My Year in Books – 2022
Welcome to the fifth edition of my year in books. It’s been an interesting year for me, even when I look at my reading journey. There have been obvious slumps and then there are the sudden periods of hyper activity. The latter mostly coincide with holidays or when I am sick. In some ways, I have started slotting reading as a guilty pleasure. So, some days when there is nothing else I would rather do, you can find me curled up in a corner with a book.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the debate that such lists trigger. Even when I told a close friend about my husband egging me on to target a higher number of books for the year, she looked at me with distaste rebutting that reading should be a pleasure and not a goal based activity. I do understand the value of slowly savouring all that you read, and maybe even the re-reading of good books often advocated. However, in this case I choose to be greedy. I believe there is just so much good content out there that I would rather chase after it in the hopes of enriching myself and my writing style, than settle for a comfortable pace.
You could also check out the last four editions of my year in books:
Now that it’s out of the way, let’s get on with the 65 books that made up my 2022. As always, all titles are linked to their Goodreads page. This list consists only of the new books I managed to finish. Wherever possible, I have added a quote I liked from the book.
The year started on a great note with this memoir that my sister-in-law gave us for last Christmas. It’s not a simple event chronology as what you expect with such books but more like Will Smith along with his co-author Mark Manson digging deeper into what each experience taught him. There is a streak of humour across a lot of narratives but they rarely let go of the underlying analysis and maybe even acknowledgement of errors where applicable. All in all, a highly memorable read.
My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.Will, Will Smith
2. People we Meet on Vacation – Emily Henry
A highly rated romance that had me scratching my head as to why. Two best friends who meet for an annual vacation, where one of them realises feeling more than called for (I forget who). The usual predictable stuff where even the writing didn’t make anything better than normal.
Instantly, I know she’s right. She’s seen right through the word vomit to the center of things. “Isn’t that ridiculous?” I groan-laugh. “My life turned out how I hoped it would, and now I just miss wanting something.”People we Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry
3. The Last Gift – Abdulrazak Gurnah
This was my first book club read for the year, which means it was complex and came with multiple layers. As always, once I discussed the book with the group is when I truly understood a lot of the depth hidden in the prose. It encompasses so many themes really, be it immigration, mortality or how you view your parents. Would I have finished it if not for the book club? Possibly not. But, for anyone looking for a well-set human drama this makes for a good read.
They did not understand the tragedy of being you. Instead of taking charge of your life, you keep waiting for something to happen and then you get depressed when nothing does. You think you have unfulfilled ambitions but you don’t, all you have are desires, little fun-filled daydream desires.The Last Gift, Abdulrazak Gurnah
4. Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
Another one of the memoirs and another one that I would definitely recommend. I have mostly viewed McCounaughey as a light actor with my first brush of him being his movie The Wedding Planner with J Lo. Once I read this book, I was surprised by what a deep thinker he seems to be. The experiences he described of travelling in Africa and with his RV as well as the struggle and wait to start doing meaningful work kept me riveted.
A denied expectation hurts more than a denied hope, while a fulfilled hope makes us happier than a fulfilled expectation. Hope’s got a higher return on happiness and less debit on denial, it’s just not as measurable.Greenlights, Matthew McCounaughey
5. Every Last Secret – A.R. Torre
So far as psychological thrillers go, I have read better. But, in what seems to be currently my favourite genre, this one was a decent enough read. Two catty women apparently out to get to the same man who is married to one of them. The writing is pretty decent and the story build-up is pacy.
6. The Heart Principle – Helen Hoang
A promising romance sensitively written about the usual opposites attract. However, unless you are looking for a very predictable plotline with barely any differentiation, then alone would I say pick this one up.
I don’t know if it’s better never to be successful at all, or to have success for a short while, only to lose it.The Heart Principle, Helen Hoang
7. Do Epic Shit – Ankur Warikoo
I often frequent a street stall to get my pick of popular books. This Indian self-help book was sourced from there. Some days back, I came across the fact that this also ended up being the publisher’s best selling title for the year. So, clearly many Indians are influenced by him and are looking to make their lives better or atleast signal that intent.
