The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) is back, with an all-new reading challenge for 2017. 17 books for 2017, all with the aim to “diversify your reading pleasure.” The categories seem a lot more specific than the 2016 challenge, though perhaps it just feels that way because of the sheer volume. Personally, I miss the 2016 category of trying a genre you don’t usually read, but I love the inclusion of new category “Book by an author with a disability.”
From my January books, I’ve read and highly recommend titles in the following categories:
#17. Book by a person of colour from another continent
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan
I’m always on the lookout for fresh and exciting contemporary Filipino fiction, and I was thrilled to find Smaller and Smaller Circles so easily available in Canada. Touted as the first Filipino crime novel and featuring two Jesuit priests who investigate a serial killer targeting young boys in Manila slums, this is a fun, fast-paced mystery and also such a fascinating exploration of contemporary social issues. I highly recommend it to mystery fans, and for readers in the Philippines, keep an eye out for the movie to be released this year.
The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei
If you like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, you’ll love this collection of stories about Kwan Chun-dok, a Hong Kong detective who rises from constable to senior inspector over the span of several decades. The stories are told in reverse chronological order, coinciding with significant events in Hong Kong’s history, and it’s fascinating to see the unveiling of Kwan’s brilliance, initially being reflected in and through his protege in the first story all the way to the bare hints of potential in the final tale. The crimes, even the historical ones, feel urban and contemporary, yet the stories have a classic feel and remind me of Conan Doyle and Christie’s short story collections. Also highly recommended for mystery fans.
#2 Book by a LGBTQ+ writer
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
I heard Emma Donoghue being interviewed about this novel at the International Festival of Authors last year, and was hooked by the mystery of how 11-year-old Anna survived for so long without food and by the subtle critique of religious fervour that would risk a child’s welfare for the possibility of a miracle. Donoghue’s a talented writer, and she does a great job in taking us right into 1859 Ireland, where Lib, a no-nonsense English nurse who trained with Florence Nightingale, is hired to observe Anna’s fast and verify her claim. As a nurse, Lib is conflicted about her role, fiercely protective of Anna but also worried that her very presence may be causing Anna harm. There’s an urgency to Donoghue’s writing that draws readers in, and we keep reading just to find out if and how Anna survives in the end.
Are you taking The FOLD 2017 Reading Challenge?
I’m pretty excited to check out books in the remaining categories. What’s on your reading list?
Thanks to House of Anansi for an advance reading copy of The Borrowed in exchange for an honest review.