On the continuum of fiction, self-help, poetry, non-fiction, classics, philosophy, bildungsroman to science, here are the books I loved the most in 2021.
Hello bibliomaniacs! Of lately my IG feed is filled with people doing an overview of how they spent 2021 month wise and I couldn't help myself but make an effort to become one of that ilk. (Hi guys! Welcome to my channel :p)
No one has impressed me more this year on the subject of reading than Anne Lamott ~
1. "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott (Writing Guidebook, Self-help, Philosophy)
Out of these flat almost two-dimensional boxes of paper will spring mountains, lions, concerts, galaxies, heroes. You will meet people who have been all but destroyed, who have risen up and will bring you with them. Books and stories are medicine, plaster casts for broken lives and hearts, slings for weakened spirits. And in reading, you will laugh harder than you ever imagined laughing, and this will be magic, heaven, and salvation. I promise.
(Looks like straight outta Pinterest is it?! It should because I scrolled Pinterest for more than an hour looking at book pictures before clicking this)
If you harbor no aspirations to writing, Bird by Bird offers a warm, illuminating and entertaining look at some of the things writers go through, provides some insight into the process of writing, and some of the challenges writers confront.
If, however, you are a writer, aspire to be a writer, or indulge in analysis of writing, it will feel like a kindly mentor, an older, wiser sibling maybe, who can take you by the hand and offer a gentle nudge in the right direction.
2. "Art Matters" by Neil Gaiman (Art, Self-help)
"The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before."
If you are someone who is remotely interested in art and writing, you'll love this. This was my first graphic novel and I am disappointed at myself of starting too late with this genre.
This little book celebrates everything having to do with reading, freedom of information and ideas, and how to start creating the life of your dreams, even if you don't know where to start. The book is in form of sketches by Chris Riddell and they are a treat to watch!
3. "Essays in Love" by Alain de Botton (Fiction, Romance, Philosophy)
Whether you are falling in, have fallen or have fallen out of love, Essays in Love will explain all the complexities, unanswered questions, underlying feelings and strange sensations love seems to entail.
De Botton writes about the philosophy of love in the form of a fiction. Through the ordinary story of two young people, who met on an airplane from Paris to London and fell in love soon after, he goes into extraordinary depth in analyzing the nuances, the emotional swings, the sweet and sour we all identify in a relationship.
4. "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon (Art, Self-help)
“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
In the book Kleon goes on to delineate the qualities you’ll need to cultivate for the creative life — things like kindness, curiosity, “productive procrastination,” “a willingness to look stupid” — demonstrating that “creativity” isn’t some abstract phenomenon bestowed upon the fortunate few but, rather, a deliberate mindset and pragmatic ethos we can architect for ourselves.
5. "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World" by David Epstein (Non-fiction, Self-help, Psychology)
It is a vindication of a mindset that rebels against going down any single rabbit hole to the exclusion of everything else in this life, which is basically another way of saying that specialists are generally unable to see beyond their own field. It elaborates on how knowledge is a double-edged sword in the sense that it allows you to do some things, but it also makes you blind to other things that you could do.
You have people walking around with all the knowledge of humanity on their phone, but they have no idea how to integrate it. We don’t train people in thinking or reasoning.
This book contains many anecdotes about how generalized training and thinking resulted in the greatest successes. In some ways the book is about our unlived, repressed and unimagined lives, the archetypes we are born to seek.
6. "Figuring" by Maria Popova (Non-fiction, History, Philosophy)
I don't think I have fan-girled over anyone else more than Popova this year (listening to her podcast for more than 3 hours straight :p)
Figuring, in its bright and happy yellow cover and in an awe-inspiring read of 500 pages, was my constant companion for more than a month on my vacation through beaches and cafes.
Figuring does not lend itself to summary; to do so would be an injustice.
There are too many threads to tease out in the space of a review. Popova's distinctive practice of creating linkages, adjacencies, and intersections among disparate individuals and ideas is unparalleled. The book focuses mainly on female stories, is about the lives of some remarkable women — all undaunted thinkers — who overcame immense obstacles in their time to make astronomical discoveries, to write poetry and paint pictures.
History is not what happened, but what survives the shipwrecks of judgment and chance.
7. " The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (Non-fiction, Psychology, Self-help)
Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled. That’s the essence of thinking in moments.
The book is brimming with moving stories from people who've taken chances. Some of the stories are big stories that I would think to myself could never happen for me, but then I would read a story that resonated in me and I would wonder what moment could change the course of my life. Am I missing these moments? Am I closed off to them?
This book made me question choices in my life. Do I take enough risks? What transformation would I need to make for risks to seem less scary? Are big opportunities really just chance?
The writing is stellar. Readers hungry for a bigger slice of life will find this book valuable.
In life, we can work so hard to get the kinks out that we forget to put the peaks in.
8. "Anxious People" by Fredrik Backman (Fiction)
We're just strangers passing each other, your anxieties briefly brushing against mine as the fibers of our coats touch momentarily on a crowded sidewalk somewhere. We never really know what to do to each other, with each other, for each other.
Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.
Backman knows how to capture all the little moments in life we never really think about, the connections we make and take for granted instead of seeing them as the blessings they are, the kindnesses and cruelties that have become the norm when really, they should stand out, for better or for worse.
Riveting and jovial while not shying away from the hard truths of life, Anxious People demonstrates Backman’s ability to make even a would-be hostage situation one of the most entertaining and profound encounters to read about.
9. "The Gervais Principle: The Complete Series, with a Bonus Essay on Office Space (Ribbonfarm Roughs)" by Venkatesh Rao (Business, Non-fiction, Psychology)
It is a fun read elucidating on the subject of organizational dynamics. It is basically a series of blogs which the author later converted into a book.
The author divides the organizational hierarchy into three classes - Leaders ("Sociopaths"), Loyalists ("Clueless"), Workers ("Losers") and draws parallels between each class from the characters of The Office.
It discusses mental models on how to navigate your way as an employee whilst giving equal attention to employee psychology.
It might give you a new perspective towards multiple things or you might end up chuckling and treating it as fiction. Either way if you are a ‘The Office’ fan, I would definitely recommend you to read it.
10. "Rumi: A New Translation" by Rumi, Farrukh Dhondy (Poetry)
You'll get this only if you have watched Seinfeld
Unlike George (Georgiee boi is what I call him) who couldn't have his summer, I had an year of poetry.
From reading Rumi to Walt Whitman, it was the most beautiful year of my life.
Snuggled up in blanket, the scent of vanilla candles, acoustic music, reading poetry with my partner is gonna be the most beautiful recollection (Yes, I am gonna get emo now because 2021 is ending)
Rumi was my very first full poetry collection which I finished other than Rupi Kaur. Loved reading the couplets and full length poems. Rumi's poems are like music to the soul, and even if they seem a little too casually handled, they still leave a mark on you, hit the nail, touch a nerve somewhere. This book will let you pause, ponder and participate in things which makes life worth living - "the simple joys of life" !
I know, I know this was long but you gotta do what you gotta do! I had to post this before the year ends so that you can update your reading list before 2022 knocks the door. If you end up reading any of these do let me know how you liked it :)
To more reading, to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!