2020 was a year that I am sure started well for most of us- aiming our big plans- but caught us off guard with the increasing Covid-19 scenarios and the measures taken to curb it. The pandemic that locked us in the four walls of our houses made us self-teach ourselves new escape and coping mechanisms from everything that was taking place in and around the world. One such coping strategy was reading, maybe after the infamous baking of banana bread. (Hate to say it like that!) – And as Zadie Smith says- both were “Something to do”.
My year in reading was interesting as well as experimental. I read my average number of books this year too (50-60) but it is never the number that matters, but “what” you read and “how” it made you feel. Did it comfort you? Did it expand your vision? Did it introduce you to something new? Did you discover a new thing about yourself while reading the book? If all those questions have the answer as – YES! It only means you had a wonderful time indulging in the books you chose for yourself. As did I.
Below are some book recommendations categorized by their genre, which stood out for me and showcased exceptional literary finesse and some that I feel everyone must read once in their life. As we gear up for another year of hope and good times, the book titles below might help you build your reading list for 2021. The books have been divided so that it can be easily browsed and picked as per the reader’s interested genre. I will start by mentioning my personal favorites (author or book) that were food for thought, challenging, and my love for which will not wither an ounce in the coming years.
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov– A misunderstood gem from the treasure trove of classics. The only reading advice I am capable of providing is- if you get stuck on the word pedophile and refuse to look beyond it, you will never be able to relish this seamless and fine piece of literary work. Lolita solidified my interest in Nabokov’s writing, and I look forward to reading his other work in 2021.
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo– Experimental, Eloquent, and Exceptional!
- Rachel Cusk, Rohinton Mistry, and Anne Tyler– my favorite and happy discoveries of 2020!
- Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier– Every bit enticing and beautiful.
- Why be happy when you could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Who doesn’t love good storytelling? Getting lost in a fictional world to escape the real never gets old.
- Anxious People by Fredrick Backman– This was by far the best and one of the most loved books of 2020. Incredibly written, presented, and narrated is a story of oddballs and idiots that touch you in the most heart-warming manner. Translated from Swedish is a book that will cushion a spot in your favorites stack.
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath– Plath needs no flamboyant introduction. Her prose speaks for the love she has garnered among readers as a much-loved author. Make this your first to know what a wordsmith Plath is.
- Honour by Elif Shafak and Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak– The topic of good storytelling is incomplete without the mention of this stellar author. Not only does she excel herself by presenting a good story, but also proves each time the power her pen wields with her magnificent and mystique writing. Eli Shafak is your go-to author if you are looking for something immersive and beautiful.
- Spring and Summer by Ali Smith– Both Spring and Summer are a part of Quartet- Autumn being the first and Winter being the second in the quartet series. Spring makes up the third part and Summer marks the end of the quartet. Smith is a genius with her beguiling and thematic writing. The Quartet can best be relished if read in the order of publication- Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer.
- Conversation with friends by Sally Rooney– Sally Rooney seldom disappoints.
- A spool of blue thread by Anne Tyler– My best discovery of 2020 has to be Anne Tyler. Heart-warming words weaving a subtle story- that’s what comfort days look like!
- Know My Name by Chanel Miller– This book falls in the category of “Essential reading”
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme– The author talks about mental health quoting her struggles and incidents of Schizophrenia. Recommended reading to expand your view over mental health.
- A Life’s Work by Rachel Cusk– I fell in love with Rachel Cusk when I read her Outline (The first part of the trilogy) but what sealed the deal and put her in my solid favorites was this memoir. Perhaps it was the topic it dealt with- motherhood, or her sharp writing, or maybe both.
- Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall– Hood feminism declares out loud that perhaps it is time that people/readers learn about marginalized feminism and let it take center stage while simultaneously weighing the differences between both – marginalized and mainstream feminism. A must book to educate self and increase the expanse to understand feminism.
- The Lonely City by Olivia Liang– Laing gives loneliness a new dimension and exposes it through these artists who were trying to make it in New York, and survived their loneliness through the art they created. Not only this, it dwells on themes more complex that circulate the term “loneliness”. A rare book of finesse that is cathartic and will give you something new and powerful to mull over.
- Intimations by Zadie Smith and How to stay sane in an age of division by Elif Shafak– A thoughtful and reflective collection of essays from the pandemic and lockdown by two stellar authors
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie– A masterpiece!
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry– A captivating book in which pages flow by. Written with so much fineness and emotion, it will leave you sore for days. Mistry was a quick favorite with this one. Later came Tales of Firozsha Bagh which further strengthened the love for the author’s work.
- The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay– Beautifully written and compiled.
- Undertow by Jahanvi Barua– with refreshing writing and bringing the essence of Assam with every page-turn is an exciting story that lays bare the working formulae of relationships.
- Books by Anukriti Upadhyay– Bhaunri, Daura, and Kintsugi were little dollops of delight on a stressful day.
Translated Literature: (A detailed blog post to follow soon regarding this genre)
Japanese translated Lit fiction:
- Breasts and Eggs by Meiko Kawakami
- Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Indian translated Literature:
- Women, Dreaming by Salma, translated by Meena Kandasamy
- Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar
- Poison love by K.R. Meera
- Moom by Bani Basu
- After Kurukshetra by Mahasweta Devi
- The loneliness of Hira Barua by Arupa Patangia Kalita
These are some books I loved reading a tad bit more than the others. As I said, it was a very interesting reading year and to pick out favorites sometimes feels like choosing a favorite child. But having said that, the above titles are some I would want to spread the love for and would keep recommending for some time now. Hope to bring you more books, stories, and conversations in 2021 as well.
All book reviews are available on my Instagram page and some on the blog as well. Do tag me on Instagram @nupur_flipaleaf if you read this post and pick up a book from these recommendations. I’d love to hear.
Happy reading in 2021!