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Top Ten Favourite Books of 2019

To squeeze together everything about 2019 in a post is a herculean task. For I can never write in words how much books have changed me inside out, how every story has molded how I view the world and how every character taught me empathy, resilience and love.

I’m sitting in front of my bookshelf that’s messy and unstructured, quite like life itself. Some books are placed perfectly in their place,  others have toppled and reshaped themselves, trying to fit in, while some others are holding on to dear life. To squeeze together everything about 2019 in a post is a herculean task. For I can never write in words how much books have changed me inside out, how every story has molded how I view the world and how every character taught me empathy, resilience and love. I quit my job earlier this year to focus on working in the publishing industry. After interning for 3 months at BEE Books , I started working as an Editor which has been a lifelong dream. It was unnerving quitting a full time job to pursue a career in publishing knowing there aren’t many options where I live. I also travelled a lot this year, and spent quality time with family & friends. .
I didn’t write much at all considering it was supposed to be top priority. But hey, it’s never too late to start working on what you want.

In terms of reading, it has been quite a learning experience. I’ve read non-fiction & fiction, each widely contrasting to one another. I’ve had bouts of reading slumps, life getting in between everything, losing motivation et cetera. Through it all, I managed to read 42 books which I’m content with. The quantity doesn’t really matter at the end of the day, but if you want to read as many books as you can in a lifetime, such measures of counting and setting up reading challenges must be employed.

Here are the books I loved and recommended to everyone this year(in no particular order of publication):

  • Educated by Tara Westover: If there’s one book you can read this year, let it be this one.
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • My Sister,The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas
  • Small Days & Nights by Tishani Doshi
  • Eating Wasps by Anita Nair
  • A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Here’s hoping 2020 to be a blessed reading year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

WORDS

I wonder how a few words strung together have the power to make one believe in something, anything. I wonder how a single line captivates us so much that we stop reading it mid-sentence, closing the book & taking a pause because what we just read made us feel things we didn’t know we were capable of feeling.

I wonder how a few words strung together have the power to make one believe in something, anything. I wonder how a single line captivates us so much that we stop reading it mid-sentence, closing the book & taking a pause because what we just read made us feel things we didn’t know we were capable of feeling. These words and these stories have transformed, inspired and created a whole generation of people who feel a little less burdened, and a lot more carefree. I’ve always had an over-active imagination. Growing up, I found myself struggling to contain them, thinking something was wrong with me. I was filled with ideas, some were crazier than I would like to admit, but there were quite a few. It didn’t matter how or where, my head would always be like a movie, with characters playing their part, almost like reading from a script. The only problem was I didn’t know what to do with this huge cast that was living rent free in my head. Books were there. I had access to them. But I didn’t turn to them frequently. They didn’t catch my attention. My mother would dread summer vacations since I’d be dancing on her head, crying over how bored I was, and how summer vacations should not even be a thing. It was almost hilarious because my brothers would spend hours on video games or going outside to play. I would accompany them, play for hours but still come back wanting something more simulating, something that would hold me down. 

And just like most great things, I picked a book out of nowhere. For the first time in my life, the stories in my head seemed real. I don’t think you understand the power a 12year old feels when she realizes that the things in her head weren’t crazy after all, and that impossible, magical and even extraordinary things happen in books and nobody thinks you’ve lost it.

I was invincible. I didn’t know what to do with this newly recognized power. I was going crazy just thinking about it. I started devouring books, anything I could get my hands on, and finished it in a day, ready for another book. 

I often wonder what life would’ve been like if I wasn’t an active reader? To be honest, I shudder to even consider such a possibility. If life with its rocky roads, and curvy turns has thrown me off guard & made me lose balance then books with terrific healing power and warm embrace have helped me prepare for the uncertain. 

Words, well, they’re not just words after all. 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: A psychological thriller that’s unputdownable!

Alex Michaelides’s debut novel reads like a slow burn thriller but surprises you when you least expect it.

I’m going to go so far as to say that The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is hands down one of the best debut novels I’ve read. His immersive, slow-burning, keeping-you-on-the-edge novel has lived up to the hype it has been receiving and rightly so.

When Alicia, a famous painter shoots her husband five times without any remorse, she becomes the talk of the town. Discarded by the people, her refusal to defend herself or talk, immediately perks the psychotherapist, theo’s interest. While Alicia is being kept in a forensic unit in London, called The Grove- Theo is hellbent on making Alicia talk. He’s as fascinated about Alicia’s life as he is about her deafening silence. When the opportunity to become her psychotherapist arrives, Theo jumps to take the offer. Here starts the cat & mouse chase as Theo tries to unravel layer by layer, dissecting the infamous life of Alicia, and what caused her to murder her husband.

