Selim Özdoğan's Top English Picks

By V&Q Books

By V&Q Books

Author, yoga teacher and music fan Selim Özdoğan reads mainly in German, but now and then he'll pick an English book that's really special. Here are his recommendations. 

The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time

Hunter Thompson

£14.99 £13.94

I bought this book at Heathrow Airport in the early 90s and read it in Jamaica. I knew Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but I thought it was just a turned-on, tuned-in, dropped-out druggie book. This collection of writing, precisely crafted with melody and rhythm, made me understand what kind of writer Hunter S. Thompson is and how important individual freedom was to him, alongside social cohesion.

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness

Sy Montgomery

£8.99 £8.36

A book that explains our fascination with octopi, that came out long before the wonderful Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher. Even if you think you’re not interested in octopi, Montgomery’s obsession is likely to infect you.

The Flame: Poems Notebooks Lyrics Drawings

Leonard Cohen

£16.98 £15.79

So little to say / So urgent / to say it, Cohen writes in his poem titled “My Career”. Cohen is the artist I look to when I’m seeking humility, warmth, cordiality, spirituality, beauty, divinity and light.

Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice

Mark Singleton

£12.99

A book that clears up a lot of romanticized and mysticalized myths when it comes to the history and theory of yoga. It shows that today’s yoga as we know it in the West has developed out of many Western ideas.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Tom Wolfe

£10.99 £10.22

The story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, driving around the USA at the end of the 60s and holding LSD parties. Tom Wolfe is a precise, clever, empathetic writer who can capture atmospheres, experiences and emotions on paper like hardly anyone else. I wasn’t there and maybe it’s just a projection, but I get the impression this book took me closer to that time and euphoria than any other work on the subject.

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

Peter Hook

£9.99 £9.29

You might think it’s a standard musician’s autobiography revelling in the past, but I’ve read a lot about Joy Division and no book before it opened up so many perspectives and experiences for me as this one. By the by, it reveals a lot about the music industry of the time, and also the culture of Hook’s post-war generation. My favourite sentence: "Never had rice, you see, I was in my early twenties and had never had rice." I also enjoyed Hook’s later book Inside New Order.

Selim Özdoğan's novel The Blacksmith's Daughter is published by V&Q Books on 1 March 2021. 

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