Welcome to the 5th issue of 2020 book reflections. It’s been a great year for reading and discovering many gems in literature. From classics of the 1800s to books published this year.
2020 Book Challenge Update:
Goal set in January: 24 books
Books Read as of 2nd November: 42
New Goal: 50 books by end of year
You can read all my previous reflections here.
I was averaging 4 books a month but by September 26th, I had not even finished a single book. My yoga teacher training course required 5 hours of daily classes along with readings that kept me occupied. I had also started 3 non-fiction books at the same time, which was a bad idea. Fiction keeps me engaged and excited. Unless a non-fiction book helps me professionally or enhances my knowledge, it gets boring. I picked up pace in October and finished 6 books in a month.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
This book has been wildly popular on lots of book blogs and famous lists. A friend told me he was unable to put it down. I enjoyed reading the Da Vinci Code and The Godfather earlier in April, so I thought another crime thriller might be a good switch. Everyone was so obsessed about the climax, I had to get my hands on it.
What to Expect
I finished this in just 2 days, an intense psychological crime thriller with a mind-bending twist; a page-turner.
The author had a unique way of storytelling; I won’t spoil it for you but you only figure it out towards the end.
Narrated by Theo, a psychotherapist working with Alicia who had murdered her husband by shooting him in the face thrice. She became silent after that day. Theo tries getting into her mind and finding out what had happened while also sharing what’s going on in his own personal life.
There’s a lot to uncover in this book, amazing thinking by the author Alex Michaelides.
The ending was very thrilling and unexpected. I was a tad bit disappointed though, I don’t know why but maybe I was looking for something else and had my own endings thought of.
Definitely check this out.
“We are made up of different parts, some good, some bad, and a healthy mind can tolerate this ambivalence and juggle both good and bad at the same time. Mental illness is precisely about a lack of this kind of integration – we end up losing contact with the unacceptable parts of ourselves.”– Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I don’t always pick books by their rating and the cover, but this was the first time. The book has a whopping 4.5 / 5 rating on Goodreads and the cover looked very intriguing. Sometimes this is enough reason to buy and enjoy a book.
What to Expect
A bit slow at the start but picks up pace halfway through. Love how carefully the author wrote in different timelines, revealing only what’s necessary and ending with a bang.
It felt like a mixture of How To Kill A Mocking and The Silent Patient. Maybe it’s just because I read these two books over the past few months.
It’s set in around the 1950s and is about a girl named Kya, who’s left alone to live in the marsh. When a popular boy named Andrew is murdered, she becomes a prime suspect.
A very unique story covering a lot of themes; resilience, patience, loneliness, love, loss, nature, betrayal to name a few.
“His dad had told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.”
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Like many of us, I’ve been trying to sleep on time and get up early in the morning. But I always failed. I feel pretty good about my sleep, getting an average of 7-8 hours each night, but waking up on time was an issue and I wanted to know more science behind something that we do for 1/3rds of our lives. Also, my mom suffers from insomnia so I thought this might offer some useful advice.
What to Expect
I took over 2 months to finish this book, definitely not a page-turner. The allure of fiction and stories has made me impatient with non-fiction books.
Was this an insightful book? Yes. Was it boring? Hmm. Yes. Very Much.
There’s a lot of useful facts and statistics (mostly from American Studies), but it could be compressed into less than 200 pages. Lol, he even started pitching himself to NGOs and government at the end. With a good intention, of course.
Many reviews mentioned how this book helped them sleep better and got them started on better sleep hygiene. I think the reason I didn’t like it as much because I’m already sorted with my sleep.
If you struggle with your sleep or are just curious how it all works, check it out. Otherwise, just remember to sleep 7-8 hours daily, avoid caffeine at night, and take a short power nap before lunch to avoid the afternoon slump 💤😴
“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day — Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.”
