TikTok star Tasnim Geedi loves books that subvert expectations — here are 7 favourites
The #BookTok star will champion Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia on Canada Reads 2023
Tasnim Geedi is a Somali Canadian nursing student who is best known as @groovytas on TikTok, where she posts about her favourite books. She's one of the biggest "BookTok" creators in Canada, with over 100,000 followers, and her content has been liked more than five million times.
But, as Geedi explains in an interview with CBC Books, it wasn't until a teacher handed her Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan that her love for books — specifically, the subversiveness of historical fiction and the magic systems of fantasy books — began.
Now, the BookTok creator is set to champion Silvia Moreno-Garcia's historical fiction Mexican Gothic on Canada Reads 2023.
In the lead-up to the great Canadian book debate, Geedi sat down with CBC Books to talk about the books that cemented her passion for literature.
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
"The only books I used to read were Archie Comics in the grocery aisle, so I never cared much for reading. But then, in Grade 5, my teacher brought us all [The Lightning Thief from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series]. This book skyrocketed me into reading.
It sparked my love for reading and for mythology.- Tasnim Geedi
"Everybody had Harry Potter and Percy. I was a Percy girl. I was able to do a minor in classical myth [in university] because of everything I learned in Percy. I didn't have to do much of the university readings because of the foundation that Rick Riordan gave me.
"It sparked my love for reading and for mythology."
- Gothic horror on Canada Reads? Breaking boundaries is the norm for Mexican Gothic author Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Circe by Madeline Miller
"Circe is a very lyrical, poetic book about the sorceress Circe and her untold story.
Circe is a very lyrical, poetic book about the sorceress Circe and her untold story.- Tasnim Geedi
"We've always seen in popular myth that she was a bad guy. Some of the great heroes in Greek mythology basically scorned her and the gods also turned their back on her. This is a story that's been told so many times from so many different authors and poets. To see how Madeleine was able to include Circe's point of view and make it her own — that's what resonated with me the most."
Babel by R. F. Kuang
"Babel is set in Oxford in the 1800s. R. F. Kuang bases a lot of her books on real-life events and that's what I loved about it.
"The book is about a guy named Robin, who was an orphan in China and is brought to Oxford University by this suave professor. As you read it, you learn that all of these huge institutions — like Oxford and Harvard — couldn't have succeeded without profiting off of colonialism. Kuang plays off that in this magical realism book. She uses metaphors and language as the weapon and magic against colonialism.
You learn that all of these huge institutions — like Oxford and Harvard — couldn't have succeeded without profiting off colonialism.- Tasnim Geedi
"You can't have a dark academia book without critiquing academia. A lot of dark academia books don't do that, but she was able to do it and still have a powerful story at the end, so that's wonderful."
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
"If I could ever give a book six stars, it would be that one. I could never reread it genuinely. That book broke me in 1,000 different ways.
As a Muslim woman, to see how other people live and how they still find love and courage and hope through such hard times, it's so inspiring.- Tasnim Geedi
"It's about women from different generations, backgrounds and privileges in Afghan society and how their lives intersect under Taliban rule. As a Muslim woman, to see how other people live and how they still find love and courage and hope through such hard times, it's so inspiring.
"I still have every single moment etched in my brain somewhere. I still have my old copy with tear stains on it. It's really really good, especially if you want to learn about what's going on in Afghanistan. I thought I knew but I really didn't. It gives it to you at ground level; you understand one person's life, not just at a news story level, which is really important."
- Canada Reads 2020 winner Samra Habib hosts series exploring Khaled Hosseini's novel A Thousand Splendid Suns
Jade City by Fonda Lee
"Fonda Lee wrote the Green Bone saga, which includes Jade City, Jade War and Jade Legacy. It's The Godfather meets old Hong Kong martial arts. It's an urban fantasy. We have two rival gangs who are trying to compete to control the city. They are imbued with jade, [giving them enhanced abilities].
This book cemented my love for adult fantasy.- Tasnim Geedi
"This is about family blood ties and shows what you would do for your family. I could see it perfectly as an HBO show. The action is there and it's based on the political climate in Hong Kong.
"This book cemented my love for adult fantasy. I only used to read young adult fiction because whenever I think of adult fiction, I think of The Lord of the Rings and big, dense books that are inaccessible and not meant for me. But the way Lee writes, even though it's very complex, the writing is very accessible.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
"Tracy Deonn wrote this book about a 16 year-old girl named Bree in America who gets into a secret society that's based off of Arthurian legend.
If you know anything about the history of American slavery in history — the way she was able to base Arthurian legend, ancestral magic and colonial magic off of that history was amazing.- Tasnim Geedi
"What I found phenomenal was that Deonn included two types of magic systems: one of them to explain colonial magic and one of them to explain ancestral magic. She explains how both of these types of magic exist at the same time and how one originated versus the other.
"If you know anything about the history of American slavery in history — the way she was able to base Arthurian legend, ancestral magic and colonial magic off of that history was amazing.
"I'm so excited for the third book. The series is Legendborn, Bloodmarked and she has not revealed the title of the third book. Tracy, if you end up seeing this somehow, somewhere, I would like that book."
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
"I just finished this book. It's about a female chemist in the 1960s. I think it's right after women were allowed to get grad degrees without being married. It shows her journey from the beginning to the end and how she became a successful cook.
As a woman in STEM reading her journey, the things the protagonist experiences are not that unfamiliar to me. I was the only woman and the only Black woman in my neuroscience labs for three years.- Tasnim Geedi
"She initially wanted to become a successful chemist, but then she realized even though she's allowed to go to grad school and she is a genius among all of her peers, she still faced blatant and silent gender discrimination.
"She reminded me a lot of Christina Yang from Grey's Anatomy. As a woman in STEM reading her journey, the things the protagonist experiences are not that unfamiliar to me. I was the only woman and the only Black woman in my neuroscience labs for three years. In the last year, there was just one other girl. What she goes through, being questioned at every turn, I resonated with that completely.
"You see how she is able to become a successful cook, which she never saw herself being because she never wanted to be like her mom. I love the perspective-playing they showed from the beginning to the end. You get the perspective of a dog [at one point]!"
LISTEN | Tasnim Geedi on BookTok and championing Mexican Gothic:
Geedi's comments have been edited for length and clarity.
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