2020 has been an unprecedented year for all of us. With pandemic ravaging the world, and us being locked down in our homes for weeks. It tested our patience and pushed us to the brink of tolerance. Looking back to those days I feel we have left behind a storm and hopefully things will be better now. Nevertheless, during this time books came to me as the most comfortable blanket wrapping me up into security. Since most of the time I have been working from home this gave me an immense chance to read books (I wonder how much time did I actually spend outside!!) Anyway here goes my book series featuring all the 100 books of 2020. Also, I read/listen to quite a few audiobooks and I actually have some of my favorite narrators too!
THE STEEL FRAME A History of the IAS by Deepak Gupta-
If you ask me to name one book that went beyond leisurely reading to being a supplementary reading for my UPSC preparation in recent days then it would be this. More than history as the title suggests it's about the evolution and constant modification of the fraternity with modification. The constant comparison between the pre and post-independent era gives a sketch of the bureaucratic system. Reading this book was intensive and full of information. Since I already had basic knowledge about it I read this book with utmost interest almost like savoring and gorging on the information. Starting from the period before civil services, formation, and grounds on which different acts were made..moving forward to the roles and lives of officers and the dynamic relationship with the society as a whole. Something worth mentioning is the extensive bibliography section.
DREAM BEYOND SHADOWS by Kartikeya Ladha-
Would it be very wrong to say that we, as individuals are more influenced by our surroundings, role models, commercial advertisements, and not channeled by our inner voice? We constantly idealized someone to that degree and we become someone who is completely unrecognizable to us. Written by Kartikeya Ladha who left his shining career in quest of knowing the world guided by voices of his soul forces us to question our own presumed "rational behavior". The dreamer that lives within us and who we often strangle with our societal duties lives his independent life in the book. The eloquent writing style transformed a mere travelogue into an outstanding book on spiritual awakening.
As the writing progresses giving incidents of the author's understandings about his surroundings, in turn, generates questions within me about my own belief systems and decisions I take. Sharing his moments from visiting parents in India the author shared how he cherished the questions and opinions of anyone other than parents since "India like a big family" and the inherent culture of the society to question something "outrageous" can be compared to how this very society is supportive to one another in the time of distress. One cannot separate the devil from Prince Charming!
Traveling to countries without knowing the language yet with fires burning in the heart subtly motivates me, as a reader to take that step towards my dreams. The witty writing style embeds tiny messages into my life as I read through this book.
This book is an ode to travel lovers and backpackers.
TRAVELLERS INCEPTIO by Rob Shackleford-
Think about a mashup of two of your favorite genre, science fiction and historical fiction in one single novel, how awesome is that??
Time travel is one of the well-explored topics when it comes to science fiction be it movies or books, and I have read quite a few books based on this. Therefore I was a bit unsure about picking this book up because in the back of my mind I knew I will be constantly judging it. But I am glad that I picked this book up.
A group of young scientists accidentally ended up creating a time travel portal instead of a device for national security and went on to travel some 1000 years past during the Saxon England period! Talking anything more than that will be giving out spoilers, which will be so wrong towards the readers.
The plot is so fascinating and combined with an elegant writing style I totally excused the sheer size of the book. With every passing page, I was swept off my feet and traveled with the characters into two different timelines.
The characters, especially the main lead, Phil, are so well developed and the shift of their perspectives along the timeline is worth mentioning.
Overall it was an amazing cozy winter read, the only thing I didn't like was the slow beginning and length of the book.
HONOUR Achieving Justice for Banaz Mahmod by Caroline Goode-
A beautiful woman murdered by her own family and that every action is boated upon the community, all for what? because she apparently brought down shame on her family! Written by the investigation officer, Caroline Goode, Honour screams horror of incidents that Banaz, a young Kurdish and ultimately leading to her painful death. Had this been a fictional book I would have still understood how extent the author's imagination can go but being a true event it shakes me up to my core. The book points out the lax nature of the police system which swore to protect us and the cruel side of our very own community which is so dear to us. Originally, asylum seekers, the Kurds fled from the atrocities they faced in Iraq only to show the same thing in their very own family! This book was difficult reading, it's full of pain and betrayal and lies are all over here. It oddly reminds me of, "The last girl" written by Nobel Laureate, Nadia Murad.
