I’ve got something special for you book worms today 🙂 Pardon me, I meant bibliophiles! 😛 In my Taking Stock post, I told you the things I was up to last year and the things I planned to do this year and I mentioned wanting to read more since I felt deprived for the last 5-6 years. Reading was very high on my list of priorities and given I’m a slow reader (less dyslexic, more ADHD issue) I set myself a very realistic goal: to read a book a month. And I’m proud to say I did and I’m proud despite my cheating 😛
This post is very late; lateness being a recurring theme on my blog and generally in life. I planned on compiling this list as my first post of 2017. We’re through two months of this new year (how the heck did that happen?) and I’m still going on about 2016. But bear with me, it’ll be worth it.
I’ve always loved reading but I’ve never owned too many books. Our school library had the Famous Five, Secret Seven type books and I dunno if that was the age or the norm (I’m not gonna criticize their literary value based on my opinion as a bored 10 year old) but I wasn’t too interested in that. My literary appetite consisted of mostly Olsen twins’ book series and boy did they have copious content. I loved every one of those and was pretty much obsessed with them and wanted a twin so bad! I constantly borrowed from any person with a remotely good book. My first serious reading though, began with Harry Potter. I had no control over source or issue and so I didn’t read all of them (the Olsen twins’ content; of course I’ve read all 7 Potter books) or in the right order.
I read sporadically over the next few years but never the classics. Stuff like the Princess Diaries and Twilight series, whatever was available. But constantly hearing mentions of celebrated authors and their great works of fiction in pop culture and media sparked an interest in me. I am a bit of a philonoist, so I decided enough was enough, I’m a grown-ass woman, I can no longer afford to go through life without a clue what these people are on about! Thus began my quest for knowledge and power. 😀 JK, my search for an affordable, reliable and well-stocked source which led me straight to Amazon.in which is a little piece of heaven to me. Vast collection, brand new books, good prices, delivered at my doorstep, what more could I want?
A list was made, books were bought and read but not 100% the way it was planned. Like when I started (2015) and when I finished (2017), length of books (novellas), time spent reading (months) etc. It was all a little questionable but mainly I read 12 books so let’s just focus on that 😛 There will be no spoilers and since I’m such a distinguished critic I will also be ranking the books, obviously, for the benefit of the peasants reading this masterpiece. 😂 LOLz gaiz. It’s subjective based purely on how much I identified with the characters and the themes, the complexity and understanding of the plot and how well it ties up in the end.
12 Months 12 Books
THE COLOR PURPLE – Alice Walker (1)
Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
This is my favorite book of 2016 💜 Deals with racism, feminism, sexuality and the violence, subjugation and manipulation at the hands of close ones. Love everything about it! And even though it’s about a different people, set in a time gone by in a land far away, it transcends all these barriers and you associate with it regardless. It’s an epistolary novel where Celie writes to god in her diary so it’s like an unadulterated insight into her innermost thoughts and feelings.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5 – Kurt Vonnegut (2)
Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
This anti-war novel is something everyone should read because in the movies it’s always “glamourised” into something heroic and a thing to be proud of but excerpts from this book will tell you it’s anything but. In fact, it’s alternative title was A Children’s Crusade. This book draws on the author’s own experience in WWII (he was stationed there when Dresden was bombed) and it gives insight into the nitty-gritties of war that we never see or hear about. I almost want to give you excerpts but I don’t want to deprive you of the joy/shock of uncovering its contents. It’s written in a unique style in that the author talks to you in the beginning, then goes into storytelling, and the story line itself is jagged with all the time travel bits that contrast strange sci-fi with the harsh realities of war.
ANIMAL FARM – George Orwell (3)
Mr. Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges…
Animal Farm – the history of a rebellion that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power.
