My Best of 2012-- Books

1:24 am

I think I mentioned it earlier on this blog that this year end I've decided to make lists. Lists of things that I shall hold memorable or that I've enjoyed this year. 2012 hasn't been, in a lot of ways, all that memorable in a good way (yet). And even though I've had worse years (I shudder at the mere memory of them), I am quite relieved that 2012 is ending, and I cannot wait to get started with 2013. And the world did not end (but of course, still a long way to go before the 31st so you never know). I had begin writing all this in the last week of December but since I'm busy with one thing and another and because my birthday falls around that time, I guessing that starting a bit early never hurts.

So here goes, my personal favorites among the books that I read in 2012. Oh, I should mention here that some of the books were not necessarily published in the year 2012. I just happened to read them this year and having had enjoyed them a lot, I'm putting them here.

Here is the list in random order:

1. One Thousand And One Nights  
By Hanan Al-Shaykh

I found out about this book this year in January even though it was published (by Bloomsbury) in 2011. The author of this book, Hanan Al-Shaykh, had come to Jaipur Literary Festival this year and I even though I had never heard of her, I had read her name and work on my copy of the program schedule and I promptly went to the Fest's bookshop and bought a copy of One Thousand and One Nights. I am anyways a fan of the Thousand and One Nights, known as Alf Layla Wa Layla in Arabic and that is the only reason why I had picked this book in the first place. I was not disappointed. Hanan Al-Shaykh's book is a re-imagining/re-telling if the famous set story. It doesn't stray away a great deal from the the original story line but the re-imagining is beautifully done and is well written. I was hooked. And I told her as much when I met her after her talk at the Jaipur Literary Festival at the book signing counter. I was lucky enough to have my book autographed by her. Read this book if you're into fantasy and the whole charm of Alf Layla Wa Layla or feminism. Hanan Al-Shaykh is every bit a feminist it seemed to me. Plus she's really smart.



2. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
By Amy Chua

This is another good book that I discovered at Jaipur Literary Fest this year. I have no idea what rock I was living under because while attending Jaipur Lit Fest, I realised that Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother had already become somewhat of a rage by the time author Amy Chua came to Jaipur to talk about it. There has been a lot of controversy over this book. But I should give you a little background before I begin. For starters, this book isn't a work of fiction. It's a memoir. Amy Chua writes about her experiences of being a parent, an Asian strict parent aka a "Tiger Mom" who knows what's best for her kids and will have no two opinions about it. So far so good. Except people began thinking that this book was more of a how-to guide of raising kids than a memoir. While reading this book, I was amazed that people took some of jokes seriously. Come on, people!

Although I doubt that the readers in India will want to take out a lynch mob against Chua because most of us have Tiger Moms. I (and my friends) remember having heard more than half the stuff Chua remembers telling her children in their childhood.    

Amy Chua writes in this book: I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I recently met a supersuccesful white guy from South Dakota, and after comparing notes we decided that his working class father had defenitely been a Chinese mother.

In my own head, I extend this definition to the term "Tiger Mom" as well and that's what I mean when I say that my parents, especially my Dad, are "Chinese mothers" or "Tiger Moms". Oh some of the stories that I've got would be enough to write a sequel to this book! I am not sure whether it's the fact that I had already heard Amy Chua defend and discuss this book before reading it or because I live in a country filled with Tiger Moms or because I was raised by Tiger Moms (and am still living with them with their Tiger Parenting Rules), I was not at all taken by the tide of the controversy surrounding this book. I LOL'd at her jokes, empathised with her two daughters and shook my head at Chua's competetive streak (my parents, through and through). And I can understand Amy Chua's daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld's need to defend her mom. Just because someone's a Tiger Mom does not, in my opinion, make them horrible parents or people.

Read this book because it's fun, because it's an easy read and because we all have our moments with the parents and/or parenting.


3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Am I glad that I read this one! Hands down the best book I read this year! I got this as a birthday present and I think I read (and finished) it on New Year's Day itself. And then I spent a good six months trending this book like crazy. It is that good. Well written, nice storyline, it leaves you with this fuzzy kind of warm feeling. I really want to write more about this book but I shall refrain for now, for the fear of revealing too much. Just read it asap!

4. The Casual Vacancy
By J.K. Rowling

This one just had to be one the list! I'm just glad that it's on the list because I actually enjoyed reading it and not just because it is by THE J.K. Rowling. I know that a lot of people were not happy with this book but I liked it very much. I suppose it's easier when you accept that this book just isn't anything like the Harry Potter series, that Rowling can talk about adult themes and that she is writing about the internet and Rihanna. This was such a nice, and certainly different read (when compared to what we've got from Rowling earlier). A nice little social critique of a modern day English village. Very Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie in 2012 I thought.

5. Umrao Jaan Ada
By Mirza Hadi Ruswa

Finally something from my syllabus! I read this book just because this was a part of my final semester of Masters. But I ended up falling in love with it. Since I cannot read Urdu (in which this novel is originally written) and because this was a part of my Masters in English Lit., I've read the translated version but it had me hooked.