2012 was a stellar year for me in terms of reading and all things book-related. I read over 60 books this year, across a variety of genres. I came across some brilliant writers, and some not so brilliant ones. I was approached by Random House India to participate in their book bloggers program, under which they send me books to read and review. And I joined a cool Twitter book-chat – TSBC.
So, what better way to kick-off this year-end wrap-up than by sharing with you my 10 favorite reads from the year? Without further ado, here they are!
Nobody Can Love You More by Mayank Austin Soofi
If you want to read just one book this year, make it this one. It’s a poignant look at the lives of Delhi’s sex workers. Set in GB Road (Delhi’s red light district), written after Soofi spent over three years visiting the area and the kothas to get an insight into their life, the book is almost like reading his personal diary with his thoughts, dialogue, and his drive to know more about the women who live here. From the first word, this book will hook you, draw you into the world of GB Road, and make you care about the lives and troubles that the women of these kothas face.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
In a year marked by 60 books, this one stands out for its novel format. After all, not too many books are written in the form of letters – of course, there is the excellent 84 Charring Cross Road. But this book, I think, has a slight edge. Why? Because it’s difficult to write an entire novel in the form of fictional letters and still explore some of the darker aspects of war and the horrors of concentration camps, and to create characters that you come to love and understand.
Feast of Roses by Indu Suderasan
Set in Mughal India, this is the story of Emperor Jahangir’s love for his twentieth wife, Mehrunnisa (better known as Empress Nur Jahan). From the time she enters his harem, she fits none of the established norms of womanhood in seventeenth-century India. She is the first woman the emperor marries for love, eventually transferring his powers of sovereignty to her. She goes on to gain much more power than any Empress before or after her, and all of it despite remaining behind the veil. It is a compelling read as it brings to life an unexplored period in fiction, with a lot of attention paid to period details and descriptions of various cultural ceremonies that distinguished court life in royal India.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
I think it’s fitting that in a list of top 10 books features one where a bookstore and library play a central role in the narrative. Specifically, it’s the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, from where young Daniel Sempere picks up a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. He stays up all night reading the book, completely engrossed, and then tries to find other books by the same author. But there are none. All he uncovers are stories of a strange man calling himself Laín Coubert, after a character in the book who happens to be the Devil, who has been buying Carax’s books for decades only to burn them. As he works to uncover the puzzle, he unravels a beautiful, doomed love story that has been buried in the depths of oblivion. What makes this book a must-read is Zafon’s masterful plotting, the slow unwinding of the mystery and his extraordinary control over language.
I think I can safely say that this is the best book I’ve read that is told not from the perspective of humans, but from that of cats! In this stunning, richly imagined debut, Roy weaves a yarn about the trials and travails of Nizzamuddin’s street cats. The entire novel is written from their perspective, in their voice and language, is done so well done that you’d be forgiven for thinking that a cat learnt how to write and spun this yarn for us humans!
Now, it’s your turn. Which were your favorite books this year?