I read a lot of books this year. Fifty-seven and counting. I enjoyed quite a few of them but these were the ones that stood out for me. They are listed in no particular order. What surprised me when I reviewed the books I read this year is, how little fiction I read, as compared to my previous years. It doesn't really mean I don't enjoy fiction as much. I just ended clearing my non-fiction wishlist first.
The Ride of a Lifetime
This one was a unique insight into both: the corporate culture inside a behemoth like Disney and one man's ride to the top. It almost read like a thriller to me. So fascinating was his journey that I finished the book in a single day.
An Era of Darkness
Say what you will about Shashi Tharoor but he is a master orator. This book was written after his viral speech at Oxford in 2015. In this book, he expands upon some of the arguments he put forth there. Being born in the 80s there was little impact of any colonial-era matters on our generation. All I had ever thought about was the fact that the British gave us the English language.
While Tharoor is of course biased, his account of the intellectual and economic plunder of India during the British reign is succinct and oftentimes humorous. There were so many questions I had about that whole period in our history that were answered for me. It's his perspective of course but I was glad to know it through this book.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
A wonderfully written account of the lives of children from the lesser privileged regions of our country. It is expectedly tragic in many ways but the way these things have been described let me experience their lives at the ground level. There is a central mystery that anchors everything but it was the sense of place that the book evoked that kept me hooked.
Born to Run
I wasn't sure what to expect from this when I picked it up. Yes, it is primarily about running, but it goes deeper into the origins and the stories of incredible runners from the tribal to the modern that make it such a cracking read. You can feel the sheer joy emanating from every sentence that describes the whole experience of something as pure as running. If there was ever a book to inspire you to run this would be it.
Everyone You Hate is Going to Die
This was quite a fun listen. I wish I had read something like this in my younger days. It takes perhaps the most pragmatic and liberal view of relationships as possible. The icing on the cake is that everything is prescribed in an utterly hilarious manner.
However, because the audiobook is narrated by the author himself and the fact that the material is of a conversational nature, I strongly suspect the paper version would not have had the same impact.
Seven Years in Tibet
I read a lot of travelogues this year and multiple ones set specifically set in Tibet. I would almost consider this essential reading if you are curious about the region, its traditions and the mythos of the Dalai Lama.
It's a classic for a good reason. The journey the author went through and his subsequent residence in a Tibet of a very different era, is written in a wonderfully restrained manner. You can feel the pulse of the place as if you were sitting on his shoulder.
A Promised Land
I usually don't have the best experience with Audiobook versions of some books, but this one being read in Obama's magnetic voice made all the difference. It truly felt like he was relating his life before and during his first term as president to me.
Though the American political system differs from ours in vastly diverse ways this was a riveting insight into what goes into the decision making as president of one of the most influential nations on earth.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
You will see some divided opinions on this book on Goodreads. I personally loved it. Don't be put off by its title. It is much more profound than the title suggests. While the first chapter might be difficult to get through because of the swearing, do stick with it. Before I started reading it the impression I got from it was that this was probably something about the author trying to project his attitude onto the pages of a book and I would probably not be able to identify with it too much.
By the end, I realised that no matter where you live or what you do, what we sometimes perceive as our personal problems are actually experienced in some form or the other by millions all over the world. And we can always learn from their experiences. Books can't change your life just by reading them. But I got enough from this to actually make me question enough about the choices I make about what we truly need to give a f**k about
An African in Greenland
2021 is the year I fell in love with travelogues and this one is the most unique one yet. It's set in a time before I was born and in a place, I might never probably reach. It's also raw and does not shy away from describing both the ugliness and beauty of a place in equal measure.
I had heard a lot about Amitav Ghosh but never gotten around to reading any of his books. This was the first one I read and it was as strange as it was riveting. But I love strange if it can be easily absorbed.
This tale about an old book collector, climate change and old legends was a perfectly concocted dish that was easy to consume and I certainly look forward to reading more of his books next year.
I am still listening to this one but it has been a blast so far and I would recommend that you specifically experience the audiobook. Narrated in the powerful and instantly recognisable voice of Will Smith himself, learn about the origins of one of today's biggest African-American stars.
Accidentally Wes Anderson
This is a coffee table book so I have been reading it over the course of the year. Even if you are not specifically a Wes Anderson fan or even know who he is, this beautiful book with photos and descriptions of things inspired by the director's aesthetic is sure to bring a wistful smile to your face.