Kano Book Club #1

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of Kano Book Club.

A collection of factual, and fictional tomes, that someone at Kano has read, loved, and shared with the team.

In each edition, you’ll find a mix of stories and subjects, that reflect the diverse tastes and interests of the folks in our London, and US offices. Along with a few words from each title’s champion, explaining why you should give their book a read.

Welcome to the club. 📖


1. Kindred by Octavia Butler

Championed by: Taylor Chustz

Kindred is an amazing book written by acclaimed science fiction writer Octavia Butler.

The story focuses on Dana, an African American woman writer, who finds herself being transported in time between her life in Los Angeles, California 1976 to pre-Civil War Maryland plantation. The narrative doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of slavery, describing slavery from the perspective of Dana, a woman from the 1970s. Not only beautifully written, the story has aged well in discussions of race, power, gender, and what does it mean to create a future society where everyone is equal under the law.

A great read and one to discuss afterwards about what does racism mean in today's world, how does racism develop, and have we really changed?

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.”

Octavia Butler, Kindred, (Headline, 3 May 2018)

2. Gormenghast by Meryn Peake

Championed by: Russell Ormes

Mervyn Peake was a contemporary of Tolkien, but in my mind a vastly superior writer. The first book, Titus Groan, introduces us to a wonderful Gothic world of quirky, flawed characters. It is almost noir in its approach to character and story line. Beautifully written and surprisingly charming given its bleak tone, (like when you fell in love with Leonard Cohen because you listened to his lyrics).

“Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.

They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock.

These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints.

This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow.”

Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast Trilogy, (Vintage Classics; New Edition, 1 April 1999)

3. Mid-Century Modern Women in the Visual Arts - by Gloria Fowler & Ellen Surrey

Gloria Fowler & Ellen Surrey, Mid-Century Modern Women in the Visual Arts, (AMMO Books LLC; 01 edition, 5 December 2015)

Championed by: Lauren Zeitoun

I loved it because I realised that there's actually lots of talented women I didn't even know about, so it was nice to learn about their art and their journey (and to imagine how their life would be at that time). Plus the illustrations are so nice, I can just look at them for hours!

From the publisher - “This vibrant collection of biographies is an homage to the female artists whose forward-thinking and innovative design, art and creative processes have inspired—and continue to influence—so many others today. Featured are twenty-five women in the various disciplines of painting, sculpture, architecture, furniture design, textile design, graphic design, illustration and fashion are featured, including Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Mary Blair, Georgia O’Keefe, Eva Geisel, Ruth Asawa and Yayoi Kusama. Much of the narrative of their professional lives included “wit, wisdom and willfulness” and remained steadfast to their vision as artists and individuals.

Each biography includes an illustrated quote, portrait and little summary of their life achievements, as well as a beautiful double page illustration.”

I loved it because I realised that there's actually lots of talented women I didn't even know about, so it was nice to learn about their art and their journey (and to imagine how their life would be at that time). Plus the illustrations are so nice, I can just look at them for hours!

4. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Championed by: Leah Thomas

One of the best books I’ve read recently is Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (given that International women’s day is coming up, I wanted to choose a book written by a woman!).

It’s a short novel about a woman who works at a Japanese convenience store, and has done for the last eighteen years. She doesn’t want a career, or a boyfriend, kids or anything else that society wants for her. She just wants to continue as she is.

It’s quirky, fun, totally weird and occasionally disturbing. Super refreshing to read as well as being surprisingly insightful in regards to questioning ‘conventional lifestyles’. Totally the kind of book you could accidentally read in one sitting.

When something was strange, everyone thought they had the right to come stomping in all over your life to figure out why. I found that arrogant and infuriating, not to mention a pain in the neck. Sometimes I even wanted to hit them with a shovel to shut them up, like I did that time in elementary school. But I recalled how upset my sister had been when I’d casually mentioned this to her before and kept my mouth shut.

Sayaka Murata, Convenience Store Woman, (Portobello Books Ltd, 5 July 2018)

5. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Championed by: Logan Hickle.

A coming of age book, set where reality is thin, and alternative universes are closer than you can imagine - the trilogy follows Lyra, Will, and their daemons (their souls as a physical entity) on the journey to adulthood, and the discovery that hard decisions are not always the easiest to make.

Containing magical objects, armoured polar bears, witches, and more, it hints at ideas involving physics, theology, and philosophy.

The random nature of a middle school book-a-thon, put The Golden Compass (the first book in the trilogy) in my hands, and it's been near and dear to my heart ever since.

‘That's the duty of the old,’ said the Librarian, ‘to be anxious on the behalf of the young. And the duty of the young is to scorn the anxiety of the old.’

They sat for a while longer, and then parted, for it was late, and they were old and anxious.

Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials, (Everyman; Gift edition, 28 October 2011)

6. The Railway Journey by Wolfgang Schivelbusch

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey, (University of California Press; First Edition, with a New Preface edition, 13 June 2014)

Championed by: Brandon Jackson

Think the internet is the most revolutionary technology in history? Read this book.

Schivelbusch shows how the arrival of the railways in the 1800s “annihilated time and space,” completely reshaping the human experience unlike any other force in history. It‘s a beautiful reminder of just how dramatically the experience of everyday life can change.

7. Dune by Frank Herbert

Championed by: Chiara Radini

Perhaps the greatest novel in the science-fiction genre - Star Wars wouldn’t exist without it!

From the publisher - “Melange, or 'spice', is the most valuable - and rarest - element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person's life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis' second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.”

Frank Herbert, Dune, (Hodder Paperbacks, 16 July 2015)

Read, and enjoyed any of the books above, or disagree entirely with our champions choices?

Let us know, on Twitter, or Facebook.

Until next time - toodles!

Chris ~ Unofficial Kano Librarian & Book Wranger