Recent Reads: Pop's Golden Age, Hateful Narrators, Cork Sleaze and Falling in Love with Republicans

Recent Reads: Pop's Golden Age, Hateful Narrators, Cork Sleaze and Falling in Love with Republicans

Yellowface, R.F. Kuang

Look at that cover. If you've passed a bookshop or glanced at a single social media platform in recent months you'll have caught it innocently glancing back at you. It's a thing of beauty. As is the book itself. The story follows a writer who steals a manuscript from her dead friend and passes it off as her own. Already bad, but when the thief is a white writer and the dead friend is an Asian American women writing about "the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers to the British and French war efforts during World War I" it's even worse. The story absolutely zips by at a breakneck pace with a narrative voice that is as sharp as it is infuriating. Every justification, every excuse is documented and played out by one of the most abhorrent yet readable characters I've read in years. This is an absolute banger.

Everything's Fine, Cecilia Rabess

You know how people have been interpreting making Oppenheimer as glorifying the bomb (they have, don't look it up)? A similarly weird thing happened with this book when it came out. The story follows a young Black woman working in finance who falls in love with her co-worker, a young white man working in finance. The twist? He's a republican!

The response on TikTok and Goodreads from many people who read books for a living was to call out the author for being racist (I don't want to have to point out that this is a debut from a young Black author but I'm going to anyway) and romanticising republicans in an enemies-to-lovers romance. Except it isn't an enemies to lover romance. It's just a really good book that explores its very appealing premise very well. Anyway, don't listen to those people and do read this book because it's funny and smart.

The Rachel Incident, Caroline O'Donoghue

I'm a big fan of Caroline's novels and her podcast (I was on it talking about Josie and the Pussycats!) but this is my favourite book of hers so far. The story follows Rachel and her best friend James as they navigate post-University life in Cork City at the height of indie sleaze (although we didn't call it that back then). There's affairs with college professors, damp on the walls, big dreams and cheap booze. I read it in two sittings and loved every page of it.

Reach for the Stars, Micheal Cragg

Niall and I had Micheal on the podcast recently to talk about this oral history of British and Irish pop in the 2000s and he was a great guest (listen here). You can probably hear in the episode that I'm quite giddy to be talking to him about this book, which is absolutely packed full of incredible anecdotes and stories about everything from The Spice Girls gatecrashing label meetings and being incredibly annoying to the audition process for 5ive. It's also kind of incredible just how influencial Simon Cowell was on the industry even before pop stars, and how many times he got it very wrong. This is a delicious read for pop culture, music and gossip fans.

Thanks for reading and I hope I recommended something you'll pick up! This is a free post but if you'd like to support the newsletter you can do so with the button below.