The year in reading 2014

So the last post of the year in the series has to be on the year’s reading! This year I have tried to keep Goodreads updated – and it rewarded me with a mail a few days ago with the following information. I had read 73 books, a total of 25244 pages – I must say that even I was impressed!!!

2 of 5 stars

April to June on my list
0 of 5 stars

(These were the ones I failed to rate!)
As against this, the manual list which I keep in my father’s old note-book, counts up to 82. So, give or take a few, I have read 1.5 books a week. Of these, only one fifth was non-fiction, although my resolution for the year was that I would tray and do half and half.
Let me talk of the non-fiction first. The Di Salvo book “The man before the Mahatma” on Gadhiji’s South African years has not been so widely acclaimed, but is a very readable and thoughtful account of that period. Ramachandra Guha’s “Makers of Modern India” and Rajmohan Gandhi’s “History of the Punjab were also readable, informative and authentic accounts. “Wild swans” by Jung Chang seems  to have achieved some kind of cult status – a first person account of a woman who lived through the great transitions in China. It gives a graphic account of life for the ordinary Chinese in the 50s, 60s and 70s and it was scary to see how a nation of 800 million could be cajoled and bullied into a stupor of acceptance!! However, the book itself is slow in pace and tedious in style!! Its just the contents that drove me to finish it. The best read in this section, for many reasons,  was of course Peter Mathiessen’s “The snow leopard” – a travelogue to the Himalayas in wonderful language, bringing the beauty and challenge of those regions so alive!
This year’s fiction experience has been great, with only a handful of the 66 books being in the 1-2 star category (a few I failed to rate!). This, of course, is a reflection of the wider access to reviews and hence some pre-selection! Also, over the years I have lost patience with most cult best-sellers and do not waste time on them as I used to. Of the 66 roughly one third of the books were by women authors. My best 10 out of these in a recap dont seem to match with my grading at the time I read them. These would be,  would be (in no particular order),
1. The MaddAddam triology – Margaret Atwood
2. When we were orphans  – Kazuo Ishiguro
3. Arctic summer – Damon Galgut
4. Americanah – Chimananda Adiche
5. The good muslim – Tahmina Anim
6. On beauty – Zadie Smith
7. The bone people – Keri Hulme
8. The glass room – Simon Mawar
9. A fairly honorable defeat – Iris Murdoch
10. The heart of the matter -Graham Greene
Besides these, there were a fair number of great books of which I would recommend these highly
The curios incident of the dog in the night time – Mark Haddon
A God in every stone – Kamila Shamsie
The wasted vigil – Nadeem Aslam
The piano tuner – Daniel Mason
The thousand autumns of Jacob  de Zoet – David Mitchell
The orchard of lost souls – Nadia Mohamed
The end of the affair – Graham Greene
The memory of love – Aminatta Forna
Going over these, my partiality to tales in new (Memory of Love in post-civil was Sierra Leone, A God in every stone in Pre-World War I  Afghanistan) settings and with a historical background (Pre-war Chzeckoslovakia in The glass room, British Burma in The piano tuner) come through. But I was also stimulated by Atwood’s future vision in the MaddAddam triology and the social tragedy of post-was trauma in Tahmina Anim’s The good Muslim. But most of all, the writing was what enthralled me – Ishiguro and Galgut, Murdoch and Greene.
As I said before, the pre-selection helps, but does not always work. While I found the Keri Hulme’s Booker winner really interesting, last year’s winner ‘The Luminaries” I found a difficult read and did not care very much for the other  much acclaimed winner, Peter Carey’s “Oscar and Lucinda”. What has changed in recent years is the democratization of access through online stores. I no longer have to restrict myself to what the book store imports – which in recent years was more and more of the ‘assured sales’ variety of best sellers! So, now that I  also have the time, I am enjoying the vast resource available and probably refining my reading habits!
But all in all, it has been a great year of reading and I look forward to the exciting fare that awaits me in the coming year. And to add to that experience I have treated myself to a Kindle Paper White!!

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