It’s that time of the year again!
The second half of December is a special time – not just because Christmas is round the corner but because it feels like a logical time to slow down, take stock and rest, before the new year with its resolutions and plans starts hounding us.
I will write other blog posts to summarize my year, but I love starting with my reading roundup.
Because it is the easiest one to do.
I have been tracking the books I read each month on the notes app on my phone and I’m so glad I did. It was easy to look back and see what books I loved and the ones that were classified as DNF (did not finish).
The overall verdict is that 2023 was a great year for reading for two reasons:
- I read over 30 books (and still counting) – an almost equal number of print and audiobooks
- I started a book club in Singapore – so more book recommendations, debates and discussions
It’s always difficult to pick the top book of the year so I will pick three of my favorite non-fiction and fiction books.
Non-fiction: I am a sucker for personal narratives, no wonder my favorite category of non-fiction is memoir. All three listed below are wonderful books and came to me at the right time.
- You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith – a lyrical, poetic divorce memoir.
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah – a laugh out loud narration of Noah’s early years growing up in South Africa – a rare book that tackles tough topics honestly but doesn’t get heavy.
- The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson – a heartfelt book about downsizing in preparation for death that is not morbid in the least.
Fiction: I began the year with three translated books and the trend continued through the year as more wonderful books originally written in other languages came my way. All three of my favorite fiction books this year are translations.
- Please Look After Mother by Kyung-sook Shin – A hard-hitting story of an elderly Korean woman and her life under patriarchy told from multiple viewpoints – drives home the point that we (both men and women) are culpable
- Gachar Gochar by Vivek Shanbag – A story doesn’t need to be long to hit home the point – how money changes everything, originally written in Kannada.
- The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura – A feel-good coming of age book that truly manages to slow down your heart rate and transport you into a zen zone by transporting you to a small town in Japan
Books that deserve a special mention: I am not a pet lover in the traditional sense though I do enjoy the antics of dogs and am fascinated to see animals in the wild. Therefore I was surprised to find myself enjoying two books with cat protagonists (The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie and The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa). Another surprising discovery was a book called The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell), a true story with a penguin as the main character.
The most fun audiobook was Tom Lake by Ann Patchett because it was narrated wonderfully by Meryl Streep while I was disappointed by one of my favorite actors Tom Hanks in the movie version of A Man Called Ove, a book I enjoyed tremendously.
I highly recommend I’ll Show Myself Out – Essays on motherhood and midlife by Jessi Klein, particularly for mothers of young children (or mothers whose children were once young, in case you want to be reminded of the early years of mothering!). And for middle-aged men and women alike, for a laugh out loud novel that shows how a woman’s life never really gets easier, do read How Hard Can This Be by Allison Pearson.
Two books that shook me up were The Vegetarian by Han Kang and The Reluctant Doctor by Balesh Jindal. The former book originally written in Korean had an unusual theme that left me confused and unsettled while the latter is a memoir that encapsulates the life-affirming yet completely shocking details of the medical practise of a doctor in a small rural community over forty years as both the doctor and the patients and their problems undergo significant changes in four decades.
I still have ten more days to catch up on some more reading and have accumulated a few print books by my bedside and my audiobook shelf is also bulging with new additions. Stay tuned for what I read next, either this year or the next.
What have you read and enjoyed in 2023?