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Dec 29, 2010

Re'kindle' Your Reading : Best books of 2010

People are rediscovering reading, thanks to Kindle™ and Nook. Those who used to get books for Christmas as gifts now get e-readers. And if you want to go beyond reading there is always IPad. I do not have any experience with any of these e-readers to do a review. The title and opening lines were to bait Google's spider and naive reading enthusiasts into reading/crawling the rest of this post.

What I really like to do is to showcase some books I read (or heard, audio books) in 2010. In short, these are some of the best books I read in 2010. They are not necessarily those published in this year I just happened to read them sometime during the last 12 months. If you think you'll like these books you can buy those to read in your e-reader. Maybe I'll pull out my charitable keyboard and type out 5 reviews. BTW this reviews are not really in the order of preference, they are according to my memory time line, those I read earlier in the year come in the first spots and vice versa.

First in the list is Open: An Autobiography :- I am not an authority on sports autobiographies unless you consider Kite Runner an essential guide to running kites. I love films based on sports stories(Escape to Victory, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire, Field of Dreams etc)  though this is my first time with a book on any kind of sports. Despite my naivete in the subject matter I will still take a bet on Andre Agassi's autobiography, 'Open', to be one of the best of the lot. It is frank, down to earth and exuberantly American - in short very much Agassi, the real man behind the facade of pink lava compression pants and acid wash denim shorts, tennis's original rebel without a cause. More about Open, if you are interested.

Next comes, Mike Leonard's ride across America with his eighty plus year old parents and his grown-up kids called The Ride of our Lives. Mike Leonard is a feature correspondent of Today Show on NBC, his garage(which might probably looks like yours or mine) won't qualify him as a celebrity on Today Show. It is an interesting journey into life, through life and across life with Mr.Leonard, his parents and his children, something I'd love to emulate if I could get them all together in one place and in one time zone.

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely comes next.  Every aspiring writer at some point in time has read a must-read book for aspiring writers. The one I can remember reading,... oh, you think I cannot aspire? Everyone can aspire, respire and perspire, it was too fundamental to be included in any constitution or Bill of Rights. Anyway the one book on writing I read, was Stephen King's On Writing. I don't remember much of it, I did what I do with books, read and forgot. But Steve Hely I like. If you want to write popular sale-able fiction this is one book you shouldn't miss. I have a strong feeling that Dan Brown stole the manuscript of How I Became a Famous Novelist to figure out the right way to write all those trashy best sellers. (I shouldn't be trashing Brown, I cannot even come up with a 100 word story, but then reviewers are people who can't write to save their pens/typewriters/IPads, right?) Hely is an insider in this book business and he knows what he (or rather his hero, one book wonder Pete Tarslaw) is talking about. How come I read two books in a year written by correspondents/writers for late night shows? Steve Hely is one of the writers for The Late Show with David Letterman.

I got to read one of the controversial books that came out in Malayalam in the recent past Njan LaingikaThozhilaali: Nalini Jamilayude Aatmakatha (Translated into English as Autobiography of a Sex Worker, by Nalini Jamila) this year, five years after it took Kerala and Malayalam literary circles by storm. I am glad I am one of the Malayalis who can actually read Malayalam and speak Malayalam differentiating between the different bha, ba, ta,tta, da, ddas unlike the present day Malayalam TV anchors. When some one like Nalini Jamila, who is not a literary scion by far, writes in her native language it should be read in the same, no amount of honest translation can give it the right kind of honesty it deserves. Jamila's book is an interesting insight, a cart load of information for most of us who don't know what goes on in the red-light areas of life. I'd not call it a literary masterpiece, it is a memoir told in simple straightforward everyday language, about a life 99% of us have no clue about, but are secretly interested in knowing, that is what sells(sold) it.

The other fiction book in my list of five is this last one by Assaf Gavron called Almost Dead, English translation of the Hebrew original. When we get up in the morning aren't we plagued by the same old question getting up from the bed along with us, the way it always did ever since we could think - "what is really going on between Palestine and Israel?" Oh, a different question wakes up with you? No way! Well I have always wanted to know about house prices, high school syllabus and real house-wives of Gaza Strip. This book looked like it had the answers to some of my burning questions, the added incentive was the metaphysical/paranormal aspect of the story - the hero escapes suicide bombings not once but thrice. I swoon at stories that offers a view into the mysterious other side of life - you know where time machines are what you drive to work, coincidences are commonplace, well you get the drift, the cover of this book promised something similar and the cover-art is pretty cool too, isn't it? The book doesn't disappoint but it is not a thriller either. It is the writer who interests me, it kindles(kindle strikes again)in me an interest to read his other books, namely Hydromania.

There are more books that I'd like to review, like Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner which had been incalculably influential in my life that I am thinking of replacing Gideon's Bible with a copy of Freakonomics in every hotel room I ever stay in. I do not remember whether I read it in 2009 or 2010. Then there is the very feminist The Women's Room by Marilyn French, first published in 1977 which eventually reached my hands after a long journey of 33 years, losing none of its impact in the transit. I read(listened to audio books) Obama's two memoirs - Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope this year, both  testaments to the incredible writer, statesman and the Grammy award winner that he is. Reviewing all these will require patience and time and my anti-procrastination pill is already wearing thin. If I finish everything now, what will I do in 2011, that is one whole year before the world ends and all will be well. Later.