It is mid-July, which means the window to gush about the books one has read for the first half of 2017 is still open. According to goodreads, I have read and finished 21 books so far (11 nonfiction, 10 fiction). I have also read and abandoned 5 others including, regrettably, some of the books I paid for directly through the nose.
Here is a round-up of my top favorite books, in the vague order from most adored.
- The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee– Medical history is one of the new genres I have discovered this year, and Siddhartha is most definitely my most treasured author of the genre, The Gene its mascot. This book blew my mind, made me giggle, made me cry, and gave me a truckload of new knowledge. Reading this book was definitely my best of times this year. I’m currently reading Siddhartha’s other book; The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which is just as good, and the one that won the Pulitzer.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari– It’s difficult to put into words how much I adored this book. I actually ruined my copy because for months I went everywhere with it, sitting quietly in my backpack, re-reading sections, thinking, making it a quiet companion even while I was reading another book or not reading at all. It has a white cover, which is my least favorite thing about it, but even now in its dustiness, folds and peels, I can’t wait to re-read it sometime this year. Two days ago I bought Harari’s other book and Sapiens’ “sequel”; Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. I haven’t read it, yet, but whoop, I’m I psyched!
- Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick– History like a thriller.
- Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth about Success by Matthew Syed- I don’t highlight or annotate my books, so I prefer to use page markers. I have never used so many markers on a single book as I did this one. So many chunks of wisdom.
- Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen- This book read like a horror story. My only issue with it was that it was too short. I saw David’s other book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic at a bookshop recently. It looked at least 600 pages long, and I am so very excited to get it in my next round of book shopping, I can’t keep calm.
- Autobiography of a face by Lucy Grealy- This memoir was haunting. For weeks after reading this book, I couldn’t look into a mirror without thinking about it. Man, this life.
- Interventions: A Life in War and Peace by Kofi Annan- Candid, raw and everything you hope a book about the UN would talk about.
- Disgrace by J.M Coetzee– Everytime I see this book on the street or at the bookshop, I get butterflies in my stomach, then start convincing strangers that this is what they want, and not the copy of James Patterson they are holding. This book is it, and definitely my favorite fiction this year [so far].
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion- This book made me laugh, made me cry, and made me just sit there numbed. I didn’t think about it as a book about mental illness at the time (even when Asperger’s syndrome was all over the book), but it is. For the most part though it’s just good ole comedy, and it’s gorgeous.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison– So sad and lyrical. So so sad.
I also read some seriously underwhelming books. Namely:
- On Palestine by Noam Chomsky+Ilan Pappe– What a dud
- The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel- I bought this on a whim along the streets of Nairobi for KES 100 because sometimes it’s good to read “completely random collections”. Oh boy!
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro- To be fair this wasn’t as bad as the 2 above, but it was still pretty terrible.
Those are 13 books. The other 8 were pretty average. There was An Abundance of Katherines by John Green which I gave 4 stars because I thought it was absolutely hilarious, but now I realise it wasn’t that memorable. There was also The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which while I fell in love with the story, I now realise the writing was downright average, which means it doesn’t deserve this walk of fame.
On the abandoning front, one of the books I was really looking forward to reading was How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney. But I ended up really really struggling with it, and abandoning it altogether. It is also one of the most expensive books on my shelf which double breaks my heart. I also received The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt as a gift late last year (which I must say seldom happens. I buy all my books which is not something I easily sustain. Gift me books my people!). I have read about 600 pages of it but I can’t seem to have the strength to go on, which mighty sucks.
I have counted, and I have about 40 books in my house that I haven’t read, most of them fiction. I’m semi-ashamed of this number and so here’s to hoping I read a hell lot more in the second half of the year, and buy books a hell lot less.
What have you been reading for the last 6 months? What are some of your favorite books? Let us know in the comments below.
PS: Reviews for these books can be found on the blog, hence this list being restricted to my feelings about the books.