I’m back home, and I have 45 days of summer vacation to negotiate. I’m turning to red wine, hummus and MakeMyTrip for comfort. I’m feeling pretty good. This year has been excellent. No crisis or tragedy, no depression the size of a hippo’s ass, no foetal shaped curling up and weeping, the occasional bad day, bad cake and bad weather of course, but mostly charming. Of course, the next horrible thing is around the corner, and it will happen, but there’s no need to obsess about it (yet).
So with Bonobo creeping into my ear drums, the sunshine beating down on three sides of my home, my old dog sleeping at my feet, I’m ready to eat countless kilos of pasta and toast with eggs and mutton curry and drink a million gallons of wine and read. So fix yourself a snack and gobble up these books. These books you will want to speed read, they are beautifully written and have protagonists who are stronger than hurricanes and Corinthian pillars.
Eileen by Oteessa Moshfegh
An extremely self-obsessed protagonist, one that you can’t really assume things about, she’s brash, cold, sad, surprising you one fact about herself at a time. Eileen by Oteessa Moshfegh is about Eileen, “I looked like a girl you’d expect to see on a city bus,” this sucker punch of a book begins. Moshfegh while constructing beautiful sentences also explores several contemporary issues – body-shaming, sexuality, familial expectations and responsibilities.
“Violence was just another function of the body, no less unusual than sweating or vomiting. It sat on the same shelf as sexual intercourse. The two got mixed up quite often, it seemed.
I loved that language and the tall red-headed Rebecca who played a central role in this literary thriller. It’s pacy, it’s shocking and it’s unputdownable. Read this immediately if you’re looking for something brilliant.
“A grown woman is like a coyote—she can get by on very little. Men are more like house cats. Leave them alone for too long and they’ll die of sadness.”
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a shockingly, moving memoir of a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis. What makes this book a tear harvester is that the dying protagonist attempts to answer the question ‘what makes life worth living?’ I’ve never wept with such abandon ‘this book carries the urgency of racing against time, of having important things to say. Paul confronted death—examined it, wrestled with it, accepted it—as a physician and a patient. He wanted to help people understand death and face their mortality’. For me, I’ve found a man, a protagonist who faced mortality, with courage and compassion. It’s a beautiful testament, this book. If you want to experience resilience, fortitude and pain read this book, if you want to reflect on what makes your life a virtuous and meaningful one, then read this book.
“I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying until I actually die, I am still living.”
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Translated from Korean by Deborah Smith, The Vegetarian by Han Kang has arrived and taken a front row seat on my bookshelf and brain. This allegorical novel is a dynamite of a book discussing choice and obsession. It’s rebellious and composed all at once. Yeong-Hye renounces meat and this almost passive rebellion manifests in abuse and scandal. Tragic and fantastical all at once, this book has made me reel and spiral out of normalcy. We do live in a world where we have to obey ridiculous societal mores. And alas, if we don’t well then we better be ready for disturbing consequences. I had an uncomfortable feeling coursing through me when I finished reading this book, the thought of all the animals I’ve eaten, lodged in my body and soul.
“Look, sister, I’m doing a handstand; leaves are growing out of my body, roots are sprouting out of my hands…they delve down into the earth. Endlessly, endlessly…yes, I spread my legs because I wanted flowers to bloom from my crotch; I spread them wide…”
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
(Can you guess which writer said this?)
So go now, put on some sultry tunes munch on hummus and eggs and toast and read. And don’t trust anyone who doesn’t read and doesn’t eat cake mindfully, like this piggy.