8. I Came Upon a Lighthouse – Shantanu Naidu
This was a cute short book about a very unusual much-talked about friendship between the author and the business legend Ratan Tata. Even as you read it, you end up marvelling at how some relationships serendipitously come about. It’s a nice and simple read worth spending a weekend on.
9. Crying in H. Mart – Michelle Zauner
Let me caution you. The first word of the title could well be your reaction while reading the book. It’s a beautifully written, poignant memoir of the author’s experience with her mother’s cancer. The way the relationship evolves through that journey and also how she starts to really embrace her Asian roots during that time. Location no bar, for you could end up crying just about anywhere while reading this.
Within five years, I lost both my aunt and my mother to cancer. So, when I go to H Mart, I’m not just on the hunt for cuttlefish and three bunches of scallions for a buck; I’m searching for memories. I’m collecting the evidence that the Korean half of my identity didn’t die when they did.Crying in H Mart, Michelle Zauner
10. Project Hail Mary – Andy Weiss
Another book club read which was quite a tome. While I was meant to finish it in February, finally I got to it only in this month. But, what a book! What scientifically well-researched imagination. The idea of the earth coming to an end and a few humans collaborating with an alien species for mutual survival is done brilliantly. To my non-scientific mind, it was tough going initially but I am so glad I persevered.
Wow. I’m sitting here in a spaceship in the Tau Ceti system waiting for the intelligent aliens I just met to continue our conversation…and I’m bored. Human beings have a remarkable ability to accept the abnormal and make it normal.Project Hail Mary, Andy Weiss
11. The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif
Yet another, yes book club read. This book was dense and deep in it’s own way. The best part about it was the setting in 1920s Egypt and the way it traverses so many conventional genres. It has elements of romance, history, politics and mystery. It is a long one and at times you wonder if the editor could have snipped off more. But, towards the end all of it seems to come together and make sense.
How do I translate ‘tarab’? How do I, without sounding weird or exotic, describe to Isabel that particular emotional, spiritual, even physical condition into which one enters when the soul is penetrated by good Oriental music? A condition so specific that it has a root all to itself: t/r/b.The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif
12. She Swiped Right Into my Heart – Sudeep Nagarkar
Ugh! If I had to name one book I absolutely regretted picking up, this wins that honour hands down. A colleague recommended to me as a swap after I gave her a copy of my book Second Serve. It was badly written cringe worthy crap which made me wonder how such authors get such a wide audience. I refuse to waste any more words on it and will simply move on.
13. Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik
The month started with a week of resort vacation which meant I got quite a lot of reading done, including finishing some long lingering books. Case in point being this one. An interesting fantasy tale, almost in the young adult genre, it started off really well. In between somewhere, either the author or me the reader lost the plot somewhere to make it sluggish. But, either way it’s worth a read for the characters and the cold world that the book paints.
14. Sweet Bean Paste – Durian Sukegawa
Being an English translation of a Japanese book, this was a cute simple read focusing on relationships through yummy sweet bean buns. The two things blended so well that I could almost get a whiff of the buns baking in the small confectionery. The two protagonists are the most unlikely characters you would expect to find value in each other and yet it works, wonderfully so. In fact, this is another one of those books that could end with you scouting for the tissue box.
I feel sure that one day you will find whatever it is you seek, and that the spark that leads to it will come from hearing some kind of voice. People’s lives never stay the same colour forever. There are times when the colour of life changes completely.Sweet Bean Paste, Durian Sukegawa
15. The Chancellor – Kati Morton
For long I have been a fan of Angela Merkel. This was one of the most well-written biographies I have read in a long time (I am yet to read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and hope to do so next year). The book goes into her early life influences as well as what made her such a formidable statesperson. The thing that caught me most offguard though was just how nonchalant a lot of politicians are in some countries. There are stories of her enjoying a quiet life beyond work and even shopping for her own groceries. Another aspect I liked was the way the couple manages their marriage. All in all, a good holistic look into the life of an admirable woman.
