Masala Inc. - Best reads of 2021
A look at some of best books I read in 2021
Last year I rekindled my love of reading. When I was younger, I was a voracious reader. Like barnacles on the rock of adulthood, these unsaid rules kept clinging on to me. I slowly started throwing aside these secret rules, and allowed myself to meander from one interest to another.
Most of the year was spent in discovery of new loves. Like my love of poetry, thanks to Kenneth Koch’s Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry. Kenneth Koch, who wrote the poems on Jim Jarmush’s Patterson, did extensive research of children and poetry. He believed that we thought like poets, but like every other form of creative arts, was beaten out of us by the time we reached adulthood.
One of my secret rules that I discarded is my need to finish a book, irrespective of how bad it is. So if a book didn’t do it for me, out it went. Which means a large percentage of the books I read, I read only because I enjoyed them.
You can find a web version of the list on my website. (disclaimer: the books are linked to amazon with my affiliate code)
Here are a few in no particular order,
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
There are books that morph to match your needs. American Buddist nun Pema Chodron’s When things fall apart was my “shadow-companion” all through out the pregnancy. Every time I opened to a new chapter, it held the answers I needed.
Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg
A book, essay or poem all have one thing in common. Sentences. Sentences bring together disparate words. Bequeathing meaning to an expression that didn't exist before. Verlyn Klinkenborg, made me enjoy the joys of pausing. By the end of which I came off becoming a better reader.
Caste : The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Isabel Wilkerson’s blistering look at the oppression of the black man in United States. She draws parallels with caste system in India and persecution of Jews in the Third Reich. I think it’s easier for a brown man to empathize with the oppression of black community in the states. We ourselves being outsiders in America. We rail against the police, when we see a video of a man being killed with a foot on his neck. Caste, now that we take for granted. Teenage girls are raped and hung from trees. Couples killed for marrying outside of their caste. We are dulled to its venom, having been fed it all our lives. Isabel brings our attention back to this hypocrisy. By showing us these parallel of oppression, deeply inherent in the system that we participate in, she tells us we can do something about it. We can say we have had enough. All we need to do is be brave.
”We all think we would be the man in the crowd. Standing up for what’s right. But it takes a lot of sacrifice and bravery to be that man.”
How to take smart notes by Sonke Ahrens
We have always been thought to fear the blank screen or sheet of paper. Imagine a world where the notes you make all link to each other. Rising up to meet you just when you need them. Then, writing is as easy as pulling pieces from across all the notes you made.
Making knowledge stick and seeing connections build between different interests of mine has always been important to me. This book was an eye opener!
How to do nothing by Jenny Odell
Jenny Odell took me by surprise with this book. I went in expecting yet another book on digital detoxes and fighting distractions. It was an extensive look at how we humans have tried and failed at being able to do nothing. From communes to digital utopias, how we warped the very meaning of time.
Upstream by Mary Oliver and The Wander Society by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's Wander society might not have been the strongest book. But, she led me to the poet, Mary Oliver's Upstream. For that I am grateful to it. Upstream is book of essays. On poetry, nature and relationships. It harnessed in me a deep love of poetry. For Walt Whitman, who became a companion of mine since I met him.
The moth and the fisheggs are in their place,
The suns I see and the suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Voung
Ocean Voung’s takes on a poetic and heartbreaking journey on what it means to be an immigrant, a man, gay, a son and a grandson. In a country that has standards for all this that you can’t match.
John Cage: Diary: How to Improve the World
The rows of the library are full of unlimited possibilities. Worlds ready to be inhabited, that we didn’t know existed before. Musician John Cage was a prolific diarist. Cataloguing every interest of his across a decade, with never-ending curiosity
”WE'RE GETTING RID OF THE HABIT OF EXPLAINING EVERYTHING”
Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The body keeps score. Ta-Nehisi Coates letter to his son, reminding him of what it means to be black in America today makes up for most of the book. At what point do you break a child's innocence to let them in on how the world functions. That in most places, you won't get further than the colour of your skin will allow.
Joan Miró: I Work Like a Gardener
A look at the artistic philosophy of Catalan artist, Joan Miro. From the deep influence he took from folk art, to the inherent tensions he expects from his art work, we see a brilliant mind at play.
“I work like a gardener or a winemaker. Things come slowly. My vocabulary of forms, for example—I didn’t discover it all at once. It formed itself almost in spite of me.”
This has gotten pretty big already. In the next issue, I’ll be walking through a few more of my favourites from 2021.
yesh // jan 30 2022