This has been the year of reading, right up to the first week after I gave birth. And to prove that I’ve not entirely lost myself to mommydom (ha! who are we kidding), here are the highlights of my reading list:
Beautiful Thing by Sonia Faleiro
An insider’s view of the world of bar dancers through the life of a dancer named Leela. Non-fiction but doesn’t feel like it.
The Pleasure Seekers by Tishani Doshi
Loved this one. The kind of very Indian family story with a bit of magical realism thrown in that I would love to write but don’t think I have it in me to.
Bringing Up Vasu by Parul Sharma
A light read and a good one to be reading just before going into labour but somehow not up there in the chicklit (momlit?) genre.
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
Not as great as his great books but there’s something there.
Golden Boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth
Somehow I rarely read books set in Hong Kong or China. Maybe it’s because I feel the ones written in English don’t really convey the authenticity of Chinese culture because the writers tend to be foreign-educated Chinese or expats. But this book, which I think was also published under the title Gweilo, was really an awesome read about a foreigners journey to becoming a Hong Kong insider. Maybe because what he achieved in terms of integration into Hong Kong, although he returned to England eventually, is what I long to do.
Swimming by Nicola Keegan
About an Olympic level swimmer, I so wanted this to be a work of non-fiction. But it turns out, the swimmer at the heart of the story is entirely fictitious… I’m still not convinced of it, so realistically were the details of her psyche conveyed. I am amazed at the ability of novelists to invent that level of intricacy of inner worlds. Does this just come out of their heads… or do they draw on material in their personal lives for the quirks of their characters’ minds.
Girl with the Pearl Earing by Tracy Chevalier
Another beautifully written book. After the book about the Thomas Moore painting, I was on a post-Tudor-obsession mission to find books about famous artwork or artists. Again, I was awed by the capacity of writers to render psychological complexity in characters.
Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geof Dyer
A great read though it gets a bit bizarre at parts. I went for this one basically because I liked the title. It’s quite a weird book but enjoyable simply for the writing.
Telling Liddy by Anne Fine
A novel about sisterhood and relationships, and how a seemingly minor quarrel could turn into the unraveling of a person.
Headlong by Michael Frayn
Another attempt at reading books about great art, this one dealt with a Breugel painting… or the quest for a Breugel painting and the absurd consequences of that search.
Any Human Heart by William Boyd
One of the best books I read all year. It charts the journey of a fictional character who gets tied up with many of the significant events of the 20th century.