At a moment of global political and social rupture, no leader on the world stage has protected the post–World War II liberal democratic order as fiercely she did, confronting aggressive authoritarians from Putin to Trump. She transformed Germany into the leader of Europe—not just an economic leader but a moral one too—and into an immigrant nation by accepting one million Middle Eastern refugees.The Chancellor, Kati Morton
16. The Socrates Express – Eric Weiner
This was one of my most memorable books of the year. I have often wanted to understand Philosophy a little better but mostly put it off after the initial few bits of reading. In this one, Weiner distils the teachings of fourteen philosophers while travelling in trains along routes they would have traversed. He covers a wide range of topics including purpose of life, death, aging, violence, kindness, mindfulness all in a tongue-in-cheek manner derived from philosophers like Thoreau, Socrates, Gandhi, Confucius and Neitzche. Despite the depth of the content, he makes it oh-so-readable. I would highly recommend it to anyone who does not have a mental block against non-fiction.
We always need wisdom, but we need different kinds of wisdom at different stages of our lives. The “how to” questions that matter to a fifteen-year-old are not the ones that matter to a thirty-five-year-old—or a seventy-five-year-old. Philosophy has something vital to say about each stage. The stages, I’m learning, fly by. Too many of us hum along, cluttering our minds with the trivial and the silly, as if we have all the time in the world. We don’t.The Socrates Express, Eric Weiner
17. The Last Queen – Chitra Divakaruni
Yet another book club read. However, if you come in expecting Palace of Illusions standards, this book could disappoint. While it still helps to give atleast a cursory introduction to the Sikh dynasty, the book could have been so much more. If this is the book you choose to start your journey of reading Divakaruni, then you might just like it.
She adds, ‘And remember this: whenever possible, don’t fight openly with your enemy. Let them think they’ve won – and then strike when least expected.’The Last Queen, Chitra Divakaruni
I got a copy of this book at an event and it had been gathering dust in some corner of the bookshelf. I had attempted it earlier but the dry language was a big put-off. This year though I succeeded and I am glad I did. For someone like me who is nascent enough to the investment landscape in India, this is a good primer of what has gone to build this ecosystem.
19. Lost in a Good Book – Jasper Fforde
I got my first taste of Jasper Fforde last year where I met Thursday Next in The Eyre Affair. I loved the world that Fforde created and it was a full rush of novelty. However, in this one considering a dearth of novelty factor, I found the writing a tad tedious. I wasn’t really a fan of the book.
20. Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
Although I have heard of the much-acclaimed movie a long time back, I finally read the book. It can be called a Romance but in that case it is one of the different ones. Two unusual people come together having battled different life circumstances and mindsets. The way the author unwraps the story can either irritate you or keep you hooked. It was the latter for me.
I tell him I like the room, and we talk about my love of clouds and how most people lose the ability to see silver linings even though they are always there above us almost every day.Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
21. One Perfect Grave – Stacy Green
This is not for the faint hearted considering the book starts with a child’s corpse. It’s one of those racy, pacy thrillers that work best when you want to get out of a reading slump. The kind of book that keeps you hooked just to know what will happen next or who the killer really is. Is it truly distinctive in any way? Possibly not.
22. Lies Lies Lies – Adele Parks
Another one from my current favourite genre of psychological thrillers. It’s funny how so many of those have marriage at the centre. A couple that looks happy enough from the outside, a husband with an alcohol problem and an accident that unravels things unexpectedly. Again, a good pacy read if you like the genre.
The thing about people is that it takes years, and years, and years to know them. Really know them. Because we hide things, all of us, all the time. We’re ashamed, cautious or secretive. Sometimes, we just have trust issues and feel people need to earn the right to knowledge about our true selves. We don’t gift it generously. And even when you finally think you know someone, something changes. We can’t know each other. It’s a fool’s game trying to.Lies Lies Lies, Adele Parks
23. A Thousand Questions – Saadia Faruqi
This is definitely a young adult read but the cover of this Pakistani and Pakistani American girls intrigued me. What really pops out is the innocence of the two girls and the way they see the world around them. A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird.
