Entries in books (2)


Reading list 2012

Inspired by the #bestbooks hashtag on Twitter, and in part out of shame that I haven't blogged in so long, here's s brief list of what I've been reading.

I know a lot of people crib about reading on the Kindle v/s an actual book, but frankly - hardcovers are expensive in the US, and I'm not inclined to wait for a year before the paperback comes out for some books. The following isn't the entire list of what I read this year (and frankly, am still working my way through Teju Cole's Open City, so the list is still a work in progress), but here are some of the books I enjoyed: 

Chinaman aka The Legend of Pradeep Matthew


This was probably my favourite book of the year. When I finished reading it, I couldn't believe I'd put it off for so long. Set in Sri Lanka, this book is not just about cricket -- it's the art of journalism, travel writing, war, and the poignant tale of families trying to get along, fall apart, drink a lot and death.

I went to Sri Lanka in 2006, a few years before the war ended. During the trip, I visited two cities by the sea -- Galle and Colombo -- both of which had come under attack in the week prior to my arrival. The country's tourism sector was still clawing it's way back after the horrendous tsunami. At one point, I got stuck in a traffic jam because the President was passing by. There were tanks on the streets. It felt just like home.

Except it was prettier. I was completely taken aback by the literacy rate, the culture, and frankly, the gorgeous beaches. I'd visit again in a heartbeat if I could. 

Recommendation for Chinaman: Probably best to read right before the India v/s Pakistan series begins. On a related note, Pakistan had better not ruin Christmas Day for me. 


The Hunt for KSM

This year, I went to Guantanamo Bay to cover the arraignment hearing for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad and the four co-accused in the 9/11 case. While I will leave the legality of these hearings to the experts, Terry McDermott and Josh Meyer have painstakingly pieced together Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's story and the hunt that ended in 2003, when he was caught -- in Rawalpindi. The interesting aspect of this book is really how torture didn't lead to KSM's name being disclosed as the lead guy in plotting the 9/11 attacks. 

And yes, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad's orange beard was creepy.


Night Draws Near

House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

While I had read a lot of Shadid's reportage for the Times, I hadn't, unfortunately, read any of his books before he passed away this year. His reportage, and these two books, should serve as a model for how to cover wars for every journalist out there.

Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power

For a couple of weeks, all I heard in Washington DC were people talking about this book -- self included. Once you read the book, you'll understand why.

The Submission: A Novel

Again, a long overdue read, and in my opinion, the finest post-9/11 book out there.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

When I grow up, I want to be Katherine Boo and write a book as beautiful and meticulously detailed as this.

Malory Towers

Comfort read, inspired by the sister's purchase of the same in Karachi. The first books I remember reading are those by Enid Blyton. And yes, I KNOW she was racist, but I didn't at the time -- and Blyton's books were a foundation for my love for literature.

Pride and Prejudice

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

I think I've read Pride and Prejudice from start to finish about a dozen times now, and arguably, my favourite book. I don't remember the first time I read the full text, but I try and make an effort to re-read it every couple of months. In related reading, Allison Pearson's essay on Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice is fantastic.

And I finally got around to reading P. G. Wodehouse. My life has changed for the better. Also, I want a Jeeves in my life.


On journalism, reading aloud and decoding women.

Its a Saturday, I'm at work (ugh!) and I know Twitter has taken over the sister's and my life when I was chatting with her on Google Talk:

Me: "I've had a terrible day. This happened, that happened and then to top it off, this happened"
Saba: #lifefail

And since Twitter combined with overactive A/Cs that leave your fingers resembling icicles and writing deadlines has sapped my ability to blog for now, I'm going to be utterly lazy and just post my favorite bits and pieces culled from the Web.

The Independent: Robert Fisk’s World: A glimpse of Obama in a Cairo emptied of its people and its poor:
Go into the average newspaper office and you'll find the reporters staring at Sky News or the BBC or Al-Jazeera International.

But visit the studios of Sky News, the BBC or Al-Jazeera International, and you'll discover that all the journalists there are reading newspapers. Its an odd form of osmosis which - being an old-fashioned reporter – I'm not very happy about. I still believe, along with an encouraging number of young Arab and Israeli reporters, that we've got to be out on the streets, just as I was when I started in journalism in the Blyth office of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. So Fisk was prowling the streets of Cairo this week, hunting for Obama and Lady Hilary.

From the Guardian Blog: Is anything gained from reading aloud?
What all literary festivals are about, as well as meeting the authors and rummaging through the bookshops (and basking in the sun this year – hooray!) is being read to. Some people can't hear the written word enough, perhaps because it invokes memories of our earliest literary experience, that of the parent reading to us at bedtime, filling our sleepy heads with Gothic castles and death-defying escapes and Moomins that then swirled about in there after the light went out. Others, though, resent it, possibly for much the same reason, that it seems to return you to a helpless, infantile state where you couldn't just read books for yourself.

Via the sister, from What A Woman Means When She Says...: