As a child I owned more books than toys thanks to a strong reading culture which was encouraged by my parents (anything to get 3 monstrous kids to sit quiet), my neighbours (to keep us out of their yards), the church (to entice us to join the altar girls/boys group) and the Saligao Club (to entice kids to come to what was otherwise a hangout for the elderly). While we lived in a small village in Goa that did not have piped water supply for the longest time, we had access to books from across the globe. This shaped us into very different people compared to the city folks I met later in life.
Somewhere between this idyllic childhood and the last few years, I gave up reading for dumb reasons like scrolling through my instagram, hanging out with friends or just simply being overworked. Somewhere in the middle of 2017, I decided to go back to reading and managed to read 7 books within 6 months. In 2018, I aimed to double this and I did it. I could have possibly read more but the last 4 months of 2018 were hijacked by Microsoft Powerpoint and Excel.
I enjoy non-fiction, however, to get myself back into reading, I decided to opt for easy to read fiction books. Luckily for me, I had a well-read friend recommend some of the best reads of 2018. Here’s what I read:
- Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harris
- Auroville – Dream & Reality, Anthology by Akash Kapur
- Slouching Towards Bethlehem – Joan Didion
- Blue Nights – Joan Didion
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
- My Absolute Darling – Gabriel Talent
- A State of Freedom – Neel Mukherjee
- Wonder Girls – Varsha Adusumilli
- The Return – Hisham Matar
- Homesick for Another World – Ottessa Moshfegh
- Second Hand Time – Alexandra
- All for Nothing – Walter Kempowski
- Days of Abandonment – Elena Ferrante
- Adventures of a Wildlife Biologists – Rauf Ali
- The Beautiful Fall – Alicia Drake
- The History of International Fashion – Didier Grumbach
- Florida – Lauren Groff
This is not a ranking. This list is placed in the order I read the books.
While I enjoyed reading all of them some of the books that I would especially like to mention are:
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Talent: If I had to choose one of my favourite books for the year, it would be this debut novel by Gabriel Talent. A story of an abusive father and pre-teen daughter. Guns, rape and domestic violence made me shiver and even cry while I read this. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari: Having read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, I thought I would not find an author who could make history and anthropology light and funny, but Harari’s book was a book I could barely put down. I know there’s a new book by him and it’s on my list for 2019.
Auroville – Dream & Reality, An Anthology by Akash Kapur: Auroville is a strange little town in middle of Tamil Nadu that aspires to be an utopian international society. To the many people who are often confused after visiting Auroville or having watched Netflix’s ‘Follow This’ episode, I would recommend this book.
Wonder Girls by Varsha Adusumilli: I was featured in this book that charts the life stories of 25 inspirational girls from India. I was surprised when Varsha first approached me but after I read the stories of the other girls I was even more humbled to be included in this list.
The Return by Hisham Matar: The Return is an intimate memoir of one of the main opponents to the Gaddafi regime, Jaballa Matar, written by his son Hisham Matar. I learned so much about Libya, the crimes of the dictatorship, the strength of families and the invisible bond that father and son share. Another book that I would happily re-read.
Second Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich: Where do I begin with this book, the size of it scared me. It took me a month to get through it, often I almost gave up. Intense, full of painful stories of loss, killings and just the unfairness of life. Svetlana Alexievich interviewed dozens of common people from the Soviet regime to current day Russia and even communist leaders. For someone who knew very little about Russian society, it was a good introduction to the conflict of the old ideals with the new shiny, money-loving Russia.
Let me know what you recommend I read in 2019..