Some days are chock-full of activity, but others—like this afternoon—are as slow as refrigerated chocolate syrup running down a tall glass of milk.A Thousand Questions, Saadia Faruqi
24. It Ends With us – Colleen Hoover
What a wild success this book was! Hoover takes her own sweet time to build it up with the two protagonists meeting and falling in love. Since the main theme explored in the book hasn’t been revealed in the blurb I will keep mum. What I can say is that there are some good insights into why some people continue to tolerate things you would not relate to. Sounds cryptic but I gotta preserve the suspense.
25. On Earth we’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vong
This was another book club pick for the LGBTQ theme. I have possibly had enough of mush. Hence, even though the expressions were for two men, it just didn’t appeal to me much in terms of reading content.
26. The 100-year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
Borrowed this book from a friend who picked it out for me knowing my love for A Man Called Ove. What I loved about it was the setting in the less explored (in literary terms) country of Sweden for me. The writing is eclectic and most of the characters are pretty wonky. In some ways, it reminds you of those old-style comedy movies where just about anything can happen.
But what finally formed young Allan’s philosophy of life were his mother’s words when they received the news of his father’s death. It took a while before the message seeped into his soul, but once there, it was there for ever: Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be.The 100-year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson
27. The World for Sale – Javier Blas & Jack Farchy
I was recommended this book last year but finally got to it. It’s a wonderful treatise on how some crony capitalists control the flow of precious natural resources. Unlike what you might expect, the reading is simple and pacy despite all the facts that it’s packed with.
The term ‘commodity trader’ conjures a variety of different images, from the roaring trading pits of Chicago to the banks of computer screens on a Wall Street trading floor. But the focus of this book is the companies and individuals whose business is buying and selling physical commodities. It is they who control the flow of natural resources around the world; it is in their hands that an almost unique type of political and economic power is concentrated.”The World for Sale, Javier Blas & Jack Farchy
28. Lilac Girls – Martha Hall Kelley
This year I picked up surprisingly few World War reads. This one was on my list for a long time. The varied perspectives of three women in strikingly different circumstances was a treat to read. The parts of the female-only Nazi camp at Ravensbruck can still make you shudder more than seven decades after it’s occurrence. What surprised me the most was the inspiration the book took from real people who had walked this earth. If like me you like female-oriented takes on history, you wouldn’t regret picking this up.
Once in Paris, I borrowed our caretakers’ old Peugeot, which was powered by an improvised wood-burning stove fixed to the back. A wartime lack of gasoline had led to widespread use of these homemade gasogenes, wood gasification units mounted on the backs of buses, taxicabs, and private cars. It was quite a sight to see these vehicles on the streets, each with its own combustion tank fixed to the rear.Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly
29. Now is Everything – Amy Giles
A young adult thriller with a dark theme running across it. It’s one of those books that will keep you hooked till the time you ascertain what really happened. The characters are well fleshed out and the story has enough to keep you interested.
30. Sparks Like Stars – Nadia Hashimi
This is another of those war-torn fiction books where a girl is rescued from Afghanistan after witnessing a family tragedy. Her past obviously catches up with her a few decades later even as she has built a new life for herself. Somewhat predictable but two of the American characters really drew me in. Also, there is something about the backdrop of war that draws me towards this genre.
People say ‘third world’ and think it just means countries without internet or paved roads,” I say. “But ‘third world’ is Cold War terminology. NATO countries are the first world and the Communist bloc is the second world. The third world was where those two clashed. So the mess in Afghanistan is actually a first and second world problem.Sparks Like Stars, Nadia Hashimi
31. A Thousand Brains – Jeff Hawkins
This was a much-touted non-fiction book advocated by Bill Gates as well. Beyond the main idea of different overlapping pillar-like structures in the brain, I found the book a little tedious. Maybe I am just not evolved enough yet to appreciate it’s intellectual genius.
