Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Mid Year Reflection on Books

We are already into the second half of the year and it’s time for a reflection; a reflection on the reading list. Nothing excites me more than to talk about books. 

Well, what is a life without books? 

Reading is escapism to many, an escape from the harsh realities of life. It’s a coping mechanism, rather. It helps one to develop empathy which in my opinion is the most humbling trait one can have. If there’s one character I’m asked to hold unto, it would be empathy and nothing else. 

Reading has become an extension of my limbs. I cannot go to sleep without reading for 30 minutes at the minimum. When the lockdown began in Thimphu in December/January 2021, I started this ambitious goal of reading 50 books this year. By far this is the most ambitious goal I’ve set. However, there was this dilemma of the availability of real books to hold and to read. Even if I want to read, there aren’t books of my choice easily available in the local bookshops. I hope I will live to tell the future generation of Bhutan how hard it was to get books in Bhutan during our time not to mention the overpriced online shipping charges which take an indefinite time. 

These are the times I miss having access to free public libraries in America. I used to go bonkers whenever I entered the libraries there. I was like, “Can I borrow all these books to read for free?” 

I was a Nazi when it came to ebooks or reading books on kindle or online for that matter. However, graduate school exposed and accustomed me to online reading. Before, I could never understand how one can compare the pleasure of holding a physical book, turning its pages, and the smell of books to that of reading an e-book. But as always, humans can adapt to anything. And this human turned to read ebooks on the kindle and mostly on phone. I’m a convert now! 

I can set a daily reminder for my reading time, and it congratulates me after having read for 30 mins. It shows my progress and I can read anywhere as long as I’ve my phone and the battery is functional. I don’t have to worry about lurking a huge book everywhere I go. Of course, nothing beats the charm of carrying and reading a book, but like I said adversity necessitates adaptation. 

At the beginning of this year, we had almost 40 days of lockdown which gave me ample reading time. Having kick-started then, I’m on my 24th book of the year, as listed below in no particular order, 6 books behind schedule though. 

1. Breasts and Eggs 
2. Too much and not the mood: Essays 
4.Writers & Lovers 
5.Good Economics, Bad Economics
6.The Rosie Effect
8. Love, Loss, and What We Ate
9. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle  
10. Chutzpah- Why Israel is a Hub of Innovation and Entrepreneurship  
11. Strange Weather in Tokyo 
12. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
13. The Year of Magical Thinking
14. On emotional Intelligence
15.Think Again
16.What to Read and Why 
17.Crying in H Mart
18. Beach Read
19.The Memory Police
20.The Great Influenza 
21.The Art of Slow Writing
22. Ten Lessons for Post-Pandemic World
23. The Little Book of Hygge 
24. Some Rain Must Fall 

I made a conscious effort to include 10 non-fictions in my list starting from The Great Influenza and The Lessons for Post-Pandemic World which gave insights into the beginning of influenza in history and the modern technology that was developed to combat influenza to what/how countries can do better in the post-pandemic world. It was an eye-opening read and brought new perspectives on the current pandemic. 

When things got a lot depressing and foggy, I switched to light or romantic read like Beach Read and Writers & Lovers, which basically portrays the young adults in love while juggling a writing career. Two books on Israel, Chutzpah, and Startup Nation further provided insights into how a small nation like Israel can be a top-notch technology empire in less than a century. Bhutan has derived some best practices from Israel in its upcoming projects. It’s not a wonder for Israel to excel in what they are doing, a topic of discussion for another time from a biblical point of view. 

Breasts and Eggs and Too Much and Not the Mood were some feminists work of literature which was fun to read and resonate to. After having loved The Rosie Project, I had to look further to what adventures Don Tillman and Rosie led in their lives in New York City, a very funny read though. Some books like The Memory Police and Verity were dark with a pinch of psychological thrillers thrown about which was hard to put down.

Crying in H Mart made me cry as it details a mother-daughter bond in an Asian-American household. Asians usually don’t say ‘I Love You’ or hug you but that form of love comes in the question of ‘Have you eaten?’ always which means that you’re cared for and loved. This book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for months' end and I also searched up her music and fell in love with her indie band. 

The Art of Slow writing was a brilliant read for aspiring writers. A Virginia Woolf Scholar, Louise really discusses at great length on her personal writing process with anecdotes from her favorite writers which are exquisitely done and very helpful. I will have to revisit this book sometime soon. Other memoirs like Love, Loss, and What we ate talk in detail the autobiography of the famous Master Chef Padma Lakshmi and her road to fame with lots of South Indian achar recipes. 

Finally, The Little Book of Hygge (the only book in hard copy which is borrowed from a friend) and Ikigai discusses why Danish people are ranked the highest in the Happiness index (Sorry Bhutan) and what is the secret of living a fulfilling long life in the world’s most aging nation. One thing I found common in both these books was the support from the community or having a good circle of friends and the little things in life like being present and not stressing about the future. 

Some Rain Must Fall is the second book in the series of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgard that I’m enjoying at the moment. Honestly, his books are a bunch of crap about his daily life and how he got wasted but I tell you, it’s really interesting! That’s what I applaud in a writer – the magic of hooking the reader. 

26 more books to read in the remaining year, let’s see how far I can get. Like the Danish and the Japanese, I like to live in the present and not think about the future. A lot of the time, I also research the writer and their writing process. Life is too short to read books one doesn’t enjoy. 

I hope you enjoyed this succinct review of mine, let me know if you have read any of these books, we can do a virtual chat or meet over coffee to talk about it if you’re in Thimphu. Is there any book you would strongly recommend to me? Leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to include it in my list. 


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