I have an announcement to make. I am on a reading challenge! The challenge is to read 50 books by the end of 2019. It is difficult for me. Very difficult in fact because I have a toddler to look after but the challenge is still in progress.
I moved to Cambridge, USA when my husband got an admit from MIT. And since then I have been too busy. The past few months have been a completely different chapter of my life. I did things I never thought I was capable of doing – cooking for 6-8 people (sometimes), waking up before sunrise, looking after 2 kids, running a household (please excuse my ALWAYS MESSY home) and still finding time to do some technical writing as a freelance gig.
But do you know the thing I am the proudest of doing in this super busy and often stressful life? READING.
At the onset of the year 2018, I vowed to myself to pick up reading (again) and I am so pleased to tell you that I lived up to the challenge. I’ve taken up the challenge again in 2019!
Although, I started with a promise made to myself to read at least 50 books in 2018, and I am nowhere near to that mark but I am glad that in the last four months, I have finished reading more than 10 books. Today, I read Akhil Sharma’s ‘Family Life’ in one sitting of about two hours while I waited in the laundry area.
I earnestly believe, we all, especially women, MUST READ. It can be anything – newspapers, articles, blogs, books, essays or just a monthly/weekly magazine, but please find some time to read. Everyday. Come, what may.
I, as a mother of an eight-year-old and a one-year-old, would like to read at least 50 books this year!
I understand it is a difficult thing to do. More so, because I have a toddler at home who makes it all the way more difficult by tearing up my books, by not letting me have enough sleep and by pouncing upon my books like a ferocious tiger each time I pick them up, BUT I am determined to read as much as I can.
I am lagging way behind the set target, but I am motivated enough to keep reading and inshallah, I hope I am able to reach the number I have set up for myself.
SO, pour in your suggestions. I want recommendations on contemporary literature, on books that are well-written and that aren’t sci-fi or thrillers. That’s just not my style. I would appreciate the books that aren’t too long (beyond 450 is a little too much for me) and are preferably the ones that have received good reviews in the past. (Since I am pressed for time, I don’t want to spend time on a book that I am unable to finish or on a book that I regret picking up!)
Send me your suggestions – titles of your favorite books.
And here are brief reviews of 10 books that I finished reading lately and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
1.The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
This book is not called a cult book without a reason. The recent incidents at the border in the USA where kids were snatched away by the authorities reminded me of the opening pages of the book. It is dystopian. It is disturbing. But it is a must-read. After I finished reading it, I thought if Margaret had predicted the future. Well, she denies but seeing the time our world is facing today, the day is not far away when The Handmaid’s Tale would play out live around us.
Margaret Atwood recently tweeted “That is why I did not put anything into
#TheHandmaidsTale that had not happened somewhere… including the snatching of children from their parents. Believable? Alas yes.” The tweet says it all.
I won’t write much about the book because a lot has already been said and written (and produced on TV and big screen) about the book. If you haven’t read it, go read it right away. I regret why I didn’t read it earlier.
2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
A young black woman writes letters to God (and also to her beloved sister) and opens her bare heart in them. Celie, the narrator of the book and the writer of the letters, doesn’t have it easy in life. First she endures abuse at the hands of her father and to make it worse, she is married off to an older man at a young age.
She derives emotional strength from her younger sister and courage from her friend Shug. The Color Purple is a heart wrenching book. It moves you and brings tears of joy as Celie, finally, speaks up against the abuse and reunites with her sister.
3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.
I loved this book not only because I could see my husband Sanjay in Ove but also because I could see a bit of myself in Ove’s wife Sonja. I picked this book on word of mouth recommendation and I am so happy I got a chance to read it. It is funny, moving and wise. It makes you cry. And it makes you fall in love with life and Ove, of course.
The best thing about the book is its protagonist. I can safely say that when you read it, you will recollect some Ove from your own personal life. In my case, I could see my husband so clearly panning out in the book.
3. Waiting by Ha Jin.
“Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu.”
Imagine a book that begins with a powerful sentence like the above. I enjoyed reading the book not only because of the flawed yet well-developed characters of the book but also for how it lets me take a glimpse into the communist China of the 1960s.
