Best Books 2018

This is the fifth year of my “Best Books” list – but it’s the first time I’m putting it up on my blog. Now it has become an indispensable way for me to take stock of what I was up to over the past year – as well as share the best of my year with friends, family and colleagues.

 

I hope you all also had a rich and inspiring 2018 & best wishes to all for the same in 2019.

 

Where the Sidewalk Ends

This is an American classic. Bought for Priya by Christine Boyle – its silly and fun. When read aloud, nothing puts Piyu to sleep quite as effectively – and yet it’s not boring. Priya insists each time on reading it right from the beginning.

 

Cobalt Blue

I found this book astounding. Written from first a brother and then a sister’s perspective of both falling in love and being snubbed by the same man in a small town. The brother stays in the closet in plain sight, and the sister goes through the drama of being shamed as a fallen woman. Great insights on the gender norms around thwarted love. It was originally written in Marathi and I didn’t think you could even think such things through in small towns and in local languages– I thought the environment would be too homophobic. Very glad this book corrected my misperceptions.

 

The Sympathiser

Recommended to me by the imitable Christine Boyle – I bought this book for Sanjeev for Christmas so I could read it. An excellent book, nicely written – the pace gets a fast and feels hysterical – this makes sense by the end.

 

Ants Among Elephants

A family history of an “untouchable” Naxalite leader in Andhra Pradesh, recommended by Reuben Thomas. I loved this book because through an intimate format, it revealed bits of Indian history I hadn’t been aware of. It was also inspiring, I immediately wanted to join the urban naxals.

 

Just Kids

Neha Singh recommended this book to me years ago – it’s about Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. I have never been into either artist so let it pass me by – but its lovely. About forging a life as an artist, relationships and being part of an amazing scene in 1970s New York.

 

Born a Crime

Sanjeev bought me this book just before I was about to travel. Trevor Noah narrates the news every day on a US comedy show, and in this book he narrates his life story.  It’s funny and it’s just so helpful to get perspectives on race that do not come from the middle of my Anglosphere. I went to Colombo for work with a bad cold and this book really buoyed me, and putting a spring in my step.

 

My War Gone By, I Miss it So

I took this book with me to the Mornington Peninsula as a beach read (recommended by Christie). It’s about war and psychological devastation. It really couldn’t be a worse beach read. But I really enjoyed it, because it was so at odds with the setting, and now it’s being made into a film with Tom Hardy.

 

Overstory

A book about people’s relationship with trees. Initially uplifting and then upsetting (seeing as people’s rel with trees overall isn’t in great shape) – Powers tells a story about how to live in the presence of greater beings.

 

Mars Room

After binge watching OITNB, I felt like I’d had enough of stories from women’s prisons – but I really enjoyed this book. It was cleverly written, super sad, and a great insight on life when you hit rock bottom. I probably enjoyed this book for all the wrong reasons – it made me feel so cozy in my non-incarcerated happy life with my daughter close by.

 

Factfulness

The data described in this book was material I am already familiar but the clear-minded explanations about systematic misconceptions provided by Hans Rosling were still revealing. This is a great book to help me share my public-health-professional-lens with others. For example, many people say things like “improving child survival will just increase the population and it’s not sustainable” or “increasing consumerism in India is the cause of current global warming”. So now I can just bite my tongue and give them this book.

 

I have also written a couple of book reviews on my blog throughout the year. See: http://www.publichealthstrategies.net/can-india-solve-americas-health-care-crisis/; http://www.publichealthstrategies.net/why-you-should-never-call-the-expert/;

 

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