A Year of 100 Books – 2017 (Part 1)

Reading is a habit I manically follow. Books have never disappointed me, as against everything in life. And this everything includes a Pizza. Yes. That too.

I have often been called names on Social Media for this obsessive habit I have of posting about each book I read in the year. However, for every person who thinks I am a show-off, there are at least 5 who engage with me on the subject of the book, take recommendations seriously and then get back to me when they’ve read the same book. Some also drop in suggestions to me, which, honestly, is a lovely way to get introduced to a great book. It is like having a tribe of fellow readers always along with you. Reading within this virtual community is fulfilling.

Here I am, like last year, recollecting all my reads of 2017 in #MicroReviews. If you’re still in the process of sorting your Reading List of 2018, you might find some worthy recommendations here.

  1. Together is Better by Simon Sinek
    I stole this from my CEO’s desk during our first meeting in the new year, and boy, there could not have been a better start to the year, than a note of inspiration towards working together. It is a lovely little illustrated book of quotes which make sense, simply.

    Should you read it? Worth picking up, a collectible!

    (Borrowed from Colonel Gopal Karunarakan, our superboss at Shiv Nadar School.)

    1_Simon Sinek

  2. A World Without a Roof
    A graphic novel on the pastoral tribes of India. I don’t remember much of it except that it gave the very basic information about the pastoralists spread over the entire country in the form of simple graphics and interesting dialogues.

    Should you read it? Simple and interesting. Can deserve a few hours of your life.

    (Got this one from Gopal sir as well.)

  3. The Book of Light – edited by Jerry Pinto
    Everything you need to know lies in the tagline of this book – ‘When a loved one has a different mind’. Isn’t that a very beautiful and sensitive way of referring to cases of psychological (and other) disorders which exist around us, and affect entire families over long periods of time? This is a sensitively put together anthology of real stories lived by people who are as relatable as you and I. And it lends you strength while telling common tales which are difficult to live alone.

    Should you read it? Yes. Absolutely. Definitely.

    (Bought this from Delhi Book Fair 2016)

  4. Denied by Allah by Noor Zaheer
    Patriarchy is real. Women exploitation is real. Putting women life on stake time and again, for something as trivial as male pleasure, is real. This book is an eye opening journalistic exercise in revealing and commenting upon cases of Triple Tala’q, Khula and allied practices of Nikah Halala. Each page in this book is an ordeal, because an accident of birth landed those women in literally the hands of hell, and left me safe, ensconced in an urban, secure, Delhi family.

    Should you read it? Yes. Even if it seems difficult. Even if you know of alternate narratives. Even if you think this is potential propaganda. Read it.

    (Lent to be by Tauseef Ahmed, a dear friend and a fellow avid reader.)

  5. The Miniaturist by Kunal Basu
    Let me admit, it took me way long to finish this book than average books take. But was it worth the effort? Completely. The nuanced detailing of narrative in the book carries the grace and memory of Mughal art. It is, simply, the tale of a 16th century Indian artist who lived in Akbar’s India. It is this genius artist’s tale of discovering and honing his craft and taking it to sublime heights, among a sea of challenges which plague any kind of honest, detailed, fierce expressions.

    Should you read it? Yes. Kunal Basu’s second novel should be on every reader’s list of incredible fiction.

    (Picked from Delhi Book Fair 2016)

  6. I Am A Troll by Swati Chaturvedi
    If you’ve been on Twitter, you’ll know there exists an entire gang of trolls whose entire purpose is to follow up with abusive tweets the pre-set political propaganda of the day. Try tweeting anything against the establishment or ask a simple question against the policies and politics of the day, and rest assured, you’ll be abused and trolled till you start wallowing in fear and negativity. All this is being done by organized digital armies supported by political institutions. This is what this book covers.

    Should you read it? Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you are a complete troll phenomenon ignoramus. If you’ve spent your time on Twitter engaging with abuses and propaganda, you’ll know all this beforehand.

    (Bought this at the Cochin Airport in early 2017 out a of compulsory habit of giving into the pull of bookstores and this was one of the cheaper, quick read options available.)

  7. Mrs. Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna
    An easy, breezy, one sitting read which is a collection of vignettes on real life, complemented with sharp humour. I have a proclivity for enjoying books I have invested in, so I found it to be overall good, except for some cliches and forced bits of humour. This latter observation is common among readers of the book. I am not sure, but it looks like a collection of her columns which Twinkle Khanna wrote under the same alias for a leading national daily.

