The Best Book Of 2017


Books, Reflections on 2017 / Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

I am terrified of this word ‘best’. There is a certain finality to that word. I loathe using the word ‘best’ friend. It implies that the other friends are in some way flawed – lesser. I prefer to use the word ‘close’ instead. And if I really need to distinguish that special friend, I just say soul friend.

Now what to say for the ‘The Best Book Of 2017?’ I read more than 125 books this year. That’s the most I have ever read ever since I started recording the books I read. This year, I chose to diversify my reading, so every month I tried to read from different genres- my main focus areas being those genres that I had previously neglected. So, I read more in translated fiction, memoirs, YA, and discovered a new love for fantasy. These were the books I rated 5:

 

1 When Things Fall Apart Pema Chodron
2 Our Souls at Night Kent Haruf
3 The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times Pema Chodron
4 Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
5 Taking the Leap Pema Chodron
6 Charlotte’s Web EB White
7 The Death of Ivan Ilych Leo Tolstoy
8 Famous Chinese Short Stories Lin Yutang
9 Bangalore Blue Stanley Carvalho
10 Plainsong Kent Haruf
11 Eventide Kent Haruf
12 The Wisdom Of No Escape Pema Chodron
13 The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Benjamin Alire Saenz
14 The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls
15 Living Beautifully With Uncertainty And Change Pema Chodron
16 The Wise Fool Of Baghdad Mohammed Ali Vakil
17 The Forty Rules Of Love Elif Shafak
18 The Girl In The Tower Katherine Arden

The tragic beauty of Kent Haruf was one of the finds of this year. But in terms of sheer emotional resonance and wisdom, Pema Chodron’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ was the magic that invited me into understanding the flawed humanity in us – inviting me to be more aware of the minutiae of thoughts that make up every cell in our mind.

Things Fall Apart is a book I would readily gift anyone. It’s the sort of book I want to share with everyone – but I don’t because I am not sure that there are those who are ready for the soul searching that Pema asks of you. It’s so easy to forget Pema’s words and slip into our habitual patterns. So easy to surrender to fear and to live in that little corner of comfort. “Why bother with all this crap? Life is hard enough as it is,” you might think. But in teaching me to reach through fear and to welcome all the moments in our life as opportunities for growth and realization, Pema is guiding me gently. I flounder all the time. I am ashamed many times of my actions. But each time, I know that Pema is there telling me that, “To live is to be willing to die over and over again.”

Pema showed me that life is about change. And how much every day is a nurturing ground for change.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

I am learning to make space for all of that. To embrace all the drama, shit, and joy. I am learning that things will fall apart and that my center cannot hold many times. I turn and turn in the widening gyre, my pitiful self seeking something to hold on to – and that’s when Pema is teaching me that to hold on to fear is to punish yourself, that to escape is imprisoning yourself, and allow yourself to be on the edge is the beginning of wisdom.

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