Best Reads of 2020

It has been a concern to me that my reading capabilities actually diminished in 2020. While others have been gloating on how they had gained immense time during the pandemic to read, I hadn’t. And felt a little sad about it. I have read only 20 books in 2020. But then, I did a bit of embroidery too and that had eaten up quite a few hours. Overall, it is probably balanced, but I’d loved to have read more. The ones I loved are here:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – By Stuart Turton

The first book I read in 2020 was amazingly hyped as one of the most interesting books of the previous year. Having won the Costa Book Awards 2018, it seemed endlessly intriguing. And I hadn’t been disappointed at all. There is quite a bit of convoluted plotting and organising the chapters according to the ‘lives.’ What amazed me was a few reviews that said they didn’t like the book because it was ‘too complicated.’ And here I am, looking around for more books like this! I loved the writing style – it had the elite 19th century touch, the characters that were as varied as chalk and cheese, and the surprise value in the plot. The only thing I didn’t like was the rushed climax. Nonetheless, this was one of the best and even better than Turton’s second book ‘The Devil And The Dark Water,’ which failed to be in this list. Detailed review here.

The Girl You Left Behind – By Jojo Moyes

Let’s admit that I love historical novels, especially ones with multiple timelines, also ones that dabble into art, more importantly, in world war art and their reclamation. Those are a lot of genres criss-crossed into a beautifully poignant novel – The Girl You Left Behind. The portrait of an extraordinary woman transcends decades and creates a powerful impact into another woman’s life from falling apart. There’s provenance that lead to dark secrets and unpleasant people, a fair bit of love and lots of grit and determination from all the women characters. It was a treat to read and I’ve found one of my favourite sub-sub-genre of historical-war-art-fiction. Detailed review here.

A Suitable Boy – By Vikram Seth

The talk of the town, the crème-de-la-crème of last year’s big budget blockbuster BBC-Netflix movie adaptation was my longest read of the year (obviously for it’s sheer volume of 1500+ pages). I love Vikram Seth. I have loved his poems and his delicately penned novel ‘An Equal Music.’ This was on my TBR since long and the fat book now lies in my bookshelf back in India. So, the Kindle version came to rescue and I wanted to read it before the tv series premiered. Not that it made any difference as I haven’t watched the series yet. I can only say that it takes some sensibility to grasp the equations between the characters and their relationships in this labyrinth of a book. It’s not easy and it’s lengthy – two factors deterrent for the current young generation to appreciate this beauty of a novel. I haven’t found many who have read it entirely, mostly because of lack of patience; the others have shelved it as they were bored by a few parts. And then, the tv/web series made it easier to DNF the voluminous book and just focus on the abridged, minified, dancing, colourful frames that you don’t have to visualise. It took me time too, since my attention span seems to falter these days, but it was worth. Detailed review coming soon.

Troubled Blood – By Robert Galbraith

It’s no longer a mystery that Robert Galbraith is J.K.Rowling’s pseudonym for the Cormoran Strike series. And I had written earlier about why I love this series. ‘Troubled Blood’ is #5 in the series and has evolved a lot from how it began. Strike and Robin have progressed in their lives in strange ways, mostly for the better, their cases have turned more complex, clients more eccentric, but the serial killer factor remains constant and is well portrayed in this novel. I should warn that if you’re looking for a racy thriller, this isn’t the one. Stretched over 40 years and quite a few characters, plots and sub-plots (including Strike and Robin’s personal lives), it’s a huge drama that unfolds in many acts. Yes, they do catch a serial killer but get into a lot of other things too. At times, I felt that Rowling has probably added too many elements in the soup – there are social issues, gender biases, domestic violence, generation gaps and a lot more. It turns a little overwhelming but if you love the main duo, you’ll love their stories as well. Detailed review coming soon.

Have you read any of these in 2020? Let me know your thoughts and we’ll share our views. Have a great 2021 and the decade ahead! 

That Which Must Not Be Named

spicysaturday

This piece was pending since long. No, it isn’t about a blogging contest or a product/book review. I don’t believe in creating a Utopian blog that oozes paradoxes in the paradise of blogosphere. You’ll find them aplenty and you’re free to hop off in search of gayer blogs. Each of us has secrets, including writers. And since most of them are shy people, it is often exemplified in their works. A line here or a passage there, opening up small attics of memories and secrets in the stories they write.

But this isn’t about writing. This is about – not writing. I think the last time I wrote fiction goes back to two years ago. Well, I have plots brewing in my head but they haven’t been converted on paper since long. There’s a reason why not, and that is the whole crux of this article. I have diagnosed myself with what I call LD (Literary Depression), and I’m already tired of it. I know friends, people, writers, bloggers, who have serious LD but are ashamed to admit it. It is definitely considered downmarket. In our country, you’re still not allowed to talk about any kind of depression – be it literary, personal or professional. While we still don’t come out about personal reasons for depression unless we’re celebrities/film stars, LD is probably worse. If you are diagnosed with LD, you’re doomed as a writer. The publishers would trash you (sooner), your family would abandon you, readers would steer clear of your blog, and friends/fellow bloggers (the worst part of it) would PITY you.