The narrative structure of the novel doesn’t read like a thriller in the sense that it doesn’t have whiplash moments, or hands-on-mouth kind of a situation- it seeps deeper into the psyche of the mind, and tries to understand the ‘WHY’ rather than the ‘HOW’. The more you read it, the more bizarre and twisted it becomes. We see the story unfold through Theo’s eyes as he begins his sessions with Alicia, trying to talk his way through the walls she’s built. Not just that, we also learn a lot about Theo, his abusive past, and why he wanted to make a career in mental health, and his ultimate fascination of the notorious Alicia.

Read The Silent Patient for its immaculate plot, excellent narrative structure, and for an in-depth character study that runs parallel to great storytelling! It has also been optioned for a film, and I CANNOT wait!


Author: Alex Michaelides

Publisher: Orion Books

Genre: Psychological thriller

Rating:4.8/5

 

Blurb

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Mental Health Representation in Books & Why It’s Important.

The importance of mental health representation in books.

Dorian Gray Syndrome, famously coined after Dorian Gary, Oscar Wilde’s most talked about character in his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, displays chronic narcissism, dysmorphophobia, and failure to cope with psychological maturation. Dorian is described as self-obsessed, is hated by society, and ultimately meets a cruel end. BDD or Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness characterized by this illusion that one’s body part is flawed, and therefore needs fixing. The thoughts can be compulsive and pervasive, taking up several hours in a day. But I’m not here to give you a rundown of what it is about. The time in which Oscar Wilde wrote his only novel was devoid of the concept of mental illness. Anyone displaying any signs of an unhealthy mind was considered mental or crazy or Satan’s spawn.

However, we’ve come a long way since then. Writers are advocating for mental health representation in books, voicing their opinions strongly, and ensuring awareness of mental illness takes place through the written word.

When I read Matt Haig’s book, REASONS TO STAY ALIVE, I was overwhelmed by the accuracy with which he spoke about his tryst with anxiety and depression. At that time, I knew only the surface layer of what anxiety might feel like, having experienced general anxiety that comes with living. Little did I know, I would come back to read this book over and over again when my anxiety had skyrocketed, leaving me with dread and constant worry. What is it about the written word that’s so comforting? Why are we drawn to fictional characters, their life, and their experiences? The week following my onset of anxiety I would unknowingly just reach for his book and spend hours reading and then re-reading some more. Even while at work, I would look forward to just returning home so that I could read. It’s unexplainable, the desire to get lost in words. Not much has changed, I still reach for a book, and it’s a reflex I’ve mastered. Books have made me realize we’re all together in our pain and struggle, that even if our world is turned upside down, we can turn to books even if it’s not real.

Mental health representation in books is highly imperative and plays a huge role in defining mental illnesses across all specters. The ability of the readers to be able to connect with the characters, to empathize with them, to understand how despite all the barriers, one is not alone, helps in coping with their own struggles. A simple acknowledgment on the part of the writers about mental illness goes a long way in removing the stigma and spreading awareness. Mental illness is a broad spectrum, one that cannot be confined to a particular book; but the act of learning and relearning by the mere turning of pages brings to the reader a sense of responsibility and a conscience that didn’t exist earlier. They begin to unravel layers of complexity in their brains and start to see things from other people’s perspective. It’s important to note that readers are smart, they grasp the subtleties and hints and a sudden change in emotion of the characters way better than writers could possibly imagine. Reading opens up space for the readers to finally let themselves lose, to understand their emotions and maybe come to terms with it. Hence, the onus falls on the writers to be sensitive to the characters, and give them the ending they deserve.

While many readers believe that the representation of mental health in books has helped them tremendously, others beg to differ. For someone who is suffering from mental illness, it becomes difficult to read about characters that hit really close to home. The pain and heartache become all too familiar, often acting as a trigger. Every reader is different, and their experiences have shaped them into the person they are which is why certain stories instead of calming them, tend to revive memories they wish to forget. Here’s where the depiction of mental illness falls into a grey area.

