Another year passed away, and it’s time to wrap up things. Books are my constant companion, my true friends and my problem solver. Even though I was on a reading slump for around 3-4 months(due to some problems), I managed to read a decent amount of books this year. I read different types of books mostly in fiction as I think, it answers all my questions from time to time.
It was a year of mixed reading from popular to unpopular authors or the new ones. So, be it Manto’s penetrative short stories, or Herman Hesse’s independent thinking and making me believing in my inner self, or getting lost in the lyrical lines of Amitav Ghosh, or swallowing each and every word written by Michael Ondaatje and reading it again and again, or reading music and understanding life more deeply through Murakami (who even taught me to run😋), or reliving the world by reading classics,or reading books made into movies like Call me by your name, I savoured each and every moment I spent with these books.
As, everybody is putting up their reading experience of the year and reviewing their list, I am thinking of doing that, but something different this time.(Because I am too lazy to discuss every book I read this time😂) and also because I want to shed light on something very important this time. We all know and read famous, bestselling or popular authors but what about the rare, underrated, unpopular( or may be due to lack of awareness). So, what I have already mentioned, I also read a lot of rare books and discovered new authors. And so in this post I will be talking about those authors and their books that I read this year which I really liked and want people to know about. So, these are my favourite newly discovered authors:
1. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata:
I read a lot of contemporary Asian Literature, especially from Japan and in the process of reading I discovered what gems I really missed reading before. Convenience Store Woman is an eerie Japanese novel by Sayaka Murata. And its translated version was released in India this year only, so I was eagerly waiting for this book. It’s a story of a 36 year old unmarried woman named Keiko, who works in an ordinary convenience store and finds her meaning of life in that. She is so satisfied with her life and meagre earnings that she doesn’t desire anything else. She is devoid of any desire of marriage or growth in her life. In childhood she is shown as a strange kid, who could even stab a crying child to make it stop crying. Her solutions are simple and devoid of any emotion, but this makes her look strange in front of her parents and finally she finds something she fits well in i.e. working in a store, which also satisfies her parents. But not for too long as when she finally find herself satisfied working there, they(including society) are again worried that why doesn’t she gets married or why doesn’t she change her job. This short and quirky novel will cut through your conscience so deeply, touching the themes of existentialism, human isolation with humour. If you have read Kafka then in other words you can call this novel as Kafkaesque as well. As, it’s not an ordinary story, it’s in a way a love story between a misfit and a store. The writer Sayaka Murata was herself a part time worker in a convenience store so nobody could write it so perfectly. I loved this book so much that I wanted it to be more lengthy.
Favourite Quote: “You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange, maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure’ me.”“This society hasn’t changed a bit. People who don’t fit into the village are expelled: men who don’t hunt, women who don’t give birth to children. For all we talk about modern society and individualism, anyone who doesn’t try to fit in can expect to be meddled with, coerced, and ultimately banished from the village.“
2. Han Kang Novels:
Han Kang is a highly celebrated South Korean writer. Han Kang’s “The Vegetarian” got the Man Booker Prize in 2016 and “The White Book” was longlisted for this year’s(2018) Man Booker.
The Vegetarian: This book tells the story of an ordinary woman named Yeong-hye, who one day troubled by some dreams decides to quit meat. And this simple act makes her extraordinary in front of others. As in Korea, being a non-vegetarian is considered to be a normal thing. This choice of hers not only creates tension in her family who take every violent measure to feed her but also make her an outcast. This book is not just about being a vegetarian but it talks deeply about human psyche, violence, sexuality, desires, mental health and meditation. It haunted me for many days.
“Life is such a strange thing, she thinks, once she has stopped laughing. Even after certain things have happened to them, no matter how awful the experience, people still go on eating and drinking, going to the toilet and washing themselves – living, in other words. And sometimes they even laugh out loud. And they probably have these same thoughts, too, and when they do it must make them cheerlessly recall all the sadness they’d briefly managed to forget.“
The White Book: This is not a novel, it’s kind of meditation. I have never read any book so beautiful like this before. Han Kang has beautifully written down her experiences or what she thinks on seeing white things, like ice, white door, salt, sand, pills etc. And the thing I liked was that after every topic she has left huge gap(blank pages), that gives time to the readers to ponder and swallow each and every line. The writing and the cover design is minimialistic, which I adored a lot.
I have seen Han Kang interviews, because after reading her books I was so much shocked as well as mesmerised by her writings. I wanted to know that, what really intrigued her to write these books, she has said in her interviews that as a kid she used to read a lot and when she growed up, she returned to those books as a teenager she began questioning about what is life, why do people die, who am I, and she was shocked to know that those books she read has no answers, but only questions. She realized that just like her, the writers were also clueless and vulnerable to this. She felt like yes she was not alone in this. And just like others she was also an insignificant human being and she realized that if writing is all about writing questions without answering them then she can write as well.
“The white book” was written as a tribute to her elder sister who died, few hours after her birth. She thinks she owes her a lot, because of her death, she was born( as her parents decided to have one kid only).
“Each moment is a leap forwards from the brink of an invisible cliff, where time’s keen edges are constantly renewed. We lift our foot from the solid ground of all our life lived thus far, and take that perilous step out into the empty air. Not because we can claim any particular courage, but because there is no other way.”