The story goes beyond murder and investigation scenes towards a more serious issue of firm misogyny and patriarchal society, an unhealthy one where the batons of family respect are handed forcibly on the hands of women. The extreme world where men are more manly when they show their beastly side and feminity of a woman lies in her subservience. This provides the perfect breeding ground for a toxic relationship. The book further focuses on the huge gap of cultural differences and lack of understanding shows how less we know and sometimes our behavior compared to the frog in the well.
Finally, the meticulousness and the dedication of the police team in giving justice to Banaz is worth mentioning and deserves a salute.
STORIES OF US by Bobby Sachdeva-
Comprising 46stories based on the events that are prevalent in society stories of us questions the justification of our stereotypical believes and behavior towards fellow citizens. The short and crisp stories cover social hierarchy, greed towards money and power, our religious beliefs to more complex issues about the lives of the transgender community, sex industry. Each of the stories ends with a moral questioning which made me, as a reader to rethink about my personal decisions and views and how it impacts the society at large. While it not possible to understand all the spectrums of society and culture the book provided a simple window to look into them. The simplistic nature of composing makes it a perfect comfort read but that being said it's too simple and straightforward for my choice. I found the editing was a bit rushed since there were tiny errors here and there, which disrupted the flow of reading.
THE LITTLE BOOK OF EVERYTHING by Ruskin Bond-
words to bring that smile like morning sunshine, words that hold power to soothe an aching heart and if there is something called words that make you feel home then this would be that book. The book came home during the time I am going through emotional volatility and exam anxiety and whenever I read a random page, I always find some sweet uplifting message for me. Ruskin Bond's writing style has always made me feel like getting tucked inside blankets and you know that everything will be fine at the end of the day.
P.S.- it's filled with dreamy illustrations which complement the writings.
MOTIVATION MYTH by Jeff Haden-
A friend of mine recommended this book along with other motivation and self-help books. The mantra is very straight forward “success leads motivation, motivation leads to success”. And now try to think of writing the same sentence into different forms. That’s it. Is it worth reading? Yes, because it’s a very straightforward and positive tone, and the way it’s written almost like the author is doing a one-on-one session with the reader. It says quite loudly unless we make effort we will be forever stuck in the endless loop of procrastination and less than average performance. But what it doesn’t talk about is the toxic hustle culture and always the urge to work and work minus social life.
THE RAVEN AND THE DOVE by Kaitlyn Davis-
Set in an alternate universe of different avian kingdoms where they choose their next king/queen through a series of tests and competition. Either it’s because I read quite a few fantasy genre-based books last year or the plot was predictable and it was very clear from the very beginning what’s going to happen. Halfway through the book for me was “all fall apart”. not that I didn’t enjoy reading it, it's beautiful and whimsical in its own way but will I pick this up again or recommend reading? Well, I don’t think so.
HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman-
If in this entire article on 10 books one book I would recommend reading would be this one. Philip Pullman's trilogy is a masterpiece that transcends genre and appeals to readers of all ages. His heroine, Lyra, is an orphan living in a parallel universe in which science, theology, and magic are entwined. The epic story that takes us through the three novels is not only a spellbinding adventure featuring armored polar bears, magical devices, witches, and daemons. Here science and religion do head-on collision.. the theatrical setup of the world of PULLMAN is so perfect that it seems to be as real as the one we live in. I accept the fact that the book is huge but it's undoubtedly one of the most perfect NOTHING LESS NOTHING MORE. If you want to start this series ready to get invested here. My recommended sequence would be- start with Book of dust La Belle Sauvage (#1) then His Dark Materials and then The Book of Dust The Secret Commonwealth(#2) to immerse completely into the world. And if that’s not enough The Book of Dust (#3) will be out somewhere in between October 2021 (not completely sure about the timeline).
CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller-
This one was again recommended by one of my friends who lives far off in an island nation. Set in the world war 2 era, shows the life of bombardier Captain John Yossarian and fellow combats who have their hard time on the battlefield maintaining their sanity and urge to return home. This book blurs the line between satire and humor and history just like the minds of the Captain. War takes a toll on all of us distorting all the possible futures, lives of civilians what about those who fight for the one sitting in the High Castle? One who fights for us, so-called better life, peaceful future, one who see and face the wrath first hand? For me, Yossarian is just another name of thousands who fought WW2 and many before and after.