Most books, though well intended, fail to act as flag bearers of mental health because of their over-stereotypical nature, and exaggerated narrative, lack of sensitivity, and not to mention the tragic fate of their characters who’ve endured some form of mental illness. A dangerous trend of romanticizing and painting a rosy picture of mental illness has created a superficial image in the readers’ mind. It has become the new cool, and something the reader must aspire to in order to be accepted in their social circle. Not only is it detrimental to their own character development, but it also tears apart the struggles of people with mental illness. Misrepresentation of mental health robs a person from hope, and a chance to live a normal life. Extensive research and in-depth analysis are required on the part of the writers to be able to do justice to their story, and to mental health.

It’s more than just accurate representation in books. Most youngsters are still trying to understand what goes on in their heads, and books come closest in unraveling the chaos that is in their minds. In India, mental illness is still a stigma. Many people are unable to get help and suffer in silence. The existence of real characters displaying mental health issues is a powerful medium through which one can feel validated, and identify the core of their problem.

A little sensitivity, knowledge, and empathy on the part of the writers can go a long way in assuring people who may be suffering to believe in a better world. To know that you can be going through the hardest time of your life, and still emerge unscathed. For them to understand that their mental illness should not define who they are, that they are stronger than the voices in their heads, and to not feel alone in a world that has the potential to swallow you up in its entirety.

While we’re at the topic of mental health, it’s only fair that we hear what writers feel about mental health representation in books. I spoke to some authors and this is what they have to say:

  • There are a few stories on mental health and mostly deal with women or children. There are very few novels about men who are going through a mental breakdown. If at all, they are thrillers usually. Madness or mental breakdowns make people vulnerable. There are so many ways that a mental health breakdown can be depicted. For example, many people sometimes won’t even consider that Gatsby was not mentally stable. I think the representation of mental health is something readers have to develop as awareness as well.

————— Faiqa Mansab, author This house of Clay and Water

  • As an author, I think that mental health concerns are really not addressed I books adequately. There are different aspects to mental health other than depression which is never really spoken about in books. Schizophrenia is always spoken in the context of thrillers or suspense but no one ever covers the misery or the helplessness that a person suffering from schizophrenia goes through. There’s some awareness about depression and to some extent about general mental health after Bollywood started speaking of it, as it became somewhat acceptable but in books, we are yet to see that happen.

———-Monica Mujumdar Dixit, author of A Quest for Spring

  • To be honest, I am aware of 2 fiction novels by Indian authors that deal with mental health – Life is What You Make it by Preeti Shenoy and a recent one Missing Presumed Dead by Kiran.

Mental Health is certainly not an easy topic to write about. It needs much more research than simply going online and typing Mental Health on Google. But it can no longer be ignored. Data by WHO indicates one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders. Despite these numbers, people are unwilling to talk about their issues. There is a stigma attached to it and people end up suffering in silence. I truly believe authors need to be encouraged to write about diverse characters. It is the best way to create a conversation about issues that so many of us have to face in isolation.

You know when we read an interesting story and we go like “Oh man, I totally get what she’s going through.” That’s what we need today with these sticky topics too. Those who suffer should know they are not alone in this battle. When I say diverse … I strongly believe we need to bring more variety to our characters. Let’s weave stories that represent divorce, homosexuality, mental health, learning disabilities in their true form. These stories don’t have to be grim and depressing. I was lucky to work with Juggernaut and write about some tough topics in my debut novel. I do hope as authors we continue to see that support. Indian readers have devoured novels like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Bell Jar. And Preeti’s novel went on to become a bestseller. So we have the appetite…we just need to be presented with a spread.

————-Donna Dias, author of Love is Never Easy

I’ve compiled a list of books, TV shows, and Movies that talk about mental health:

BOOKS:

  • Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • First, we make the beast beautiful by Sarah Wilson
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
  • The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

TV-SHOWS

  • Modern Narratives
  • Rewind to the 90s
  • Public vs Private
  • The Good Doctor (ABC)
  • This is Us
  • Jessica Jones (Netflix)
  • You’re the Worst

MOVIES:

  • The Silver Linings Playbook
  • Black Swan
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Still Alice
  • Shutter Island
  • Fight Club
  • Finding Nemo

At the end of the day, one needs to understand that the experience of reading a book is subjective, and our collective thoughts will be different. However, mental health representation depends highly on how the authors treat the issue. We need more writers who are empathic, and understand how vulnerable people with mental illness feel so that the stories they create make them feel that all is not lost even though it may feel like it.

Daddykins by Kalpana Mohan: A bitter-sweet memoir that will make you laugh and cry.

Books & Teaa

While driving back in the car after the party, he turned to my sister to ask her the one question that seemed to giving him heartburn. “Was this a birthday or a sendoff?”

