For almost two decades, my father’s diary with his reading list was languishing on my book shelf. It must have got packed with my books when I was moving from Lucknow. I cam across it while unpacking in 2009 and decided to start my own entries. And as you can see, it is no where near my father’s in quantity – 15 between september and December 2009, 30 in 2010, 31 in 2011. Less said about the quality the better – this keyboard being responsible for the decline of my once decent handwriting!
The entries are of 24 books for 2012 – and after the first few months, the entries lost regularity and have been entered in blocks, mostly from memory. So, a few may have been omitted. But at approximately 2 per month (a low year for me), it is not the poor handwriting alone that is giving me an inferiority complex vis-a-vis my father’s list!
At the start of the year I had set the vague target that I would try to read equal number of fiction and non-fiction, something which I have not been able to do. However, I did read a number of really good books in both genres and going over the list, really very few that are forgettable! While it it difficult to pick the best, both the Booker awarded books were excellent – with ‘The sense of an ending” by Julain Barnes (2011) having some of the best prose I have read. I enjoyed the 2012 winner (Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies) as well, because I have a weakness for Elizabethan history. I read the book before the prize was announced and was surprised that it won – it was not as good the her first (which won the prize in 2009).
Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s Between Clay and Dust was a wonderful book, set in Lahore around 1947, revolving around the unlikely friendship between two beautifully sketched characters – an ageing pahalwan and a retired courtesan. A wonderful read was also about an unlikely relationship – between a retired and widowed English Major and a Pakistani woman. This book was an impulse buy (Major Pettigrew’s last stand by Helen Simenson), having never heard of the book or the author.
The two books by African authors were both very good. “Half of a yellow sun” by the well known Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adiche and “Lyrics Alley” by the Sudanese writer Leila Aboulela, gave glimpses of their cultures while also revealing how universal the issues related tohuman relationships are.
Among the non-fiction, Aman Sethi’s “A free Man” has to stand out – for its honesty and humor. Finally, I cannot but mention the re-read of VS Naipaul’s (of whom we hear these days for all the wrong reasons), “The mystic masseuse” – a book I picked up from my father’s collection and enjoyed as much as the first time.
I have no targets for this year, but will certainly try and keep a better record of my efforts!