When a fulltime job combined with what could easily be called the best years of television come at you together, reading takes a backseat which is what happened to me from about 2012/13. While my 2015 Goodreads challenge to myself to read 25 books would make my former self hang my head in shame, it was nevertheless looking like a Herculean task at the beginning of the year.
But finally giving into a Kindle (thanks Abeysekera for the final push) and then truly falling for how amazing a gadget it is has resulted in (a) Shopping sprees on the Amazon store and (b) Surpassing my challenge by about 1.5 books.
I read a lot of books by women and/or about women this year. 2015 was also the year I read Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Bell Hooks and Margaret Atwood for the first time (probably a result of resolving to read less South Asian literature for a year). It was also the year that I’ve begun to force myself to read at least two or three non fiction books though I tend to read them at a much slower pace, as opposed to the hundreds of articles and longreads that I read throughout the year.
So excuse me while I indulge myself (as per the paragraphs above) and write a few words about some of the books and authors that stood out from what and whom I’ve read this year.
I love writers who observe the ordinary and in Teju Cole I’ve found a writer who does that so subtly and effortlessly that you sometimes have to flip a few pages back. I also love writers who express perfectly the experience of living in or even simply walking around a big city, the mixture of isolation, excitement and the sheer overwhelmingness. Though vastly different in other aspects, he is very similar to Murakami when it comes to these two things.
Yes shame on me for not having got on the Chimamanda bandwagon until this year! Having said that though I’m not sure if Americanah was the correct entrypoint. Beautiful prose but indulgent in places in terms of the number of themes she tried to cover.
This was a pleasant surprise among the current trend of every other comedian getting a book deal. It makes you stop and think about how relationships (getting into them, ending them, staying in them) have changed drastically, especially in the last few years. It also gave me some insights for how knowledge can be transformed and be made relatable when people take a chance. Like a collaboration between a comedian and a sociologist.
This was on my 2015 reading list because my imaginary BFF Roxane Gay wrote about it in Bad Feminist that I read the year before. Kate Zambreno could very well be the Sylvia Plath of my generation. Gay called the book “searing” and I agree. It is an incredibly relatable meditation on our daily life of “performing gender” and the accompanying frustrations and ridiculousness.
A very difficult read and I kept having very visceral reactions while reading but I also couldn’t stop reading. I had Nirbhaya and other countless women in mind while reading this as well as the complicated relationships we navigate with our parents/parental figures.
Reading this after “An Untamed State” made everything bell hooks talks about even more real. The book has also made me rethink how I explain and share my politics with others, especially those closest to me. And has me pondering over the merits and demerits of scheduling regular Whatsapp or Skype conversations with a handful of friends in line of the community building that hooks implores us to do, in whatever scale and size.
MoMA ran an amazing exhibition this year entitled One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North and I was lucky enough to have a Saturday off during one of my visits to New York this year to go spend half a day in it. Nella Larsen was featured in it and her two seminal works on being a black female in the 1920’s Harlem immediately piqued my interest. Passing in particular was of great interest because I had no idea about the concept of passing and its influence on the black bourgeoisie.
I couldn’t bring myself to rate this book because of how it crawled under my skin but it takes a skillful writer to navigate the themes of pedophelia, obsession, sexuality, to challenge her writers to look inward and to cause unease without sensationalizing the story.
The amazing thing about dicovering Atwood so late in life is that there are so many books to read smile emoticon I’ve read two this year and have plans to read two more next year. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale but Alias Grace moved me in an unexpected way. I don’t yet feel qualified enough to comment on Atwood so maybe next year.
Definitely a book I will reread in the years to come. The narrative is structured so well and the story comes together so beautifully at the end.
I’m still only halfway through this amazing book but it deserves a mention because everytime I go back to reading it, I can’t stop raving about it. Apart from being a biography of cancer, it effortlessly gives insights on how progress, stagnation and regress in medicine and science are influenced by wars, the media and most of all egos of individuals (many of them men). It’s also teaching me things like the influence of feminism over cancer treatment such as the introduction of palliative care. And the disconnect that remains to this day between clinicians and scientists. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read in my entire life.