Every year I compile a list of the books I read the previous year along with a brief review. Because of my house job, 2015 wasn’t very productive, and I only finished 37 books. However, some of them were absolutely fantastic, so I think it was a good year anyhow.
For this year I have the following resolutions: read more urdu books, read more books by women authors, read more local books and authors (pakistani), and finish War and Peace. I also have the standard reading challenge of a hundred books.
What books did you enjoy in 2015, readers? And what are your reading resolutions and challenges?
(books marked with an asterisk are nonfiction)
1. The Sailor Who Fell Out of Grace from the Sea – Yukio Mishima – this was an odd little novel that packs an ominous and suspense-filled atmosphere in only a couple hundred pages. The sense of “something terrible is going to happen” makes it quite creepy and difficult to read despite the simple language.
2. The Black Tower – P.D. James – I love James, and I love Dalgliesh, her detective, but this book was disappointing. It had gaping plot holes and an unsatisfying ending.
3. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman – an absolutely funky novel, pure Gaiman, although a little darker than his usual work in places with its discussions of male ego and father figures and sex. Still, fast-paced, deliciously funny and a fun read.
4. Ur – Stephen King – Oddly enough, the only King book I read this year. It was not very impressive, and I thought the ending was a copout, but I liked reading it on my kindle (since it’s about a kindle)
5. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks – uff, this novel was the best. It has a creepy protagonist that you want to both murder and sympathise with, with a fucked up storyline and an ending that will blow your mind. One of the best books this year
6. Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood – this novel tore me up slowly, constantly, while I was reading it, because its discussion of childhood bullying is so spot on. Anyone who’s ever faced bullying will be hard put to read this – or stop reading it. Atwood at her best.
7. Harm Done – Ruth Rendell – one of the worst books I read this year. It gave the misleading impression that the little mysteries were all part of one big plot, but failed to deliver, and it was just disappointing. Not picking up Rendell again.
8. The Cipher – Kathe Koja – The author took a fucked up idea and ran with it all the way to the depressing end. If you want to read how an addiction to something – anything – can really fuck up your life and psyche, this book’s for you. Hard to read in places but worth it.
9. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I loved this book. It has so many accurate observations on life, growing old, and sex, while also being an interesting and engrossing story. Highly enjoyed it and recommend it widely.
10. Beloved – Toni Morrison – Morrison writes so beautifully it hurts. All her novels make me cry copiously and this is no exception. A dark story discussing the question: is it possible to get beyond the terrible things one has done in one’s past?
11. Ficciones – Borges – most of the stories in this were weird and I did not understand or like them. He writes well, and weirdly, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around him.
12. White Teeth – Zadie Smith – I read this on the plane ride to england and back in May, and it was so good I was laughing out loud in places and making people in the airport waiting areas glance up at me. An excellent, hilarious novel. Loved it.
13. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs – a lot of younger readers I talk to love this book, and I enjoyed it too, although I didn’t think it was as good as the hype. A creepy, interesting book with a sharp plot, but not fantastic à la Gaiman or Pullman.
14. The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa – Sidhwa writes depressing, stereotypical novels about the subcontinent, but I keep giving her chances because she’s a South Asian writer? This was funny and different from her other works, but I didn’t enjoy it that much.
15. Devices and Desires – P.D. James – I don’t remember this novel, so I guess it wasn’t too fantastic. Fluff reading.
*16. Mismeasure of Man – Stephen Jay Gould – This was fantastic. It’s a discussion on old-timey scientists and their blatant racism and how it affected their objectivity. It also muses about how our current biases may or may not affect our research. Quite eye-opening and very easy to read.
17. Kartography – Kamila Shamsie – I cried way more than I should have in this novel, even leading a senior to inquire if I was sick because my eyes were so swollen. A symbolism-filled tale of separation and love, with lots of local history and Karachi, Karachi, Karachi, it’s a must read for anyone who loves love and loves this city.
18. Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett – Another tale with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg and Magrat ❤ I love them all and I loved this novel.
