Last year (2021) was a book-reading highlight for me. I completed 120 books, with an average page count of 259. That is about three times of what I usually read in a good year. I have been thinking of possible reasons for this phenomenon and I think I have narrowed it down to three reasons primarily.
First, I was very unwell for the most part of the first seven months of the year. I was almost completely bed-ridden for three months or so and to get my concentration going so that I could do my job, I started to read more than I usually did. This was also because I could not go out, and this gave me lots of free time (about 90 minutes a day), which I spent reading. One book followed the other.
Second, I found three subjects which I had not read before and which was very interesting for me, so much so that I was really hooked. These were paleoanthropology, books about books and Indian politics. I read about 10+ books on each of these subjects and I now have a long TBR list on them which I am planning to pursue this year as well.
Third, starting treatment for some mental health issues (which I did not know I had) was like a light-bulb moment for me. Problems which I did not know I had disappeared almost instantly and I felt great, my mind was more active and sharp and this helped in the reading.
There were various other reasons as well, but I won’t elaborate on them.
So, which books I enjoyed the most? I am not sure if I can answer this objectively because for me each book was different in some way or the other. But, what I can do is to list the books which I rated 5-star on Goodreads. This is a very subjective list, so I am not sure if it helps anyone apart from me. So, here it goes.
Science and Scientists: The Scientist as Rebel by Freeman Dyson and Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler by Philip Ball.
Paleoanthropology: Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Paabo and First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human by Jeremy DeSilva.
The Holocaust: Night by Elie Wiesel, Mengele: Unmasking the “Angel of Death” by David Marwell and The Lost Café Schindler: One Family, Two Wars, and the Search for Truth by Meriel Schindler.
Essays: Books v. Cigarettes by George Orwell, Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell and Fascism and Democracy by George Orwell.
Photography Books: Florence Photographs and Famous Cities of the World: Vienna.
Fiction: Undertow by Jahnavi Barua and Bookscout by John Dunning.
COVID-19: How Contagion Works: Science, Awareness, and Community in Times of Global Crises — The Essay That Helped Change the Covid-19 Debate by Paolo Giordano.