Tuesday, 31 December 2019

My Year in Books + Top 19 Books of 2019.


Here we are on the last day of the year and it's time to list my favourite reads of the year. 
This was a good year for reading. 
Not consistently good but good. 
There were some months when my reading life was on fire. And others where life took precedence and my reading slowed down. 
But overall, 2019 was a good one. 

I read 205 books. 
A number I am most happy with. 
I read a lot!  

I read physical books and a lottttttt of ebooks. I have a sneaky feeling that I read more ebooks than physical ones and that's new for me. With a 3 month long vacation, where I was away from my home and my personal library, my Kindle was a lifesaver. And ebooks being generally cheaper than their physical counterparts was kinder to my wallet too. 

When it comes to book buying I feel like I was quite well behaved this year. 
I bought books when I wanted to and bought books I wanted to read, but I don't remember going overboard with my book buying. 
I also bought a fair amount of old/used books, another new development in my life. 
I think overall, I bought around 50 new books this year...I am sure not more than that. In 2020 I want to keep a solid list of books I buy, both physical and ebook, so by the end of the year I know exactly how many books I bought. 
But this year I think I bought less than 50 books in total...wait..maybe...

Ok..enough babbling. 

Here are my favourite books of 2019.
In no particular order..

1. My Sister The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: This was my second read of the year and what a smashing way to start my year. This was such a smashing read, a mix of a thriller (only slightly) and a story of sisters and secrets and a bunch of serial killings.
So good. A quick read and immersive and fun.

2. Dark Circles by Udayan Mukherjee: Another story of siblings and family secrets (I can't resist a book about family drama/secrets). This one was brilliantly written and broke my heart but in the best way possible. I cannot recommend it enough.

3. The Inheritors by Aruna Chakravarti: This might just be the best book I've read all year. It's made up of all things I love best in books- good writing, a Bengali family, multi-generational saga. This book just made me so happy. A multi-generational family saga, told via different members of the same family over a period of a 100 years. From rural Bengal, to Delhi to Berlin, we see the same family go through the usual ups and downs in life and while navigating family and social changes. Everything from the freedom struggle and to widowhood and the ill-treatment of women, marriage and relationships. Sweeping in its scope and beautiful and sensitively written. I loved this book so much. I wished there was more of it. So good! 

4. Tell Her Everything by Mirza Waheed: A confessional. A book that is bound to make you pause and think. About ethics and personal responsibility. A book I read in, pretty much, one sitting.

5. Night of Happiness by Tabish Khair: This book broke my heart and I didn't see it coming. A story of a man who lives a quiet life, works hard and doesn't complain. Till one evening he does something that completely unsettles his employer, so he decides to look into his past and then we, the reader, get to dive into this life story. 
I remember reading it one sitting, completely and utterly riveted. A relevant story for our times. About tolerance and loss and grief. 

6. Leila by Prayaag Akbar: A dystopian that felt quite pretty concurrent. It was unsettling and scary and I hope to God the future is nothing like how this novel predicts. I saw the Netflix adaptation which I have some thoughts about, which I'll get into in a separate post. I did like it but it's so much different than the book but they did capture the bleakness of the book very well. 

7. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum: I love reading about other countries and other cultures and how people live in said cultures. This book, set in Palestine and New York takes us inside the lives of Palestinian women and how isolating and and stifling some lives can be. This one was an interesting and at times a hard read. It was brilliant. 

8. Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale: A brilliant book about my home- Bombay. Set in  the 90s it's set in a GSB Konkani family, it's about two friends who have just gotten engaged. It's also about communal violence, secrets, identity and life in a housing society. This book felt alive and so deeply familiar, this world is one I know well. It was full of nostalgia. A book I can't recommend enough. 

9. Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh: A new Amitav Ghosh is a blessing. 
A full review can be found HERE. 

10. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: A romance! I am not a big romance reader but this book hd me smiling the whole time I spent with it. It was good fun and the right kind of mush. I enjoyed it immensely. 

11. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne: This book! I read this during Pride Month and it was just the most perfect read, for Pride in particular and even generally. This book made me cry, smile and did a fantastic job of taking us inside the life of it's protagonist. I loved this book so much. Please pick it up. 

12. Left from The Nameless Shop by Aditi Rao: This book was all heart and simplicity and joy. It just made me happy. Set in a small village in the south in the 1980s, this collection of inter-connected short stories was the perfect read if you need a heartfelt and moving read. 

13. The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali: Loved this book, set in Iran and the US, its the story of first love and missed chances. 
Full review HERE. 

14. Belonging by Umi Sinha: Another multi-generational story. This one set during the British Raj in an Anglo-Indian family. We see the three characters up close and personal and see their lives play out against all kinds of upheavals. The 1857 Mutiny, the first World War and it's aftermath. I loved this book and each of these characters we get to know, through letters and journal entries. It was heartbreaking parts, to see lives torn apart by poor choices (in some cases). It also dealt with issues of prejudice, racism and the sense of what home means. 
So good. 

