 shortlist, drawn from books recommended by students and staff, comprised a range of titles from UK publishers and includes a variety of genres – from fantasy and detective fiction to autobiography and science.
The winning title was The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu. All the titles on the 2021 shortlist were excellent books, but Okechukwu Nzelu's descriptions of a young girl learning more about her own identity, while taking the next step towards university, resonated with Kingston students and staff alike.
Nnenna Maloney is turning seventeen this year and yet she is still missing half of herself. But, to find out more about her Igbo-Nigerian father, Maurice, she must go through her white mother, Joanie, whose lips are sealed. The novel is witty and hilarious, highlighting life at various stages and challenging the status quo and focuses on themes of race, sexuality, gender, religion, identity and coming of age.
Sampath Chawla is a bored post office clerk looking for more out of life until one day he decides he'll quit his job and move into a guava tree. Hilarious and moving, his characters bring the story to life. From the mundane world of the 9-5 to the life of an oracle bestowing advice on his neighbours, Sampath teaches us what it means to live.
Inspector Ashwin Chopra is a man of great integrity. So when he learns of the murder of a young boy on the day of his retirement, he knows what must be done. With the help of the baby elephant he has inherited from his late uncle, he will travel to both the seedy and opulent areas of Mumbai to find the boy's killer. Full of humorous and warm characters, this novel will fill your senses with its rich descriptions.
In his memoir, Sarfraz Manzoor reflects on his childhood in Bury Park, Luton, the death of his father, and his love of Bruce Springsteen and the United States. Manzoor traces his life from his family's move to Luton from Pakistan at two years old through to his adulthood. Full of beautiful memories and hilarious familial moments as well as tragedy and strife, this novel is a culmination of his experiences of growing up as a British Muslim and the lessons he has learned from both his father and Bruce Springsteen.
Dr Camilla Pang was eight years old when she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Growing up she felt like an outsider to humanity and often wondered if there was an instruction manual for humans. Now an adult with a PhD in biochemistry, Pang has written just that: a guide for humans to understand our own social norms from a neurodivergent perspective. Explaining Humans is a captivating journey in learning how to live a happier and fuller life.
Lyfe on Nyx is the opportunity Iris has been waiting for: the programme that will take her to a new planet. Sick of her meaningless job, empty relationships and haunted by a smog that eats away at her happiness, she is ready to let go and never come back. This brilliant and clever novel questions our attachment to social media and the feelings of inadequacy and boredom that have developed in the modern world.