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I began this year by reading two books that were a gift from my mother. Knowing my obsessive compulsive need for books, she had selected these because they are about books and bookshops. To be precise, they are about the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which is also exactly what the book’s title is (that and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). With a start like that, it was evident 2018 had to grow into another awesome year of reading.
At the first BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) meet this year, I remember we were discussing reading targets for 2018 and I quoted mine at 108 books – same as the previous three years. Someone pointed out that like business targets, I needed to show a 20% growth rate in my reading potential. The comment, though made in jest, made me gasp, prompting me to think how that was even possible. Even so, I silently thought I could manage an official target of 108 and strive to read a few more books. Little did I know, then, that my annual reading target would have a friendly companion joining it this year.
By the time I finished reading those first two books, I was dying to share my experience. The books turned out to be absurdly hilarious in a way that book lovers everywhere would relate to. I thought a bookstagram would be ideal for this purpose, like the ones I had posted for a few books I reviewed in 2017. Well, the first bookstagram led to a second, then a third and before I knew it, I had resolved (something I resolutely avoid doing) to post an Insta-review of E.V.E.R.Y book I read in 2018.
I was clear I didn’t want to post generic pictures of books photographed in eye-catching locations. Instead, I wanted to continue from the craft and colouring experiments I had started in 2017. Thus began a journey of creativity during which I rediscovered a new-found passion for art and craft after nearly two decades. I added many more techniques to the basket, such as drawing, painting, paper-folding, Origami – both traditional as well as 3D Chinese Origami, paper-model building, and various other types of paper-craft. Feeding this passion also called for a substantial investment in art & craft supplies, as well as shelf space to store them. But the book and crafts partnership was a go.
And so, every book I have read this year, whether standalone or a series, is supplemented with a review – either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram. For each of these posts, I have created an art project keeping to the book’s theme.
To know more about these 108 books, or to read their reviews and see the projects I paired them with, click here.
Of course, if you have been following my reading, you would know how much I love collating reading statistics at the end of the year. These are also my way of taking stock of where I want my reading to go the next year. So, once again I am sharing a few figures from my 2018 reading challenge:
Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,347 pages (big thanks to Goodreads’ My Year in Books for this). Almost the same number as last year, which is surprising since I read quite a lot of children’s fiction this year. Even then, an average book length works out to 281 pages which is very reasonable.
Longest book = Airport by Arthur Hailey at 522 pages. This was my introduction to Hailey and his best of the ones I’ve read so far.
Most popular book = Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. As far as I recall, I had never read a Roald Dahl before this year.
Number of Non-Fiction books = 21. Up 5% from last year. This genre has seen a steady growth in my reading list over the last four years.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 41. A 7% drop from last year but still a comfortable number.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 16. Up 7.5% from 2017. I also read a book in Hindi this year – something I haven’t done since college.
Number of books by debut authors = 21. Up by 5.5%.
Number of books by Women authors = 38. This makes 35% of my total reading and could definitely do with an increase.
Number of books reviewed = 108 (that’s 100%) with 15 detailed reviews on the blog or on Women’s Web and balance as Insta-reviews on Instagram. My Goodreads profile also carries reviews of all 108 books. I consider that a personal achievement.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 79. That is a massive 20.5% increase from last year. I do confess that I prefer to pick up titles by Indian authors as physical books.
Most books read in a month = 27 in April, of which 15 were Roald Dahl titles from a box set.
Least books read in a month = 2 in August. It was a time I was severely ill, catching one infection after another and was just not upto reading.
Now that the business side of reading is done, let’s move on to the side that offers pure joy – the act of reading itself.
In line with Aquamarine Flavours’ annual reading tradition, the start of the new year also means it is time to share with you a list of my favourite books from the ones I have read this past year. These are books that have sparked joy (how Marie Kondo of me!) and continue to remain close to my heart.
As before, I have categorised these favourites into Fiction and Non-Fiction, under Indian Authors and International Authors for easy reference.
If you want to know my review of the book, click on the book’s title or photo.
Note that this list is in no particular order.
1. Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
Picking up a military thriller by an Indian author is not easy when it comes with expectations piled high after reading innumerable international thrillers over the years. But this one is an absolute treat and even has two women commandoes who go toe-to-toe with the best of the best. (Buy here)
2. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
An insanely hilarious peek into a couple’s mind-journal before and during pregnancy, taking you through the changes that a soon-to-arrive baby brings in their lives. (Buy here)
3. Two – Gulzar
A translation by Gulzar of his novella originally written in Urdu – a painfully tragic story of many lives thrown about by the tornado that cut a sharp line dividing a land and its people – not once, not twice, but over and over again. (Buy here)
4. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
A story within a story about a little girl desperate to unravel the messy tangle of secrets that plague her childhood. (Buy here)
1. Bad Dad – David Walliams
This was my first children’s fiction of the year and of the many I read, I particularly loved this one. It is a heartwarming story of a father who does some bad things, only to save the good in his life. But when, suddenly, things begin to go awry, help comes most unexpected. (Buy here)
2. Fredrik Backman – This year I finally read all his remaining books on my TBR which include:
Two novellas –
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (Buy here)
The Deal of a Lifetime (Buy here)
A series –
Beartown (Buy here)
Us Against You (Sequel to Beartown) (Buy here)
He continues to remain a top favourite and I am waiting with bated breath for the 3rd book in the Beartown series.
3. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
The third book in the Me Before You series that finally brings Lou full circle in her journey to discovering herself. I thought the end for this trilogy was most fitting. (Buy here)
4. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
A story exploring the complex mother-daughter relationships between these two sets of women born in two different worlds, along with their secrets and conflicts. This is Classic Asian-American Literature that will continue to be relevant for a long time to come. (Buy here)
A special shout-out to my friend who recommended it (you know who you are) 🙂
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A young author stumbles upon a book club formed during WW2 for a few stolen moments of peace in their warn-torn lives. A tale told by way of letters that describe the simplistic beauty of Guernsey, and a love story that very nearly breaks your heart. (Buy here)
6. Airport – Arthur Hailey
This was my first Arthur Hailey novel and while I’ve read others too, this is clearly my favourite – a nail-biting thriller set at a fictional Chicago airport in the middle of a raging blizzard that shows exactly how the aviation industry functions. (Buy here)
7. Thrillers call for their very own list so I am listing my top picks here:
Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz (Buy here)
War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson (Buy here)
The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn (Buy here)
Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb (Buy here)
The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni (Buy here)
The Terminal List – Jack Carr (Buy here)
Skyjack – K.J. Howe (Buy here)
The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (Buy here)
Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes (Buy here)
After Anna – Lisa Scottoline (Buy here)
Button Man by Andrew Gross (Buy here)
Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (Buy here)
Note: Check out my thriller reading challenge which I undertook as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, here.
1. In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
A meticulously researched account of the Nanavati case from 1959 where the author has tracked down people and corroborated events to put together a comprehensive account of this true-crime. Not to be confused by the events of the movie which are largely fictional. (Buy here)
2. Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
An eye-opener on how, in today’s political environment, children perceive religion and the segregation that adults have knowingly let creep into their young lives. This book forces one to look at themselves and start questioning what values they want to raise their children with because those values are what are becoming the changing face of our society. (Buy here)
3. Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
The author retraces the lives of 19 families from both sides of the border who hold their deepest, darkest memories of the partition in the objects they carried across with them as well as those they left behind. (Buy here)
4. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
A remarkable biography of the woman who was the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India. One who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India and yet, accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to. (Buy here)
1. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
This book is nothing short of magical where the author takes you around the world on a journey to discover rare and unique bookshops. From the oldest, to the smallest, to those in unused barns, disused factories, old run-down railway stations, in buses, on boats, undercover, and even booktowns – she tracks over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents to learn what makes them so special. (Buy here)
2. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight means business. And she does not care what anyone thinks of how she gets her work done. As long as it gets done. Here, she breaks down existing rules of time-management into smaller, more manageable chunks of information which make them easier to assimilate and incorporate into your daily routine thus helping you achieve Work Life Balance. (Buy here)
3. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
You’ve all heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’. Well, Amy Cuddy teaches you how to ‘Fake it till you become it’. A life altering book that shows how behaviour can be altered subconsciously by tweaking the mind and nudging your body language to power-pose and in turn creating a more honest and meaningful impact, or presence, on your audience. (Buy here)
I have often been asked why my target is always 108 books and not 100 (a nice round number) or 104 (52weeks x 2 books per week). To be honest, I don’t have an answer. It’s just something that happened once and carried on.
Then, a few weeks ago, a friend pointed out that reading 108 books was like chanting the 108 names of God and we both ended up laughing at the absurdity of that analogy. Since then, I’ve decided this will be my official explanation (let me clarify here that I am not overtly religious). So if you’re curious why 108 books, there’s your answer 😁
My reading target for 2019 is 52 books (one per week) even though Brunch Magazine upped their target for #BrunchBookChallenge to 60 books this year. But Week One of 2019 just went by and I am already two books down on my reading challenge, so I don’t trust myself to maintain it. Which direction the scale finally tips is something we will have to wait to find out at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, I am heading over to the New Delhi World Book Fair this week. I am on a strict budget and the bigger challenge at the moment is to make sure I stay within its constraints. Hopefully I will and my family won’t be compelled to throw me out of the house for bringing in more books. Besides, I do have a library membership now which doesn’t exactly justify new purchases and I intend to make good use of it.
Here’s wishing you all a bookishly happy 2019. I’d love to hear from you all about the wonderful books you found this year and the ones that found you. So if you’re reading this, do take a moment to jot down your favourites in the comments below.
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com