A book becomes a delightful read if its characters are relatable. In Waiting, all the three characters are relatable in more ways than one. Lin Kong is decent and commands respect from the beginning. Manna Wu, his girlfriend at the hospital, is likeable and sometimes you love her but at times you feel she is confused – like most of us. It is Shuyu, the bound feet wife, who won my heart.
4. The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
In Korea, a married woman suddenly decides to become vegetarian and thus begins a journey that shakes you by the end of it.
Yeong-Hye saw a dream and decided to quit eating meat. Even she must not have known how this would change her life. Her marriage breaks. Her parents stop talking to her. She is put in an asylum and finally, she developed anorexia and schizophrenia. Han Kang’s book is small and a breezy read but it haunts you after you put it down.
A transgression novel, it becomes complicated towards the end and leaves you with your imagination about what happens to Yeong Hye and her sister who looks after her when she is admitted to the hospital.
5. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
We all think we have it all figured out about success. That success is about hard work, smart work and maybe a bit of destiny.
Read Outliers and your perception will change like none before. Like Malcolm’s other books, this one is well researched and is packed with evidence to prove its point. It talks about Bill Gates, Hockey Team and even a small Italian town to prove its point.
A true non-fiction and a great learning. The book has a lot to teach.
6. Less By Andrew Seen Greer.
I started reading this book the day it was awarded Pulitzer prize. I was lucky to find a copy of it in the local library.
The book is a light read, one that is quite enjoyable. The main character Arthur Less is an ordinary man who always ends in the difficult (or should I say wrong) places. The book is about his journey through Mexico and India and his literary progression.
Oh! Did I tell you Less is 50 years old and a homosexual?
7. The Course Of Love by Alain De Botton.
I became a fan of Alain De Botton after I read his awesome article ‘Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person‘ in the New York Times in 2016. It was after this article that I got the honor to appear with him on Al-Jazeera’s Web Channel, The Stream to speak on marriages.
Like his beautifully crafted essay, Alain’s book ‘The Course of Love’ is well written and jam-packed with practical anecdotes and commentary on marriages. It is a fiction novel filled with non-fiction like passages on marriage and relationships that bring us face-to-face with what a real marriage is like.
9. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
A tiny book packed with loads of wisdom where the author lives in a small cabin near the sea and assesses her life.
10. Becoming by Michelle Obama
This should be on the top of the list and what new should I say about it? A dear friend said, “This book is about power without showing authority.”
11. Educated by Tara Westover
Honestly, if I have to pick the best book of the lot I think I’d be torn between Educated and The Handmaid’s Tale. Educated is honest and raw and an immensely uplifting book.
12. Hunger by Roxane Gay
Never again you’d look at a fat human being the same way. This book tells the story that goes being that extra flab on someone’s body. It is gripping and so powerfully and truthfully told.
13. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
I read it on a friend’s suggestion and oh my! how much I loved it. I finished the book in straight two days. The book is based on Mumbai slum dwellers life and if you are evenly faintly familiar with slum lives, you’d feel this book isn’t a book. It’s a live story in front of you.
14. The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu probably has the best authority to talk about forgiveness. This whole book is about forgiveness and how forgiveness is the ultimate route to peace.
15. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Oh my God! What an inspiring book this is! Cheryl finished the PCT without being a seasoned hiker or trekker. From a drug addict to a hiker, Cheryl went wild and gave us such a strong story. Believe me, after I finished reading this book I wanted to do something with my life – something physically challenging. It was so motivating.
16. Homegoing by Yaa Gayasi
Gayasi knows how to tell a story. Spanning across generations, the book is set up in Africa and follows the lives of two sisters – one of whom is pushed into slavery.
17. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
One of the funniest and the best illustrated books. LOVED it. You must read it to know what I mean.
18. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Magical realism? Read from the master.
I said 10 but here I gave you 17 books. I have more in mind but I wanted to include the books from different genres. Also, when I started writing this post, I had just started with the challenge and now I’ve finished one cycle of the challenge.
Like I said above, send me your recommendations, your favorite books and what you’re planning to read. Let’s read together.