2017 was a year full of changes for me. I yo-yoed back to a career I was convinced I’d never pursue, I moved back to a city I wasn’t fond of, and I had to re-think things that were fundamental to who I thought I was. It was a year where I mostly felt unmoored.
It was also a year where I found solace, and a semblance of certainty while inching towards my reading goal, and tracking this closely using Goodreads.
What was most rewarding though, was the books I’d discovered and read for a reading challenge I’d adapted off Instagram.
For the last 18 months or so, I had studiously avoided consuming media that was difficult or painful, especially if it had to do with illness. It was to get through this that my choice for the challenge“Read a book about a difficult topic” was Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air.
“Read a book about food” led me to Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats. It was powerful, visceral, and in turn led me to Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book (“Read a book mentioned in another book”). I delighted in how savage and pretty Shonagon was in her observations of life around her. Written between 990–1000 A.D., it is a collection of musings by the author, who was a court lady serving the Empress of Japan.
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fuck was my pick for “Read a best-seller from a genre you don’t like” since I don’t like self-help books, and well, it turns out I am not going to change my mind on that any time soon.
Among the other things I read, Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chyewas one of my favourites of the year. I haven’t read anything else quite like it in a graphic novel. It was clever, subvervise, a history-within-a-history and heartbreaking too.
I picked up This Divided Island by Samanth Subramanian just before going on a trip to Sri Lanka as I realised I didn’t know much about the civil war there. Subramanian wrote masterfully, weaving in and out of the facts of the war to the lived experiences of people across the spectrum.
Other books I really liked were — Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, Prayaag Akbar’s Leila, Jarett Kobeck’s I hate the Internet, Keigo Higashino’s A Midsummer Night’s Equation, and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot.
I have to acknowledge where I miserably failed — in reading more books in Telugu, and in completing Infinite Jest, but a new year beckons, one in which I hope to remedy these, and read harder.