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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Niche Reads: Novels for anthropology majors

If you struggle to find time for fun reading, this is the spot for you. Niche Reads recommends novels that relate to academic (or other) interests so you can explore a new book while still feeling productive. Check back each week for more cool books!

There are few topics literature explores better than human nature. Why do we make the decisions we make? How do we relate to the people around us? What does it mean to be a person at all? Arguably, nearly every novel ever written is about people, but these three books are especially focused on humanity itself.

The novels mentioned below look into relationships between individuals and society, between generations and between people. They are all beautifully written and relatively short, making them rewarding choices for the busy college student.

“Euphoria” by Lily King

In the 1930s, anthropologist Andrew Bankson, working in the jungles of New Guinea, stumbles into the orbit of Nell Stone and her husband Schuyler Fenwick (Fen), a magnetic couple studying the nearby Tam tribe. As the three of them begin to work together, they fall into vicious and ultimately life-threatening competition, caught in a web of love and jealousy.

“Euphoria” is a gripping story of romance and revenge, but also of the study of anthropology. As the three researchers become more intertwined in their own volatile lives, the novel explores the ethics of treating human beings as objects of academic interest. Aside from simply endangering their own lives and relationships, Bankson, Fen and Nell also endanger the communities they’re studying.

Beyond its thought-provoking content, “Euphoria” is worth reading for its beautiful prose and fascinating characters. At its core, it’s a love story and a gorgeous one at that. “Euphoria” is lush and enthralling, as well as an impressive display of humanity.

You should read this book if you’re drawn to romances, if you like books with a strong sense of place or if you enjoy books that focus on interpersonal relationships.

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

In 18th century Ghana, two half-sisters, born in different villages, lead very different lives. Effia marries an Englishman and lives in luxuriant comfort while her sister, Esi, is sold into slavery in America. The novel follows their two bloodlines, examining every generation from the 1700s to the modern day.

“Homegoing” is stunning in its scope and brilliance. Gyasi has a remarkable talent for character building, moving quickly from one richly developed and compelling protagonist to the next. She skillfully demonstrates the ties that bind people together, as well as the intimate connection between past and present.

This novel is ambitious and visionary, and it delivers on its promises. Gyasi uses the unique form, which allows the reader to focus on issues far bigger than any one character’s story, to explore the history of being Black in America. “Homegoing” is a remarkable piece of American literature.

You should read this book if you’re interested in American history, if you like books with experimental structures or if you appreciate vivid characters.

“The Emissary” by Yoko Tawada

This science-fiction novel takes place after Japan suffers an unnamed disaster, and children throughout the country take on the characteristics of the elderly, with frail bodies and uncanny wisdom. At the same time, the seemingly immortal older generations are spry and curious. “The Emissary” follows a young boy named Mumei and his grandfather Yoshiro through their daily life as they move through this strange, dystopian world.

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Although “The Emissary” is largely enveloped by mystery and uneasiness, it remains a funny and charming novel. At under 200 pages, it is a quick read that will certainly leave an impact. The novel explores intergenerational relationships and the ways people care for themselves and each other in the wake of disaster.

Quirky, sad and sweet, this short novel will leave you with much to ponder. Mumei and Yoshiro are irresistible characters, with their gentle relationship and their dogged optimism.

You should read this novel if you want a fast read, if you like open-ended books or if you’re looking for something thought-provoking yet light.



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