15. Bhaunri by Anukrti Upadhyay: Bhaunri is beautiful and haunting and odd. Set within the tribal nomadic community of blacksmiths in Rajasthan this is a story of love but obsessive love. Of going too far. Of pining for attention. It's domestic drama at its finest. 
16. The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay: A fantastic book. That has won a bunch of awards, all very well-deserved. 
I did a full review for this one too. 
Read it HERE

17. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy: This book took me by surprise, I had no intention of reading it anytime soon. But one sleepless night, I started reading it on my Kindle and just fell in love! Such an amazing book and I felt like I read it at just the right moment in our history. Kashmir, dispossessed farmers, communal violence and community and finding your people. It was so good and I am SOOOOOO glad I found it at just the right time. 
Most certainly one of the best books I read this year. 

18. The Other Americans by Laila Lalami: A immigrants death changes the lives of those around him. There is a little bit of mystery as to how this man was killed, but it is mainly about family, the immigrant experience and race and racism. Subtle and moving and good. So good. 

19. The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar: Ah! This book was pure joy. It just made me happy, the kind of happiness that comes from reading a good book. 
Reviewed this one too. 
Read it HERE.
Honestly, this book and it's prequel The Space Between Us are simply incredible books that you have  got to read. 

And we are done. 
This year has seriously been full of books. And for that I am so grateful. 
205 books, not bad at all. 

Here's hoping 2020 brings more good books and more joy. 

Happy New Year's Eve Folks. 
Have a good and safe evening. 
Hope 2019 has been a good one for you too. 

See ya next year. 
In the next decade!!! 


Monday, 30 December 2019

Non-Fiction Favourites of 2019

I always intend on reading more non-fiction but truth be told I am primarily a fiction fiend. I enjoy an occasional foray into non-fiction. And I am so glad I read some really good non-fiction books this year.
So let's jump into my favourites from this year.

My favourite non-fiction reads of 2019 are:

1. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: The true story of a journalist's obsessive search for the Golden State Killer- a serial rapist and murderer linked to over 50 cases of sexual assault and murder. Michelle McNamara interviewed as many victims as she could, tracked objects stolen from the crime scenes that were taken as mementos, worked together with other amateur detectives to try and track down the Golden State Killer. This book is a true labour of love and a must-read for all true crime buffs.

2. At Home in Mumbai by Chandrima Pal: A great little book about the different kinds of homes and the people who live in them. From apartments to heritage bungalows to little tenements on the side of the street. For every kind of dwelling in Bombay, there is a story and this book is a fantastic way to learn about the maximum city. Full review here.

3. Last Girl by Nadia Murad: The story of captivity and sexual slavery by ISIS and above a story of surviving and overcoming a nightmare of a situation. This book wasn't easy to read, not at all. It was heartbreaking to read about Nadia's family and her community being torn apart by extremists and their bigotry. Taken from her home, her little village and thrown into sexual slavery. This was a hard but necessary read. A relevant read about 'othering' and how it impacts and tears apart lives.
Such an amazing and brave story.

4. We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai: A series of stories from across the globe, different people all with one thing in common- they are refugees and displaced. Simply written but moving and seeing the human stories behind the headlines is always a moving experience. To see that these are people, like you and me, and they've had to leave everything behind to escape an impossible situation and try to find a home in a new land, amidst new people and overcome the hardships they've faced. It's not easy being a refugee and to be then met with hostility in your new home must be heartbreaking. An important read that I immensely enjoyed.

5. In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park: I am always equal parts intrigued and horrified by the enigma that is North Korea. I am always interested in reading both fiction, but especially non-fiction from this country. And Yeonmi Park's story of escape and survival is something else. A young girl escaping North Korea and surviving on her own in China and then making it to South Korea and building her life from scratch was just amazing. Women are incredible. Such a great read. So glad I finally read it this year.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Stationery Sunday: 2019 Stationery Favourites

Hello, hello!
How can I end the year without sharing some of my stationery favourites of 2019!

Without any further ado, let's look at some of my absolute loves of 2019 (in no particular order)

1. Journal + Pen Pouch from Lyra & Co on Etsy

This beautiful handy-dandy B6 journal cover cum pen pouch is super useful for carrying around my B6 Muji notebook and a bunch of favourite journaling pens. 

This is the B6 Muji notebook that I use as a travel journal. So, this whole set up is super easy to carry around when I am on the move. 

