2019 is almost at an end and I can definitely say that it has been an awesome reading year for me. I have finished reading 250 books so far and I know that that number will only increase until the 31st of December. So as a part of my Bookmas series, I decided to compile a list of the best books I have read in 2019! And in no particular order, the books are:
You Will Be Safe Here, by Damian Barr – An extraordinary debut that explores legacies of abuse, redemption, and the strength of the human spirit–from the Boer Wars in South Africa to brutal wilderness camps for teenage boys. It also talks about the feminine issues – both social, and historical – the suppression of women and the masculine power play over them, their objectification, etc. The diary entries make you cry – just reading of the utter inhuman situations that they, along with so many other people were subjected to. The flashback method was also great and gives great depth to the story. One of the major themes that I saw throughout Part 2 is that of toxic masculinity. For instance, seeing Willem cry in desperation once, Jan had turned away – after all, boys do not cry. We also see domestic abuse scenario in this part. (See full review)
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City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert – A delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person. City Of Girls is part memoir, and We see Vivian as a very practical, matter-of-fact woman, who accepts things as they are. Easter eggs in the book were the mentions of Gone With The Wind as well as the people associated with it. Dealing with trauma is something that is shown multiple times in the book, although very subtly as undercurrents that determine the actions of the characters. When we see Vivian and Celia get punished for their actions, we confront the hypocrisy of the society, just as the character mentions, the women are always punished but the men get away scot-free with it. (See full review)
We Should All be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Despite the tiny size of this book, the content was a vital key towards understanding what feminism is and why we should strive to be feminists ourselves. Feminism is such a controversial term and I honestly do not understand why. Why wouldn’t you want to be considered equal to the person standing next to you? We are living in the 21st century and as we move into the third decade, this issue continues to rile up so many. The book is illuminating specially if you want to understand what feminism is without going through theory books, and why we should seek for it and live it every day. I also loved the easy and interactive writing style of the author and am looking forward to reading more of her novels in the coming year.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel – The second graphic novel I ever read, and one that will rally stay with me, Fun home was a brilliant tour-de-force. While an autobiography, this work also brings to the fore, the concept of autobiofictionality – of what happened in the past and of how you actually remember things happening. The minimal colors used were juxtaposed against the complex matters in the book. We see the author coming to terms about her own sexuality while also realizing that her father had been a closeted homosexual man. There are also many repercussions to this – the mother stuck in the loveless, while convenient marriage; the father always trying to fix up the house in a way he cannot ‘fix’ himself, etc. There are also a ton of literary allusions in the book which truly establishes this as a seminal work in modern literature.
Suncatcher, by Romesh Gunesekera – Suncatcher was a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age novel.Set in the 1960s Ceylon, erstwhile Sri Lanka, and it is a time of great political change all around. We follow the protagonist Kairo, a normal young boy whose life takes for an exciting turn when he meets the worldly and confident Jay. For all his dreams and hopes, Jay reminded me of Fitzgerald’s famous character Jay Gatsby. Another character who was very interesting was Uncle Elvin. If Jay reminds me of Jay Gatsby because of his visionary ways, Elvin seems to embody Rhett Butler in his manner of living. As for the writing, the language is descriptive and wholesome. One of the important themes was that of illusion. Be it the adults or Jay himself, everyone seems to be deliberately altering the way he or she perceives reality. (See full review)
Circus Folk and Village Freaks, by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal – Sanyal has played with magic to deliver to us a tale of absurd and unbelievable men and women, monsters and pets. The transformation from man to animal, man to monster etc. run rife throughout the “18 twisted tales” and provides an enjoyable and funny read. Under these trivial and funny stories though, lies witty undertones, which are deep and metaphorical in the essence. The various themes I interpreted in the book include, but are not limited to, issues of abandonment and finding one’s true calling, homosexuality, society’s reaction against this ‘perversion’, and suicide, identity, love, mental illness, etc. The verse is lyrical and rhyming and thus, sounds so musical. I definitely recommend reciting these out loud. It’s a magical experience. My absolute favorite poems from here are The Unlikely Love Story of Lingam, and Jeeva, The Elephant Man. (See full review)
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe – Anther book I read as a part of my course, Things Fall Apart is a seminal work in African literature. It follows Okonkwo, a man from the Igbo society living his daily life, until the advent of the colonizers. The book is also a microcosm of not just all of Africa, but also of all the people and countries, which have been colonized by the western powers. The writing style is simple and yet powerful. The fall of the people – as they slowly lose their own ways and culture under the pressure and influence of the English – is sad to read about. The story climbs up to a crescendo and the climax is a potent one, that left me reeling. This is a masterpiece that everyone should definitely read.
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison – The Bluest Eye was Toni Morrison’s first novel, published in 1970, and it is a controversial novel still, for showing themes of incest, child molestation, racism etc. By the time I had finished reading the last page, I was blown away by the lyrical quality of Morrison’s writing. The repetitions sometimes sound like a mantra that beats at your mind as you read of the terrible beauty that is this book. What is important, is the psychological implications the book also portrays throughout the shifting perspectives. It is a wonder, that Morrison wrote things that still affect the human race today – in that she is a writer on the human tragedies that are eternal and everlasting. The mental space is a big motif in this book. Replete with the truest essence of humanness, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye is one of the best books ever. (See full review)
Becoming, by Michelle Obama – I read this book as an audiobook and while I absolutely loved the sound of Michelle Obama’s voice and her enunciation, the content blew me away. I still reiterate that this book should be included in school curriculums because of its powerful and inspiring story of the first black First Lady of the USA. And I am not kidding when I say that this book motivated me a lot. I could relate myself to the author as I have been quite competitive all my life – but competitive with myself. It has always been a very serious game for me- I always try to be better than I was yesterday and to see the same attitude in the author, really reinforced this belief I have in myself. This is a grand gift, this time of the year, for any young cousin or sibling.
Lord of the Butterflies, by Andrea Gibson – One of the best poetry collections I have ever read, Lord of the Butterflies deals with issues such as homosexuality, being a transgender person, dealing with this as a child, and accepting this about oneself; bullying, rebellion; familial love, family drama, etc. The poet uses beautiful lyrical lines that just drive the knife deeper into the heart, so to speak – because all of the poems are so poignant and meaningful and relatable in today’s context, that you cannot help but be sucked in, to the magic. Crying while reading a fiction book is pretty common for me, but I even cried while reading these poems for myself. The poems I absolutely loved was ‘Orlando’, followed by ‘Boomerang Valentine’, ‘Thankstaking’, etc. (See full review)