A girl’s got to read, this all Clutchettes know. So, to help navigate the ever-expanding world of books, Uptown Literati is here to provide a weekly reading list. We’re a fresh, book blog for cool girls and great reads (check us out on our site [uptownliteratti.blogspot.com] and we’ll be dishing on what you need to be reading now: classic tomes, sassy fiction, juicy tell-alls and every type of paperback in between. Happy reading!

Who: Literary newcomer ZZ Packer 

What: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, Packer’s dazzling debut story collection, is full of intelligent and brave characters that all seem to be wrestling with the confines of their society. Whether it’s a young boy with daddy issues traveling to the Million Man March (see “Ant of the Self”) or a young church lady constantly confronted with assaults to her brand of Christianity, everyone featured in the eight stories is living outside of mainstream’s narrowly drawn boundaries, to various results.

Why: Nearly every book critic hailed Packer’s debut as about as perfect as mere mortals get, but even those weighty recommendations don’t prepare you for the sheer brilliance of Packer’s writing. Her knack is examining the precise moment that self and society discontinue to meet, and thoroughly exploring that area with a slight hand.

Rating: 5 stars

Who: Father of English literature, Geoffrey Chaucer 

What: The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer’s magnum opus, and arguably the most famous collection of stories in the English literary canon. A colorful cross section of pilgrims venture together and regale one another with parables and folk tales ranging from the downtrodden to the witty to the humorous, all responding to a challenge of whoever tells the best story gets a free meal at the end of the journey.

Why: If listening to the news is any indication that England is becoming the new United States (particularly for immigrants), then it’s pertinent to become familiar with the birthplace of the modern English language. Give yourself a cool challenge by reading the tales—written in Middle English vernacular—aloud. It’s much more exciting than you think.

Rating: 5 stars

Who: Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez with translator Edith Grossman 

What: Love in the Time of Cholera, one of Marquez’s slightly lesser-known novel. Fans of the Columbian writer’s seminal book, 100 Years of Solitude, will be similarly pleased with the lush details and rich dialogue of the love triangle between fierce, beautiful Fermina, poor and awkward Florentino and rich but passionless Juvenal.

Why: Though National Hispanic Heritage Month is halfway over, there’s no better time to connect with beauty and richness of Latino culture. Love in the Time of Cholera deftly moves through social classes, neighborhoods, personalities and time to reveal much of what separates Latin America from other regions.

Rating: 5 stars

Who: Author and womanist Alice Walker 

What: “My Father’s Country Is the Poor”, an essay from In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens. Walker delivers a stunning dissertation on Cuban culture from her perspective as a curious “cultural worker” during a brief stint in the socialist nation in the 1970’s. Among other strong themes, Walker dives into the dilapidated sense of beauty she felt Cuba gave its women, bumping favoritism towards makeup and lighter, fairer features against the country’s mantra of freedom.

Why: With Cuban-American relations a chief concern for the current presidential administration’s agenda, this essay in particular is a timely reflection on the pride (and ills) of a culture heavily influenced by the spirit of revolution that still endures.

Rating: 5 stars

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