A SMALL NOTE 💛 :
If there’s one thing I set the time aside to do in the very last week of the year it is to reflect and to plan. It has almost become a yearly chore, something that provides a sort of queer comfort to me; looking at all my achievements, coming up with resolutions, making a list of books that shook me in some way or the other. But as I think of this turbulent year and its relationship with me, I think of the bitter aftertaste of an otherwise savory food in my mouth. I ticked all those boxes of “goals” that I had so meticulously prepared at the very beginning of the year and yet when I think of 2020 I think of loss. I think of the color white and blue and red and green. (Signifying hospitals, sadness, blood, and money, or the lack thereof for so many people) I think of loneliness, I think of all those chairs and beds that would remain empty and cold for the disappearance of their former owners and all the celebrations and holidays that were dimmed because of the world falling apart. Perhaps “achievement” is not the correct criteria to weigh a year on? Thus, I’ve decided to break the tradition of my little website. I won’t be making a list of what I achieved and if I do make a “goals” list I’ll make sure to give my physical and mental health a priority.
The favorites 💛 :
Letters to a young poet by Rainer Maria Rilke : I am convinced that reading Rilke must be somewhat similar to going through a spiritual experience and feeling slightly altered afterward. These letters, that he wrote to a Mr. Kappus in response to his request for a critique of his poems, were not intended to be published by him, and this fact elevates the status of these letters even higher in my eyes. His words are soft, unimposing, and incredibly beautiful. His thoughts and his views on solitude, love, nature, and sexuality are not only strangely progressive but also so distinct from anything I’ve ever read. I urge you to read Rilke if you’re a poet or an artist, or someone who just wishes to be a witness to raw beauty.
After dark by Haruki Murakami : While I’m not ranking the books in this list, if I were to cheat and pick the “favorite” book of the year, it would undoubtedly be after dark by Murakami. I don’t know how to explain. I’m at a loss of words to articulate why do I love this piece of literature with all of my heart, but I do. It’s flawed, it’s partially incomplete, it has no clear plot or direction and to me it is beautiful. Maybe it’s because I see something of myself in Mari Asai, maybe because I’m bewitched with the night-time and how it became so alive and human in those pages, or maybe because I felt that Murakami wrote it just for me. It is one of the most enchanting, unsettling, beautiful, and strange books I’ve come across that I just can’t seem to stop gushing about. I wrote a short review earlier which you can read over here.
I’m thinking of ending things by Iain Reid: This book was genius. It had everything that I want from a psychological thriller; a smart plot, an eerie atmosphere, and a mind-boggling revelation. But aside from that, it managed to stir something in me. Days after I had finished reading the book, I found myself thinking of it, of Jake, of loneliness and it continued to make me sad. Reading I’m thinking of ending things is a very odd experience but if you’re anything like me or even if you love books where there is room for a lot of interpretations and brain work, go for it. Oh and the movie is garbage, read the book.
Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: I needed this book earlier in my life, preferably when I was age 15-16. But nevertheless reading Xiomara’s story, even now, was incredibly empowering. Poet X is written in verse, but it is not over the top or melodramatic, it is clear, sharp, and jarring. It deals with a young girl in Harlem, growing up in a religious family that clashes with her dreams and aspirations. But aside from that, it is also about identity, sexuality, sexism and so much more. Xiomara is the most real, fleshed-out character I’ve read come across in a while and is an inspiration to all girls everywhere. I highly recommend Poet X because of its unique style of writing and also because it offers a heart-wrenching read.
A room of one’s own by Virginia Woolf : A room of one’s own is Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay on women and fiction, which was originally delivered by her in a guest lecture at XYZ university. Out of all the feminist texts I’ve read, this has to be a clear favorite. Woolf takes us through the development of literature throughout the ages, sprinkling her own anecdotes in between while making a strong assertion for equality. What struck me the most was her idea of an androgynous mind and the way she perceived gender. While her prose is piercing and unsentimental it is still just as beautiful and does not give the impression of a non-fiction read. A room of one’s own is a clear indication of her intelligence, it uses mundane concepts of having a room and personal space to send a message which was both: way ahead of the time it was written in, but still as relevant right now.
The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: I don’t’ know what I’m the fondest of; the exquisite characters, gorgeous prose, or the story itself: A man selling his soul for eternal youth. This work can be called an examination of the human soul and a commentary on society’s obsession with beauty. Dorian Gray has become so popular in pop culture references that I’m guessing a lot of people have read it, but if you haven’t, you’re in for a ride. It is one of the wittiest, most eloquently written works of Wilde, and characters like Lord Henry & Basil Hallward will never fail to pique your interest and question your moral leanings.
Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy : Oh to read the last page of a Russian novel and feel the existential crisis kicking in. I was confused between this and Crime and punishment by Dostoevsky, as to which book to put on this list, but after some introspection, I realized that I loved the former more for its unique play with the concept of death and life. At times the book was painful to read for how real it felt, you could feel the discomfort of Ivan, his helplessness, his annoyance, but that journey from the onset of his illness to his last living moments and the way it all wrapped up was phenomenal. Being a relatively small book, I’m surprised by the number of things it could explore, and that too in-depth. It’s beautifully written, it’s eye-opening, and it really makes you think if death is what we’ve made it to be.
Girl, Woman & Other by Bernardine Evaristo : Girl Woman & Other won the 2019 Booker Prize and it deserved every bit of it. It centers around the lives of twelve, mostly black women, which often interconnect and cross paths with each other. It deals with heavy themes of racism, the immigrant experience, gender, sexuality, and patriarchy. It has a very unconventional structure and style which is a mix of both prose and poetry. While that may not work for many, it worked for me and I absolutely adored it. All women in these stories have a very distinct and fresh voice. One thing that especially struck me was that while it celebrates womanhood and feminism, Evaristo through the story of Dominique also warns of toxic femininity. It’s a very compassionate work and in some places the subject matter made me tear up, but nonetheless, it is a very important and politically relevant book that everyone should give a read.
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller : Song of Achilles is the kind of book that shatters your heart into tiny little pieces even though you knew what was coming from the very beginning. It was by far the best retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus and what made it even more unique was the fact that it was told from the point of view of Patroclus. Miller does a great job of weaving the mythology together and setting the perfect scenes and atmosphere for the execution of it. The relationship portrayed between the two was beautiful. However, I loved how it also focused so Intently on Achilles’ flaws i.e mainly his pride and honor that eventually led to his downfall as well as his vulnerable, weak moments. If you are into greek mythology, do pick it up. It is certainly way more sufferable than the Iliad.
You deserve each other by Sarah Hogle : And lastly the book that had me smiling for two days straight. You deserve each other is the only “light” “romcom” book on this list but it truly made me very happy. We’re dealing with Naomi and Nicholas, a couple that is already engaged but the catch is that they loathe each other. Although fairly predictable, I loved how this story was not about two people falling in love but about them finding their way back to each other. I’ll admit, the first hundred pages or so were a bit annoying because of the characters being selfish and childish but after that, it was nothing but adorable and heartwarming. A perfect “fluffy” read.
I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.”― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
And the year has finally come to an end. I wish you all a very healthy and a happy new year. My exams are going on right now and honestly, ever since I’ve joined law school I can’t seem to find time to go through all of yours lovely blog posts. Please do share the link of your latest one in the comments section, I’d love to go through them. Take care and have a lovely day✨ -mucho amor, Anushka.