A reference frame tells you where things are located relative to each other, and it can tell you how to achieve goals, such as how to get from one location to another. We realized that the brain’s model of the world is built using maplike reference frames. Not one reference frame, but hundreds of thousands of them. Indeed, we now understand that most of the cells in your neocortex are dedicated to creating and manipulating reference frames, which the brain uses to plan and think.A Thousand Brains, Jeff Hawkins
32. Sach Kahun Toh – Neena Gupta
Neena Gupta has been one of the most convention-breaking actresses in the country. Her autobiography came across as chilled out as she seems to be. If you go reading it just to get more juicy details about her and Viv Richards, you will be disappointed. But, if you are after a certain sense of nostalgia about life in the 80s, then you will be delighted when you read anecdotes of her using a neighbourhood shop for phone calls. You could also go in for a perspective about life from a no-nonsense person who knows her mind enough to follow her own radar. You won’t be disappointed.
I want the whole world to know that you won’t get anywhere if you aren’t besharam (shameless). That you need to push for what you want and not sit back and wait for offers to fall in your lap. If anything, people in the industry appreciate being pushed, and receiving pictures and requests for follow-ups. It keeps you on top of their mind and helps them know who is actually serious.Sach Kahun Toh, Neena Gupta
33. The Guncle – Steven Rowley
Recommended by some articles and a book club friend, this was one of those unassuming books that covered so many deep subjects – loss, grieving, friendship, family and even homosexual love. The writing is fun and frothy without feeling like it’s letting go of the seriousness it is endeavouring to capture. Yet again, having two kids as protagonists adds to the charm of the book.
You think you’re so complicated. That you exist on a higher plane above everyone and everything else, thinking we can’t understand you. But you don’t and we do. You promised yourself you would never get that close to anyone again? And now all these years later you have allowed yourself. Or maybe not even allow—kids don’t give you much of a choice. But you feel something, and you’re scared and you’re trying to run from it and, goddammit, I won’t let you.The Guncle, Steven Rowley
A much hyped book with it’s distinctive red and black cover that didn’t really do much for me. It’s a murder whodunit with a very simple character at it’s heart. But considering how widely explored the genre is, this one added nothing new to it for me.
35. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Metaverse is a buzz word these days. You have gotta be living under a rock if you ain’t curious about it. My curiosity led me to this 2011 book which is probably the first such expression of the concept. It’s a long read and I think the editor could have done a better job but fascinating nevertheless. If you are looking to immerse yourself in an alternate world, this is a great option.
If I’d been hungry, I could have ordered a real slice of pizza at the counter. The order would have been forwarded to a pizza vendor near my apartment complex, the one I’d specified in my OASIS account’s food service preference settings. Then a slice would have been delivered to my door in a matter of minutes, and the cost (including tip) would have been deducted from my OASIS account balance.Ready Player One, Ernest Cline
36. Sh!t no One Tells You – Dawn Dais
Sadly, this one was my first pick to try and prepare myself for an upcoming life changing event. Turns out, the author seemed to be more like someone who loved laughing at her own jokes and thought of herself as oh-so-funny. It’s also possible that a gaggle of her girlfriends also found her funny. I, though, came out pretty disappointed.
37. Nothing Like a Ravishing Governess – Emily Honeyfield
Ah well, we all have guilty pleasures. Sometimes I need to read certifiable trash to cleanse my palate of the sensible reads ingested before. This was one such palate cleanser.
38. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
A much acclaimed book, I enjoyed the world it painted till a certain point. Beyond that, it felt like the protagonists are running from one place to the other with much of the same following them. Most importantly, the climax as absolutely under whelming after spending so much time on the book.
With the surgeries that Dr. Stevens described, Cora thought, the whites had begun stealing futures in earnest. Cut you open and rip them out, dripping. Because that’s what you do when you take away someone’s babies—steal their future. Torture them as much as you can when they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.The Underground Raiload, Colson Whitehead
39. The Paris Wife – Paula Mclain
This was a book I borrowed from the American Library. It captures the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. Since I have scant knowledge about the swinging 20s and the clique of artists in Paris, it opened a whole new world for me. The way Mclain covered Hadley’s insecurities and anxieties also made for an interesting read.
