Booker challenge and more in 2017

Its only in these last few years that I have been setting myself reading challenges. I got  on to this bandwagon, thanks to Goodreads. For the year gone by, I had set a target of a book a week, although in the previous couple of years I had completed 80+ books.  By the year end, my score was 71, since I am pretty meticulous about keeping a record. However, Goodreads insists the the number is 54!!  Goodreads has been putting up notice about a problem with their up-dation process, which has erased 13 books!!

And as always, the books were a mixed bag – established authors (Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer, Murakami etc) and debut works (, and fiction and non-fiction (approx one third). While I read only English, a fair number of the books were translations. While internationally, translations have always been widely prevalent, unfortunately it has not been so in India. It is heartening to see a change, with more regional language works getting English translations. Among the best books I read this year, was Perumal Murugan’s ‘One part woman’ translated from Tamil. It is a touching and honest love story and it is difficult to understand wha tall the fuss was about. I read a number of thriller/mystery books by Japanese (Keigo Higashino, Hideo Yokoyma, Murakami) and Chinese (Mai Jia), and of these Higashino stood out. I read the first Harry Hole (Jo Nesbo) book – and although he has a large following, I did not get hooked.

Of the fiction category, 13 were the books on the Booker long list. Following the announcement in early August, I challenged myself to read them all before the winner was announced in mid-October.  This is something that I am never going to do again – I was reading like one obsessed! Of course, the advantage is that the judges wade through some 150+ books to get the list of 13, and so none of them was bad at all! ‘Bardos‘ was the last book I read, finishing it a couple of days before the announcement – and I did expect it to win, based on its novelty factor, style etc. However, the books I liked best were Exit West (Mohsin Hamid), Home fire (Kamila Shamsie) and The history of wolves ( Emily Fridlaund). Other books in this category that I rate highly are ‘The story of a brief marriage’ (Anuk Arudpragasam), The sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen, translated from Vietnamese), Get a life (Nadine Gordimer).

I did read a wide range of non-fiction, of which the outstanding one was Sapien (Yuval Noah Harani), a panoramic overview of the human story, written in simple and clear language. Although I have a science background, the story is so simply put forth, that anyone could grasp the arguments Harani puts forth. This is a book that everyone should read. Its sequel, Home Deus was nowhere as good.

One of the changes in the past year has been the loss of enthusiasm for e-books. This maybe linked to the fact that I stopped working at the end of 2016. When I was commuting to Delhi for work, I used the Kindle in the car. While e-books are cheaper, the paper books provide tactile inputs which certainly add to the reading experience. And in my case, I  increasingly feel the need to go back in the book to recall/re-read bits. And this so not so easy on the e-reader. Of the 70+ books, only 20 or so were Kindle editions.

2018 is another year, and while we keep hearing of the struggles of publishers, the rapid decline in reading habits, the closure of book stores etc.,  I don’t think that reading as a habit, or books as a source of recreation will end so soon. For me personally, nothing is as precious as books, and reading is my greatest pleasure in life. While I have decided not to set any goals or targets, I am sure  that the coming year will another great year of reading.

And heres the full list

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