It’s safe to say the reading habit took a big bashing in 2017. I started off so great, and went full power until about August. Which is exactly when life took over — the physical, logistical aspects of shifting were done and I was in the throes of adjusting to living in Bangalore, figuring out work and the rest, and basically finding a new rhythm. And you know how we all have that one thing that takes a hit the minute there’s a time crunch or heavy demand on our mental faculty? That one thing that you’re most likely to give up in a pinch? Well, reading is that thing in my life. When the going gets tough and I’m pressed for time, I push reading on the back burner. So yeah, I slipped. First to infrequent reading, and reading so slow I didn’t finish a book for yonks, to eventually just giving up and thinking “oh well, the new year is around the corner, I’ll just resume in January!”
I even went back and sneakily edited my Goodreads challenge to reflect a success! Yeah, I know. I hate losing. The odd thing is half way through the year I was more than half way mark as far as the number of books I promised myself I’d read. So I was on track to finishing, and I fucked it up. Anyway, I still closed the year with some good books under the belt.
Which brings me to where we are now. Last week, right before we left for our weekend in Coonoor, I quickly downloaded a book I thought I’d finish over the 2-3 days we were away. I didn’t want to dip into something I already had, or try and finish any of the books I’ve been struggling with. I wanted something I could start and finish before I returned to Bangalore, and I didn’t want something too frothy or vapid.
I picked The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson because I remember reading an article of the same title, on his blog a few years ago. Also the books been showing up on my Goodreads for a while now. I steered away because I’ve not had a very good experience with self-help in recent times. But, I’m happy, albeit a bit ashamed, to report this one hit the spot. The cleverness isn’t so much in the content — which is to say a lot of it is common sense and you wont really read anything revelatory or that you haven’t heard or thought of before — but in the way it’s packaged into neat little precise truths. Truths that hold good for each and every one of us, without exception.
In this latest book, Manson presents what he calls a counter-intuitive approach to living a good life. And he boils it down to simply re-prioritizing what you value and want to care about. IE: What you want to and don’t want to give a fuck about. As the title suggests it’s about choosing not to give a fuck about the most common things that we tend to, and pick other more valuable things that will result in a fuller, wholesome life. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, but maybe it’s the fact that he uses relevant and relatable examples, anecdotes and experiences, or the fact that much of what he dwells on — overcoming the need to be right, letting go of the need for certainty, figuring out toxic relationships and learning boundaries, to name a few fundamentals in the book — is stuff I’ve been pondering about a lot this past year, or it was just the right time for this kind of book in my life, that I rather surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the book. My only gripe: he does come across as trying too hard to sound cool and cocky at times, and sometimes he’s downright sexist. I nearly put the book down at one point when he goes into a particularly sexist example of the differences in the way he and his wife approach differences, but I decided to count to ten, breathe deeply and finish the book. I’m glad I did.
I suspect I’ll thumb through some parts of this book again and again, as the journey he describes in the book is a lot like the one I find myself on. Figuring out what/who I truly care about and how much of my time and effort I want to spend indulging it, all while being better every step of the way, and becoming my own person has consumed me off late. This is why the book spoke to me. I’ve committed myself this year, to make this journey an active part of my life, and not something that happens at the fringes or in my free time. I want to mindfully, actively participate in my growth, and if you’re familiar with his work, Manson’s craft is really fine-tuned for this.
It was also nice to finish the year with a book I closed on the very last day. Clean slate for the year to come, and a good time to look at the year that’s been. In terms of books, of course. Much like I did last year.
- Sula, Toni Morrison
- The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
- The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis
- Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea
- Things that Can and Cannot Be Said, Arundhati Roy and John Cusack
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
- The Smoke is Rising, Mahesh Rao
- The High Priestess Never Marries, Sharanya Manivannan
- Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, Saba Imtiaz
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer
- All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
- Baaz, Anuja Chauhan
- Heartburn, Norah Ephron
- When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
- About a Boy, Nick Hornby
- Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
- The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
- Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott
- Sex Object, Jessica Valenti
- One Part Woman, Perumal Murugan
- Bangalore: A Graphic Novel: Every City is a Story, Jai Undurti
- The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion
- Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit
- Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia, S. Hussain Zaidi
- Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson
Looking back I realise I’ve done absolutely no justice to fulfil my desire to read more fiction last year. If anything I’ve read a lot of non fiction, a lot of writing by women, and despite repeatedly telling myself self-help probably isn’t for me, I’ve reached out to several titles because some excerpt, some nugget somewhere spoke to me.
My current want-to-read list is bursting at the seams. It’s a good mix of fiction and non fiction, but I want to try and broaden me perspective this year. Not just in terms of how much I read, but what I read too. Essays are still my most favourite format, I realise. But it is possible to go deep and read essays that talk about life and times in places and scenarios so very different from mine. I’m looking forward to that.
Let’s see how it goes.
Two years ago: Day 4: Love letters