What I am Reading Now…
I don’t read non-fiction for leisure. It feels too much like a busman’s holiday. I’m always amazed (but secretly saddened) by fellow academics who read 500-page biographies to wind down.
I just finished Sheena Patel‘s deeply unpleasant I’m a Fan. That’s a compliment, by the way. I absolutely adore difficult and unlikeable heroines. I love that Patel trusts her readers to see all the nuances of her unnamed protagonist who is having a situationship with, as she calls him, ‘the man I want to be with’. This man is married, someone of repute and is fixated on another woman, so named ‘the woman I’m obsessed with’ by our heroine. Our heroine is currently stalking ‘the woman I’m obsessed with’ on Instagram. However, she is no ordinary fan. As she watches, she critiques: nepotism, conspicuous consumption, whiteness, influencer culture and celebrity. This is a deliciously warped novel told through vignettes that function both as a masterclass in cultural criticism and a mediation on desire and sexual obsession.
Whenever I’m visiting my friend Monica in Groningen, she’ll take me to a sweet little bookshop, Boeken Over, with a small but mighty English language section. During my last visit, the bookseller recommended Adrian Duncan‘s A Sabbatical in Leipzig. I’m about halfway finished with this rather short book. It’s written in that meandering style popularised by W.G. Sebald. In short, an older Irishman, a retired engineer, reflects on his life, his work and his loves. It’s a quiet, meditative text. I’m still of two minds about what I think of it.
I’m also reading Noragami, a long running manga by Adachitoka, the collective pen name of the mangakas, Adachi and Tokashiki. Noragami is hands down my favourite manga. Yato is a minor god performing menial tasks for humans and fighting demons in a bid to raise money for a shrine so he can be worshipped and remembered. Without spoiling anything, it turns out Yato is a god of calamity. Why and how was he brought into being? What kinds of atrocities has Yato committed? Should he really be worshipped? And what of his regalia, the lost soul Yukine, who is Yato’s weapon, a ‘blessed vessel’, but has a dark and disturbing past life that still haunts him? I love Noragami because even though this is ostensibly shōnen manga, meant to be a boys’ action and adventure tale, this is a deeply affecting story about grief, trauma and family. What horrors will we perpetuate out of pain? How can we ever trust again? How might we rebuild what we have lost? There are various plot reveals in this manga that literally made me gasp and weep. It’s so good and very funny but it’s a painful and distressing read at times. Also, if you read the tankōbon then the translators’ notes are a real treat; they effectively serve as an introduction to Shintō cosmology.
I keep returning to Warsan Shire’s poetry collection, Bless the Daughter Raised By a Voice In Her Head. I feel like Shire is an inheritor of Lucille Clifton. They both write short, punchy verse and are both concerned with Blackness, womanhood, being and becoming. Shire’s ease of interweaving pop culture references into her reflections on herself and her place in the world inject a dark humour into sometimes brutal poems about migration and survival.
I always have a tower of unread books close at hand. How I choose what’s next is simply whimsy. I think I’ll read Julie Otsuka’s The Swimmers next. Like the women in this novel, my friend Leah also found community and temporary refuge at the water’s edge. Swimming in a time of crisis, a chance to dive into oblivion for a short while, is what many of us are doing at the moment. I haven’t read any Victorian literature for awhile and it always seems to call to me during the summer, so I think I’ll also read Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Like many others, I haven’t read any of this Bronte’s work and I want to correct the record.
Akwugo Emejulu is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include the political sociology of race, class and gender and women of colour’s grassroots activism in Europe and the United States. She is the author of several books including Precarious Solidarities (Manchester University Press, 2025), Fugitive Feminism (Silver Press, 2022) and Minority Women and Austerity: Survival and Resistance in France and Britain (Policy Press, 2017). She is co-editor of To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe (Pluto Press, 2019).