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Shelf Life: Megha Majumdar

Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, wherein authors share their most memorable reads. Whether or not you’re on the hunt for a e-book to console you, transfer you profoundly, or make you chuckle, take into account a advice from the writers in our sequence, who, such as you (because you’re right here), love books. Maybe certainly one of their favourite titles will develop into certainly one of yours, too.

Scroll via Megha Majumdar’s social media, and it’s apparent she loves phrases. There are books she’s championing, authors she’s interviewing, voices she’s amplifying, writing lessons she’s instructing, bookstores she’s supporting, publishing jobs she’s sharing, and essays and quick tales she’s studying. (All in between meals she’s made, like cherry pancakes and a leftover spaghetti omelet.)

Her debut novel final summer season, A Burning (simply out in paperback from Classic), about three folks pursuing goals as the fitting wing ascends in India, racked up quite a few distinctions: New York Occasions bestseller, shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, longlisted for the Nationwide E-book Award, Nationwide E-book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize for Greatest First E-book finalist, on greater than a dozen finest books of the 12 months lists, plus a Margaret Atwood quarantine learn.

Born in Kolkata, India, Majumdar moved to the US to review at Harvard and later earned her grasp’s diploma in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins College, for which she spent a summer season in Senegal. Arduous to consider she had hassle entering into kindergarten. Editor-in-chief of writer Catapult, she lives in Brooklyn along with her husband, a director and movie editor, and likes inexperienced chiles, mountaineering, the Burning Worlds publication, Berkeley sidewalks and Grace Rajendran artwork.

The e-book that:

…stored me up manner too late:

Sonia Faleiro’s gripping e-book of reportage, The Good Women, concerning the investigation into the deaths of two ladies in rural India.

…made me weep uncontrollably:

Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Turns into Air, a memoir wherein a neurosurgeon recognized with lung most cancers confronts the tip of his life, broke my coronary heart. I keep in mind an element the place Kalanithi, fairly sick at that stage, wished to have a toddler, and his spouse requested if having to say goodbye to a toddler wouldn’t make dying extra painful. He replied, “Wouldn’t or not it’s nice if it did?”

…I like to recommend again and again:

Three phenomenal books come to thoughts: Chia-Chia Lin’s The Unpassing, NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Want New Names, and Angie Cruz’s Dominicana.

…made me rethink a long-held perception:

An excellent e-book that made me suppose in another way about citizenship and passports—and as an immigrant, I take into consideration these quite a bit—is Atossa Araxia Abrahamian’s The Cosmopolites.

…I learn in a single sitting, it was that good:

Saeed Jones’s How We Battle For Our Lives, a beautiful, mighty memoir.

…at the moment sits on my nightstand:

Can I talk about two books that sit on a metaphorical nightstand? I’ve been excited to learn Julietta Singh’s The Breaks, which is about queer family-making, local weather change, and the longer term, in addition to Nadia Wassef’s Shelf Life, a memoir of operating a bookstore in Cairo. They’re out this fall.

…I’d cross on to a child:

I gifted Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Different Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness to a ten-year-old. She devoured it.

…I’d reward to a brand new graduate:

Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water. A stupendous novel about two Black British artists preserving an area of gentleness in a tough, racist society, it has a lot to say about defending our interior lives and spirits and loves whereas residing in our present world.

…I’d like was a Netflix present:

The novella titled “My Monticello” in Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s debut assortment of the identical identify that may publish this fall, a few group of neighbors in a time of violent white supremacy.

…I final purchased:

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. I learn an excerpt from it and beloved it.

…has the most effective opening line:

That is from very early within the novel Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford, the place a mom says to her daughter: “It appears you’re sufficiently old, Justine, that your salvation is your personal burden. And if you wish to experience a curler coaster in your first act as a non secular grownup, so be it.”

…I’ve re-read essentially the most:

Once I was little, I spent a lot time with this large Reader’s Digest atlas that we had at residence. I like “studying” atlases—the place names, the ocean depths, entire continents in its pages, such a magical sort of e-book.

…I take into account literary consolation meals:

I do know this isn’t fairly how the query is supposed, however a e-book I discovered comforting and exhilarating—an opportunity to journey very far exterior Brooklyn and gaze again upon my issues through the pandemic—was astrophysicist Janna Levin’s Black Gap Survival Information. It’s such a playful and profound e-book. Might I add, I found it on-line at Seminary Co-op Bookstore. They inventory an unimaginable vary of nonfiction.

…fills me with hope:

The nice and enduring love of the Vietnamese household who settle in New Orleans in Eric Nguyen’s novel Issues We Misplaced To the Water.

…shocked me:

Sanjena Sathian’s Gold Diggers, a novel about immigration, ambition, and American historical past, shocked me so superbly with its magical parts! I gained’t say extra. You’ll need to learn it.

…I requested for one birthday as a child:

I used to ask for these Nancy Drew 3-in-1 editions, three mysteries in a single large e-book. I’d go to the bookstore on a particular journey, get certainly one of these, and skim all of it in a day or two.

…taught me this Jeopardy!-worthy little bit of trivia:

I discovered from Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s American Harvest that broccoli is just not a naturally occurring vegetable. I had no thought! It’s comprised of lots of selective breeding.

Bonus query:

If I may dwell in any library or bookstore on this planet, it might be: A bookstore I dream of visiting is Level Reyes Books in California. They champion lots of lovely nature- and environment-themed books. Sometime I’d like to see the hills and seashores in that a part of California—I’ve heard there’s a waterfall on the seashore close by—and pop into the bookstore to purchase from its always-inspiring workers picks. That will be a day to recollect.

Learn Megha Majumdar’s picks

The Good Women: An Extraordinary Killing

When Breath Turns into Air

Paul Kalanithi amazon.com

The Unpassing

Chia-Chia Lin bookshop.org


We Want New Names

NoViolet Bulawayo amazon.com

Dominicana: A Novel

Flatiron Books amazon.com

The Cosmopolites

Atossa Araxia Abrahamian amazon.com

How We Battle for Our Lives

Saeed Jones bookshop.org


Shelf Life

Nadia Wassef amazon.com


Different Minds

Peter Godfrey-Smith amazon.com


Open Water

Caleb Azumah Nelson amazon.com

My Monticello

Jocelyn Nicole Johnson bookshop.org


Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Wall Kimmerer bookshop.org


Black Gap Survival Information

Janna Levin bookshop.org


Issues We Misplaced to the Water

Eric Nguyen bookshop.org


Gold Diggers

Sanjena Sathian amazon.com

American Harvest: God, Nation, and Farming within the Heartland

Riza Cruz is an editor and author based mostly in New York.

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