Ernest once told me that the word paradise was a Persian word that meant “walled garden.” I knew then that he understood how necessary the promises we made to each other were to our happiness. You couldn’t have real freedom unless you knew where the walls were and tended to them. We could lean on the walls because they existed; they existed because we leaned on them.The Paris Wife, Paula Mclain
40. The Happiest Baby on the Block – Dr. Harvey Karp
This is another one of those books which I read to prepare myself for upcoming motherhood. Dr. Karp is also referred to as the baby whisperer and the book concerns itself with his idea of 5 S’s that can sooth babies. How well it works is yet to be seen.
41. The Art of Gathering – Priya Parker
Another book picked up from the American Library. It was one of the most thought-provoking reads for me this year. The idea of really thinking out every detail of each gathering made so much sense. The anecdotes and the examples that Parker gives from her work just make it all so much more substantial. A must read if you are looking to enrich your human interactions in just about any way you choose to gather.
When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker
42. Peach Blossom Spring – Melissa Fu
I picked up this much acclaimed historical fiction based in East Asia with probably very high expectations. I think in a large way it seemed very reminiscent of Pachinko to me. It was a nice read especially with a good view to the hardships faced by the people during the Sino-Japanese war. Beyond that, nothing very different or special.
43. Harsh Realities – Harsh Mariwala & Ram Charan
A book that could have been so much more. I got a copy of it in one of the conferences. To the uninitiated, Harsh Mariwala is a brilliant Indian businessman who set up the sprawling oil company Marico. I think there could be many wonderful stories to illuminate that journey. Unfortunately, this one reads more like a business school case study.
44. The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
A Book Club read, this is a book that is suddenly finding favour with readers again. I adored Shafak’s prose in The Bastards of Istanbul. In this case, the story is dipped in fact with characters like Rumi and Shams Tabrizi. At some points, I found the philosophy a bit too holier-than-thou and over the top. What did help was a wonderful, engaging discussion in a book club meeting.
Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak
45. The Joys of Compounding – Gautam Baid
This was a book I picked up at an airport. Personally, I was a bit misled by the subtitle as I thought the book would talk more about habits that can have compounding effects in your life, like learning. Turns out, master investor Gautam Baid, is talking about his passion of investing in equities. Of course I love the asset class but for quite some time I have stopped spending too much time in analysing stocks choosing to keep it time-efficient by investing more in funds. So beyond a point, my eyes sort of glazed over the immense and sometimes repetitive details that he goes through.
Lucky people are those who acknowledge just how fortunate they are and feel grateful for what they have. If you want to feel rich, just count all the gifts you have that money can’t buy. In my view, this self-realization is the most important step toward being lucky.The Joys of Compounding, Gautam Baid
46. Brain Rules for Baby – John Medina
Another of the parenting books, it did not have anything too memorable for me. I am a fan of psychology but somehow this book didn’t add too much to my repertoire.
47. Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
Come to think of it, many books this year seemed to have kids as protagonists. Case in point being this one where the eleven-year old Lily Owens learns all about life with her stand-in black mother and the three beekeeping sisters. It’s warm and charming.
Some people have a sixth sense, and some are duds at it. I believe I must have it, because the moment I stepped into the house I felt a trembling along my spine, down my arms, pulsing out from my fingertips. I was practically radiating. The body knows things a long time before the mind catches up to them. I was wondering what my body knew that I didn’t.Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
48. Death by Bubble Tea – Jennifer Chow
It’s really the cover art which made me pick up this book. The title also might have something to do with it. But it was more of a thumbs down book for me. Two cousins end up spending time with each other for the first time. They put up a stall selling bubble tea and of course there is a murder involved. Possibly the writing was too simple, the characters a bit confused and the plot seemed a little juvenile.
49. Attachment Parenting – Dr. William & Martha Sears
Ugh! The one parenting book that made me have that reaction. This is a preachy, judgemental, you-know-nothing and babies-are-your-only-life-purpose type of book. I was mostly scowling and squirming as I read through it.