    Should you read it? Not strongly recommended. Pick up her second book rather.

    (Bought it from the World Book Fair 2017, Penguin)

  8. A Handbook for My Lover by Rosalyn D’Mello
    Ooh, ooh, it is among my favourite reads of the year, and a book unlike any other I have known. It is a memoir of a very modern relationship in the erotic genre. And the fact that the book is non-fiction, made it all the more intriguing. Was I trying to locate the jarring experiences of personally lived modern day love I have known up-close in D’Mello’s book? Yes. Did I find it? Yes. Plenty. Only, better verbalized.

    Should you read it? Yes. Strongly recommended. To know how love, romance, relationships and intimacy function in our times.

    (Picked it from Salim bhai’s bookshop – among my top favourite book stores in the city. It is located on the Janpath pavement, right where the street market starts.)

  9. Safar Mein Dhoop Toh Hogi Hi by Nida Fazli
    “Jin charaagon ko hawaaon ka koi khauf nahi
    Un charaaghon ko hawaaon se bachaya jaaye”
    I have been a long time Nida Fazli fan, for his simple and socially and individually relevant couplets, and the first compilation of his that I read only made the fandom grow.

    Should you read it? Yes. Totally. Especially if you’re trying to begin dabbling into Urdu poetry.

    (Picked it from Saharanpur Book Fair 2017)

  10. The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter by David Colbert
    This is the Harry Potter world of myths and legends to get lost in. It takes you through actual historical and mythical tales from which J. K. Rowling gets inspired while constructing the Hogwarts world.

    Should you read it? If you’re a Harry Potter fan, hell yes.

    (Borrowed from the Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  11. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
    Quick money is the rood of arrogance and evil. While the title of this absolutely fantastic book reveals nothing, I would offer the line I began this micro-post with as an insight. This book, deftly penned by Vivek Shanbhag in Kannada, translated to English by Srinath Perur, is perhaps one of the best specimens of modern translation literature. What begins as a normal domestic tale of strife acquires the kind of sinister proportions by the end you couldn’t have imagined.

    Should you read it? Definitely yes. Yes. And yes.

    (Bought it from Oxford Bookstore, N-Block, CP.)

  12.  The Legend of Laxmi Prasad by Twinkle Khanna
    Oh this is my favourite among the two Twinkle Khanna books in the market. While the first was a collection of columns commenting on ordinary life, this one compiles tales fashioned out of real life narratives. The most famous one out of the this, the titular tale, is now also the famous film – Padman. Warm, inspiring tales, are what are contained in this one.

    Should you read it? Between the two of her books, this one deserves to be read.

    (Bought this from Salim bhai’s bookshop, New Book Land, Janpath.)

  13. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri is a genius. Her short prose is enamouring, enchanting. It draws you into prosaic concerns with grace, beauty, and a certain serenity. Writing primarily in the diasporic fiction genre, she makes her characters become representative of the themes she is hitting – cultures and conflicts, identity investigation, quest for balancing the past with the present, etc.

    Should you read it? Undoubtedly, yes.
    (Borrowed it from a friend.)

  14. Political Philosophy – A Graphic Guide
    Basic concepts of political philosophy refreshed in a graphic narrative. Not extraordinary, but ok to revisit or get introduced to all important words and the evolution of political philosophy from Plato’s times.

    Should you read it? Not recommending it strongly, but is okay if the subject interests you.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon’s library.)

  15. Landour Days by Ruskin Bond
    Oh, I read this one in Landour. Sitting inside the gazebo which overlooks the Landour Bakehouse. And I easily remember this collection of pages from Bond’s diary which talk of Landour among my more favourite Bond reads.

    Should you read it? Why, yes of course!

    (Bought this from the tiny bookshelf at Landour Bakehouse!)

  16. Tales from The Quran and Hadith by Rana Safvi
    This book is all you need to understanding the stories which form a part of Islamic mythology. All characters you might have just heard the names of are present in this book, along with the fables that make them great (or the opposite). A quick read, with great wealth of knowledge which we must endeavour to build to foster inter-cultural understanding.

    Should you read it? Yes. For the reason stated above.

    (Sent very kindly by Rana Safvi, the author through Juggernaut, the Publishing House behind the book.)

