If you have been reading and following my updates on social media for a while, then it’s safe to assume that you know about my love for reading. And for the uninitiated, let’s just say that even if I’m dead tired, I need to read a few lines before turning in for the day. Not reading is just not acceptable. What can I say it is an indispensable and non-negotiable part of my everyday life. So, like every other reader who loves being lost in the pages of a book, I read a bunch of books every year. And this year the number managed to reach as high as 45 (and counting) which is something beyond extraordinary even if I say so myself. Yes, try reading with a naughty toddler and a full-time job among the millions of other things women need to do every day and you’ll agree too.
With the year coming to an end, I thought why not talk about some of the best books that I came across and read. It’s a good way to reminisce about the wonderful stories that I have breathed and lived through while perhaps even helping a fellow bibliophile pick up a book.
So, without further ado, here are the top book that I have read in 2017.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Set in the 60s, this book talks about the life of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi and their treatment by the white families. As mentioned in the book as well, it is probably the story from the perspective of Scarlett’s Mammy from Gone With The Wind. It is a story of women by women and most of all the story of the help. The characters Aibileen, Skeeter, Minny and Hilly will stay with you long after you have turned the last page. It grips on you, talking about the prejudice that existed and maybe in many ways still do. At the bottom of it all, it’s a very humane tale one that you won’t be able to get over for a long time. Needless to say, it has become one of my absolute favourites.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is exceptional. Told from the point of view of a fifteen-year-old, Kambili, you can say it is the discovery of the harsh truths of life, rather the discovery of life in itself during a tumultuous time in Nigeria. Living a strictly regimented life, Kambili slowly discovers a world beyond what is approved and allowed by her fanatically religious father. If anything, read this book for Kambili’s journey. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has become one of my favourite writers though I was already a fan of her after listening to her Ted talk ‘We should all be feminists’.
I’m a sucker for books on World War 2. For some reason, the extraordinary courage shown by ordinary people in one of the worst man-made humanitarian crisis in history fascinates me. Especially when it talks about how the women fought just as actively as the men on the frontlines. I have lost count of the number of books I have read on this subject. Hence, when I came across a book on Vera Atkins, I couldn’t resist. If like me you feel not enough is talked about the contribution of women in defeating Hitler and his cronies, then you’ll love this book on one of the greatest female spies in history. It is non-fiction so pick it up only if you like reading non-fiction though it’s nothing short of a spy thriller.
We all know that Israel has the greatest secret service in the world. Well, being a small country surrounded by enemies leaves a very little choice, doesn’t it? Well, this book is about the Israeli Secret Service and their missions. Yes, actual missions that they had undertaken. So, again, nothing short of a thriller. I loved every bit of it. If you find reading about spies intriguing like me then this one is for you.
If you are a feminist or let me put it this way, if you care about the condition of women around the world, if their plight strikes a chord in you, then you need to read this book. It is a book with stories about women in Afghanistan. It is a tale of their struggles, their agony, their fighting spirit, the bias they are born into. It is a book which is a window into the world of Afghani women who deal with so many odds every day and unfortunately seldom win. Read it because their stories need to be read if nothing else.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword)
What would you do if you had everything that you ever worked for and suddenly found out that you had only a few days left, that you were dying? Scary, isn’t it? This book is about Paul Kalanithi and his journey since he learnt that he was indeed dying. This book will make you cry and realise the fragility of life. One moment you may have everything, and you might be almost at the point in life where you had imagined you would be but at the next everything could turn to dust. This book is written by a man in that situation and it cannot get more real than this.
What can I say about this book? It is probably one of the greatest love stories ever written, an unusual one at that but definitely one of the greatest. Inspired by real persons, this is the story of the boundless love of a wife for her husband even though the latter seeks life as a woman with another man. Read it for the complexity and yet the simplicity of this story.
There are many more great books which I have read this year. Yes, 2017 has been a good year in terms of books. I wish I could mention all of them here. But for the time being, these are the 7 that stand out. You can check out all the books I read this year here.
Now tell me, which are the top 3 books you read in 2017?