Book review

My Reading List 2021

What I read this year.

[Image credit]

I’m behind on book reviews, but here’s what I read this year (most of these books I have in fact reviewed; I’m behind for Nov-Dec):

Jan: (Was busy reading a couple of tomes; was Feb before I finished anything.)

Feb: Adolf Hitler. John Toland (A tome. A bio by an American. An impartial portrait.)
Feb: The Young Hitler I Knew (A shortish memoir by August Kubizek re: the few years he spent with Hitler in their teens. A beautiful book. Makes you think whether Hitler might’ve been an architect, or just an ordinary citizen.)
Feb: Hitler Was My Buddy (A long article by another youthful acquaintance of Hitler in his vagrant Vienna days.)
Feb: Sketches by Boz (A tome. Bursting with colour & characters & mood & setting. Reading Dickens for an hour is like an espresso for your vocabulary & your general liveliness. This collection of sketches, & his early short stories, is like a massive box of assorted chocolates.)

Mar: Our Mutual Friend (A tome. One of Dickens’s maturer novels. He’s grown world-weary & a modern reader might see his plot resolution a mile off — still worth reading.)
Mar: Novels In A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories (A one-sitting self-published debut by writer friend Bill LaFond. These tiny tales are wonderfully varied in tone, theme, & setting.)
Mar: A Creek Named Sorrow (A suspense novel by writer friend Judith Kelly Quaempts. A dizzying cast, a morbid business furnishing the plot, & a beautiful setting.)

April: (Didn’t read much. Busy with job hunt as far as I recall)

June: In Dubious Battle (Reread after a decade. Still takes my breath away.)
June: Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (Freud’s thoughts on what allows a group to form: role of the leader, & sublimated libido)
June: Siddhartha (A lyrical masterpiece. My first Hesse.)

July: (Began my first proper job. Took a while to get used to things.)

Aug: Letters to a Young Poet (Recommended by poet friend J L Moultie. How to live in order to write)
Aug: Maurice (Forster’s paciest novel that I’ve read so far. Being gay in turn-of-the-century England.)

Sep: Adam Bede (George Eliot’s debut is already full of beauty, love, humour, & insight.)
Sep: Zweites Buch (Hitler’s Second Book, often mistranslated “Secret Book” b/c he did in fact keep it secret. Hitler’s foreign policy views. Illuminating to anyone who wants to understand what he was after. Much better-written than Mein Kampf — less hatred, less rambling, better reasoning, & very much shorter.)
Sep: German Voices (Memories of life in the Third Reich. Collected by F C Tubach)
Sep: Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck’s masterpiece re: displacement of US farmers during Great depression. The ending is the nadir of tragedy & also a ray of hope.)

Oct: East of Eden (Another Steinbeck. A female psychopath steals the show. A wonderful study.)
Oct: Down and Out in Paris & London (George Orwell’s memoirs of being a vagrant. Brisk, insightful, & full of adventure & colourful characters)
Oct: Places (Writer friend, Ana V.’s third book. Short stories. A colourful collection of characters & places.

Nov: The Mask Under My Face (Debut by writer friend Mithran Somasundrum. Class & politics in Thailand)
(I’ve reviewed all books up to & inc. Mask. On my website. Have not yet reviewed the books below.)
Nov: Break It Down: Lydia Davis’ short story collection #1. (A revelation. She writes pieces from one para to several pages. So spare, yet so dense.)

Dec: The Lord of the Flies (Writer friend Anna Mandelbaum recommended this classic re: our discussions of human nature in the context of my WIP novel. I love it. Chilling, atmosphereic, mystical, & tragic.)
Dec: We (Yevgeny Zamyatin’s sci-fi novel that influenced 1984 & Brave New World. The writing is evocative, pacy, scientfically accurate, amusing in some mispredictions — glass pavements? — & terrifying in others — a surgey to remove the neural seat of fancy. Given lobotomy, this sounds plausible. Protagonist D-503 is caught b/w poetry & science, Romanticism & Reason., conformity & liberty.)
Dec: Bird By Bird (The second book I’ve ever read on writing. After Letters From A Young Poet. Absolutely love it.)
Dec: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Had a hard day writing & needed a break. Read this beautiful, brisk, nostalgic book.)

Thirty-three books. Also read a bit of short fiction — in lit mags, & critiquing the work of writer friends. Still wasted a lot of time this year doing irrelevant things. Here’s to a better 2022. & I will catch up on book reviews soon.

By Amita Basu

I'm a writer based in Bangalore, India.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s