Not a lot of things changed after August. I am still hunting for a job, but my panic attacks about being unemployed have exponentially reduced. Maybe, I should attribute that change to having rediscovered the power of faith and the magic of workouts. Regardless of what keeps me sane, I feel thankful as I write this blog.
My September was filled with books of all kinds — beautiful, enlightening, fun, annoying, and scary. Here is the list:
Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim: This poetry collection on mental health didn’t work for me. I wished it had more clarity and depth. Maybe, it is just me. Usually, a couple of poems stay with me even if the book was forgettable. I can’t recall a single poem from this collection. I understand that the author’s poem Explaining My Depression to My Mother became an Internet sensation, but the book could have been deeper.
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo: Michael Morpurgo, with his prose that is light yet poetic as ever, shows the darkness of the war, the mesmerising beauty of the English villages, and the burning love that is fanned by the Peaceful family.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown: I am not sure why I approached Rising Strong with expectations. That was out of character for me. Maybe because I saw Brene Brown’s name being dropped by Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert quite often, I presumed that I would fall in love with Brown’s books too. I could’t do well with the book. Brown delivered some great lessons. Some life-changing perspectives. But they were all so sporadically offered that I had to wade through her ocean of academic research notes to unearth that one piece of dashing advice. As I read Brown’s prosaic anecdotes and mind-numbing data points, the wait became an exercise in patience. I don’t hate the book. That feeling is strong. I only wish that it could have been more personal, and the writing could have been warmer. It had a powerful title. It was replete with inspiring quotes and lyrics. But its heart was missing.
Chirp by Dolores Costello: Chirp — a tiny chick — sets out on an adventure all by himself when his mother and his siblings are napping. He runs into a cat, large birds, gets lifted off the ground by a gusty wind, lands in a paint bucket, meets a kind girl, before he goes back to his family. Much to his dismay, his siblings don’t recognise him because he landed in a paint bucket. Remember? What happens after that? I am not going to say. Chirp is for super little readers. And it tells them that they can go on an adventure, make glorious mistakes, and when they come back, their parents would accept them regardless of their appearance and experiences. The picture book is an advocate of parents’s unconditional love, and it is ideal to encourage young readers to explore with confidence. Even if everything goes wrong, their parents have got their back. I loved this teeny-weeny chick, and of course, his kind momma.
The Girl Who Said Sorry by Hayoung Yim and Marta M: This girl keeps saying ‘sorry’. Because she is told that she is too shy, too bold, too girly, too boyish… She is boxed in adjectives. She feels suffocated for the adjectives not only put her into a straitjacket but they are contradictory. Above all, she is made to feel sorry for who she is. When she realises that she is drowning in her sea of sorries, she breaks free. The Girl Who Said Sorry is an enlightening picture book that breaks gender stereotypes, and equips young readers to fight societal pressure. It is a lovely book that can enable parents to initiate a safe, crucial conversation on gender fluidity and the beauty of being oneself. Unapologetically oneself.
The Best Short Stories of O Henry: I took two years to read this book. When my friend exclaimed, I said I had to read it S. L. O. W. L. Y. Then I thought I also owe O Henry an explanation — in his own style — on why it took so long for me to finish. 😉 “This reader laid the book in the parlour where the afternoon sun was the harshest. As the book caught the light, and looked like an ember in the ashes, she lost her dear heart to the magnificent sight, and lost the words to the sun, like a shepherd who lost his sheep to woolgathering.” I’m sure O Henry is now turning in his grave. 😀
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed: It’s been almost two years since I read the book, and I revisit it often because reading it is like listening to your best friend, who knows you, who knows all that you have gone through. I will keep rereading Brave Enough.
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig: Haig is full of empathy. He is not one of those, who would ask you to ‘cheer up’ when you are smothered by depression and anxiety. He trusts that you don’t want to be in that black hole, you are trying to crawl out, and so he gives you practical advice to embrace depression and anxiety. That is the point of the book. He doesn’t offer a magical cure. He lets you face it. He lets you make peace with the fact that depression and anxiety will keep knocking on your door. But how can you send them away, at least for a while, kindly all the same? I love his advice on reading. He is a loyal advocate of reading and writing. He is all about slowing-down; find that which thwarts the mind from slowing down, and catch its collar. Haig sprinkles quotes after quotes in the book. And those are exactly the ones I wanted to read to dismal my fear of my own mind. Some favourite advice here:
* Shower before noon
* Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind
* Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself
* Read a book without thinking about finishing it. Just read it. Enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end, or for it to never end
* Remember that the key thing about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts.
(Thank you, Laila, for placing this book in my radar. Thank you very much!)
Solo by Rana Dasgupta: If I removed science and politics from this book, I would be left with a heartrending, insanely creative story of a 100-year-old blind man, who endures his life by daydreaming. The writing was terrific, and the stories were crazy and beautiful. For I am not a big fan of science and politics in books, Solo didn’t work for me here and there. But the book’s soul was warm.
Perry Panda: A Story about Parental Depression by Helen Bashford and Russell Scott Skinner: It’s a lovely, little book that gently introduces children to Parental Depression. Children often blame themselves for everything that goes wrong in their families. Perry Panda is also like every other child. He can’t figure out if he is being bad, because his mother is always sad. He wants to help her. He thinks he must become a good boy to make her happy. As he sulks, his grandmother makes him understand that he is not responsible for how his mother feels, and what he can do within his limits to help his mother. The book doesn’t hesitate to tell the children that their parents might have to stay at a hospital or take pills or need a tight hug to fight depression. A tiny, important book!
Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue: Behold The Dreamers offers many stories — the story of a boy who is fond of the Universe and Oneness, the story of a man who jeopardises his marriage and family and try to salvage it when choppy waves have already engulfed it all, the story of children who don’t want to be anything but children, the story of a woman who was born out of rape, the story of a woman whose voice is stolen by her husband, and the story of a country which quietly plays with their lives.
Speaking Our Truth: A Curriculum on Non-Violent Communication by Jessica Xalxo: Despite our love for words, despite consuming thousands of them everyday, we are guilty of using them mindlessly, and unleashing verbal violence. Books like Speaking Our Truth remind us to realise the power of our words, and work on our outlook on them. Like Thich Nhat Hanh said, peace is every step. And it begins with words which are chosen with loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy. The book is an unassuming advocate of all of it. Speaking Our Truth empowers us, and restores our faith in the power of language. When it comes to words, we are all sorcerers.
The Doodler of Dimashq by Kirthi Jayakumar: The Doodler of Dimashq is one of the most moving, thought-provoking, and unassuming books I have ever read on wars. Author Kirthi Jayakumar has given us Ameenah — the child bride, the survivor, the helper, the mother, the warrior, and the doodler of Dimashq. Ameenah’s story is so powerful and heartrending that it would make so many of us realise that we don’t dive into art to escape from our lives, but find our very lives there.
What did you read? How was your September? 🙂