  17. Miguel Hernandez – selected and translated by Don Share
    “I take another path, another path
    that leads not to a kiss, though it is time,
    but instead a path that wanders, aimless.”
    Miguel Hernandez is a 20th century Spanish poet, and my greatest discovery of the year. Each poem, a personal memory, fell on my heard like a pin-prick. Causing enough emotion, gracefully contained in its subtlety.

    Should you read it? Do you like reading poetry? Well, then on priority. Yes, read it.

    (Forcibly stolen from Mahika Chaturvedi, the famous lady behind the counter at The Bookshop, Jor Bagh. Safely returned too!)

  18. Falling in Love Again by Ruskin Bond
    ‘It is not time that is going by, it is you and I.’ Ruskin Bond is an eternal love. And this book has the best of his romance vignettes.

    Should you read it? Yes. Simply, yes.

    (Bought from the World Book Fair, Penguin Stall, 2017)

  19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling
    We’re not trained to read screenplays, hence this one was difficult to wade through. However, the alternate world of fantasy it created, preceding Harry’s times, blew my mind! I am not sure if I saw the film first, but I remember having to train my imagination run in a cinematic format to not be obstructed by necessary screenplay interventions in the book. The trick is, imagine a lot more than the book guides you for, since screenplays are almost devoid of the detailed descriptions which fiction prose accustoms you to.

    Should you read it? If you’re a Potterhead, definitely. If not, skip it.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon, library.)

  20. Main Jo Hoon, ‘Jaun Elia’ Hoon – edited by Dr. Kumar Vishwas
    “Mil rahi ho bade tapaak se saath,
    Mujhko yaksar bhula chuki ho kya?
    Mere sab tanz be’asar ho chuke,
    Tum mujhse bohot door ja chuki ho kya?”
    Jaun Elia is a modern messiah, followed by multitudes for the straightfaced philosophies he would effortlessly encase in his poetry. I don’t know what I mean by straightfaced, but I think I mean instances and observations drawn from very personal, modern contexts, written with a jarring irony. My only problem was with the editing of the book, which explained complex Urdu words and phrases in complex Hindi, hence actually increasing the effort involved in comprehension.

    Should you read it? Yes. A good beginner’s insight into Jaun Elia.

    (Bought it from World Book Fair, Vani Prakashan Stall, 2017)

  21. Ek Gadhe Ki Aatm-Katha by Krishan Chander
    This is a classic satire on politics and society. I do not know what else to tell you about the book, except it is a unique investigation with sardonic commentary on who we have become – humans absolutely lacking humanity and looking for opportunities of mercenary gains in each situation. Originally in Urdu, I read the Hindi translation.

    Should you read it? Absolutely yes. YES.

    (Bought it from World Book Fair, 2017.)

  22. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
    Reading this was long due. I should have, given I have a Masters in English literature, but somehow, the literary baggage which comes with this book always deterred me. The whole play is spent in waiting for a never to arrive Godot, and this wait leads to interesting discussions and encounters – enough to philosophise on life and times.

    Should you read it? It is a classic worth investing your time in. Yes.

    (Borrowed from Aniket Basu, a dear friend, safely returned as well.)

  23. A Mirror of Perception and Other Poems by Tia Chopra
    I wouldn’t review this book, since it is written by a student. But I did feel pride in going through the pages with the knowledge that they had been penned by a 13 year old you know 🙂 Try reading some young voices too!

  24. Things to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale
    It is an inter-generational novel set in Kumaon, infused with magic of lost memory and conflicting histories. This is a novel with romance, domestication, womanhood – all rolled into one. It is a commentary on the confused legacy of British Raj, as seen and experienced up in the hills. In short, also, it is also one of my favourite fiction pieces read in 2017.

    Should you read it? Yes. Please do. It is among Namita Gokhale’s best!

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Noida library.)

  25. Side Effects by Woody Allen
    Short stories with humour and relatable contexts. That’t it. Impeccable comic sense and timing, if I may add.

    Should you read it? Yes, good stuff to pass your day with.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Noida library.)

  26. Kuchh Aur Nazmein by Gulzar
    “Zindagi deke bhi nahi chukte
    Zindagi ke jo karz dene hain”
    This was a revision of Gulzar sahab’s finest!

    Should you read it? Yes!

    (Bought from some fair, don’t remember which.)

