51. Yes. Almost one every week. I wonder at what cost the extra books from the last year came. I’ve traveled almost the same, added a couple more magazines to read. And still came out on top with 7 more books. In terms of number of pages I read 3000 pages more than the previous year! No kidding! And the thing is, I was at pretty much the same level as 2013, well into the middle of the year. For some reason there was a spurt in the latter half of the year. 20 in the first half and 31 in the second. I really need to come up with some balance. In terms of number of pages, the first halves look pretty much the same. There was a spurt in both years, so am guessing it might be because of more holidays and long weekends spent at home. Anyway, the list follows (As always, the ones with links point to my review in Goodreads):
- Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake. The first part of the Gormenghast trilogy. Currently reading the second one.
- ಮೂಕಜ್ಜಿಯ ಕನಸುಗಳು – Shivarama Karanth. His Jnanpith award winning work.
- The Master of Go – Yasunari Kawabata. Brilliant telling of a game of Go between an old Master and a young Challenger.
- The Black Book – Orhan Pamuk. One of my favourite reads of the year.
- Fragile Things: Short fictions and wonders – Neil Gaiman. Got a bit tired of his short story books. Mostly stuff he wrote for here and there lumped into one place.
- Black Lentil Doughnuts – C.K. Meena. Again, another book that’s one of my favourite books of all time.
- The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon. Pretty late to the party. Almost everyone would have read it already.
- A History of the World in 10½ Chapters – Julian Barnes. Excellent book with different stories on Noah’s Ark, his ship etc. Barnes brings a superb satirical side to the stories while also including some chapters on different works of art.
- Bye-Bye Blackbird – Anita Desai. Set in the 60s, looks at immigration at a time when there are pretty much no opportunities in India.
- The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro. My second Ishiguro after ‘Never let me go’. Slow and drawn out, an excellent read.
- Waiting for the Mahatma – R.K. Narayan. My only RKN in ’14. Should read more in ’15.
- How to get filthy rich in rising Asia – Mohsin Hamid. A novella masquerading as a novel.
- The Hundred Names of Darkness – Nilanjana Roy. The second, and sadly, final part of the Wildings series. Was hoping it would be a trilogy. Continues the tale of Mara, set in old Delhi in a clowder of street cats, and their struggle to find a new place to live in. Weaker than the Wildings in terms of plot, but stronger in the telling.
- Scar Tissue – Michael Ignatieff. Had it specially shipped from the US through colleagues. Brilliant book on Alzheimer’s and the loss of memory.
- Hardboiled Wonderland and the end of the World – Haruki Murakami. Surprisingly my only Murakami this year. This is pretty much Lucia for those who’ve seen the movie.
- * A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry. My first Mistry and a really memorable read.
- Seven Days to Somewhere – C.K. Meena. CK Meena in fine form with multiple stories woven into the main one of a child on the verge of suicide after struggling with the pressure of humongous expectations from his parents. Brilliant read.
- Cuckold – Kiran Nagarkar. Had been put off by Ravan and Eddie, but this book stayed on my list. Glad that it did. One of my favourite reads ever.
- †* India’s Green Wars: Dispatches from the Forest – Bahar Dutt. An interesting work, which looks at environmental issues in different parts of the country and the flouting of existing norms rampant all over the place. Most literature in this field tends to be expensive hardbacks, written academically. A welcome book, hope to see more along this line.
- The Great Gatsby – Scott F. Fitzgerald. The American classic. Quite a good read, although it is very hard to relate to American issues. Needs transposition and understanding of context.
- ಸಂಸ್ಕಾರ – U. R. Ananthamurthy. Not read because of his passing away, this was a few months before that. Interesting read, although hasn’t aged too well.
- The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje. The plan was to read Divisadero, but read this instead. As always, amazingly written.
- Right Ho, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse. My only Wodehouse for the year. Surprisingly.
- When we were Orphans – Kazuo Ishiguro. My second Ishiguro for the year. Not in the same league as the other two. He never makes motivations clear, but one surely needs something at the end? Went through feeling that he was on shaky ground. Does little to dispel that at the end.
- The Full Cupboard of Life – Alexander McCall Smith. The 5th in the No 1. Ladies Detective Agency series. As always, felt like a vacation in Gaborone, Botswana.
- The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes. Short and very memorable work. Ending slightly disappoints, but a superb one nevertheless. Surprisingly, a lot of friends read it this year!
- The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett. Not his best work, but the start of the Discworld series. It has a second part to complete the story, which I expect to pick up this year.
- † The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – Elizabeth Kolbert. Have been harping about this book on and off ever since I read it.
- Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee. What can I say? I’ll let the review talk.
- * The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino. Read this because I watched Drishyam. Turned out there wasn’t that much in common as to call it a copy. Quick and awesome read.
- Thousand Cranes – Yasunari Kawabata. A Kawabata. Enough said. Yet to read Snow Country.
- Alive and Clicking – T.S. Satyan. Finally found a used copy in Blossom’s. Had been meaning to read this for a while now.
- †* The Depths– Jonathan Rottenberg. Have been interested in Depression and its ‘sudden’ appearance everywhere for a while now. This is an important work and hope more people read it. It isn’t in the same league as The Emperor of All Maladies but the topic is still new with lots of research going on still.
