2011 was a difficult year for me and I was so glad when it was done, lots of lessons learnt. One of the most important ones being that the books I read (and the movies I watch) make me feel better. I read some amazing books this year and since many times I didn’t have enough mind space to write a review in 2011, I am doing a collective book list/brief review.
1.The Man with Enormous Wings by Esther David – I just moved to Ahmedabad and I wanted to read something local so I started with a short work by Esther David a writer of Gujarati origin. In the man with enormous wings Esther takes you through the experience of living in Ahmedabad in a curfew ridden locality of one of the worst affected areas of the 2002 riots. Sure as hell didn’t make me fall in love with Ahmedabad.
2. The Book of Esther by Esther David – I was so in love with Esther David after reading ‘The Man with enormous wings’ and a few interviews online that I had to read another one (of which I now own an autographed copy :-D). Book of Esther was a much more elaborate work of fiction based on her life as a Jewish woman and her family history in India. It is a work of personal history, an autobiography, a history of Jews in India, a feminist perspective of Judaism all at once. A brilliant book, it is a peek into the life of Esther David and her ancestors and, through their lives, a glance at the cultural and religious practices of Judaism and women in Indian society. It was quite an experience – emotional and cathartic.
3. Unbound Indian Women at Work by Gita Aravamudan – This is the one book I did write a review about, you can read it here.
4. Neither Night or Day compiled and edited by Rakshanda Jalil – A book of 13 short stories by Women writers from Pakistan. A mix match of stories about everyday lives of woman in Pakistan, that at times made me marvel at the similarities in our cultures and at other times at the differences. For me it was a peek into a country whose people especially women fascinate me.
5. At the Cusp of Ages by Vaasanthi – 2011 was supposed to be the year I started to read books in my mother tongue which is Tamil. I very earnestly brought one from my mother and also bought a Tamil to English dictionary for help and THEN I bought an English translation of ‘Yugasandhi’ –‘At the cusp of ages’ by N Kalyan Raman.  This is a book about women in India through the lives of 4 women. The book deals with intercultural marriages, the wretched caste system, Hinduism, Islam, communal feuds and family values. Through all this it depicts the myriad hues of the lives and realities of women in urban India (more specifically southern India) today.

6. Good Times for Everyone – Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers by Radhika Chandiramani – I found this book on TARSHI, I wrote about here. I was looking for books to help me improve my sexuality education workshops with adolescents and I found this one. It is a compilation of questions and answers on sexuality issues based on Radhika’s column ‘Midlife Crisis’ in ‘The Asian Age’. This book covers many common questions raised in the minds of the young and the old about sexuality. It was insightful for me, not to learn answers to certain questions, but, how to frame those answers. I love the title of the book don’t you?!?

7. The Curious Incident of the dog at the night time by Mark Haddon – If I ever make a ’50 books to read in your lifetime’ list, this book would definitely be on mine. Amongst my favourite books, it was the second time I was reading it. So with my partner we read it out aloud as a bed time story and it was a lovely experience. The book is written from the perspective of an adolescent with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For people who know nothing about Autism it gives you a fitting perspective and is a brilliant read for children to introduce them to children who think and function a tad bit differently. If you are passionate about Autism (like I am), it is an absolute must read. A beautiful lesson on humanity, children and society.

8. The Secret Life of Stuff by Julie Hill – This is the book that took me the longest time to read but when it was over, I wanted to start over. The secret Life of Stuff gives you in depth information about well! stuff i.e stuff, things around you is made off like wood, iron, plastic, paper, cotton, etc. Julie Hill analyses the environmental cost of stuff in relation to the environmental mess we have created. While empasizing the need for government policies and measures towards usage of sustainable energy and resources, she also points out the consumer’s responsibility. Conscious Consumerism as she calls it, is not only to reduce, reuse, recycle it is also consuming the right products = those that cost us the minimum in terms of resources. Absolute must-read for ‘Save the Planet’ torch bearers.

9. Stepping Out – Life and Sexuality in Rural India by Mrinal Pande – I bought this book in 2008 at the Delhi book expo and since have read bits and pieces of it several times. The book is written from Mrinal’s research on women’s health and reproductive health, government policies for population control and public health issues. Focusing on public health services and their standards with women in focus in rural India what this book reveals is a nightmare. But you also realise how much development has happened in terms of changes in policies and how NGO’s are doing a brilliant job of improving public health standards and increasing access to health services for women. I am still reading this book so I might write a more detailed review later.

10. Man-eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett – If you have looked at my blogroll closely you will see Tiger blogs (1or 2) lurking among the many women’s issues blogs I read, this is because I love tigers and spotting a tiger in the wild definitely features on my Bucket List. I am intrigued by the paths of the many hunters who turned conservationists, Jim Corbett being one of the most fascinating.
This book is Corbett’s encounter with man-eating tigers and though most all stories do end with tigers getting killed (Yes, how very self-mutilating of me!) his sensitivity to the jungle environment and his familiarity with tigers and their nature is BEAUTIFUL. It transports me to the jungle – sounds, odours and all and teaches me so much about a tiger’s nature and behaviour.

I would love to know which ones you would like to read and which ones you have already read.