19. The Bastard of Istanbul – Elif Shafak – I tried reading Forty Rules of Love and couldn’t get past the first chapter, but this novel was surprisingly good. Loved the characters, loved the plot and especially the twists. Most of all I loved the descriptions of Turkey.
*20. Mind and brain sciences in the 21st century – Edited by Robert Solso – Some of the essays in this book were good, some were outdated, and some were plain boring. .
21. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole – it is unfortunate, but I tend to dislike books with a dislikeable protagonist (exception: clockwork orange) and this had an absolutely horrible protagonist. So while I enjoyed the book, I can’t say I liked it immensely.
22. A Good Man is Hard to Find and other stories – Flannery O’Connor – If you read enough of these stories in one go, you will be permanently damaged and start seeing conmen and deceit everywhere. I don’t know why everyone in this book was so unpleasant but nonetheless it was quite depressing for me to read it.
*23. The Sacred Depths of Nature – Ursula Goodenough – this book is about finding spirituality through a greater appreciation of nature. I loved it because I’m not at all religious and yet I yearn a secular spirituality that she manages to elicit quite well.
24. I Knew a Woman – the Experience of the Female Body – Cortney Davis – I loved the anecdotes she provides about treating women from all walks of life. Quite touching and quite a lot I could identify with.
25. Original Sin – PD James – This was hands down one of the best novels by her I have read. If you never read James’ other works, at least read this one, because it’s quite excellent.
26. Four Walls and a Black Veil – Fehmida Riaz – A collection of poetry by a pakistani feminist poet, this was right up my street. I’ll be discussing some of the pieces in an upcoming post.
*27. Anthems of Resistance: a celebration of progressive Urdu poetry – Ali Husain Mir & Raza Mir – Being an unculture heathen, I loved this book for introducing me to some great contemporary poetry and poets. The discussions and translations added to the book and I highly recommend it to anyone who cares the slightest about Urdu.
28. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins – Drags on a bit, because its a classic, but still manages to maintain the suspense through 400 pages of olden-day prose. Quite enjoyed it.
*29. Bad Feminist – Roxanne Gay – I don’t agree with everything she says, but it was definitely good reading this strong woman’s strong opinions on all and sundry.
*30. What if – Randall Munroe – I love xkcd and I loved this book so much ❤ it was fun and nerdy and scientific and most of all, entertaining. Munroe is as funny in a book format as he is on xkcd.
31. Karachi, you’re killing me! – Saba Imtiaz – one of the best books I’ve read this year. Finally, a book about a karachi girl who drinks, swears, gets into fights with rickshaw people, has boyfriends and sex and has no qualms about any of it. A hilarious novel that I thoroughly enjoyed not least because I identified so strongly with the main character.
32. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum – This book seriously convinced me of the need for psychological testing before you have kids (and after). Fucked up novel based on fucked up real events. Classic horror though, totally worth reading.
33. Piercing – Ryu Murakami – This odd, short little novel was fascinating and unpredictable and I absolutely loved the twists and turns it took towards its completely unexpected and yet oddly satisfying conclusion. Plenty of gore, but highly recommended.
34. A tale of two cities – Charles Dickens – I finally read this! I enjoy Dickens but this will not land in my favourites, possibly because the usual complex character development I see in Dickens novels (Great Expectations, for instance) was sorely lacking here, so I didn’t really enjoy the book.
35. The Hundred Secret Senses – Amy Tan – My first book by Tan, I’m looking forward to reading her more famous works because even this one was quite good, not fantastic but easily readable and engrossing.
36. The remains of the day – Kazuo Ishiguro – The book is undeniably excellent in the way it shows the slow devolution of a man’s faith in everything he’s believed in. Slow but somewhat satisfying to read.
37. The Good Man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman – This book was seriously meh. I was expecting more from someone as imaginative as Pullman. The title was needlessly provocative and the storytelling bland in comparison.
That’s it for this year’s books, here’s hoping the next is even better!
See you guys soon!