Five of Thirty-Five: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018

Build-up to the Thirty Five book challenge here.

Here are the five best books I’ve read in 2018:

To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
Boy am I late to this party? My favourite book that I read this year is one that was written fifty eight years ago – the Montgomery bus boycott was only five years ago when this book was published.
I simply loved the characterisation of Scout Finch and her father Atticus, the lives they led, what they stood for – doing what they believe is right despite what others around them think. And I loved the way childhood back then is described. When this book ended, I had mixed feelings – I wanted to immediately start reading Go Set A Watchman, but then I also realised that once I finish that book, there wouldn’t be another Harper Lee book to read. I think I will pick it up in 2019.

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
What is with me and reading decades old books? This one is even older than the last one. And once again I liked it so much because it depicts a teenager’s life in the fifties – the trials and tribulations that he faces in school and otherwise – the playing truant, the smoking & drinking, the flirting, the fights he picks up, and the way he misses his deceased younger brother. The story has a stream of melancholy running beneath all the bravado and boyish things that Holden Caulfield indulges in.

This time I was even sadder on finishing the book, since there is hardly anything else by J.D. Salinger that I can read to go back to this world.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (Mark Manson)
Fast forward in time, to a book written as if last week. The wife had bought this book (she likes buying and reading more recent books), had read a few chapters and kept it aside. I was looking for a short read, and so I picked it up.

It’s a sort of self-help book, which does not overdo the sugary sweet “believe in yourself”, “you can do it if you believe in it” of others of this category. In fact, it goes nicely against the grain of the self-help book culture, breaks down notions of being special, and most importantly, describes the problem of entitlement that most people of our generation face.

It’s such a must-read in my opinion, that I would call it the bitter gourd-kale smoothie which detoxes you, and should be administered multiple times.

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
One more from more than half a decade ago, this one is a love story. A super-rich, suave, gregarious man who is pining for his first love so much that he moves close to her, befriends her cousin, and tries to win her back. This has all the makings of a highly emotional Bollywood romantic drama. Perhaps so many of the films we have grown up on are in fact inspired by Fitzgerald’s novel.

I loved the passion of Jay Gatsby, the way the twenties’ lifestyle comes across in the party scenes, the car chases, the decadence and revelry. And I loved Daisy Buchanan’s character – because we saw her from the eyes of Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway, the narrator.

The Bastard of Istanbul (Elif Shafak)
A novel which is from a not too old yet not yesterday times – 2006. Elif Shafak is a popular novelist, and this is her first book that I read.

The book is about two girls, Asya and Armanoush. One of them is Turkish, the other Armenian. One of them lives in Istanbul, the other comes to Istanbul from the USA to find her roots. And it’s about the relationship that exists between the Armenian people and the Turkish people, especially with reference to the 1915 Armanian Genocide in the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

Having grown up listening to the India-Pakistan rivalry, and being exposed to other such rivalries like Palestine-Israel, South & North Korea, this relationship between the Armenians and the Turks intrigued me – the book is the first time I read about this incident. And it’s made me curious to find out more about Turkey, Armenia, and the Ottoman Empire.

Though the book meanders a bit towards the end, it’s a wonderful read. And I look forward to reading more by her – The Forty Rules of Love might be the next?

These were my five favourite books from 2018. I will soon write about the rest in brief. Stay tuned.