50. Blood Orange – Harriet Tyce
This was my first Covid read. What a psych thriller! It is graphic and even gruesome in parts but I could just not let it go. Well crafted characters and of course a nicely intricate plot. Yet again, marriage becomes central in this story. A must read if you have the stomach for it.
51. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See
I have loved Lisa See since the time I read The Island of Sea Women. This book was equally brilliant. The amazing part of her work is the research she puts into small, unknown yet fascinating communities. This one was definitely one of the top fiction reads for me this year.
The color of the brew is rich and dark with mystery. The first flavor is peppery, but that fades to divine sweetness. The history of my people shimmers in my bones. With every sip, it’s as if I’m wordlessly reciting the lineage. I’m at once merged with my ancestors and with those who’ll come after me. I grew up believing that rice was to nourish and that tea was to heal. Now I understand that tea is also to connect and to dream. That seduction is deeper and more profound than could happen with any man.The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See
52. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot – Marianne Cronin
A much acclaimed book especially dealing with mortality. It started out on a promising note but in my opinion it fizzled out somewhere in the middle. Even the chemistry between 17-year Lenni and 83-year old Margot is not able to get it back on track for me. What I did enjoy was Lenni’s relationship with Father Arthur. I would say you could give it a shot but I wouldn’t judge you if you abandon it mid-way.
Anyway, perhaps in the heat of the moment it might seem that revenge is the only thing you can do to satisfy your anger, but you might find that after time has passed, forgiveness is what has done you the most good, is what you are most proud of.The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, Marianne Cronin
53. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbag
One of the two book club reads for this month, this one is a short English translation of a Kannada novella. The main theme was really how a quick change in fortune can completely change, and upend family dynamics. Of course like all good books, there were many under currents which I discovered mostly after a discussion in the meeting.
The well-being of any household rests on selective acts of blindness and deafness. Anita had outdone herself when it came to suicidal forthrightness. It looked like she wanted to destroy all of us along with herself.Ghachar Ghochar, Vivek Shanbag
I have wanted to read Tina Fey’s autobiography for a long time and finally I did. I have liked her quirky sense of humour for a long time now. But, the book often felt like bread crumbs of her life thrown around in a messy manner. More importantly, at times it felt like she was trying to hard to be funny. Or maybe they were jokes with context, which may not be relatable with the different cultural milleu that I am a part of. All in all, I have read more memorable memoirs.
“The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.” This is something Lorne has said often about Saturday Night Live, but I think it’s a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go.Bossypants, Tina Fey
55. All the World’s a Stage – Ambi Parmeswaran
This was a book made memorable more with the story about how I came to read it. I had a two hour wait for a blood test and my husband drove us to our favourite book store. You can borrow books from a limited selection while sipping in their attached coffee shop. This was one of those short reads that I devoured in that time. Essentially, Ambi talks about why and how you should work towards enhancing your personal brand. I anyway agree with the why and I picked up some useful ideas for the how as well from the book.
56. The Far Field – Madhuri Vijay
This was the second book club read this month. A much acclaimed and awarded one, it is definitely one of the better written Indian fiction books. Set in Bangalore and picturesque Kashmir, the span of characters is breath taking. Even the protagonist Shalini is complex in her own way. It’s a book worth reading, savouring and absorbing with due focus. Would recommend giving it a shot, for sure.
She then gave me a tour of the village itself. In my urban imagination, I had always pictured villages as tight-knit clusters of homes, limited by size and proximity, but here the houses were flung wide upon the mountainside, like a handful of brightly colored toys tossed by a careless hand, separated by narrow rocky ridges and terraced cornfields.The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay
57. Influence – Robert Caldiani
As mentioned earlier, I am a sucker for psychology. This book has been much-touted for a long time even by stalwarts like Charlie Munger. Maybe I am joining this party too late. But a lot of things I read in this one were insights that I was privy to from earlier books. However, if you haven’t read anything about human psychology and the sub-conscious way in which our brain works, then this is a good well-rounded book to pick up.
