What I Read In December


Books / Monday, February 5th, 2018

The monthly prompts of December from the lovely Susannah Conway kept me busy and I didn’t get around to my usual monthly routine blogging tasks. In December, I slowed down the reading a bit. I was away traveling for the first few days of the month with a group, and then the last few days were spent in Vipassana. Still, December had some good book-reading memories.

Books read in December 7
Number of pages 2,061
Average book length 294 pages
Average rating 3
Highest-rated book/s The Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden

Historical Fiction

Mornings In Jenin: Susan Abulhawa

Rating: 3

So, I had ‘Mornings In Jenin’ on my bookshelf for a long time. It wasn’t my book – it was a copy I had borrowed from my Middle-East-literature-loving friend. I don’t know why I had borrowed it,  but since I love to read more print books, I picked this one up. I hadn’t really known much about the Palestine conflict and this is one of the most revealing and important books on this. I came away with an increased awareness – for this alone, Susan Abulhawa deserves to be complimented. My grouse comes from the rather wavering structure – I couldn’t invest in any one character enough because they all moved away quickly.

Contemporary Fiction

The Leavers: Lisa Ko

Rating: 3

It took me a while to finish this book and not necessarily because of the quality of the book! I got stuck with another book, and then travel came in the way. But there is such an arresting quality to the story that Lisa Ko has developed. Initially, I found it hard to get into the book and the mind of Deming Guo. But after a while, the confusion and conflicts of each of the characters made me feel for them. This is a very human book.

I am not adopted, but I could sense the confusion and hurt that Daniel went through when his mother ‘abandoned’ him. A deeply moving book.

Humeirah: Sabah Carrim

Rating: 3

What a strange, unusual book ‘Humeirah’ is. There were times when I felt that Sabah Carrim was writing my own thoughts – that is the universality of the character she has created in Humeirah. I rated it a tad low because I felt that the ending was a bit dissolute – but maybe, that was the point. Who has nice gift-wrapped endings anyway in life? Read this for a wonderfully unusual book-reading experience.

 

Non Fiction

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck: Mark Manson

Rating: 3

This was recommended by a guy who doesn’t read much. So I thought that there must be something in it! There is. I mean, there were some fucks you could care about reading in the first few chapters. But then, it all goes downhill. I was wondering what the rest of the chapters were really. Trying to understand Mark Manson’s transformation? From what? What did annoy me is that Mark Manson seems to say that this is the recipe for a perfect life. That in prescribing ‘values’ as the subtle art of giving a fuck, he imparts his judgement. Find that one relationship. Find that one job. Be committed, he advises. All that rush of travel and seeking experiences, you would just get tired of. Perhaps. Perhaps not.

It’s after all what you should give a fuck about, right? Not what Mark Manson thinks you ought to give a fuck about. That judgement annoyed me. He does make a few good points on the romanticization of relationships – and identifying toxic behavior. But the takeaways from this book seem to be a mish-mash of Buddhist philosophy with some profound swearing. It’s like you think it’s funny if the Buddha woke up one day and said, “Fuck you all. Life is fucking suffering. Now fucking find your fucking values and leading your fucking life.” The END.

Fantasy

The Girl In The Tower: Katherine Arden

Rating: 5

When I read The Bear And The Nightingale earlier this year, I was waiting for the sequel. But I waited with muted expectation because sequels rarely seem to deliver on the promise of the first book. I was wrong! So very wrong. I don’t know how, but Katherine Arden has somehow managed to make The Girl In The Tower even better than the first in the trilogy!

Where the first was slow to pick up, Arden plunges you straight into action. I loved being part of the landscape of snow and frost all over again. I loved listening to temperamental Solovey and the wild Vasya’s throbbing heart for adventure. There were the cute domovois. There was action. There was blood and gore, intense politicking, a looming romance, and through it all, the underlying ties of loyalty and love. And the writing is exquisite. Arden is an artist, and there were certain sentences that I just wanted to remember with a frosty mind’s gaze again and again because they were just to0 beautiful.

Classics

A Farewell To Arms: Ernest Hemingway

Rating: 1

Sigh. Many years ago, I went to visit Ernest Hemingway’s house in Chicago. I went there only because I had heard of the man’s genius – I hadn’t read any of his books. That was in 2009. Now, almost a decade later, I read ‘A Farewell To Arms’. A friend promised me that I would weep at the end of the book. And she was right. I did. I wept because I wasted a few hours of this precious life trying to understand Hemingway’s diction, convoluted conversations, and a muddled story line.

This? This is genius? Maybe. Then, I don’t understand it. This might well be my first and last Hemingway.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: Hwang Sun-mi

Rating: 3

I had been looking to reading this classic fable on motherhood. An allegory for love, THWDSCF is a beautiful meditation on our meaning in life, our struggle for survival, and the bonds of friendship and family. I am a bit puzzled with myself as to why I didn’t like the book more-but that is the fallacy of expectations, I guess.

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