I read about 20 books less than last year but with the move to a new country and a lot more travel I expected to read less. Reading should never be about numbers though and this year reading helped me as much as it has in recent years. I initially wanted to do a specific top ten list, but it feels restrictive, and I just decided highlight whatever stood out for me in the year.
I spent a lot of time traveling on buses to and from work which also meant that I consumed more audiobooks than I did last year. As far as discovering new books goes Prague has an extensive network of libraries that are practically free. While most of the books are in Czech the collection of English language books is large enough to keep me satisfied for a long while.
Origins of Art
A beautiful coffee table book that talks about a unique form of art from the Pardhan Gond community. A blend of art, photography, and social commentary. I found this in a bookstore in Pondicherry. A more detailed post about this book here
The Bicycle Diaries
This was a delightful read from start to finish. Since the events that took place are from several decades ago there is only so much depth that the authors could delve into. At the end of it, all I was left wishing for was to go back in time and converse with these daredevils who set out on journeys unlike anything I have known, sitting on one of the most remarkable inventions of our time. The humble and everlasting bicycle.
A more detailed post I wrote about this book here. I got this book directly from the author via India post
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
This was a tough one to read. Not because of the way it was written or the contents of the book. There was a constant sense of foreboding with every new chapter that I went through. A book like this is an insight into someone's soul.
The fact that a life like this eventually led to what now everyone knows about Anthony Bourdain was heartbreaking. There is one specific chapter in the book that is too eerie in its foreshadowing of the things that happened later. But in the spirit that it is written it doesn't feel that way at all.
While he often says that this book would appeal more to chefs and others from that world, it's an equally fascinating read for regular folks as well. He never shies away from laying the dark secrets of the industry bare and does it in the most entertaining way possible.
The Handmaid's Tale
The dystopian vision outlined in this book is absolutely chilling. I never saw the recent TV version of this, so I went into this one completely blind. It was hard to believe that this book was first written in 1985. Found this one in the Prague library.
The Minimalist Entrepreneur
There are many start your own thing playbooks out there. Somehow this one felt almost relaxed and calming. Instead of making the idea of starting something on your own feel like a sometimes-insurmountable challenge, for the first time I began to feel like it is something achievable
I always felt I lacked the right mindset to start something of my own. This book won't make me start anything but reassured me in its simple messages that is a viable reality.
Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake
At this point if you try and read about the saga of this man you will come across various reports of fake or exaggerated claims. By the time I was done hearing this audiobook it didn't really matter. It was simply an entertaining account of how one man gamed the system for years before he was finally caught. Fact or fiction? You won't care.
Where the Indus is Young & On a Shoestring to Coorg
The best travel writers make you feel like you were with them on every step of the journey. Dervla is certainly this and more. Her descriptions of places and people are unfettered and honest. This journey was undertaken with her six-year-old daughter in tow. Simply remarkable.
It's hard to describe what Greenlights the memoir of Matthew McConaughey is about. It's part autobiography, part wisdom guide and just the soul of its author laid bare. Not just written in a style where you can hear his voice come through to you but also extremely playful in its visual presentation, by the end of it I could really feel what the man went through up to that point in his life.
This was the first novel I read by Andy Weir. It's funny, fast paced and doesn't itself too seriously. The primary protagonist is female and is surprisingly unabashed about its portrayal of her as an attractive one not averse to using her charms to get what she wants. While I initially felt it was cliched in the end it worked because of its commitment to this particular personality of the character.
Found this in the Prague Public Library
Die with Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life
The title of the book really should give it all away. This quote from the book should tell you why you need to think about this topic.
Look, if all you want is to have a pile of money at the end, well, I guess that’s your choice. But bear in mind that I have never seen somebody’s total net worth posted on their tombstone.
Cloud Cuckoo Land
This large tome is a lovely fable connecting characters across space and time. It's quite different from the author's previous novel "All the Light We Cannot See". It is hopeful and wondrous and mostly a joy to read.
Found this in the Prague Public Library
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World
Hilarious and profound at the same. Reading this truly made me happy 😃
The Dictionary of Lost Words
A period piece that revolves around words and women's empowerment told from a unique perspective.
Strange Weather in Tokyo
It's like a Murakami book written by another author. Something about Japanese settings and relationships between the unlikeliest of characters makes for a delightful read.
Murder in Old Bombay
I picked it up for the setting. A detective story set in British India. While the central mystery lost a bit of its steam by the end what mattered was the primary character playing detective. A bit unconventional but also sometimes succumbing to cliches it was still a wonderful start to a potential series.
No Full Stops In India
A nice set of essays set in the 80s and 90s of India. Easy read that gave some much needed insights into a different Indian era. The selection is diverse and the viewpoints of the author are reasonably open.
The Lights of Prague
I bought this book India but waited to read it until I moved to Prague. I'm not specifically into the vampire genre but the novel sets up its atmosphere perfectly and it was joy to read about parts of the city that I had by then become familiar with.
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
I had attempted and given up on the Eragon series many years ago. So, I wasn't sure what to expect from the author's first adult book. The best way to describe my experience reading this was that I remained motivated enough to make it to the end. And it took a while to get to the end of this 880 page monster.
Better To Have Gone: Love, Death and the Quest for Utopia in Auroville
Dutifully researched and beautifully written, this was an incredible personal story about the lives of the people of this community.