Books that made my year, part II
I tried to maintain a books read list for the year, but failed miserably. But it was a pretty good year, filled with some excellent writing. Here’s a thread on some of them:
1/n: Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo was among the best biographies this year. A fascinating study of the renaissance genius, who was much more than just Vitruvian Man and Mona Lisa. Isaacson does a superb job of recounting his courting of European nobility, his rivalries & his focus.
2/n: I was late to Brad Stone’s study of Amazon, The Everything Store (shoulda read much earlier considering I work in publishing and it’s Amazon). Read this to see why Amazon is what it is, and Bezos’ vision fuelled by innovation (& capitalism). If you want to understand the modern internet, start here.
3/n: Sujatha Gidla’s Ant Among Elephants was, quite simply, the most evocative book of 2018. It’s a vivid memoir, shaking our upper-caste sensitivities to the core. It’s also a reminder that communists in our part of the world believe in the caste system as well.
4/n: The 2 IB Rai translations by Manjushree Thapa & Prawin Adhikari. Rai passed away earlier this year, and the two translations were a fitting tribute to a writer who should be read much more widely.
6/n: Douglas Preston’s Lost city of the Monkey God, about an archaeological dig in Honduras into the lost city of La Ciudad Blanca, reads exactly like it sounds: a modern Indiana Jones fable. Excellent adventure!
7/n: again, late to Jerry Pinto’s fab novel Em and the Big Hoom. A novel that deserves all the praise and accolade it has received. Wonderful, poignant, it forces us to reevaluate our relationship with our parents, and see them beyond just the biological roles we assign to them.
8/n: This was a year of reading (and writing about) new crime writing. My favourites: Ausma Zehanat Khan, Qiu Xiaolong (who gave me company during a long walk in the mountains), and Abir Mukherjee. Looks like Tana French will soon join that list, considering I’ve just started on her second novel after her impressive debut In the Woods. (If you want to read some of my essays on crime writers from across the world, click here)
9/n: Lots of reading about our northern neighbour this year too. Yu Hua’s China in 10 words is a must read, so is Ian Johnson’s Souls of China: The return of religion after Mao. John Keay’s China a History is a superb one-volume introduction to the civilisation.
10/n: But the book this year was What China and India Once Were, edited by Pollock and Elman. I’m surprised there aren’t more comparative histories of the 2 nations, but that also tells us how little we know about each other. Absolute unit of a book.
11/n: At Writer’s Side, I had the pleasure of reading some excellent works. Neelam Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janaki, & Shazaf Fatima Haider’s A Firefly in the Dark blew my mind when I read them. Highly, highly recommended [even if i am biased].
12/n: Also, you guys don’t know what’s waiting for you next year: Babu Bangladesh, possibly the most complete South Asian fiction I’ve ever read. Terrible that we also lost the author Numair Choudhary this year, but his only novel will let us know how much we will miss his craft.
13/n: This was also a year of firsts for me: one of my essays was published in The Himalayan Arc, an anthology on our favourite mountains & regions. Towards the end, one of my stories [!] was published in the Best Asian Speculative Fiction anthology. Couldn’t be more thrilled.
All in all, it’s been a good year vis-a-vis reading. Could have read more. Could have certainly finished more books (tsundoku, ye ol’ foe!). Should definitely read more fiction next year (& graphic novels, yes!). Fin!
(Copy-pasta’d from my Twitter!)