The 2012 book list

Reading is usually the first causality (damn you autocorrect) casualty of a busy schedule. Strangely, it is also the first thing I turn to when things get really busy and I need to carve some time out to catch my breath. I find the act of picking a book, lying on the couch and reading till I lose track of time very soothing. Over the years the rate at which I get through books has slowed down. Last year I decided to keep a list of the books I finished - an exercise I hope to continue this year.

Since I have that list, I might as well share it with the world:

  • Berlin 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth - Frederick Kempe
  • Solaris - Stanislaw Lem
  • My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrel
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
  • His Monkey Wife - John Collier
  • Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man - Thomas Mann
  • Hocus Pocus - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Solo - Rana Dasgupta
  • Mortal Coils - Aldous Huxley
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - Philip K. Dick
  • Of Human Bondage - Somerset Maugham
  • Coma - Robin Cook
  • The Scorpion God - William Golding
  • The Tin Drum - Günter Grass
  • Author, Author - David Lodge
  • Ides of March - Thornton Wilder
  • Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
  • We’ll Always Have Paris - Ray Bradbury
  • The Fate Of The Fallen - Ian Irvine
  • The Curse On The Chosen - Ian Irvine
  • Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
  • 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami

The books are listed in the same order that I got through them. I don’t have any particular preference for genres or authors or writing styles though I do crave fantasy/science fiction from time to time.

Here are the ones I enjoyed reading most:

Berlin 1961 - it’s a new account of the events that culminated in the construction of the Berlin wall. A lot of insights presented in the book are based on material that has been only recently declassified and the narrative reads like a spy novel. I wish history was taught at school like this.

For Whom The Bell Tolls - my first Hemingway. Such lucid prose! The story and characters are still fresh in my mind as if I had finished reading it just last night. Hemingway is the sort of author that inspires you to write but when you get down to it you realise that he made it look much much simpler than it is.

Solaris - a brilliant science fiction work that explores the human mind. On the surface it’s the story of a spaceship on a strange planet but by the time I was through with it, I found it to be one of those rare books that have the potential to alter the way you think about people and relationships.

1Q84 - another author that I’ve been meaning to read but never got down to it until this year. Theres something hypnotic about Murakami’s writing style and I often experience this vague, out-of-body sensation of being in a dream. This, like all of Murakami that I’ll ever read, was an English translation of a Japanese work so I am really not sure if this is a factor of the original style, a byproduct of Japanese language and culture or an unusual translation. Once you are through with this book though, you’ll never look at the moon in the sky in the same way agin.

The Tin Drum - again, one of those books where the vivid characters linger around in your memory for a long time. The protagonist recounts the days of his life in Danzig from a mental asylum. I think the book captures the madness of World War II beautifully.

Author, Author - a fictionalised biographical account of Henry James’ life that I wished would never finish. It’s also a wonderful exploration of life (mostly the literary scene but there are plenty of references to other aspects) at the turn of the 20th century.

My Family and Other Animals - a heartwarming account of the author’s days in Corfu as a child. The writing was simple and uncluttered and sent me to the warm, sunny island of Corfu on my tram rides through the frigid Amsterdam weather. If you were in Amsterdam in February, took a tram of central station, saw someone lost in a small book and grinning to himself like an idiot, you probably saw me.

Hocus Pocus - a book that was slightly unusual in presentation and challenged the notion of chapters” and paragraphs” that we’ve come to expect the material to be organised by. The story made me a little sad but it never got tedious.

Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close - another book that cleverly played around with the presentation of the material. It is not a light read though. There is a strong current of loss and bereavement throughout the book that rub off on you so not a book I’ll recommend when you are feeling low.

Ides of March - it’s the story of the last days of Julius Caesar told through fictionalised letters and other documents. I found book’s exploration of Roman politics and philosophy quite absorbing.

January 1, 2013