  27. The Canvas by Aviral
    Again, I cannot review this because I had launched this book, authored by a student of Genesis Global School, along with a panel of other accomplished literary figures. The writing and depth of thought of the poet do show promise, that I can tell you!
  28. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    I somehow finished this book. But I couldn’t make much sense out of it. Let me tell you, however, I am perhaps a rare reader for this book enjoys the status of a classic in English fiction.

    Should you read it? I have zero idea!

    (Lent with glorious recommendations by Prateek Pandey. I should never trust his choice.)

  29. Vagrants in the Valley by Ruskin Bond
    This was a re-read, because it is among my all-time favourite Ruskin Bond stories. It deals with Rusty’s thoughts, and always autobiographical in character, manages to give you a veritable peek into Ruskin Bond’s own childhood. It deals with loneliness, thoughts, adventure and with the serenity and calm inspiration which i always manage to locate in Ruskin Bon’s writing.

    Should you read it? Yes. This and Room on the Roof are two of his early adolescent novels which deserve a read.

    (Bought a long time ago! Now have to gift it to Vaishnavi Sharma, the little packet of love who wanted me to gift her my own copy of my favourite book.)

  30. Love Among the Bookshelves by Ruskin Bond
    Do I still need to talk about Ruskin Bond. I read a lot of him during the year, because he is a convenient read on the roads, in trains, metros and even flights. Here he talked about his favourite books and authors, and I took down several recommendations.

    Should you read it? Yes.

    (Bought from World Book Fair 2017, Penguin Stall.)

  31. Quidditch Through The Ages by Kennilworthy Wisp
    Idiot proof fake history. Completely worthy investment. I actually felt I borrowed it from the Hogwart’s library!

    Should you read it? Yes! Even if you are beginner Potterhead.

    (Bought it from a Book Fair by KoolSkool at Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon.)

  32. We The Children of India by Leila Seth
    Do not dismiss this as just another children’s book. It definitely is one, but worth reading as adults too. And even better if you have a little one around to read it to. The basic words which constitute the Preamble, and consequently form the basis of our Constitution are beautifully explained here, along with lively illustrations.

    Should you read it? Yes. Please. And gift it to young ones around you.

    (Received as a gift for hosting the first edition of The Dialogue @ Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon.)

  33. Jeena Yahaan by Gulzar
    This was my second tryst with short fiction of Gulzar, and a more rewarding one. Since I saw Gulzar’s name on the cover, I was tempted to believe it was a collection of romantic tales, but no. These were mostly stories of pain and the human effort needed to understand and cope up with it.

    Should you read it? Yes, but I doubt if you’ll be able to find it on bookstands/shops.

    (Gifted by Laveena Behl, lovingly inserted in the Emergency Book Lover’s Kit she put together for my birthday!)

  34. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
    The epic of our times. READ IT. This book is precisely what it announces on the cover – a short history of humankind. It contains research and insight that will open your mind and which should be taught to each student preparing to become a thinking, responsible member of the human race. Yuval Noah Harari became my hero after reading this book.

    Should you read it? YES!

    (Bought from Salim bhai’s bookshop, New Bookland, Janpath.)

  35. A Town Called Dehra by Ruskin Bond
    This book contains vignettes of the time Ruskin Bond spent in Dehra, staggered over childhood and early adulthood. Again, I read this book while on my trip to Dehradun, relating places with short narratives in the book. Aah! A habit I am happy to have acquired.

    Should you read it? Yes. I would say yes about most Ruskin Bonds, except few which will come later in the list.

    (Bought this from World Book Fair 2017, Penguin)

  36. Akhada – The Authorized Biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat by Saurabh Duggal
    I loved Dangal, and hence was motivated to read this book just by looking at the cover. “Neither was I academically bright, nor was I able to pass my matriculation. My knowledge of religious scriptures is also limited. But if the Hindu shastras or any other religion does not say anything about women wrestling, they do not prohibit it either. One can’t define a religion as per their convenience.’
    – says Mahavir Singh Phogat in the book, when challenged citing the scriptures, the most convenient argument often put against ideas which are revolutionary, and pro-women. I found it to be a journalistic exercise in documenting Phogat’s life, but with personal insights too.

    Should you read it? Yes. Please do.

    (Borrowed from Naresh sir, a colleague at Shiv Nadar School and a senior I immensely admire.)

  37. Letters of a Mussoorie Merchant by Mauger Monk
    I took this book to Mussoorie, but couldn’t comprehend a lot of it because of lack of context and the anachronistic idiom of personal correspondence.