Let me make it clear in the beginning – LD is not what we call Writer’s Block. It’s worse, the worst, actually. In the latter case, you are just unable to write. There are stories and characters swimming in your head, and you can’t catch them to make a good stew. But in LD, you lose everything – your confidence, conviction of being a writer, plots, characters, stories, twists, sentence construction – all of it goes on a toss. And you’re left with naught. The very feeling of naught, void, of being unworthy of a single printed word. Every article you read, every book you touch, every newspaper you pick up, every film you watch gives you a dump. A well constructed sentence in an otherwise poor article makes you realize that you probably can’t write better than them. You read nincompoops and feel it in your bones that you haven’t written in eons, they have books and you don’t. Trust me, LD is all encompassing. It affects your writing, your reading, your perceptive abilities and your sensibilities. You not only can’t write, you can’t even read. Every book makes you feel inadequate, every article invokes that sense of loss (of writing) inside you and you take solace in staples – like I have, in reading Bangla books, my childhood favourites.

LD is a slow killer. It takes eons to even detect it, and when you’re done, it probably gets too late to recover. I’m not ashamed of LD, just tired of it. But, there is hope, always, that someday you’ll be able to write again.

I’m certain that I will write again.

Books for life: Celebrating #IAD

 

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

Image Courtesy: b00kr3vi3ws

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis

Writing is not everyone’s cup o’tea, but reading is, or at least it must be. It’s not onerous to read – a book, a magazine, an article, a paragraph, or even a single sentence. Reading is a habit that will take you places, through magical universes and realms you have longed to visit, through the past and future while you read them in present. “I have been an avid reader” – I bet many of us must have begun their #IAD blog posts with this claim and they are very well so. Debdatta of b00kr3vi3ws has been extremely prudent in conceiving the idea for International Authors’ Day and a blog hop. We’ll write all about books, reading, writing and more – for you.

Few favourites.

Few favourites.

I can’t recall how long I’ve been reading, but it has been nearly three decades. And now when I introspect, I haven’t even read a sensible portion of everything I ever want to read. My parents had been kind enough to hand me books along with food from a very tender age. The rhyme and picture books have slowly graduated to fairy tales, mostly translated in Bangla/English from Russian and Ukranian folk takes. I’ve been lucky enough to scourge through those books in the Kolkata International Book Fair for a few years and enhance my collection. Shelves started spilling books and my father had to find me a study desk with bookshelves beneath. As my trips to the Book Fair increased each year, the bookshelf started shrinking. Innumerable Bangla and English books spilled over to my bed, the dining table (except for lunch and dinner times), the television stand, a piece or two inside the almirah, on the fridge top, and even inside my school bag.

I couldn’t buy every book I wanted, as I have been taught to respect and judge the value of money. I used to wait for gift cheques and solid cash from my grandmother(s) on birthdays/Durga Puja/Saraswati Puja/Poila Boishakh (Bangla New Year). My first Tintin (in Tibet) was courtesy maternal grandmother and I still cherish the copy for a handwritten note from her. I would demand for books rather than dresses on each occasion and it certainly made my relatives wonder if I were feminine enough. My father wasn’t worried, he built huge book-almirah with four shelves for me. For us.

Continue reading

Top 5 Reads of 2013

I had set a target of reviewing twenty books when I began a new inning at blogging this year. Surprisingly, at the end of the year I realized that I have achieved the target. It fills me with immense pleasure to share with you the five best books I had a scope to read for review this year.

Author: Sid Bahri Genre: Fiction/Romance Publisher: Srishti

Author: Sid Bahri
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Srishti

Author: Aporva Kala Genre: Fiction/Philosophy Publisher: Srishti

Author: Aporva Kala
Genre: Fiction/Philosophy
Publisher: Srishti

Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti Genre: Drama Publisher: Prakash Books/Fingerprint

Author: Michelle Cohen Corasanti
Genre: Drama
Publisher: Prakash Books/Fingerprint

Author: Somnath Batabyal Genre: Crime Publisher: Harper Collins

Author: Somnath Batabyal
Genre: Crime
Publisher: Harper Collins

Author: Devapriya Roy Genre: Contemporary/Women Publisher: Harper Collins

Author: Devapriya Roy
Genre: Contemporary/Women
Publisher: Harper Collins

What were your best reads? Hope you had a great reading year too. Happy reading in 2014!

Reading by November

Well, I keep reading books every month, and loads of them. Some for pleasure, others for review. That doesn’t mean the books for review aren’t for pleasure. It is just that, the books for my own mental peace are the ones I don’t have to write reviews about.

A group of book lovers and bloggers decided to write a meme about the books they were reading that month. I had to join, for they are my friends. Here’s a (tentative) list of the books I am going to read this month. Most of them are by Debut Indian Authors as I have decided to participate in the Debut Indian Authors’ Month – Readathon 3 organized by the Tales Pensieve. The others are an addition to the list. I might add more, as they come. I’ll be updating links to the review as I keep posting them through November.

Image : Self

Image : Self

The Secret Proposal – Aniesha Brahma

The Vague Woman’s Handbook – Devapriya Roy

A Vision of Angels – Timothy J. Smith (Ebook)

The Storm in my Mind – Ayaan Basu

The Price You Pay – Somnath Batabyal

The Weight Loss Club – Devapriya Roy

Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai – Rishi Vohra

Caretaker – A.X. Ahmad

Love and Death in the Middle Kingdom – Nalini Rajan

Govinda – Krishna Udayasankar