I remember how lockdown started taking a toll on me at this point and it was just May. Staying 24/7 inside home and fear of pandemic was making me irritated and draining me emotionally. The government banned all the deliveries and courier services to prevent the spread of disease so I can't even order books via online stores. And if this wasn't enough the cyclone, Amphan, hit West Bengal badly. Days of a power cut, water shortage, and destruction of lives and properties, and the only thing that maintained the peace of my mind was books.
Therefore, I subscribed to Storytel and Audible. Audiobooks are although very convenient but it can be hit or miss. sometimes the narrators are so good they transport us that the literary world and sometimes the experience can be less than average. Still I prefer audiobooks before buying physical copies due to lack of space.
Anyways, here goes my list of 10 books with a slight emphasis on nonfiction readings based on military history.
ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern, J.M. Berger (audiobook)-
ISIS: The State of Terror traces the ideological innovations that the group deploys to recruit unprecedented numbers of Westerners, the composition of its infamous snuff videos, and the technological tools it exploits on social media to broadcast its atrocities, and its recruiting pitch to the world, including its success at attracting thousands of Western adherents. The authors examine ISIS’s predatory abuse of women and children and its use of horror to manipulate world leaders and its own adherents as it builds its twisted society. The authors offer a much-needed perspective on how world leaders should prioritize and respond to ISIS’s deliberate and insidious provocations.
Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service by Michael Bar-Zohar, Nissim Mishal-
Mossad in Israel is what R&AW is in India. There is no question on the efficiency and finesse of the performance of Mossad. Started as a humble office and growing into larger than life organization thanks to one of the best cybersecurity network of the world and freehand and massive support of the US(that's a different political story). Mossad is full of adventures, almost out from the James Bond movie, and heroic missions of unsung heroes of the nation. Does the obvious question come if those missions are ethical? What's ethical and right to me, may or may not be such for another person. And given the history of Jewish people (even considering the events from the Old testaments), holocaust, surrounded by nations which are deemed as enemies every action can be justified.
Every nation has its own spy and intelligence network ad they are in a way the backbone of the peace that we enjoy. Events from the book are just examples of what these men and women in service and their families sacrifice for a larger population. In a way, these stories ask me "If I can ever do so?" The book other than kicking adrenaline while going into utmost details about missions like- Nazi-hunting, rescuing Syrian Jewish girls, etc, also shares the story that Israel as a nation isn't the most perfect or damsel in distress one, as always projected or the power struggle between the heads, diplomatic approach to free their spies from the jails and tortures.
What this book doesn't fail is to serve the reader an engrossing narrative like a spy thriller rather than a brut military history book with a generous portion of propaganda.
What and the only thing I don't like about this book is the abrupt ending! I want a sequel. And I am not going to question any of these missions, these are events it happened and it won't change in any way depending upon my likings.
A Burning by Megha Majumdar-
It starts with terrorists burning down a train, followed by the arrest of a Muslim girl, Jivan, who lives in a nearby slum. As the story unfolds, focusing primarily on Jivan's life before sending to jail, her life in the village located in a coal mine, evicted by brutal force of police, shares the tale of her student, Lovely, a transgender, who aspires to be an actress and her daily struggle of being different, ridiculed and mocked by the society. It goes on telling the tale of Jivan's school's P.T.Sir, bewildered with right-wing political party climbs up the hierarchy at the cost of his own's student's future.
Apart from the fact how simple and engrossing the writing is, it circles over the themes like- class, fate, corruption, justice. The plot is so relatable at times it brings up memories of such incidents happening around us every other day. It's almost like a wake-up call through a story and realizes what's going on around us. The supersonic speed of this thriller is so addictive that it kept me awake almost the whole night and I finished it in just one sitting!
Jim Ozy and the Perils of Algebra by Nathan Pratyksh Khanna-
Nathan Rhet travels to a distant land to meet his hero, Jim Ozy, who also holds the central position in the book. Nathan has traveled many places but the eerie uncomfortable feelings he got while coming towards his destination were nothing like he has experienced before. As the story flows sharing Jim's adventures filled life, his courage and bravery made him a kind of celebrated and looked upon in the region. He also shared many stories about a dark, mysterious cult, which was thrilling on its own. While the plot was intriguing enough to keep me hooked on to it but at times I felt sudden fragmentation and breaks which were quite distracting.
given the current pandemic situation, this book was an escape route for me to travel to another land and live among trees and rivers. while the cover of the book is spooky and intimidating I liked reading this middle-grade YA fantasy novella.
