I wanted to explore world literature this year and started with the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Next, I moved to Nikolai Gogol — one of the greatest Russian writers of his time. I came back to Murakami then, because his beautiful writing haunted me. An American classic by Harper Lee was the next choice, followed by some heart-rending poetry by Rupi Kaur, an Indian-born Canadian.
On the reading front, my year began on a grand note and went on at a good pace. But only until I picked up a bestselling non-fiction on Psychology and Behavioral Economics that I found quite interesting but unrelentingly detailed. It took me months to get through this one. Partly because it is a slow and heavy read that cannot be digested like a novel, and partly due to work pressure that did not allow me sufficient time to read. Got me into a bad reading slump.
In between I caught up with parts of Alan de Botton’s work, who is a British philosopher and author. Next up was another non-fiction on Psychology from the World War II by Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. The year ended with a inspiring biography and some more poetry.
It was not always easy to read considering the fact that I practice a profession that demands constant investment of time in staying abreast with frequent changes and undertaking continuing professional education.
Essentially this also meant that this indulgence was restricted only to personal and family time. Being single (not anymore though) and much of an introvert, I readily pledged my personal time. But seeing me with books at home after long-hours at office often put my family off.
In the end, I can only appreciate how aptly Frank Zappa put it when he said “So many books, so little time.” Time is a limited resource and there are abundant books waiting to be read. Hundred’s of lives waiting to be lived. Countless emotions waiting to be experienced. So much knowledge to be gained. And all these place only one thing on the God’s throne — Choice.
So here’s a list of the best books I read in 2018:
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
After reading Sapiens last year, I was looking forward to read another of its kind. Thinking, Fast and Slow seemed to be on many recommendation lists including Bill Gates reading list. The author is the winner of the Nobel Prize and his work is widely cited. ‘Buy it fast, read it slow’ said one of the blurbs, and I did right that. It took me an awfully long time to complete this one but it was definitely worth it. This book is full of wisdom on how our mind operates and how we think. An eye-opener of sorts.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I must say this again — Nobody ever forgets this story. The little child narrating the story and her relationship with her widowed father adds so much warmth and compassion to the story despite it dealing with serious issues like rape and racial inequality. It moves you and stays with you. I watched the film later and felt it was equally good. The book was first published in 1960 and it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Murakami is in a league of his own. If you are okay with reading 467 pages of dream-like quality, bizarre and surreal imaginative work where cats can talk and worms rain down from the clouds. He is the one for you. After reading this book I was initially wondering why is this book loved so much, because I did not gain anything from it. The authors plane of thinking is never clearly defined. But on deeper thought I realized that it is his writing. The way he paints with words is endearing. Whether I liked Kafka or Norwegian Wood better is a question I better leave unanswered because my opinion is surely going to swerve from time to time.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
My first encounter with Murakami. A poignant story of a college student’s romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love. Norgewian Wood is a straight, simple story unlike Murakami’s most other works. It is sometimes dark and depressing and just takes a piece of you and leaves you feeling a little empty. A odd feeling of sorrow tugs at you.
Milk and Honey & The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey and The Sun and her Flowers are collections of poetry about survival, self-growth, violence, abuse, love, loss, healing and femininity. Some might claim that these are really just good quotes presented in a unique way, but then isn't poetry all about artistic expression? It need not always follow the rules or any particular structure. It should only be liberating and that’s what Rupi Kaur’s poetry is all about. Some of the free verses really touch your heart and burrows deep into it. The presentation along with the illustrations is something I liked most.
The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol
“We all come from Gogol’s ‘Overcoat’” said Fyodor Dostoevsky, which only shows how much the story and its author have influenced Russian literature. If you have read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, you will probably know why I picked up this one. Gogol is a fantastic writer and The Overcoat, one of his short-stories written in 1842 is one of his most influential work. Again, a story that remains with you and often tickles you when you think of it.
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
We’ve read some books together and share a common interest in reading. So, when she decided to tie to knot, I thought this book on love would make a good present for her. I had heard of Alain de Botton long before and some of his works were on my to-read list. I couldn’t resist reading most of it before gift-wrapping it. It is pure food for thought on love and romantic relationships.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
I am always drawn towards philosophy and self-help because I believe there is always a scope to lead a better and more meaningful life. I have also often been confronted with questions like — what is the purpose of our existence and what is the meaning of life. Which brought me to this book. Reviews suggested that it is a good read, I went with it and I was not disappointed. A book on human psychology, testing times and our search for meaning. It gives us a direction and some basic principles of the meaning that we seek.
Nicola Tesla: Imagination And The Man That Invented The 20th Century by Sean Patrick
A brilliant book outlining the life of an unsung hero who invented so many great things that literally defined the 20th Century. It takes us through the peaks and valleys of his life and his rivalry with Thomas Edison, his former boss. Tesla was an eccentric genius who worked out his inventions in his imagination and then brought them to life. This small book on his life was nothing less than a revelation of sorts.
Click here to read the list of ‘The Best Books I Read in 2017.’