Join us this month to read Open City, by novelist Teju Cole. Our nominations this month featured stories by writers connected with Africa, and Cole's novel won with a clear margin.
In Open City, a half-Nigerian, half-German psychiatry grad student named Julius walks around New York City and meets interesting people. He talks to a Haitian shoe-shiner, watches a performance of Mahler at Carnegie Hall, and visits a detention center in Queens with a church group. During a visit to Brussels, Julius also encounters, admires, and argues with a fiercely opinionated Moroccan who works at an Internet café.
"The New York of Mr. Cole—a writer, photographer and historian who was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1992—is a city of immigrants," writes Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times review. James Wood points out in his New Yorker review that "we ... need a flâneur to see interesting things in the city, and to notice them well." He calls it "a beautifully modulated description of a certain kind of solitary liberalism common to thousands, if not millions, of bookish types."
Reviewers love to compare Cole's work with works of philosophy and other serious novels. This is partly due to what Giles Foden calls "its cosmopolitan range of reference. Moments of genuine narrative are most often the springboard for a jump into book chat, music trivia or historical disquisition."