Best Books 2018

Below is a list of five books that I read in 2018 that I feel more people ought to be reading.

  1. The Abolition of Britain — Peter Hitchens

Undoubtedly the best book I read in 2018. The evocative description of life in 1950s Britain is probably among the most beautiful prose written in the English language in some time. It — and, in fact, large sections of the entire book — has the ability to move one very deeply when heard aloud in the audio version (narrated by the author himself).

It speaks of a Britain that once was but no longer exists. English civilization, once the envy of the world, came to be discarded not because it had turned dysfunctional but for reasons of ideology not entirely comprehensible. Peter Hitchens is among those who have sought to explain the changes that have come about to the country that others always looked up to and explore the reasons why such assaults on it were unleashed.

Published in 1999, if it served as a warning to the British public then, it today serves as a testament to the past greatness of Britain and provides some ideal for conservatives for the things they need to fight to bring back.

2. Among the Believers — V.S. Naipaul

3. Beyond Belief — V.S. Naipaul

The two-volume travelogue of V.S. Naipaul among the converted peoples is probably the most incisive account of many of these societies from an outsider’s point of view. It seeks to explore how an Arab religion came to have such a huge acceptance in such disparate and far-flung lands and what it does to the converted peoples’ idea of themselves.

It’s worth mentioning that Naipaul began work on the first part of the series soon after the Iranian revolution. It took the Hindu instincts of a deracinated colonial to see in a single event the inklings of the sweeping changes that were to take place in Islamic societies. Naipaul wrote about it before anyone and took a lot of flak for it. In the good old days before Islamophobia, he was nonetheless branded an anti-Muslim and his Nobel Prize was decreed by one of the self-appointed spokespersons of British Muslims as ‘a cynical gesture to humiliate Muslims.’

These books need to be read more because carefully and seamlessly wedded into the travel narrative are jewels of wisdom that could provide us with some understanding of the burning issues that plague our globalized world.

4. The Calling of History — Dipesh Chakrabarty

This book stood out for me for a number of reasons. An understanding of Sir Jadunath Sarkar the man and the imperial upbringing that he represented, and a glimpse into the historical debates that were centre-stage in the battle to forge an idea of nationhood in colonial India.

Though written to appeal to both a lay audience as well as a more specialized one, the book struggles to shake off its associations to academic disputes and maintain narrative pace. So, I would not recommend this to everybody. It’s not the easiest read.

But if you’re interested in the vibrant intellectual culture that came into being during colonial times — one which we have struggled to maintain, much less expand since independence — then this might add to your knowledge.

5. Macaulay — Arthur Bryant

It’s not unusual for writers to fall out of grace with subsequent generations, even ones who were wildly popular in their own lifetimes. Arthur Bryant is one such figure.

Wildly popular in his own time and counting several Prime Ministers as ardent readers, none of his books are in print today. Most have to be scrounged from second-hand bookshops. But if you happen to come across one, do pick it up. You will find popular history as it’s meant to be written — short, lucid, and highly entertaining.

And in times such as these when conservative historians are in such short supply and certain ideas of the past are constantly being trampled upon, we may benefit from going back to writers such as Bryant.