    Should you read it? Nah. Unless you are researching on life in the hills under the British Raj.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  38. Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murty
    Originally written in Kannada, this is the best Sudha Murty book I have read. Het simplicity of style, but deep engagement with characters and their emotions is so beautiful. It is a love story between two simple characters, with marriage gradually losing direction because of lack of self-fulfilment.

    Should you read it? Yes. It is among Sudha Murty’s best.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  39. What If? by Randall Munroe
    What would happen to you if the earth stopped spinning but the wind velocity remained the same? Or if our DNA all got eroded at once? Or if we had exactly one soul mate on the planet? Even if science is not your thing, scientific inquiry will never be as engaging and amusing as this. Such a great read!

    Should you read it? Yes! Very strongly recommended.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  40. Harmless Hugs – edited by Sahil Verma
    Cannot review this either, because it has been edited by a close friend. However, what a great feeling to finish the editorial venture of a friend, who has put genuine effort behind each story which forms a part of this collection. This is an anthology of stories from the LGBTQ community. Something fresh, and treated with the same freshness.
  41. Dollar Bahu by Sudha Murty
    Dollar Bahu is another interesting, simple fiction which talks of stagnant cultural norms and practices. It narrates the tale of a woman who stands taller than the restrictions of culture and society imposted on her, and allows her independence to flower and emerge.

    Should you read it? It is a decent quick pick.

    (Borrowed from the Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  42. Da Vinci Learning – Pocket Encyclopaedia
    Random reads. I used to find these lying in the library and an hour of fact-learning and curiosity got satisfied like this. Not recommending, but these are fun!
  43. A Book of Simple Living by Ruskin Bond
    ‘Should I feel guilty? That is hard work for me. I’d rather take a walk.’ Ruskin Bond is a gem. And this book contains wise words from his journals on how to simplify living, the way they do, up in the hills.

    Should you read it? Yes. For sure.

    (Bought from World Book Fair 2017, Speaking Tiger.)

  44. Aankhon Aankhon Rahe by Wasim Barelvi
    “Wasim apni samajh mein toh bas itni baat aayi hai
    Jo toote dil sambhaale hain, wahi allah wale hain”
    Wasim Barelvi has been another favourite shayar, and this collection has some of his best!

    Should you read it? Yes. Again, for simple introduction to Urdu shayari with deep meanings.

    (Bought from World Book Fair 2017)

  45. My Years with Apu by Satyajit Ray
    This book is Satyajit Ray’s memoir while making his Apu Trilogy – Pather Panchali, Aparajito and The World of Apu. While I had thought of this as another book on film-making and the processes involved therein, it turned out to be quiet different. It is a sensitively written document on a filmmakers inspirations, tribulations and anxieties, along with his determination to go on.

    Should you read it? Yes. Definitely.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library, upon the recommendation of Deepika ma’am.)

  46. Shiva to Shankara by Devdutt Pattanaik
    Mythology was the only missing link in my readings this year. The texts I have been delving into are huge works of research. This one, extremely high on research and content, was comparatively easier to finish. And if you’ve read Myth=Mithya, then this book will fall into a sound context to place the Shiv-Shankara concept in.

    Should you read it? Yes. I am not a blind Devdutt fan, but most of his books deserve to be read.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Noida library.)

  47. Cafe Latte by Amit Shankar
    Very predictable urban short stories.

    Should you read it? Avoid.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  48. I Before E (Except After C) by Judy Parkinson
    Do you remember those silly acronyms and songs you’d make up to remember texts and facts? Well, turns out they wrote a book on it. In parts, it was super to read, a good reference for educators actually.

    Should you read it? If you’re an educator, yes. Else, avoid.

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  49. Ruskin Bond – The Mussoorie Years by Ganesh Saili
    A picture book on Bond, with quotes and life snippets I already knew, yet loved going through again!

    Should you read it? Can avoid. But ok, pick it up for some rare pictures from the hills, with Ruskin Bond in them!

    (Borrowed from Shiv Nadar School, Gurgaon library.)

  50. Soorat Badalni Chahiye – Janvaadi Geeton Ka Sangrah
    This was my Independence Day read, how apt! And what I learnt from this book is that reading songs is very different from reading poems and that you have to cultivate the skill.

    Should you read it? Good to experiment.

    (Bought it from the 1st January Sahmat celebrations held at Constitution Club of India each year.)

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