Curl up with books in spring, when the flowers are abloom, birds are singing, and the sun is shining? Yes, we would. If there’s something this past one year of COVID has given us, it’s a new, slower pace of life that lets us be introverts in peace. If you’re also excited to crack open a book, maybe on the porch or at the park, read on for our recommendation for spring 2021’s most Peaceful Dumpling reads.
I honestly have mixed feelings about Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro—an author I’ve tried to like and failed in the past. His The Buried Giant, an Arthurian-surrealist novel, was written in a weird approximation of Middle English, and I found it incredibly forced. But my friends and critics have been collectively raving about Klara and the Sun—a story of an AI doll named Klara who is purchased by a teenager’s family. It asks what we risk in hurtling toward a future of artificial intelligence and late capitalism, in a spare, minimalist prose.
If you’re feeling hopeless in face of our Sixth Mass Extinction, it might be time to pick up Michelle Nijhuis’s Beloved Beasts. The acclaimed journalist turns her eyes on the beginning of the modern conservation movement, showing how there have been successful interventions to bring beloved species from the brink—including the American bison. Nijhuis also makes a convincing case that, far from protecting certain endangered species, conservation is a biocentric movement to protect all life—including our own.
This is a book I can’t wait to get my hands on. This sweeping novel charts generations of strong women in a Dakota family, who have kept their seeds safe by sewing them into their clothing—since the War of 1862 that displaced Indigenous tribes from Minnesota. The Seed Keeper is (no surprise) an activist novel that wears its environmental-justice message on its sleeve—and its unironic dedication to humanism is receiving critical acclaim.
Imbolo Mbue won accolades galore for her debut, Behold the Dreamers. This sophomore novel is on track to achieve just as much, if not more. Set in a fictional African village, How Beautiful We Were portrays people fighting against the environmental ravages wrought by an American oil company. I’m getting chills just writing that synopsis. Expect heartbreaking, epic drama that ends on a dignified and edifying note of hope.
Due out on March 30, Animals is a conservation thriller (!) set in South Africa. When rhino poachers kill two of his fellow rangers at Kruger National Park, Covus Venter sets out to take down the international animal-trafficking ring from the inside. I have a particular interest in this also from having visited South Africa and spoken to rangers who do feel under tremendous moral and spiritual pressure to protect these animals. Staples wrote this thriller by interviewing many conservationists and anti-poaching troops, including Jane Goodall. (She provided a blurb for the back jacket: ”Will Staples is passionate about wildlife and conservation. Although this book is a fictitious story it is based on sound research and a real understanding of the issues discussed. Animals will help people realize the horrors of global wildlife trafficking—the cruelty, the corruption and, as we now know from COVID-19, the risk it poses to human health. Thank you, Will, for writing this.”)
And notably, Staples states that he wrote this book to raise awareness of animal poaching and trafficking, and will donate his entire proceeds from the book to conservation. Needless to say, this gets our vote.
Which one of these reads are you interested in?
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Photo: Respective publishers