Thursday, October 20, 2022

My Reading challenge for 2022 

Lot of Reading, Let writing take over

Its been a while. I've been away from the prose in the writing sense. I've been with the keyboard everyday, I've had my pen and paper near me almost all the time, at an arms length. Although I've been writing, but never on a flowing sense, never more than some random scribblings, study notes yes, but never jotting down my musings, my ramblings, sound of my thoughts bouncing around inside my empty brain, like a steel ball inside a rolling cylinder.

I'll set the ball free now...

This year, 2022, I signed up for a challenge. Read 22 in 22. Basically if I can read 22 books in the calendar year. Although the challenger, my city library, had set aside categories for each of the book I should pick up, like asian author, Caribbean author etc but I chose to ignore that. I just focussed on the count, not category.

Well, I'm happy to report that I completed the challenge last week. I'm very happy, very proud of myself. Never imagined, I'd be able to achieve this but I did. 

Here is my list

People’s history of United States 

I figured I should read up on the history of the country in which I live. I read India After Gandhi when I was in Undergraduate and I loved it. Therefore it made sense to read up on USA now that I'm here and I have known few things. This book was slightly different because its not just history, its people's history. It talks about less known events, like the massive workers' strike throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, because the class division had been a massive problem back then as well. Anyway, I don't remember much about anything else from this book so thats that. 

I just wanted to read up on the Russian revolution and picked up Concise because it'll be just enough to quench my thirst. Yes, I'm a sucker for history. I love the genre. Isn't there a saying about repeating history if you don't learn from it? Well, it applies to me in literal sense. I loved the book. And while reading Concise, I was motivated to just read about Stalin, who came up multiple times, in prominent roles before, during and after the revolution. "Stalin" was a 37hour long audiobook which I finished and I enjoyed it. Next up for me is Stalin Vol-II. Sandwiched in-between was Secondhand, which basically is collection of interviews of soviet sympathizers who could not bear to see the USSR become Russia and were reminiscing the good old days of Stalin and Pravda.

Its okay-ish. Nothing great, not boring either. Just enough spice to keep things going on. Although I do remember cracking up when the "Hitler" story came up. A decent window to the life of someone growing up in South Africa during and post apartheid era.

I just thought it'll be fun to read through some short stories and coming from a science background, I am comfortable with sci-fi. Actually I like it. Yes some stories are decent, some not so much. Some stories are short some not so much. After this big book, I only remember only a handful of stories that I can bring up during a fireside camping chat and amuse bunch of kids. 

Yes, science fiction is cool but real physics on an astronomical scale, cooler. I was fascinated by physics in high school and later when I was preparing for IIT-JEE, so that explains my soft corner for books like these. I can pick and read books like this anytime. If you've a physics bone, however small, give it a try. If it gets complicated for you, leave it and pick something else. Either you derive happiness out of it or don't. Thats okay. 

I only picked this book because of its title. But then I started reading, and I kept on reading. Its the journey of a US memory champion, who only a year ago before his crowning moment, was a journalist covering the US memory tournament competition and interviewing other champions. He was a complete outsider, million miles away from trying anything like this but an ex-memory champion convinced him how easy it is to remember almost everything, he decided to try for himself and voila, he was champion next year.

A memoir. Interesting read. Sheds light on the life of Ghana and how challenging it is. Just like baby turtles born on the shores have an instinct to head towards the ocean, people from interiors of African continent, enduring difficult living conditions in their hometown, have an instinct to move to Europe, in search for better life. And the path ahead is treacherous. Many don't make it but some do. This is the story of one such exceptional guy. 

My first pick of the year. It was a common occurrence  in any popular non-fiction list I picked up. Yes, I was hooked. Truman wanted to keep me guessing about the motivation of the crime, or the connection between the victim and the criminal, until the time he'd disclose it for me, and he succeeded. Book is basically narrating the circumstances behind the murder of a family and subsequent investigation. Very nice read. Thats all I'd say.

