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Book Bites: 24 January 2016

A Brief History of Seven KillingsA Brief History of Seven Killings
Marlon James (Oneworld)
*****
Book buff
The 2015 Man Booker winner is a cracker, comprising stories told by 70-odd characters, from Kingston gangsters and politicians to journalists and CIA operatives. Moving through the ’70s in Jamaica, crack-fuelled ’80s in the US and more gangster violence in ’90s Jamaica, these stories present different angles on the same events. Most notably in the beginning: the assassination attempt on Bob Marley. The cynical views that many of the Jamaican characters (gangsters, admittedly) hold about Bob Marley are quite interesting. — Rustum Kozain @Grondwerk

In Order to LiveIn Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom
Yeonmi Park (Penguin Random House)
*****
Book buff
This hard-hitting memoir of a North Korean defector is one of the few books that provides critical insight into the Hermit Kingdom and the oppressive regime of the Kim dynasty. It’s the honest account of the Park family’s disillusionment with the government and their escape to China — where they fall prey to a human trafficking ring. It takes its title from Joan Didion’s book We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live, and Park shares her personal story of hunger, trauma and eventual triumph. Her voice is devoid of any self-pity; a powerful narrative that commands your attention until the end. — Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

The Story of EgyptThe Story of Egypt
Joann Fletcher (Hodder and Stoughton)
***
Book buff
This book turns the reader into a time traveller. It encompasses everything you need to know about ancient Egypt, with a narrative spanning 55 000 years. The breadth and depth is phenomenal, including the construction of the pyramids of Giza (2566BC), the publication of the first book (a self-help volume in 2375BC), the coining of the term pharaoh (for a female king), the first labour strike in history (1155BC), the alleged circumnavigation of Africa 2000 years before Vasco da Gama, and the construction of the Great Library of Alexandria. — Samantha Gibb @samantha_gibb

The Bazaar of Bad DreamsBazaar of Bad Dreams
Stephen King (Hodder & Stoughton)
****
Book fiend
In this collection, Stephen King reveals himself to be exactly the sort you’d want as a friend: someone to share a bottle with while talking the world to rights. King introduces every short story with an anecdotal explanation of what inspired that tale, and generally it’s something to which we can all relate. It does contain a few nasties though: “Obits” combines humour, discomfort and the digital media in an unbeatable medley; “Mile 81″ is vintage King, full of mechanical malevolence, and “The Little Green God of Agony” will resonate with anyone who has chronic pain. Don’t expect a relaxing read – as the author says of his stories, “The best of them have teeth.” — Aubrey Paton

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