Niche Reads: New Recommendations for Political Science Majors

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If you find it hard to find time for a fun read, this is the place for you! Niche Reads recommends novels related to academic (or other) interests so you can explore a new book while feeling productive. Check back every week for more cool books!

If there’s one thing that’s true about Middlebury students, it’s that they’re busy. They have work to do, meetings to attend, and a social life to maintain. With all these external responsibilities, reading for pleasure is often the first pastime to pursue. How can you justify starting an amusing and interesting novel when you already have to read 300 pages of sociolinguistic historical analysis of the philosophy of chemistry?

What if, to help you overcome this difficulty, you had a handy list of books to choose from based on your academic interests? What if you could read a book that was both personally fulfilling and intellectually productive?

Well, you’re in luck! Niche Reads will recommend books suited to your interests, starting with novels related to political science. Here you will find three carefully selected books that explore the relationship between personal identity and political upheaval.

“Where You Come From” by Saša Stanišić:

This novel explores in heartbreaking detail what it means to be from a land that no longer exists. If you’re looking for a more traditional narrative, you might be more satisfied with the other two recommendations, but if you’re in the mood for something less conventional, “Where You’re From” worth the detour.

Set against the backdrop of a war-ravaged former Yugoslav village of 13, this structurally innovative work of autofiction examines the fallout from war and immigration. It twists the timeline and takes risks in its structure to create a unique and compelling story, dealing with national and personal identity.

Stanišić recounts his own life and his family’s story for the benefit of these rich explorations with honesty, care and humor. Both personal and universal,Where are you from” seeks to answer the titular question, which may not be as philosophical as we would like to assume.

You should read this book if you enjoy experimental narrative structures, are interested in family dynamics, or are looking for introspective reading.

“Beasts of a Small Country” by Juhea Kim:

“Beasts of a Little Land” follows many characters, but its main focus is Jade, a young courtesan from Japanese-occupied Korea. Through a decades-long account of Jade’s life, the novel explores how people can live with war and brutality, and the importance of a national identity.

Detailing the process of ideological radicalization, for better or for worse, the novel presents the personal consequences of bold political action.

While impressive overall, “Beasts of a Little Land” really shines on the macro level. Kim masterfully interweaves seemingly disparate plot elements to create a surprisingly beautiful and cohesive story.

You should read this book if you enjoy epic and complex stories, are interested in historical fiction, or are not afraid of moral complexity.

“A Subtle Balance” by Rohinton Mistry:

Amid religious persecution and political turmoil, four strangers in an unnamed town in 1970s India come together to create a safe haven and a makeshift family in a small apartment.

Brimming with compassion and urgency, “A Fine Balance” is an impressive literary feat, from its ambitious scope to its lively setting and beautiful prose. By far, however, the most remarkable element of this novel is the depth of its characters. The four main characters – Dina, Ishvar, Om and Maneck – relate to each other with remarkable humanity and complexity.

Although beautiful, “A Fine Balance” is extremely sad and often disturbing. Only read it if you are ready for a hard read.

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You should read this book if you like the trope of found family, are drawn to character-driven stories, or are ready to cry.


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