My second pick of the year. Although I don't read fiction these days, but I picked it because it was high up in the popularity index in my available book search in the library catalog. I picked this also mostly because of the science fiction aspect of the story. I liked the story, the general idea of "sleeving", however I'd not go out of my way to recommend this to others. Yes, in any story a murder mystery feels like author's compulsion to sell the book, and this one also had one but I was getting tired of the narration and story by the time I was few chapters from the end. I basically hurried through the final 2-3 chapters because at that point I just wanted to switch to a different book. I started watching the netflix series after finishing the book, but wasn't interested after 2 episode. 

This book was highly recommended by the search engine when I was browsing. I had seen the movie long time ago and I remember not liking it because I didn't understand it. But nonetheless I was aware that this movie is deemed a classic and very popular. I thought let me read the book now that my vocabulary has improved and hoping I'll understand it better this time. And yes, thats what happened. 

I normally don't read self help books but I wanted to try something different than non-fiction and history. I loved this one. Although I'm a digital minimalist already, I've since long deleted my FB account, I'm not on twitter or Instagram either, so lot of the things in the book applied to me already. But it has cool tricks to keep you away from mobile. It requires hard work but like the Author states, the reward at the end is tremendous. We've short life, so how you spend your valuable time, counts. Spending time on yourself like learning or improving a personal skill, picking up a hobby or even spending time with family/kid is far far better than browsing nonsensically through other people's feeds in FB or Insta.

There have been 5 major extinction events in the history of Earth. The 6th one is coming, and it has been accelerated by none other than Humans.

A fun read. What do you get when you ask bunch of ridiculous questions to a physicist? You get this book.

Collection of essays, written by a Black father for his son about growing up in US, amid the racial discrimination. Very powerful read.

This basically talks about how the Roe vs Wade decision in the 1990s is at the heart of increased crime rate in US in the 2000s. The decision took abortion away as an option for poor family, who therefore were forced to give birth and raise an unwanted child, whom they neglected because they couldn't afford to raise kids properly, and such kids later on, starting from their early teens, started contributing towards the higher crime rates. This and bunch of other things.

This book opened my eyes towards introversion. Earlier I used to think of being an introvert as a disadvantage, something that should be remedied but boy was I wrong. Introverts have their own special personality traits which in some sense I feel are more desirable than extroverts. The book actually taught me how to be a good parent most importantly. I keep asking my wife to read this same book because it has such good pointers about parenting. 

Brilliant read. I just loved it. I don't understand lot of the things about economy in general and I presume lot of people don't either but this book explains everything in general terms. Starting all the way when money as we know it now started out until the modern times, it charts the evolution explaining why so and so decisions were taken up. Paper currency, gold standard, inflation, recession, great depression and even 2008 housing crisis. Time permitting, I'll read this book again sometime for sure.

I always had disdain for capitalistic society. People become selfish. The objective is to simply hoard and exploit resources. And the more money you have, the more power you can influence. The power to make laws that suits your needs, like lower taxes, so you keep increasing your money and the circle goes on and on. Natural resources, poor people get crushed in between. This book showed how deep the roots of few billionaires go into influencing politics and even instigating mass hysteria, giving common unsuspecting people a narrative that is absurd, one sided, and dangerous to social harmony. But the rich people don't care if everybody else fight among themselves. It creates the distraction they want. 

A very pleasantly surprising book for me. Usually history about world wars talk about the war itself, important events leading upto the outbreak and all the way to the culmination, but no body talks about how the society picks itself up, after you've signed the armistise. Ever thought how Germany as a country, coped with the war after Apr 15, 1945? Hitler and Germany was at the center of WW2, but after Hitler shot himself, Germany had to still exist. Noone talks about the millions of tons of rubble that the netizens had to clean up as the first thing on the road to redemption, how did they do that. What about the sudden influx of freed German POWs from both east and west, about the allied POWs freed, how did German people react to discovery of concentration camps, how to integrate Jews amidst them after this. This book talks about all.

Poetry. It was an average read for me. I'm more into poems, that have word intricacies that just make you stop reading for a sec, because you need a breath to comprehend the depth of the emotion you've just been taken to. This wasn't that for me.


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