I have become impressed by evidence indicating that the form and pace of modern life is not allowing us to make fully thoughtful decisions, even on many personally relevant topics. Sometimes the issues may be so complicated, the time so tight, the distractions so intrusive, the emotional arousal so strong, or the mental fatigue so deep that we are in no cognitive condition to operate mindfully. Important topic or not, we have to take the shortcut.Influence, Robert Caldiani
58. Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez
Looking for a romance read? This can be a good pick. Yet again two very different people, lost souls who find themselves as they find each other. Pretty much the usual stuff in a bit of new wrapping.
I tipped my wineglass at him. “You suffer from One Day Syndrome.” He wrinkled his brows. “What?”
“One Day Syndrome. You live your life like there’ll always be one day to do all the things you put off. One day you’ll take the trip. One day you’ll have the family. One day you’ll try the thing. You’re all work and not enough play. Money can’t make you happy unless you know what you want, Adrian. So what do you want?”Life’s Too Short, Abby Jimenez
59. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
This book is a classic (maybe not timeless), an epistolary novel from 1982. I picked it up from the American Library. It was possibly a path breaker for it’s time in the kind of strong, black female characters that it brought to life. As for me? I could have done without it.
Yet another parenting book. In this one, Oster claims to back whatever she says with research findings. The irony of it all is that after giving all the data about average timelines for baby milestones, she goes on to say that mothers should not worry about all that jazz. It was only after reading this one that I admitted to myself I could just be overdoing this parenting reading thing.
61. Mr. Mercedes – Stephen King
Finally, my first Stephen King book. I could see why he has been a bestselling author for the last forty odd years. The story is simple but the plot is crafted masterfully. The best part is just how detailed the characters are, especially the Mercedes killer and retired Bill Hodges. The mind games they play with each other are also pretty intriguing. This one makes for a good read for any fan of Detective fiction or crime thrillers.
62. The Reading List – Sara Nisha Adams
This is a recommendation I picked up off the Goodreads. Two things piqued my interest – the Indian connection and the role books would play in the plot. Somehow, the writing style just wasn’t holding my attention and I had to push myself to get through it. A lot of the books were more of placeholders really. I am still unsure of just why it is so popular.
63. Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Another one of those books that are wildly popular, but left me cold. This is the first part of a Japanese trilogy where the English translation is making waves atleast in India. It reminded me strongly of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series with it’s emphasis on human relationships and possibly better communication. While I read only one part of it, it put me in no hurry to read the other two.
Having finally read my first King novel, I moved on to his treatise of the craft. Let’s just say that it made me fall in love with writing once again. If anything, I hope it has roused me from the slump and slumber I have experienced towards it. The passion he feels for it is palpable across his teaching and even the admonishment he doles out to aspiring writers.
65. The wisest owl – Anupam Gupta
Being an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) I could not not read this one. In the book, Gupta profiles six veteran RIAs and intersperses it with the history of Personal Finance in India. Honestly, I found it a bit dry but considering the dearth of literature on the subject in India, atleast it’s a good start.
66. Lessons in Chemistry – Bonnie Garmus
Call it a recency bias, but reading this book made me feel like I ended my reading year on a high. What a wonderful, light, bubbly writing style. What brilliant characters. As for the plot and the way it deals with the quest of a woman trying to make inroads into the science fraternity in sexist 1960s. It is truly delightful. One of the few must-reads from my list.
That was also part of the problem. Most of the Hastings scientists weren’t different—or at least not different enough. They were normal, “average, at best slightly above average. Not stupid, but not genius either. They were the kind of people who make up the majority of every company—normal people who do normal work, and who occasionally get promoted into management with uninspiring results. People who weren’t going to change the world, but neither were they accidentally going to blow it up.Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
Phew! So, that was my 2022 in books. Whatever your reading preference, I hope you found some books to be added to your TBR or To Be Read list. Have you read any of these? What was your favourite book of 2022? Let me know in the comments below.