- †* Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change – Elizabeth Kolbert. The first Kolbert book put the second one on my list. Mostly notes from different parts of the world where climate change studies are being conducted and data collected. At the time it was written (2006), the topic hadn’t gained the same level of coverage as, or become the household name it is, now.
- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières. A magnum opus set in Greece during WWII. Beautifully written, but suffers from trying to be too many things at once.
- Baumgartner’s Bombay – Anita Desai. Badly printed with a lot of errors. The writing was typical Anita Desai, but failed to evoke much empathy.
- † The Tao of Physics – Fritjof Capra. Had been wanting to read this for a while. Excellently written, combining physics and spirituality. Needs a bit of plodding, especially with the Physics.
- Surviving Women – Jerry Pinto. Picked it up for Jerry Pinto. Hilariously written, takes a lot of digs at both men and women, but mostly men. And there are even letters at the end from his friends taking a dig at him.
- Nine Stories – J.D. Salinger. Collection of nine short stories. Many of them intertwine around the Glass family. The first one is “A perfect day for Banafish” which first appeared in the NewYorker. Most of them are quite depressing though.
- In the Company of Cheerful Ladies – Alexander McCall Smith. The 6th in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. As always, good ole Botswana.
- The View from Castle Rock – Alice Munro. My first Munro. This one is fairly autobiographical, drawing on different people and events from her life and spinning yarns around those people or events. Hope to read more of her.
- †* Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers – Arundhati Roy. Typical Roy fare. Excellently written. Makes great points, most of which have come true now. And sadly gets carried away. A severe lack of objectivity and blatant double standards are usually her pitfalls. Same here.
- Fire from Heaven – Mary Renault. The first in the Alexander trilogy. Almost painstakingly etched in complex English, this wasn’t easy to read, but a completely worthwhile read. Hope to read the next one in the trilogy – The Persian Boy this year.
- Ishmael: And adventure of mind and spirit – Daniel Quinn. This is along the lines of the ‘intellectual’ books that want to enlighten people. Remember the one that was being shared around the internet with something called “God’s particle” making up things? This is almost similar. Usually in the form of a conversation between the narrator and some out-of-the-world character, in this case a Gorilla, it tries to look at humanity from the outside. Mostly rhetoric. And it does a decent job of keeping you entertained while the book lasts. So I won’t complain much.
- * Goat days – Benyamin Koyilpally. Translated from the Malayalam novel – Aattujeevitham, tells the tale of a poor fisherman who tries his luck in the gelf where things go horribly wrong. Was saddened to note that this is actually based on a true story and such exploitation still exists.
- * The Conservationist – Nardine Gordimer. Set is South Africa in the apartheid era, pretty much a decade or two before Mandela’s ascension, this is a deeply visual novel, concentrating on playing up images from which to mark the narrative. Images which help bring out the differences between different kinds/colours of people, the Africans, the Boers, the Whites, and the ‘Indias’. Slow reading, but a worthwhile experience.
- † Everybody Loves a Good Drought – P. Sainath. Sainath has been the authority on rural reporting or issues concerning rural India for decades now. In this book, which is a collection of essays/articles from different parts of the country, he brings a keen analytic angle to rural stories. It is so easy to be lost in the mire of poverty tourism, playing up the poverty, bringing forth the tears so that people want to donate something and feel meaningful about their comfortable lives. Sainath goes more into data, about the maladministration and basic necessities that have long been ignored by successive governments, and the processes which play such a crucial role in keeping the poor poor.
- Such a Long Journey – Rohinton Mistry. Again, another memorable book. I wrote a pretty detailed review on GR which is linked.
- Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe. OK, so I cheated. To get to 50, the last couple of books were pretty small. A supposed classic which talks about a patriarch trying to get ahead in the old ways of Igbo tribes. Eventually the British come and he is lost, and his old ways also spell the end for him.
- Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. Seymour: An Introduction – J.D. Salinger. My third Salinger, have only one left now. This again looks at the Glass family from the other book Nine Stories and takes on from where that left off. Most of Salinger’s stories deal with precocious children struggling to find their place in the World, which was also the case with The Catcher in the Rye. Here he looks at a family of 7 siblings, the narrator being the second of the lot. A couple of them are dead, through war and suicide and the rest are living their lives in different ways. Franny and Zooey, the only other book he wrote, refers to the 6th and the 7th child among the siblings. Seymour – An Introduction is about Seymour Glass, the eldest of the siblings.
- † Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Big Cat – Steve Winter. A big photo album kind of book. Produced by NatGeo, this combines excellent images printed on quality material and text about the surveys, threats and efforts of conservation of Tigers.
Phew. That took multiple sittings. I want to reset the target to something lesser this time, maybe 40. Let’s see.
You can view the fancy page with covers on Goodreads here.
Books that I want to read this year:
- Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake. 2nd in the trilogy and already into it.
- ಪರಿಸರದ ಕಥೆ – K.P. Poornachandra Tejaswi – Already finished it.
- Family Matters – Rohinton Mistry.
- Family Life – Akhil Sharma
- This changes everything – Naomi Klein. Much talked about book. Want to check it out.
- The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan.
- Persian Boy – Mary Renault. Second in the Alexander Trilogy.
- Divisadero – Michael Ondaatje.
- The New Life or The Museum of Innocence – Orhan Pamuk.
- Authors – Nardine Gordimer, Zadie Smith and JM Coetzee.
* – Read in Kindle.
† – Non-fiction.