– Matthew Walker
If you like this blog, you might enjoy my weekly newsletter:
Truck De India by Rajat Ubhaykar
Been experimenting with reading books by diverse authors to learn about unique perspectives on culture and communities; feeding my desire to read about foreign life, I didn’t realize how less I know about the land I grew up on and the people that live here.
My friend Ritul recommended this to me and as I plan to explore more of India by road soon, I bought a copy.
What to Expect
After being at home for 7 months, this book provided a much-needed respite to my travel bugs, a journey through India from the lens of a guy hitchhiking with truck drivers.
He starts from Mumbai, heads to Rajasthan, and Punjab, finishing his first trip to Kashmir. The author shares stories about the life of truck drivers, what does their day looks like, where are the trucks made, how much do they earn, and all that.
On his second and third trips, he travels to Kohima and Imphal in the far east and then down south to Kanyakumari respectively. The travel writing is accompanied by well-researched commentary on the local economy and politics.
Interesting read, very similar to Bill Bryson’s travelogues.
This is the kind of stuff I want to write someday.
Breaking Through by Isher Judge Ahuluwalia
Another recommendation from my friend Ritul. I love reading memoirs but I have not read any Indian memoirs. This one by Isher Judge Ahluwalia was just published in August, and the description of the book was enough to get me riled up about it. Sadly, Isher passed away in September last month.
What to Expect
An amazing journey of Isher, growing up in a middle-class family with 11 siblings in 1943, breaking the glass ceiling and going on to study at MIT, work with the likes of World Bank and IMF, and making a strong impact on the economic and research front in India.
The book carefully discusses all of Isher’s personal life and mention each person’s name who had been a part of her life while also commenting on the broader economic work her husband, Montek, and she were engaged in. Starting with research on the slow growth of India in the decades after independence and focusing on the issue of urbanization in her last 10 years. It’s a stellar recollection of her contribution to the nation.
I did not expect this book to be so moving and motivating, but it did. It shows the power of serendipity and human connection and to always strive for improvement.
A very inspirational read, especially for the younger generation struggling to find their way through life.
You can’t plan everything in life. Sometimes, life will plan things you might have never imagined.
I don’t have the book with me right now, I’ll fill this in later.
The Art of Dying by S.N. Goenka
I have been fascinated with death from my time at Vipassana last year. It has come up a lot of times since. Steve Jobs talks about mortality and kept reminding himself of the imminent death. Austin Kleon talks about the same in his book Show Your Work. In the Autobiography of a Yogi, the author discusses the astral worlds and life after death. And with the news of death all over the media because of Covid-19, I wanted to dive deeper into the subject and this one seemed interesting.
What to Expect
This book is based on the Vipassana and talks about the dying from a meditators perspective. If you’re already a meditator, this will help strenghten your practice. If not, it might encourage you to start.
What might look as a grim topic to read or discuss, but the book is surprisingly light-hearted.
It has lots of interviews of people before dying (mostly cancer patients) and their loved ones who were dealing with the gradual death. They share how they feel about the approaching death and continue to live in dire circumstances with calm and poise.
There’s also a chapter on what happens after death.
Lots of fascinating stuff. It didn’t give me what I was looking for but being a Vipassana meditator, I enjoyed reading it. It’s available for free here: http://www.dhammadownloads.com.au/the_art_of_dying.pdf
There’s on book on almost everything you can imagine.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
I was not going to count this book in my yearly count because it took me 20 minutes finish it. But then I found it on Goodreads and thought why not.
A book of hope for unceratain times.
It arrived in the mail by my friend Saumya. A short book including conversations between four unlikely friends – a boy, mole, fox, and a horse talking about life, friendship, kindness, and cake.
Each page is filled with beautiful artwork by the author.
I have mixed feelings about this one. I enjoyed reading it, but I’m not a big fan of this sort of storytelling. This is definitely helpful when you are looking for a quick dose of hope with timeless wisdom.
“The greatest illusion,” said the mole, “is that life should be perfect.”
― Charlie Mackesy
Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. What books are you reading? I’d love to know. Let’s connect here.