Books of the month: From Mothers, Fathers, and Others to The Oracle of the Night

Martin Chilton reviews four of December’s biggest releases for our monthly column

Monday 29 November 2021 10:14 GMT

One of the month’s top audiobooks is certain to be Amanda Gorman narrating her own debut poetry collection Call Us What We Carry (Chatto & Windus). Gorman, the 23-year-old whose reading at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration proved such a moving moment in early 2021, says the 80-page collection explores themes of memory and loss. “I wanted to pen a reckoning with the communal grief wrought by the pandemic,” she commented. “It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever written.”

Janine di Giovanni, a former winner of the Courage in Journalism prize, is a shining example of the dwindling band of investigative reporters. The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East (Bloomsbury) looks at the plight of Christian communities in the Middle East. As well as reporting on small hardy religious communities and their ancient rituals, Di Giovanni also details the horrendous persecution they face. She recounts the tale of the Isis terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq who sell Christian women into sex slavery, sometimes using live video markets. “I could not believe that a slave market was taking place in the 21st century,” writes Di Giovanni, who worked with women’s groups trying to help sex-trafficked women. “It seemed grotesque, medieval, savage. The women were young – many of them girls really, in their teens – who were in shock, tears running down their faces, powerless. The fighters were older, bearded and armed.”

You might not start 2022 in an optimistic frame of mind if you read Chris Begley’s The Next Apocalypse: The Art & Science of Survival (Basic Books). Begley, a professor of anthropology, is a survival coach. He looks at what happened with previous doomed civilisations – including the Maya, the Roman Empire, and Native American societies – to evaluate what can help us in a future collapse. “We should not understate the severity of the impact of climate change that we have been ignoring for 50 years or more,” writes Begley. “The next apocalypse will be brutal, tragic, and costly.”

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