This is a very short book but it’s so succinct, it doesn’t need another page to compete in value with longer ones. The author has been a veteran of several wars and wrote of his experiences in a number of his novels. This book in particular is a socio-political satire, an allegory of the Russian revolution and the Stalinist era Soviet Union. It talks about corruption, about how the best of intentions can be polluted by power and even though it’s not the intention of the book, to me it’s a very sharp criticism of religion, it’s propagators and the leaders in control. Basically a commentary on propaganda, be it religious, social or political.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – Harper Lee (4)
‘ Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’
A lawyers advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
This is the first book I read as part of my resolution and it’s worthy of it’s accolades. The story is told from a child’s point of view and her innocent interpretation of the grown up world. Read this a few months after the release of Go Set A Watchman, which is said to be an earlier draft that was reworked into To Kill A Mockingbird.
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE – J. D. Salinger (5)
– no copy on back cover –
Thrown out by his fourth school, Holden Caulfield, the protagonist is a lazy, reclusive boy. After being fed up of the ‘phoniness’ of adulthood, Holden as a revolt heads to New York City. The book describes his encounters with a variety of people and substances. Holden’s journey of self-discovery turns to a life full of debauchery but with some help, he recovers from it. The teenage dilemma about the way life works, feelings of alienation and the struggle against the artificial world, everything is described meticulously in The Catcher in the Rye. The novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection. Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The blunt, offensive language add more to the strong emotions of the protagonist.
Salinger is such a hipster (no copy write on the back cover; refused to give movie rights) much like his protagonist that hates phonies (pretentious folks/sell outs/hypocrites). We all want to think we’re like Holden. The angsty teenage years are so full of alienation but is it sad that as a twenty something I genuinely feel his want of connection and his dislike of people? He’s cynical and over-thinking; perceptive and naive. Holden is like HOLDIN’ up a mirror to my existence 😛 I actually couldn’t get myself to read this book for months initially because the style of speaking was so similar to some douchbags I knew and so I couldn’t get past the first few pages. I forced myself to read it though and ended up falling in love with it. So much symbolism packed low key, things like the red hunting cap, the ducks and the dioramas. I dunno where I stand on it being banned from high-schools because of the language and mature themes it handles (you could argue both ways). It was originally published as an adult oriented book. Maybe it might benefit at risk teenagers? Maybe it might corrupt the childish innocence? I dunno, but it’s a cult classic for a reason and it really resonates with me.
METAMORPHOSIS – Franz Kafka (10)
‘One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.’
Thus begins The Metamorphosis, cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the twentieth century. A story of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman, who wakes up one day to discover that he has metamorphosed into a bug, The Metamorphosis is a book that concerns itself with the themes of alienation, disillusionment and existentialism.
As Samsa struggles to reconcile his humanity with his transformation, Kafka, very deftly, weaves his readers into a web that deals with the absurdity of existence, the alienating experience of modern life and the cruelty and incomprehensibility of authoritarian power, leaving them at once stunned and impressed.
This book is uber depressing. It deals with existentialism, the absurdity of life and the futility of our endeavors. It packs quite a punch for a short story. Meaning is there for anyone that seeks it, with many interpreting the book differently and they’re all right. All I can say is don’t live for anybody but yourself because NOBODY CARES. Life goes on.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – Agatha Christie (6)
‘Ten..’ Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious ‘U. N. Owen’.
‘Nine…’ At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead.
‘Eight…’ Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by an ancient nursery rhyme counting down one by one… as one by one… they begin to die.
‘Seven…’ Which amongst them is the killer and will any of them survive?
I read this book in 24 hours! Woohoo! Loved it. The movie Gumnaam is based on it but I think we all know, the book is always better. Always. I wanted to get in on the Christie hype so I got myself her best rated mystery thriller and one book of her Belgian detective Poirot, mentioned below.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – Agatha Christie (7)
Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Simon Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.
Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…
Hercule Poirot’s best detective work, feels a little like an ex-machina but it’s probably just the fact that he’s a brilliant little dude.
THE ALCHEMIST – Paulo Coelho (9)
It is the story of a shepherd boy from the Spanish province of Andalusia who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as desirable as any ever found. From his home he journeys to the exotic markets of North Africa and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him…
It is the unforgettable story about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts and, above all, following our dreams.