At first, I was reluctant in picking up this book. But after reading this masterpiece by the Lebanese Author, Rabih Alameddine, I was totally spellbound. This is I guess the most underrated book I have ever read. It is a story of a 70- year, widow, childless woman Aliah, living alone in an apartment in Beirut. She spend most of her time there, reading books and shutting herself away from the world.
Her self- musings will keep you engrossed throughout the book. I also love books that talk about books.(Guess what a fresh new to-be-read list got ready after reading this😋). It is in one line, “Love letter to literature”. I think, this is the book i would really love to gift someone, it’s worth every penny.
Favourite Quotes:“What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.““I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word. Literature is my sandbox. In it I play, build my forts and castles, spend glorious time.”
4. Banana Yoshimoto’s books:
Banana Yoshimoto is one of the most famous writers of Japan. She got noticed, by her first book Kitchen, selling millions of copy throughout the world, which also got adapted into movie, twice. Bananamania, is what people called, when her book swept in Japan like a wave. Her books talks about sleeping and waking, fears and dreams, loneliness, human longing and grief in an ambiguous way. I have read many interviews of her and in of the interview of The Hindu, she talks about, how even after living such big cities like Tokyo with technology, young people are so lacking behind when it comes to communication. Communication of what they really feel.
She has broken all the gender stereotypes in her books and there is a great gender shifting in her books like a man turning into a woman in a subway train because she feels that it’s not just about gender, it’s about soul, what people really feel from inside. She also talked about how growing up many of her friends found it difficult to express themselves. Like not totally male , or totally female, so she thought she could write about them as well and help them.
She also said that, “If I would have been young today, may be, I would have already killed myself.” So, situation is that bad right now. She wants to help, young people. To make them continue to live.
I am really glad that I picked up her books while I am in my 20s, struggling with my questions. Her books helped me make peace with myself. I think everybody in their 20s should pick her books atleast once. I read her 3 books leaving behind kitchen, because I have a habit of reading rare and starting from least popular. 😂 But, still I loved all these books. (I am thinking of doing a separate posts on her books after reading all the 7 translated books. yes, I love her so much.)
Still, I will give the synopsis of the books I read this year.
Yoshimoto has done a brilliant job in binding together story of three women who are “bewitched” in a kind of sleep. A sleep making them not able to distinguish between reality and illusion. One woman is sleepwalking and reminiscing about her dead lover, other wife has developed a deep relation with a man whose wife is in coma, and third woman is haunted in a sleep by a woman she shared a past with.
Favourite Quotes:“I never tell my boyfriend that I’m busy when I’m not. No matter how effective they are, cheap techniques like that just don’t agree with me. So it’s always okay, it’s always all right. In my opinion the surest way to hook a man is to be as open with him as possible.”
I read this book thrice. I don’t know why, but I loved it so much. It is so soothing and sad at the same time. It is a story of a young woman named Chihro, who after the death of her mother, find herself feeling lost in the world. And how she develops a tentative and a hesitant relationship with a boy who has just lost his mother. It is one those dark mysterious books that unfolds on reading and how they both make peace with their past and accept the flaws in the world and themselves.( This is a highly quotable book and just one paragraph is not enough to talk about it. I always wished to do a separate post on this book. Maybe later.)
Favourite Quotes:”When someone tells you something big, it’s like you’re taking money from them, and there’s no way it will ever go back to being the way it was. You have to take responsibility for listening.“
This was again a collection of 6 short stories, touching themes of fate, healing, desire, soul, oblivion. I had to breathe after every story I read. This book made me obsessed with Yoshimoto’s work.
5. Special mention:
Shaheen Bhatt, whose book came to light in social media when her sister Alia Bhatt wrote a letter to her, saying sorry for not being able to understand her and her depression. Although, I don’t really read the books coming from bollywood celebs( only in case they are an avid reader) but this book just caught my attention as it talks about the 17 years of struggle faced by Shaheen due to her depression. And, to my surprise this short book was no less than a trigger warning to everyone. It was sharp, raw and disturbingly honest. I think she has just put forth her soul and her fears out that she was holding in for so many years. I would highly recommend everyone to read this book if they really want to know what mental illness and depression is all about. (Please do read it, it’s just Rs15 on Amazon.)
Favourite Quotes:“We want everything to be permanent—relationships, love, beauty, youth, happiness. But the truth is permanence is an illusion, and like everything else in life happiness also comes and goes. Trying to be happy forever is like trying to stop water from slipping through your fingers. It’s not possible, and the only way forward is to realize and accept it.”
P.S. 1. So, this was the list of some authors I wanted to talk about. I know my interest are more inclined towards finding answers and question life on desires, dreams, fate, love , loneliness, darkness, meditation, depression and knowing our body and soul, but I guess this what I am seeking right now in life. I hope people read a bit of this as well.
2. I always make a resolution to read more non-fictions, but I guess that is not going to happen no matter what. (Nevermind, will try again this year😂)
3. Questions: a) Do you think I should post reviews of the book then and there only so that people don’t have to read long posts in the year end? 😂
b) I am currently reading “Accusations” by Bandi(pseudonym). It is a collection of short stories collection from North Korea, and the interesting fact is that they were banned there and so they were secretly smuggled outside North Korea. So nobody knows the real identity of the person who wrote them. Interesting right? This made me pick this book. So what are you currently reading?
c) If you are on Goodreads, you can add me here.
And yes, Wish you all a very happy new year. 😊Keep exploring and reading!