Every year I sign up quite eagerly for the Goodreads and HT Brunch ‘s reading challenges and nominate a number of books to read in the year. Its more to egg myself on than anything else. Last years reading score was pretty dismal as somehow I lost steam midway in the year and ended with a total of 17/40 books.
So yes my 2018 reading challenges are bolstered with a greater number now to make up for the unread ones as I have piles to read before I buy new ones. I had imposed a ban on buying last september till I read all the unread ones in my bookshelves. (P.S: already brought 6 books before the end of first month of the year )
I just want to talk about the best reads out of the 17 books I read last year – many first time authors and each surprised/overwhelmed me with their impeccable narration, character sketches and writing styles.
The 5 * club
Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar was the biggest surprise in the bag for me. A rustic tale layered with several colloquial/regional allegories, this book had me hooked till the end. Translated from Kannada, the book is set in Bangalore and the tale is about a simple family, their fortunes and how a relocation/change of plans unhinges the entire family scene. I recommend this book as a must read for Indian Literature fans.
Nilanjana Roy is another Indian author who mesmerised me with her awe-inspiring character sketches of the cats of Nizammudin. Each and every character in her story comes alive via intriguing quirks, further underlined by their unique names that lends essence to their persona. The Wildings and The Hundred Names of darkness were loved to death by me and I wish the author would continue the tale and write more about this world.
Short stories by Aimee Bender were an amazing find to read, with each tale more fantastic than the other. Imagine weavers who could repair tiger skins and of course the tigers who split their skins – this is one of the best stories in this collection aptly titled The Color Master . Pick this one up to understand word play and how it can tease your imagination in the most fantastic manner ever. The particular sadness of lemon cake talks about a little girl who can feel emotions of the cook/baker by simply tasting their food. She can gauge their mood and the story behind it so perfectly that you wish you had the gift too.
The acclaimed Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was simply beatific for the prosaic writing; there are such amazing lilt in her phrases that they elevate ordinary/mundane happenstance to something exotic and coveted. Her thought process and writing style is crisp and left me quite an ache at the end for the pathos is palpable in her questions and doubts. If you havent read this, please please do yourselves a favour and do it now.
The 4 * club
I had picked Caraval by Stephanie Garber as I am a big time fantasy fan and the blurb enticed me; but it wasnt as great as the anticipated promise of a stellar fantasy. I still rated it a 4* as I am hoping the sequel is better.
Seahorse by Janice Pariat was again a revelation into writings by Indian authors of recent times ( I am far from impressed from the current set) and had me read the book in quite a short time. I loved the interplay of relationships via suggestive notes, leaving a lot to my imagination. I would recommend reading this author for sure.
The dark days Club by Alison Goodman was a gift from a fellow book addict and I found it a heady mix of magical lore and Victorian era with a dash of Sherlock Holmes added in for a good measure. I loved the mystery set in the book and the unraveling of it via some interesting characters.
The let down
Most disliked book of the lot was Finding Juliet and this was read purely for a book club review, which was a paid one. I think this book just didn’t appeal to my sensibilities at all and might be a hit with a much younger generation (perhaps)
Another one which in my opinion is over hyped was the Kabul beauty school by Deborah Rodriguez for the writing is very bland and plain and the plot meanders with meaningless chatter at several places.
Ingo by Helen Dunmore held promised wonder of a delicious fantasy mystery but disappointed in its narration; its a series and I havent picked up the next one yet.
I am reserving judgement of Ghostwritten by David Mitchell as I am unsure if I have understood the book and perhaps need another read of it. Though I must say the writing is surreal as it flicks from one location to another and then connects them all together.
Rupi Kaur’s Milk & Honey came a lot under the fire for plagiarism; my verdict is par excellence on it as the prose and illustrations simply blew my mind on the topic it was written on. I do recommend a read of it minus the prejudice.
I don’t have to heap praise on the writings of Gulzar saheb or Satyajit Ray – they are an evergreen pleasure and I enjoy going through them every time I pick an unread collection.
So how was your reading in 2017? What goals for 2018? Do you take part in reading challenges or find them lame?
Read about my 2017 #TBR goals here