It is almost the end of the year and a good time to reflect on the best books I read in 2018. I try to read as many books as my age, this year had the ambitious 39 figure. I managed to read 33. Falling short of my goal by 6 books, but then it could have been much worse. I am hoping that next year I manage to hit my target – 40. Yep, it’s finally here! Wish me luck.
In the meantime, please do enjoy my best 5 books of 2018:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This has to be one of my all-time favorite books. Right up there with Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things.You know that feeling, which folks meme about. Something to the effect that you finish reading a good book and then look around you bereft; the world continues. Well, I experienced that with this one.
Never has a book engaged and held me like A Little Life. It tells the story of four friends in New York – Jude, Willem, J.B. and Malcolm, and how their lives intertwine and develop. Somewhere, for me, the boundary between pages and reality – melted. The book broke my heart, shattered it to tiny bits, and I cried experiencing the intense trauma and longing it expressed. The issues of shame and self harm are brought to the fore; and one reads feeling utterly helpless. How can you reach into a book and hold a person?
I basked in the beauty of Yanagihara’s words, and had the ultimate dream experience of watching the play being performed as “een klein leven“, directed by Ivo van Hove. It was stunning, the actors’ performances were beyond anything I had ever seen, and it left a deep impression on me.
This year I also read Yanagihara’s The People in The Trees, and have become a massive fan of her writing. Admittedly, her mammoth vocabulary makes me reach out for the dictionary again and again, but I absolutely love the way in which she can make you question ideas and beliefs.
A Little Life is a plus-sized book, but you MUST read it. I insist.
Another powerful read for me this year was The Vegetarian. It was bizarre, and yet beautiful. The story is about a South Korean housewife who stops eating meat. The seemingly trivial choice starts a strange series of incidents, in which we find out more about the characters.
The Vegetarian speaks about deep-seated patriarchy, loneliness, and the relationship between human beings and nature. Indeed, it is peculiar in the way its characters evolve, but for me it inverted dominant structures, the plants seemed more normal / natural than the human characters. Perhaps, we should all be plants, maybe that way the world would be a better place to live in.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I read this book from cover to cover, without stopping. Completely unputdownable Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a phenomenally written story about a 29 year old woman trying to navigate her way through a difficult life.
Oliphant would have cut a sorry figure, but Honeyman has shaped her so magnificently, that you come to love her in all her awkwardness. Her zest for life despite all odds is infectious. In addressing isolation and mental health with lightness is refreshing. Honeyman gives us a book, which I can read over and over again,
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I know that this is an old favorite for those into true crime, however it was my first book in the genre, and I loved it. So much so that this year’s favorite I’ll Be Gone in The Dark paled in comparison. Capote is masterful and has incredible control over the story, thus, he narrates in a manner in which you are taken step by step through the gory event.
I discovered this book in a rather strange manner. It literally came to me. I had been listening to the And That’s Why We Drink podcast (that I totally adore) and Em and Christine had been talking about the book, so I made a mental note of it. So, usually I listen to the podcast when I am walking or in public transport. On one of my walks I found a box of books with the sign “please take one”. In Cold Blood was prominently positioned, right on top, as though calling out to me. I picked it up, and the rest is history.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
One of my pursuits this year has been to reach out from my comfort zone, and read a variety of authors from different backgrounds. Heart Berries was favorite amongst these texts. This is Mailhot’s memoir about her troubled childhood, and her struggles with mental health. It offers a moving account of motherhood, which is imperfect and emotional.
Mailhot writes poetically and is brutally honest about the upheavals she has experienced. Her humor is dark and powerful. Not one for the faint-hearted, this book exposes the “filthy basements” of heteronormative structures that Adrienne Rich wrote about.
Now, over to 2019….
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