Top Ten Winter Reads
As the temperature reaches single digits outside, it is the perfect time to cosy up with a warm book. The following is a curated list of fiction, non-fiction and even some poetry included for good measure to keep you entertained and indoors for longer. Some new and some old reads that can enthral in this chilly atmospheric setting.
- No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood–
This book is a well thought out first choice in the recommendations list because it will ensure that you will follow through with the rest without getting distracted by the siren call of social media. Lockwood has divided the novel into two distinct parts; the first is written in a loosely structured, stream of consciousness format describing the posts and the reactions on an online platform. After a popular tweet, the narrator becomes a worldwide sensation and finds herself sucked into the vortex of fame and internet validation. The transition to the second part of the novel is jarring; it is a wake-up call to reality after a tragic loss faced by the narrator. Through this, Lockwood doesn’t directly warn us about the pitfalls of leading an all-consuming internet existence; instead, she asks the reader to decide what truly matters?
- If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino–
Calvino’s story journeys the reader into ten consecutive plots, each broken off midway until it morphs into a different narrative altogether. Its metafictional structure made this novel a groundbreaking foray into postmodernism. Fundamentally this book breaks down the defined roles of the author and the reader, entrusting the latter with the responsibility of deconstructing the reading experience. The sanctity of reading, the pain of literary composition and the essence of writing are explored. It has a looping quality similar to the tale Scheherazade weaves in the Arabian Nights. As the title reads, it is a story to lose yourself into ‘on a Winter’s Night’.
- The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh-
This important work of non-fiction draws connections between colonialism and climate change. Through the trade of the inconspicuous nutmeg, the book traces a journey across greed, power-lust and deep-rooted extermination ideologies. Ghosh’s indelible manner of storytelling emphasizes the current climate crisis without plunging the reader into abject misery. It is a lens through which we not only understand the web of complex reasons leading to climate change but is indeed at large a metaphor for our world.
- Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman–
The collection of poems by Gorman are astute and hard-hitting. It speaks about the years lost to the pandemic and the incidents of racial prejudice in the US from a few years prior. The twenty-three-year-old poet laureate shares her personal experiences while juxtaposing them with the inequality and division rife in society. There is an endemic lyricality to her work which is heard in the audiobook as you listen to the poet’s inflexions and rhythm, bringing the poetry to life. The last poem of this collection, brimming with hope for a better future, is the historic ‘The Hill We Climb’, which was recited at President Joe Biden’s Presidential Inauguration.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid–
From the author of Malibu Rising, which made it into my top reads for 2021, TJR brings to us a gem of historical fiction. It catapults the reader to the Golden age of Hollywood, so much so that you feel like you’re reading a script of a Katherine Hepburn movie. In her 70’s, former Hollywood starlet Evelyn Hugo decides to divulge her life story, bearing all– the glamour, the scandal and of course, the sordid details behind her seven marriages. Unapologetic, riveting, and beautifully intimate, it’s a tale of race, sexuality and acceptance. TJR masterfully draws parallels between the past and the present creating a complex yet unputdownable narrative.
- The Daughters of Kobani: A story of Rebellion, Courage and Justice by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon–
In 2014, ISIS took over Kobani, a Kurdish majority city in Northern Syria. This powerful book talks about the conflict in Syria, focusing on the YPJ, the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit. These resilient women snipers managed to take back Kobani and eventually Raqqa despite being ill-equipped and undertrained, all in the name of freedom. Lemmon’s book is well informed and researched; she has extensively interviewed several women fighters over the course of several hours. It throws light on the innumerable atrocities committed by the ISIS on the Kurdish people and the bravery of these women against seemingly insurmountable odds.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr–
This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic is a philosophical fable, war, and a coming-of-age story gilded into an evocative experience. The novel oscillates between moral uncertainties and the chiselled sharpness of the world around us. It follows the complex arcs of two lives – Werner Pfennig, an orphan boy in pre-World War II Germany and Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Through gripping flashbacks and flash-forwards, the novel charts the course of their lives as they struggle to find out whether they can have a sense of individuality when overshadowed by watershed moments in history. A deep love of science drives one while the power of books inhabits the other. Amid the rise of German Fascism and the birth of the French Resistance, how can one preserve youth and innocence? Netflix has recently announced that it will be adapting Doerr’s brilliance on screen.
- Home Body by Rupi Kaur –
‘Look down at your body
There is no home like you.’
Kaur is reclaiming poetry and making it an intensely personal experience. Her style is simplistic but yet what she conveys is far from simple. This collection focuses on self-love, love, feminism, mental health and trauma, among a host of other topics. Some poems comprise of a single line, but through her inimitable manner, Kaur flags every word as essential and encompasses an ocean of meaning in its depth. This book has a universality about it that even readers who don’t usually enjoy poetry would love to peruse.
- False Allies: India’s Maharajahs in The Age of Ravi Varma by Manu S. Pillai-
When reading Pillai, one expects two things – crisp writing and sound research. This book delivers on both accounts. It is plied with facts but all disguised as tasty anecdotal morsels, which keeps the reader wanting more. Though ostensibly they may not have much in common, the five kingdoms of Baroda, Mysore, Mewar, Travancore and Pudukkottai, have all had their ruler’s portraits done by Raja Ravi Varma at some point. This serves as the connecting thread running through the seam of the book. It gives us a ringside view of the policies, politics and governance of these princely states and its legacy that still lives on today.
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig–
Haig has crafted a touching narrative of finding hope in a deep pool of despair. Inspired by his journey through depression, this nuanced fantasy fiction novel shows the protagonist Nora Seed slaying the same demons. As humans, we are all guilty of romanticizing the road less travelled, but through the ‘library’, Nora discovers that every alternate life she could have lived, based on a different choice made by her, is plagued by its own sets of trial and tribulations. At no point does the story ring like superficial platitudes; the dazzling depth and gut-wrenching truths exhibited in this novel are guaranteed to make you introspect about your own life. “It was interesting, she mused to herself, how life sometimes simply gave you a whole new perspective by waiting around long enough for you to see it.”