Edinburgh's Radical Bookshop

What we read in October 2023


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Welcome! You've reached the place where we, on a monthly basis, gather up what the Lighthouse team are currently reading. You can check out round-ups from previous months amongst our Read Think Act posts.

October brought seasonal spook and sharp true-crime in fiction form as well as musings on the politics of deserts, rebelious folklore and much more.


Deserts Are Not Empty edited by Samia Henni - incredible anthology of essays exposing colonial and extractive capitalistic rhetoric around deserts. It was a relief to read this having grown up in Egypt and experienced how people are made to (dis-)connect with deserts as ‘dangerous places,’ forcing Egyptians to be reliant on oppressive systems and cities. Integrating various essayistic forms and multi-lingual writing, this collection resists notions of deserts as “wastelands” and finds futurities in spaces often seen as devoid of hope.

Al-Rihla by Fekry el-Khouly (in Arabic) - A memoir about the author’s life in 1920’s Egypt when he left home to work in the textile factories in el-Mahalla el-Kobra. Recording the fight for workers’ rights, this memoir does much more than archive this moment in history. Written in an Egyptian dialect, it decentres MSA as the sole purveyor of writing and storytelling, finding space for various identities that would otherwise not find a place on the page.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler (audiobook via Libro.fm) -  “All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.” Written in the 90’s and set in 2024, this sci-fi classic felt very current. Community-building, preparedness, and the willingness to imagine change and create it helps a group survivors after being displaced from their homes. There’s a sense of threat throughout from systems of oppression that are unnervingly similar to what people have been experiencing for decades. But there’s also relief, if only for Butler’s ability to imagine a way to survive through it all.


Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu - a gothic sapphic pre-Dracula novella with thinly veiled villain anagrams, and all the vampiric tropes you could wish for? Yes please.

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum - Are bookselling books the new myth retelling? There’s lots of them! This was a sweet narrative of a group of people brought together and becoming more themselves through books and the bookshop as a safe place. Idealises bookselling a wee bit though, nothing goes wrong!

On Libro.fm - Rebel Folklore by Icy Sedgwick and narrated by Maite Jáuregui - Outcasts, misfits, and underdogs... this is not fluffy folklore. It looks at 50 figures from around the world and what real world situations (e.g. sexism, classism, displacement) or moral messages were represented by their stories.


I thought This Ragged Grace by Octavia Bright was a very beautiful, painful and honest look at dementia and recovery, ending in the covid era. I dog-eared a lot of pages and really appreciated Octavia Bright’s candidness and the deep intertextuality of the work.

Incidentally, another book which features life in the pandemic was The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which was just miraculous. A book about family, the prison industrial complex, indigenous rights, bookselling, love, police violence, and ghosts. I want everyone everyone everyone to read it.

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute - I love Talia Hibbert and I also loved her first YA book, highly suspicious and unfairly cute! A perfectly fizzy enemies-to-lovers romance about ambition and grief and OCD


Martin MacInnes' In Ascension - a beautifully-written literary take on science fiction with themes of humanism and mental illness front-and-centre.


Penance by Eliza Clarke - a wonderfully inventive novel about a novel that presents itself as non-fiction, a reminder of the hell that is being a teenager, but more than anything a sharp look at societal obsessions with true crime and what they say about violence, class, youth and media.

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