Best Books of 201902 Dec 2019
Best books of 2019 I’ve read so far:
What started off as a slow year in books picked up momentum in the second half. In an ambitious attempt I tried to decolonize my literature taste, but clearly there still needs to be more work done. I unfortunately have an extreme weakness for French authors, so that’s something that should be sussed out at some point! My current status on Goodreads says I’ve read 42 books this year, I’m still expecting two or three more books to come through — so maybe there will be more added to this list.
- Swann’s Way I tried Proust at the end of 2018, however about 100 pages into it I gave up. I was frustrated and confused with the plot. Why on Earth does a man choose to spend 100-ish pages talking about sleeping and waking up? What is exactly the importance of a madeleine? This year I set out to try again and it seems like either my focus has improved or my ability to comprehend excessively long sentences has improved. All I can say is this book will change your life. It will awaken you to extreme degrees of sensory. You will understand what it means to look at a flower for days on end becoming enamored with its beauty. Proust’s articulation of psychology, the human mind, and the human heart is profound and oh so dear to my soul! It was a long and arduous month, but I’m so glad I got through it.
- Madame Bovary “We are all Madame Bovary”. Surely we have all been Madame Bovary at some point, and surely we know someone who is Madame Bovary right now. Flaubert writes poetically about love, the human condition, and mindful existence in his first novel. It’s already crazy to believe that he was able to write a women’s experience this well. Yes there is adultery, yes this is considered “Desperate Housewives” to many (to all who I proudly raise my middle finger!!!), and yes this is everything you could have ever wished for in a novel! The poetic metaphors about romance, language, and betrayal — what more is there to this wild thing we all call life?
- The Idiot This was a re-read from 2018(?). Recently I was talking to a friend who mentioned that he needed to re-read The Idiot when he read more books. After thinking about that, I decided to try re-reading it since I wanted to see how I would fare. Luckily the book did change! It’s funny how I learned to love some characters more, some less, and even empathize with some parts of the plot! Growth really does happen and I encourage everyone to go back and pick up a past book they enjoyed.
- The Lonesome Bodybuilder I’m a huge sucker for Japanese surrealism (see Banana Yoshimoto). I find that the writing is usually brief and jarring — straight and to the point and eerily emotional. To that degree, Yukiko spares no words in this short story collection. Each story carries a brilliant feminist undertone and has a lot to tell society about how external bodies / appearances shape one’s emotional and physical experiences in the world.
- Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love Towards the end of the year, I made a new male friend who has been pivotal in helping me embrace what it means to identify as a male. Together we read this book in our working group and interrogated some of the subjects / topics discussed. We spoke about patriarchy and its pervasiveness within everyday life. How patriarchy attacks society from male, female, and non-binary perspectives. I suggest this book to anyone who is curious about exploring the disease of patriarchy and what its societal implications are. Additionally I heavily recommend bell hooks as required reading for anyone who’s looking to learn more about love, and what it means to love emotionally.
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone This was a needed read for someone like me (and maybe you?!). As someone who’s constantly involved in the mental health space for volunteering, I find myself feeling too self-aware or too cognizant of trying to help myself. I’m constantly side-stepping proven techniques (validation, paraphrasing, or empathizing) to help myself and because of that, I needed to engage with a psychologist who decides to go to therapy to reconcile with herself. I wasn’t too fond of the memoir-ish writing, but I felt Lori did well to articulate what it meant to ask for help even when you think you’re too good for it.
My hopeful goal was 50 books for this year, but unfortunately Proust took up more than I thought. Needless to say I’ve become less concerned with chasing numbers and vain goals. Keep reading folks! I hope you all live hundreds, if not thousands of lives.