2023 was comparatively kinder to me than 2022, wrt setting reading goals and fulfilling them. I even managed to begin a blog and a club, thanks to a supportive community I have on Instagram.
Here’s my list of the top six favorites of the first six months of 2023 so far, in no particular order:
1. The Silence and the Storm by Kalpana Sharma:
This is a collection of essays by an independent journalist, Kalpana Sharma, who delves into narratives surrounding violence against women in India. With over thirty years of experience in writing on gender issues, Sharma highlights in this book that violence against women goes beyond physical boundaries. By examining the intersection of political, economic, and developmental factors that detrimentally affect women's lives, Sharma's compelling arguments and poignant case studies enhance our comprehension of the multifaceted challenges women face. This exploration reveals the price paid by women at each juncture and societal divide, where their bodies become targets for exploitation.
Sharma asserts in the book that “not much has changed in these thirty years [1985 -2016] and that the cord of violence that binds women’s history in contemporary India seems almost indestructible.”
2. The Future in the Past by Romila Thapar:
This is a collection of essays written by Romila Thapar over the years for the magazine Seminar, focusing on issues and ideas that have been central to her career. Thapar recognizes that history is not limited to the mere recounting of past events; it also encompasses the contemporary issues that arise from historical discourse and significantly influences our future. In these essays, she explores various themes, including religion, culture, and nation, shedding light on their relevance to the present time. Thapar's thoughtful analysis of these subjects highlights their interconnectedness with our society and the lasting impact they have on shaping our collective destiny.
“To comprehend the present and move towards the future requires an understanding of the past: an understanding that is sensitive, analytical, and open to critical enquiry.”
3. Letters From a Young Poet by Rabindranath Tagore:
As someone who appreciates Tagore’s fiction, this collection of letters to his niece provided me with a direct glimpse into the writer’s mind. An absolutely fresh and intimate experience of reading his personal letters was a mix of guilt and excitement. Guilt, because at times, you wonder why are you wandering around amidst these personal writings of someone else, not written for you; but excitement because Tagore knows how to make you crave for more of his unhinged thoughts. Who knew reading three pages about Tagore’s backache would be such a fun-filled experience?
“...five or six cockroaches emerged from under them with their families and scattered all over the place. They had been residing with me as part of my joint family —living off my gur, my bread, and the varnish off my very own burnished new shoes.”
4. Ret Samadhi by Geetanjali Shree:
What can I say about this piece of genius storytelling that hasn’t already been said? An exploration of women and borders was at the heart of the story, and I could not help but think of how women have always been metaphorically looked at, as a world within the confines of a home. Reading Ret Samadhi was loaded with nostalgia for this home that I did not know existed somewhere inside me but this time, I needed to cross a border, along with the story’s protagonist, to discover this home.
“औरत और सरहद का साथ हो तो खुदबखुद कहानी बन जाती है।”
5. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka:
A witty, intelligent story narrated by the ghost of a dead photojournalist of Sri Lanka — a story that gives you an unbiased lens to look into the Sri Lankan Civil War politics. A thrilling reading journey where you are never in the hold of the story because, well, your protagonist himself is in search of his story— how he died, and what happens to the truth that his photographs hold. And yet, you are given immense opportunity to decide for the ghost protagonist what decision he should take next. Will the truth be eaten by politics, or will justice be served, at the end of the day?
“Despite all the speeches made to the contrary, the naked bodies of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, and Burghers are indistinguishable. We all look the same when held to the flame.”
6. Words to Win by Tanika Sarkar:
Rassundari never had the privilege to attend a school or to learn any alphabet. But learn she did. From the confines of her purdah, of the kitchen space, and of her room, and went on to write her memoir, ‘Amar Jiban’, the first autobiography written by a Bengali woman. ‘Words to Win’ incorporates translations of major sections of this remarkable autobiography. Further, Tanika Sarkar studies the making of an early modern subject— the woman who wants to compose a life of her own, who wishes to present it in the public sphere and eventually accomplishes her goal: for it is her words that win out in the end.
“I came to nurture a great longing: I would learn to read and I would read a religious manuscript.”
I read a lot more on my Kindle, so I have not been able to add those books to this flatlay for obvious reasons, but here are some special mentions (a few, currently reading):
1. The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan
2. Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov
3. Feminism without Borders by Chandra Talpade Mohanty
4. The Education of Yuri by Jerry Pinto
5. Victory City by Salman Rushdie
6. No Laughing Matter: The Ambedkar Cartoons, 1932-1956 by Unnamati Syama Sundar
What were your six months, six favorites of 2023 so far? Here’s hoping to keep up this spirit for the second half of the year!