How the Onion Got Its Layers by Sudha Murty-
India's favourite storyteller brings alive this timeless tale with her inimitable wit and simplicity. Dotted with charming illustrations, this gorgeous chapter book is the ideal introduction for beginners to the world of Sudha Murty. This book was so much fun to read that I told and retold this story to my nephew and niece while making them eat faster! (things aunts have to do!)
I Can't Sleep by J.E. Rowney-
Jarred with past traumatic experiences, Becky suffers extreme cases of insomnia and survives on microsleep throughout the day. In her already muddled up the life she started encountering calls from an unknown number and uncomfortable incidents in the library...little more than 160pages this psychological thriller is so good that I read it in one sitting. It has been quite a while I came across such a gripping narrative.
The Kitchen without Borders: Recipes from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs and Stories of the Journey to Make a New Home by The Eat Offbeat Chefs-
A cookbook with wide-ranging roots and a very deep heart: 80 authentic, off-the-beaten-path recipes for delicious dishes from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea, Venezuela, and other countries are shared by chefs who arrived in the US as refugees and found work at the Eat Offbeat catering kitchen.
it's much more than just a cookbook. sharing stories and histories of each and every food and the struggles of immigrants in search of food from home and ingredients. Highly recommend reading and trying out some of the recipes.
India's Most Fearless 2 by Shiv Aroor, Rahul Singh-
It started with a late-night movie discussion and I was told that I should watch these movies more to understand a bit more about armed forces and politics around the world. Later we came to a point where we found we both share likeness towards a similar type of book. Moving forward, as I was reading this book I started thinking that how easy it is for us, civilians to look at the beauty of the uniformed soldiers and not think much about the sacrifices they and their families and friends make every single day for the nation. Soldiers young as 22, a soldier who just became father chose to give their life for us. Let that sink into us first. A collection of essays by two reputed journalists, India’s most fearless series will make you feel a spectrum of emotions, their courage, their brotherhood, solidarity, leadership, and at times it will make you emotional.
also, this book is a classic example of how certain audiobooks can absolutely butcher the reading experience. The unwanted pauses made the whole thing disruptive to a point that I grabbed the physical copy.
Hunted by the Sky (The Wrath of Ambar #1) by Tanaz Bhathena-
I should really be studying but allow me to introduce you to the extravagant, magical world of the kingdom of Ambar. Here Gul, a girl blessed by the goddess herself, bears a star-shaped birthmark, destined to kill the tyrannical ruler...
A beautiful homage to the knowledge of Vedic civilization, magnificent courts of Persian and Mughal empires, intricate details of Hindu mythology, and oh the delicate garments and food, dhotis, and ghagras and rabdis... it's a pure work of brilliance. the author drowns the reader in her lyrical prose and makes them see everything frame by frame, you see words hold magical powers, and in the world of fantasy imagination knows no bound..and it's so difficult to write about a book that made home in your heart.
The book got everything in it, from innocence and empathy to fierceness, strong sisterhood to rivalry among siblings over the throne, teenage romance like a blooming flower, class hierarchy, struggles and oppression, slavery and exploitation, palace politics and rigid parent-child bonding, magical powers, and beings, made sure the reader stay in the enchanting world even after finishing it. If you have read and loved Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi this book is right up your alley.
A Song of India: The year I went away by Ruskin Bond-
There are a few things that give me comfort and happiness, like a nicely made warm cup of tea, a cozy and warm blanket, cuddling up with my furry baby, and writings by Ruskin Bond.
the fourth book in the series of his memoirs, the author takes us to a quieter and greener Dehradun, sharing stories of his first earning through writings, being a tutor, happy times he had to spend with friends, his first crush...filled with laidback yet beautiful illustrations by Mihir Joglekar transported me to the summer of 50s and wander around with young Bond. That couple of hours of reading this book had been a great escape from my daily mundane routine.