Hi folks, it’s the end of the year and therefore time to go over the year just gone past. I have a LOT to say about the year 2021, but perhaps I’ll save that for another day (or year!). Today, let me recount my experience with the books I read this year, as many of them gave me joy, tears, hours of upliftment and distraction.
Every year, I give myself a Goodreads Reading Challenge Target. This year it was 30 books, and so far, I have read 27. Fret not, I WILL complete the target – I always do! I’m also simultaneously reading the last three books, so I can share some preliminary thoughts on those. Please see my Goodreads account for more detailed reviews. Here I will only be sharing brief thoughts to help you decide if you too would like to read them.
So, here goes… My year in books 2021 in order from first to last read:
- AN UNNECESSARY WOMAN BY RABIH ALAMEDDINE
Loved this book. Absolute stunning piece of writing and so informative about a part of the world – Beirut – I had no clue of.
2. CRIMSON CITY BY MADHULIKA LIDDLE
Well-researched and well-written, but the mystery was so easy to solve as to make it boring. It’s a good book but I didn’t enjoy it that much.
3. YOU, ME & THE UNIVERSE BY MANAS MUKUL
A good attempt at sentimental poetry by a first-time published author.
4. JORASANKO BY ARUNA CHAKRAVARTI
Excellent novel about the exemplary women of the Tagore household – as indomitable as the men!
5. EXPERIENCING THE GODDESS EDITED BY STELLA DUPUIS
One of the essays in this book about shakti goddess temples around India is by my mother-in-law. It’s an interesting subject though esoteric, so bear that in mind!
6. ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE BY GAIL HONEYMAN
Nice, feel-good stuff. Bit of a time-pass read though.
7. THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS BY ELENA FERRANTE
Unfortunately, nowhere near as good as her ‘My Brilliant Friend’ series. Avoidable.
8. THE GREAT INFLUENZA BY JOHN M. BARRY
A huge tome about the Spanish Flu that took place 100 years ago. Well-researched but kind of one-sided, since it’s written mostly on the basis of American research.
9. SELECTED SHORT STORIES OF RABINDRANATH TAGORE BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE
He is an excellent writer but some of his stories are better than others. This is a nice introduction to his work for those who are unfamiliar.
10. THE MIRROR OF BEAUTY BY SHAMSUR RAHMAN FARUQI
The BEST book I read this year, without a doubt. An absolute masterpiece exploring the waning Mughal empire from the perspective of a woman, written by a fabulous writer. Beware that it is extremelyyyy long and the first 200-300 pages are quite boring. You really need to be patient to get to the good part, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
11. DEATH ON THE NILE BY AGATHA CHRISTIE
All my Agatha Christie’s are guilty pleasure re-reads, as I’ve read them multiple times over. I love her more every single time!
12. WANDERERS, KINGS, MERCHANTS BY PEGGY MOHAN
An interesting study of the origins of Indian languages – fascinating if the subject interests you! I also reviewed it for the New Indian Express here.
13. CLUB YOU TO DEATH BY ANUJA CHAUHAN
Fun, time-pass read. Chauhan’s beautifully drawn characters are the best part of her writing. If you’re an Agatha Christie nut like myself, you will be able to solve this mystery fairly easily, well before it’s revealed.
14. THE COMPLETE MAUS BY ART SPEIGELMAN
Sad, moving, creative and beautifully portrayed story of the holocaust through the medium of a graphic novel. Just LOVED it.
15. SUCH A FUN AGE BY KILEY REID
Meh. Totally avoidable.
16. THE RETURN BY HAKAN NESSER
Fun, Scandinavian murder mystery. An interesting read.
17. HOMELAND ELEGIES: A NOVEL BY AYAD AKHTAR
Well-written and quite scandalous collection of fictionalised essays about a Muslim growing up in post 9/11 America. But meant only for those who can relate or are interested in the subject.
18. THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY BY MATT HAIG
Another book that is feel-good time-pass reading.
19. FIVE LITTLE PIGS BY AGATHA CHRISTIE
Another gem of Christie’s that I’ve read a million times!
20. MURDER AT THE MUSHAIRA BY RAZA MIR
Fabulous book! Not really a murder mystery but definitely a beautifully descriptive and well-characterised book about Delhi in the run-up to the 1857 Mutiny. Famed poet Ghalib as the detective is the cherry on top!
21. EQUATIONS BY SHIVANI SIBAL
Book about changing class structures in post-privatisation Delhi. Had potential but failed to impress.
22. WRITTEN IN THE STARS BY DIVYA ANAND
Decent rom-com. Total time-pass read though.
23. A BUNCH OF NARCISSUS AND OTHER WRITINGS OF SURJIT SARNA EDITED BY TRIPTI JAIN
Extremely personal stories and essays by a Punjabi writer – spanning from the partition to present-day where she mourns the death of her husband. Beautiful, raw.
24. MIDNIGHT AT MALABAR HOUSE BY VASEEM KHAN
Fun murder mystery set in Bombay in post-Independence India. Surprisingly enjoyable!
25. BEAUTY IS A WOUND BY EKA KURNIAWAN
Excellent book that combines magical realism with a history of Indonesia. A remarkable piece of literature.
26. THE MAD WOMEN’S BALL BY VICTORIA MAS
A commentary on 19th century French society’s practice of shackling women who dared to raise their voice against any form of injustice. Interesting and easy to read.
27. SEX AND THE CITY BY CANDACE BUSHNELL
Though this book starts off like the TV show that I love, it veers off on a different route. Written like columns in a newspaper, it’s a bit cut and dry but interesting and very well-written.
28. AFTER THE FUNERAL BY AGATHA CHRISTIE
Another one by my favourite!
29. INDIAN ETIQUETTE BY NIRAALEE SHAH
A basic introduction into the vast sea of Indian customs and traditions.
30. PASHMINA BY NIDHI CHANANI
A graphic novel about an Indian girl growing up in America – so far, I like it a lot.
WINNERS OF MY CATEGORIES:
Now I’m going to pick my favourites a la Goodreads Best Books of the Year Categories (obviously only from the pool I read this year and only the categories that are applicable!)
Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan
BEST MYSTERY & THRILLER:
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
BEST HISTORICAL FICTION:
Murder at the Mushaira by Raza Mir
Wanderers, Kings, Merchants by Peggy Mohan
BEST HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY:
The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMICS:
The Complete Maus by Art Speigelman
BEST MEMOIR & AUTOBIOGRAPHY:
A Bunch of Narcissus & Other Writings of Surjit Sarna, Edited by Tripti Jain
That’s it for this year’s round-up folks. Some of you may feel that 30 books are too less, and others may find them a lot! Generally, 30 is on the lesser side for me, but I do have a full-time job, so cut me some slack!
Which was your favourite book from the ones you read this year? Tell me in the comments below. Oh, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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