I read this book because every time I told people my blog’s name, they’d say, “oh like the book?” or “were you inspired by the book?” so I decided to educate myself on it if I’m going to constantly be asked about it. It ranks lower on my list because I was going through a tough time while reading it and was repeatedly distracted so I didn’t appreciate it in it’s entirety and in fact hated some of the philosophical bits. Took me months to get through it but as it ended, I looked back and realized it’s actually a great book. Inspirational, motivational and self-affirming, it encourages us to find our inner voice, pursue our desires and believe in our dreams.
TWENTY LOVE POEMS AND A SONG OF DESPAIR – Pablo Neruda (12)
Twenty love poems and a song of despair was published in 1924 and attracted international acclaim. It remains one of the most celebrated and admired books of erotic poetry published in the last hundred years, with over a million copies sold worldwide. Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971.
Okay, to be completely honest, I bought this book after seeing a thumbnail on Buzzfeed/Scoopwhoop that had a verse from Neruda’s poetry and I thought, damn that’s deep, but OMG guys, it’s literally the only thing I like in the entire book. One line, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long” out of 21 poems. What is wrong with me? I guess romance and erotica are not my genre but the erotica was so non-erotic, juvenile in fact because he says things like “hills” (boobs?) I’m like damn son, are you a child? I had one of three reactions to each: oooh, LOL wut? and dafuq. It’s not all terrible, some verses are pretty good but I guess I was expecting some Shakespeare level of confection. The book has both the original poem in Spanish and it’s translation in adjacency so that’s a plus for anyone looking to read the original pieces. Maybe it’s lost in translation. Or maybe I’m just a stone cold killer.
JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL – Richard Bach (10)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull… tells the story of a bird determined to be more than ordinary. This bestselling modern classic, …is a story for people who want to follow their dreams and make their own rules and has inspired people for decades.
‘Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again,’ writes author Richard Bach in this allegory about a unique bird named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. ‘For most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.’ Flight is indeed the metaphor that makes this story soar.
This bestselling modern classic is a fable about seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe or neighbourhood finds your ambition threatening… By not compromising his higher vision, Jonathan learns the meaning of love and kindness and gets the ultimate payoff – transcendence.
So at my graduation, one of the chief guests spoke about an inspirational little pocket book about pursuing your dreams and the possibilities that await us in life and my brother was, for some reason, really taken by that and actually remembered the book and wanted to get it. This from a kid that’s never read a book in his life apart from Pew-die-pie’s memoir (yeah, not even text books 🙄) so I was like sure, let’s get it. Most of the pages have pictures of seagulls so the amount of text is a lot less. This edition comes with a previously omitted Part 4 (added 50 years after it was first published) and I do think it completes the book better. Up to part three it’s an innocuous tale of passion, creativity and ambition but the last part adds another level of depth to it. To me, again, it’s commentary on the bullshit propaganda that religion, politics and society want to force feed us. How tenets for nirvana are defiled into dogmas of ritualistic blind belief and mass control. It’s a simple message: we’ve got to stand up for our freedom, our imagination, and as long as there is a desire for learning and understanding, we’ve got a fighting chance.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA – Ernest Hemingway (11)
Set in the Gulf Stream off the coast of Havana, Hemingway’s magnificent fable is the story of an old man, a young boy and a giant fish. It was The Old Man and the Sea that won for Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature. Here, in a perfectly crafted story, is a unique and timeless vision of the beauty and grief of man’s challenge to the elements in which he lives.
This novella isn’t bad but is it Nobel prize worthy? I don’t think so; but that’s just me and maybe I didn’t dig deep enough or didn’t appreciate the nautical elements all too much. It’s apparently a parable about life itself, in particular man’s struggle for triumph in a world that seems designed to destroy him. Some believe it’s Hemingway’s diss-track to his critics like, haters gonna hate, but the struggle is real types 😛 It’s an inspiring tale of self belief, hard work, perseverance and vulnerability to the forces that be, its just the stakes were too high because of the Nobel prize and it frankly didn’t live up to my expectations. Looking forward to reading his other works none the less.
I hope you like this post! 🙂
– Za )x(