Happy New Year to Everyone!!!
We are saying goodbye to yet another year and ushering in a brand new one. 2018 was a good year for me with sprinkling of bad in between. But I will reflect on 2018 in upcoming posts. First, I want to talk about few of my favorite books from this year.
2018 wasn’t a great reading year for me. I set forth with an objective of reading 52 books but miserably fell short by 27 books. I managed to read just 25 books in the entire year. Though my numbers are bad, I do have to say that the quality of the books that I read is anything but that. I have managed to read some real gems. Here are my top ten favorite reads from this year.
But before I start off with the list, I want to give an honourable mention to the book Monsters by Emerald Fennell. Though a middle grade book this one was creepy murder mystery that follows two not so lovable kids. I recommend reading this one if you are looking for a spooky murder mystery with twisted protagonists.
Now let’s begin with my top ten –
10) After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
Every year I read at least a couple of Agatha Christie books and this year was no different. I read three books by the Queen of Mystery. While I enjoyed Murder in Mesopotamia and Poirot Investigates, After the Funeral stood out for me. Though this might not be the best Christie book out there, it is still an incredible mystery that keeps the reader engaged. The book is replete with the usual Christie’s classic technique of misdirection and end twists. I and my husband heard this book during our road trip in South Africa and the book had us guessing and the final resolution was surprising and unexpected. I highly recommend reading or even listening to this book as the BBC audiobook was brilliant.
9) The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
So much has already been said about this book that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that this book features in my best list. For those who aren’t familiar with this book, The Hate You Give aka THUG tells a story of Starr Carter, who witnesses her good friend, Khalil, being shot by a white cop for doing absolutely nothing. The whole book deals with the aftermath of the shooting. Starr’s fear is palpable and her anger justified. Thomas beautifully captures Starr’s disorientation as she is scared to speak out after witnessing the police brutality first hand yet can’t watch silently as her friend’s image is tarnished by the media for being black, poor and coming from a rough neighborhood. Heavily inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movement this book is an important piece of literature that needs to be read.
8) 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows last year and absolutely loved it. When I was talking about this book to one of my friends she immediately recommended 84, Charing Cross Road and said that no one could go wrong with his book. I wholeheartedly agree with her. This is an endearing piece of classic non-fiction book. Written in an epistolary form, the book contains selected correspondence, spanning 20 years, between a struggling American bibliophile and staff of a quaint little antique bookshop at Charing cross road. The bond that form between the outspoken Helene and the humble Frank Doel is sweet and charming. This little book of letters teeming with sarcasm, humour and emotions ais perfect read for any bibliophile.
7) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Thanks to this book our 10 hours long waiting in South Africa and Dubai airports was bearable and in fact enjoyable. I wasn’t sure about picking this book and if I wasn’t stuck in the airport with limited selection on my kindle, I might not have even picked this one up. I usually tend to tread carefully when it comes to hyped books. But I need not have worried in this case as the book is as incredible as everyone says it is. It’s perfect, easy and breezy read. Evelyn Hugo is a fascinating and flawed protagonist. She is consumed by ruthless ambition and her journey from Hell’s Kitchen to one of most glamorous actresses of Hollywood is enticing. She is a character that will stick with you months after finishing the book. The diversity of the characters and way Reid’s prose flows make this a mesmerizing read. I think this book is a perfect pick for a beach read or a holiday read.
6) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
This book has been lying on my shelf for years now. I have been wanting to read this one but somehow never picked it up. When one of my friends chose this as the first read for our book club I was glad. This book is very polarizing. You either love it or hate it. I fall into the former category. From the beginning I found myself completely drawn into the rich, nuanced story of Holden Caulfield. To be fair there is no linear story in the book, no significant events occur during the course of the book. But JD Salinger masterfully and skilfully slips in messages throughout the nonsensical ramblings of Holden Caulfield. Holden himself is not a lovable character. He is full of angst, arrogant, annoying, snarky and whiny. But hidden beneath the ‘pseudo rebellious’ and ‘just don’t care’ exterior is a sad and lonely teenager trying to make sense of the world. The book perfectly captures the teenage phase of everyone’s lives where we are trying to make sense of our life and things around us.
5) Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
This book just warmed my heart and soul. This is a delicious little YA read with sweetest love stories I have read in a long time. This book is just so very entertaining from start to finish. Simon is such an endearing character. He is funny, charming and delightful mix of weird and normal. In fact, all the characters in this book are so sweet. This book doesn’t shy away from portraying the reality of homophobia in a high school in the South, but it’s such an uplifting story with great friendships and familial bonds. It leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside and is a must read for everyone. Right after I finished the book, I watched the movie. And it will definitely feature in my favorite movies list.
4) A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
I had a difficult time getting through this book. Not because it was a bad book but because of the expectations I had set after reading A Game of Thrones. Once I stopped expecting more action and understood that this book is more about the twisted politics of Westeros and the characters, I started to enjoy the book more. Saying that I have to admit that this book has a very slow beginning and is a slow burn throughout. But the effort of sticking through and finishing this book is rewarding in the end. I fell more in love with Tyrion, Jon and Arya in this book, if that’s even possible. I would highly recommend reading the books even if you have seen the TV Show.
3) Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
This is my first Lahiri book and I wonder if this was a good choice because I have no idea how her other works could match something as phenomenal as this one. This book is a collection of 8 short stories. The book is divided into two parts. The first part contains 5 short stories that aren’t interconnected. But the three stories in the second part follow Hema and Kaushik from their first meeting to their last. Told in alternative perspectives and spanning decades of events, the stories are beautifully written and emotionally tugging. All her stories follow the common theme of isolation, displacement, cultural change and cultural differences. All the stories explore nuances of various relationships and have in common a similar kind of emotional tug. They show the reality and fragility of relationships. My favorite stories are title story, ‘Heaven-Hell’, ‘Only Goodness’ and the three stories in the second part. Needless to say this is must read for everyone including the likes of me who aren’t that into short story collections.
2) Circe by Madeline Miller
Every glorious praise you have heard about this book is true. If enjoy like Greek mythology with complex heroines, monsters, magic, adventures, blood-shed and betrayal then this book is definitely for you. But also keep in mind that this book is more character driven than action driven. Miller explores the life of little know Greek Goddess Circe and puts her own spin on it. Though on the surface it looks like Miller is telling the story of Circe, in reality through Circe’s story, Miller explores the themes of alienation, acceptance, loss of love and not fitting in. This feministic tale is beautifully written with rich prose. By telling the story through Circe’s eyes, Miller is able to explore other Greek mythological characters such as Helios, Prometheus, Daedalus, Icarus, Hermes, Athena, Penelope and Odysseus and tell their stories. If you are someone who is okay with character driven books give this one a shot.
1) Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
I bought this book because it was on sale and was written by Kurt Vonnegut, whose short stories were in my required reading list for MA English Literature. When I started reading this book I had no idea that it would end up being not just my favorite book of this year but also one of my favorite books of all time. Given that this book is a little heard of and I had never read Vonnegut before, my expectations from this book were low but this book surprised me. Mother Night tells a story of Howard Campbell Jr, an American Born Nazi playwright, awaiting his trial for war crimes in Israel. During the war, Howard was a German radio propaganda expert, who raises in ranks due to his virulent anti-Semitic propagandas. However, Howard had actually been recruited before the war began to be an American spy who provided vital intelligence to the Allies via codes hidden in his frequent radio broadcasts. Maintaining this dual identity weighs heavily upon Howard. The war robs him of everything he loves: his family, his friends, his art, and his Helga. Through Howard’s story Vonnegut also question if doing the wrong thing with the intention of good is still wrong. Howard’s father-in-law tells him that Howard, not Hitler and not Goebbels, convinced him to become a Nazi. Howard’s American handler even claims Campbell “was one of the most vicious sons of bitches who ever lived”. Knowing that it was his words and his voice that convinced so many to hate in the name of God is a guilt that Howard can never alleviate. In the beginning Vonnegut introduces Mother Night as the only story of his with a moral he knows: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” and this quote pretty much sums up the entire book.