2. Stickers from Bon Bon 
These are perfect for journaling. Look at these girls and all their cool outfits! 

3. Stickii Club Sticker Subscription
This is a ~$11 a month sticker subscription that I have been subscribed to for about 2 years now. Every month has a theme and you get around 5-6 sheets of stickers and a stylised paper clip and sometimes even a fabric patch. 

4. A6 Marauders Map TN from Etsy 
As a massive Potter Head, I simply had to have this beauty from TobaccoShop on Etsy. The Marauders Map is hand etched on this leather using a fire tool. Isn't it lovely? 

5. Bombay Map Journal from The Black Canvas 
Favourite city. Home. Heart. Everything. Had to have it!

6. Pouch from Studio Joyeeta and Delfonics Pouch
These two pouches have been my constant companions as I have been away from home in my second home for the past 3 months. Just look how lovely and functional these are!

7. Pen Sleeve from Lyra & Co
This pen sleeve has been my constant companion from the moment it arrived at home! I love how it is slim and fits around 4-5 pens (depending on thickness) and is just super easy to tuck inside my Delfonics pouch or just float around in my bag. 

8. Pencil pouch from Cute Things from Japan
This pencil case is all kinds of cute and I love it! Plus, it is huge and carries a ton of stuff! 

Hope this was fun! 
I hope to add some more stationery loves in 2020! 

Blogmas Day- 25 Christmas Lights and Tree.

This is what Christmas looked like in my corner of the world. 
This year we were sans a tree for very long and I honestly thought that we'd not have a tree. 
But on the 23rd my Dad surprised us with a tree and decorations!!!!! 
I was so happy! 
And sooooo excited to have a tree and baubles in my life again. 

It's a tiny tree and we didn't have as many ornaments as I normally have in Bombay but it's still perfect. 
I especially love the Santa faces and the little cottages I've added with the lights. 

These lights and cottages came as a DIY kit. We got them right before Diwali but not in time to do up the home for Diwali. I think it was perfect for our Christmas tree. 

I hope you've had a Merry Christmas. 
I hope it involved cake and family and lights. 

Talking about lights. here are the lights in my hometown. 

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Blogmas Day- 24: Boi Mela aka Book Fair, Winter 2019. + Book Haul.


Today I want to share some sights and scenes from my local Boi Mela, 
Boi Melas or Book Fairs are a winter staple in West Bengal. From big cities to small towns, Boi Melas pop up all over. I have always wanted to go to the Book Fair in Kolkata. My cousins have raved about it forever. Sadly, I've never managed make it there during the right time.  I used to be summer visitor in Kolkata. 
So I was so happy to find out that my hometown- Jalpaiguri,  also has a Book Fair and this time I was here for it! 
So, on a cold winter evening, Maa, me and my sister walked to the book fair and spent over an hour browsing the many stalls and taking in the scenes and seeing people mulling over books and coming back with bags full of stories. 

Most of the books, as expected were in Bengali. 
These books were so beautiful. Sadly, I can't read Bengali, so I obviously didn't buy any of those. 

People all bundled up but out and excited about books! 

English books! 
Mostly the 'popular' ones but there were some gems too. 

I found my corner of the boi mela. 

And here are the books I came back home with. 
All from the Penguin Random House Stall. 


The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh 
The Best of Roald Dahl
The Monk as a Man by Sankar 
The House with a Thousand Stories by Aruni Kashyap 
Greatest Works for Rabindranath Tagore 

Look how beautiful! 

I cannot tell you how happy this evening made me. 
I finally made it to a Boi Mela. 

Friday, 27 December 2019

Blogmas Day- 23 Christmas Picnic.

Like I was saying in my precious blogpost, this Christmas I went on a picnic to Gorubathan. By a river bed. Surrounded by mountains and clouds floating by, it was a serene spot...but fullllll of people. Everyone was out and set to enjoy Christmas. 


Winter and picnics go hand in hand. 
In my childhood, especially in the year I spent in Lucknow, winter afternoons on the weekend were reserved for outing to the Zoo, Residency and various parks and gardens. Picnics meant lots of snacks, fruits and games. 
Being out in the sun and exploring the place we were at. 

It was so nice revisiting that slice of my childhood. 
Being out under the open sky and seeing all kinds of food being cooked on open fires. 
Our menu included//

Dal with veggies.
Kadhai Paneer.
Muri Ghonto. 
Mutton curry. 
Fish curry.
Tomato Chutney. 

Wayyyy more elaborate than my childhood picnics. 

Blogmas Day- 22 Christmas Colours (What I Wore)

Sorry for going all MIA and missing so many days of Blogmas. Honestly, I don't even know what happened. Oh, well..maybe I do. Life has been busy. In a good way. 
Hanging out with people. 
Book fairs.
Dad's birthday. 
All sorts of good things. 
I hope you had a good Christmas. 
Here are some glimpses of mine. 
For Christmas this year I went on a traditional Bengali picnic. 
A large group of people, cooking a full meal by the riverside, long drives and conversation. 
Will share more of my picnic adventures later on, for now..here are some glimpses of my outfit. 

