Sunday, January 1, 2012

[2011 in Books] By Noor

When it came to books, 2011 was epic. I read 40 books. Give me something new I said, and apparently I got what I wanted. I read classics, which are basically something I can read forever. I read thrillers, enjoyed the ride. I read about history. I read really heavy books, they depressed me but here I am. I read books which made it to my favorites, but I also read really bad ones. Thanks to books, I always had company. I finished a book in a few hours, another in a month. I took my time with some because I didn't want them to end, and rushed others so that they do end. I believe if you love books, it's granted you go through an emotional roller-coaster when you read. I found such a joy in sharing books this year.

I read at college in the summer course, my free time was mainly spent so. I wrote reviews on the books that touched me. I even stayed up till 7 a.m. trying to find the words to describe Shantaram with. I highlighted so many quotes and realized I hungrily looked for a good quote in the pages I read. My reads gave me a huge deal of thoughts to ponder upon. Murakami's puzzling books provoked me. I loved trying to figure out what the author was trying to say in between the lines.

When it came to rereading I reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows with OmaniBookMania. That was a new experience. I never re-read books, even the ones I loved. I enjoyed the discussions thoroughly and it made me pay more attention to the details. I also reread an Arabic book I deemed beyond my comprehension and surprised myself that I enjoyed it the second time around.

Here are my top 11 reads, in random order:

1.Shantaram - Gregory David Roberts
Changed the way I view India entirely. One of the most heartwarming books I've ever read. Long but amazing. You go through so much with the main character, you love, fight, learn, dance, and most of all live. Roughly, it's about a fugitive running away from his past, crime and heroin to the enchanting Bombay. The Bombay he falls for, where he falls in love, finds true friends, a brother and a father-figure.He begins a new life, his past always ready to haunt him. He learns so much: acceptance, forgiveness, kindness. You're amazed at the simplicity of the writing. Simple words, simple sentences and unpretentious philosophy. Yet, you're provoked by this simplicity. It's like no other. It's so effortless. You will not be disappointed with this book.

2.The Windup Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami
Weird is one word for it. Captivating and mind boggling. Murakami is a genius. This year I've been introduced to him, and he's among my favorite authors. A couple's lost cat that triggers a series of never-ending adventures. This book as it's rightly called a chronicle, isn't just one book. Things happen, new characters show up, and there you are reading something entirely different thinking how can the author so brilliantly write this way?

I feel very strongly about this book, and I can't say what is it exactly that makes me think it a wonder of a book. Is it the characters? The journey of self-discovery they go through? A part of Japan's history opening up to me for the first time? The stories? The beautiful quotes that stared me in the face almost every time I read it? It's definitely a combinaton of all of them together. In addition, it's as if the author is pouring his soul out, so you can't but help be compelled to every page. Must-Read.

3.Let the Great World Spin - Colum McCann
The mother who lost her child in Vietnam and how she's still trying to deal with her loss, the unusual priest who has his own notions and he's doing what he can to make the world he lives in a better place, a prostitute who has all those dreams for her daughter which never materialized, and so much more and in the midst of it all, the brave tightrobe walker who walks in the air between the Twin Towers linking all characters together someway somehow. Brilliant story telling, beautiful language.

4.Matilda - Roald Dahl
A little girl who loves books, very bright and oppressed by her parents from a tender age. Need I say more? I've never read anything by Dahl before so this was the perfect book to get to know him by. I loved it. I just wonder what it'd have been like had I read it at a younger age.

5.The Prophet - Gibran
The Prophet speaks of life. It's not actually what you think it is. It's not full of philosophical ideas you won't grasp. Quite the contrary; it offers insights into daily matters. When you read Gibran speaking of love, prayer and giving you think what kind of life did he lead that made him capable of such wisdom? What did he go through? How on earth can he use such beautiful language to make you feel at peace with the world?

6.A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
I think that this book totally shifts the way I view Dickens. It has the feeling of a proper classic, yet it's different. It's full of raw human emotions. Love and hate. Patriotism. Family. Compassion and brutality. For me, A Tale of Two Cities is about how far we humans go for something we believe in or love. How far would you go for the greater good and how often are you misled in your path? How far are we willing to sacrifice for love and the happiness of the one we love? I'm a sucker for classics, and this one is timeless.

7.The Help - Kathryn Stockett
I loved it. I didn't know what it was about when I picked it up, so with no expectations whatsoever I found myself thrilled with the book. The author is so brilliant with telling the story, knowing just when to switch from one narrator to another. Just when you're absolutely hooked. You find yourself even more so with every chapter. It gets so deep, you hear stories you never even imaged. You feel their anger, their disgust, their submission. You wish it was different for them, you wish you could slap that character who couldn't be more annoying or insensitive, you wish you could tell them things get better. They don't need that though. They've learned how to cope.

8.The Time Traveler's Wife - Audery Niffeneger
Extremely interesting. It's one of the most interesting novels I've ever read, I felt the need to read almost every minute of the day. That's how good the author's style is. It's about a time traveler and his wife, which is obvious from the title. It's really amazing how the author managed to write about time travel which is a foreign topic, and she makes you understand what she's saying but still think about how complicated it all is, till you're exhausted with the 'how' and the 'why. Though this book doesn't mean something special to me, I enjoyed reading it a lot.

9.Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
War. The losses the characters suffered, how much they endured, the people who lost their lives in battle fields and those who died because there wasn't enough food. It's all so sad. You keep on thinking how wars are unnecessary, how evil and how they take away so much from a being. Of course, you're also amazed at people's endurance. It's a sad book let me tell you. Sad in a sense that you love the characters, you watch them fall apart, pull themselves back together and live on baseless hope. There's romance, beautiful love but the presence of loss and how they always anticipated it made whatever joys you found within the pages of the novel seem hollow.

10. الحب في المنفى - بهاء طاهر
كتب بطريقة بسيطة جدا تجعلك تحب الكاتب من أول الصفحات. تتعرف على الكاتب مجهول الاسم الذي يعيش في منفى يفرضه على نفسه في دولة أوروبية. تعلمت الكثير عن التاريخ من الرواية، عن جمال عبد الناصر و عما حدث بين إسرائيل و لبنان في التسعينيات.
وجدت اختلافا كبيرا بين الحب في المنفى و واحة الغروب. الحب في المنفى لها شعور اخر تماما ما يجعلني أريد أن أقرأ المزيد لبهاء طاهر.

11.ولدت هناك ولدت هنا - مريد البرغوثي
لا تسعفني الكلمات لأتحدث عن هذا الكتاب لكن لغة البرغوثي قريبة من القلب، بسيطة، غير متكلفة و مشاعره عن وطنه و عن عائلته صادقة جداً.

I'm blessed. Thank you 2011. And may 2012 prove even better, literature-ly at least.

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