My pretty little backpack from Chumbak
Corduroy and beautiful Kashida Embroidery.
This bag was comfy to carry and spacious enough to hold all that I needed. 

Rings galore & a favourite bracelet. 
More kashida embroidery on my sister's potli bag. 

Since it was Christmas of course I wore red. 

More red through my watch. 

And red earrings. 
See, I went all out. 


Kurta: The Indian Ethnic Co.
Watch and Backpack: Chumbak 
Sister's Bag: Riddhi Pankaj
Earrings: Aham 
Silver Rings and Bracelet: Amber, Colaba 

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Blogmas Day-21: Top 10 Thriller Books of 2019

Hello, hello!
We present to you the Top 10 Thriller reads of 2019! This is one genre I am always, always in the mood for. There is honestly nothing better than sinking into a well-written and pacy thriller. Murders, serial killers, old secrets, sinister plots...oh gimme more!
Let's see which books from this genre I loved best in 2019. I recommend all of these books, in fact any of these will make the perfect Christmas gift for a loved one who loves a good mystery or these are the perfect books to curl up with on a cold winter night.

Here they are, in no particular order!

1. The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor: This is a story that moves in time between present day and the protagonist's childhood in the 1980s. A series of murders take place and chalk drawings show up when they happen. Who is this killer? What is he after? Why is he back after 30 odd years? An interesting and gripping book about childhood memories and trauma and, of course, a clever killer.

2. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager: An offer that is too good to be true. The chance to live and be paid for living in a luxury apartment building with a spooky reputation. A truly gripping, thrilling book. Read full review here.

3. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: This book recently won the Good Reads Thriller of the Year award and we are not surprised! We told you way back in the summer that this is the best thriller book we'd read up until then! This is a really interesting book! A woman is accused of murdering her husband. All the evidence points to her being the killer. However, since that night, the woman has not spoken a word! Psychotherapist, Theo Faber believes that he can help her. And then begins the most interesting thriller/ crime story/ murder mystery that I have read this year. Highly recommend!

4. The Flower Girls by Alex Clark-Platts: A book about children who kill. I won't say any more. Go read the full review here

5. Never Tell by Lisa Gardner: A mysterious death of a man with a secret identity. A web of lies. All the makings of a thrilling read. Read the full review here.

6. Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: A modern take on the Turn of the Screw. A very gripping book. Read the full review here.

7. The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan: A woman has good memories of her childhood nanny. The nanny that vanished one night and that everyone assumed was dead and one day the nanny returns. It's an interesting with a whole lot of twists and turns and a very satisfying end. Highly recommend!  

8. Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin: A Bonnie and Clyde-esque murder spree of the 70s. A podcast producer with his own agenda. A young woman trying to find the truth. All of this makes for one of the best thrillers of 2019. Read the full review here.

9. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell: This book has a few elements that make book gold, in my opinion. Family dynamics, dysfunctional family unit and slight cult vibes. This book had me hooked and has a few twists and turns that will leave you shocked. So good!

10. Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas: This one my sister and I buddy read over a rainy weekend and we were completely sucked into this world. Set in Brighton, this is a story of sisters and old friendships and old wounds. A missing teenager in the 1990s and a present day murder bring two estranged friends back together. Gripping and intense, this is a perfect book to binge over a weekend.

Here are some honourable mentions/// 

- Outfox by Sandra Brown 
- He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly 
- Two Lila Bennetts by Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton 
- The Suspect by Fiona Barton 
- The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey 
- The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth 
- A Closetful of Skeletons by Tanushree Podder 

Friday, 20 December 2019

Blogmas Day -20 Whimsy Wear: Winter Checks.

Winter is all about tartans and checks and staying warm and cozy. 
It's getting really cold here in North Bengal. I am currently sitting by the heater in a sweatshirt and socks and a shawl. 
I love winter! 


Shirt: Westside 
Bracelet: Silver Streak 
Pendant: Fabindia 
Brooch: By Paulami 
Earrings: Amber, Colaba Causeway 
Backpack: Fjallraven Kanken 
Shawl: iTokri 

Blogmas Day- 19 Bookmarks from Khaddar Ki Kameez.


Let's talk about some beautiful bookmarks today. 
I recently added these little homes to my bookmark collection. 
Little dreamy little cottages. 
Hand drawn and painted. 
Each a little unique little cottages. 
They remind me of both Hobbit homes and fairy homes. 
So cute! 
They are sustainable and use up cycled materials. 
So it's goodness all around. 
Plus there is no such thing as enough bookmarks! 

You can get them from Khaddar Ki Kameez on Instagram.