Returning back after celebrating his ninetieth birthday, the one thought that kept lingering in the mind of Daddykins, was that of mortality, and how much more time did he have? In this memoir that’s written with utmost affection, love and respect for a man the author grew up loving, her father, we see life through his eyes, and how with changing times, Daddykins, remained loyal to his routines, his family, and everything that was dear to him.

Kalpana Mohan, a journalist in California, flies down to take-care of her father whose health keeps deteriorating, She describes her father’s life, piecing together every little detail with precision, and caution coupled with laughter and wit. She traces her father’s…

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In Conversation with Faiqa Mansab: Author of This House of Clay and Water

Resharing one of my most cherished Author Interviews.

Books & Teaa

When I read This House of Clay and Water a few months back, I knew I had stumbled upon a story that would stay with me for a long time. I devoured the book within a day, and struggled to come up with a review that would do justice to the book. It was a book that made me realize why I love reading, and why the written words will never fail to leave me breathless. When you read a book that speaks strongly to you, you can’t help but get inside the head of the author who wrote it, and therefore, I had the honor of interviewing Faiqa Mansab, author of This House of Clay and Water. Absolutely honest, insightful and full of literary wisdom, the author tells us what it’s like to be a writer and much more!

INTERVIEW:

Thank you so much for taking out time to…

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In Conversation with Aanchal Malhotra: Revisiting the past one object at a time.

Aanchal Malhotra talks about how the book came to be written, and the aspects involved with recording material memory.

I remember going up to my grandfather after I had finished reading Remnants of a Separation to inquire about his past, about what happened during Partition, and how after all was said and done, he along with his family, decided to live for the rest of their lives, carrying a huge loss in their hearts. And that’s what Aanchal’s book ” Remnants of a Separation” prompted me to do. It has in ways more than one opened room for discussion for not just me but many who’ve read the book but never realized they have family members who were witness to the partition. It has given all those who were thrown into the middle of one of the most important historical events a voice. We all know what happened through innumerable written, oral and visual sources. But the primary source has always been the people who experienced it firsthand. Through interviews, Aanchal has given us an insight into what happened, relying on material memory, and how objects play a powerful role.

It was a pleasure interviewing Aanchal, and listen to her narrate how it all began.

INTERVIEW:

  • You’re an artist and Oral historian, how did writing a book on material memory come into the picture?

What I put on my blog were just snippets of information, at least at the beginning. When I was doing these interviews people were telling me things that were never taught to us in schools and they weren’t great things like religious importance or anything. They were just things about Undivided India and I thought everyone should have access to that kind of information, of what life was like beforehand. The thing with putting things online is that it’s accessible and democratic.  I didn’t really expect such response from people and I didn’t know if people were interested still about the Partition. I started writing the blog on a whim because when you’re doing such interviews, you hear all this information and it gets heavy in your head. All these things about trauma and loss, and you think to yourself,’ I don’t want to hold all this information in my head’.  I mean, factually writing a book is also a catharsis of sorts. So it clearly came from the need of NEEDING to share because I needed other people to know that, ‘hey they’re not so different or hey things were really not so bad all the time’.

 

  • Remnants of a Separation, which was once your thesis project is now a book. How would you describe this journey?

It seemed like a natural progression. It started as a thesis and I am artist, so it was a visual thesis. You know when something takes over you, and you’re not leading it, it’s leading you. Suddenly people started writing to me from different places and I didn’t really expect it to become this big because you’re talking about things. Honestly, I didn’t think that things would make such a big difference because in the larger scheme of life when people are running and freeing for safety, is a THING really that important? But 70 years later, it remains the only way we have access to undivided India’s daily life.

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  • You’ve interviewed several people in your book, situated on both sides of the border. Do you see any difference in how they have coped post-partition? Or is pain and heartache individualistic?

On one level, a very rudimentary level, there is nostalgia on both sides, and there are emotions on both sides, but when you get up to a state or political level, then the narrative is different. And unfortunately, in Pakistan, the state of the narrative is married into the narrative of identity. So it is difficult to say anything that might hamper that narrative. We have to keep in mind that a Partition is an event of versions.  Everybody’s version adds up to what Partition is. It’s not just one kind of narrative; there are hundreds and thousands of different kinds of narratives that people went through for the same event. That’s what amazes me is that even if two people move from the same village and went to the same village, their versions of what happened will be totally different, depending on their experiences.

 

  • Your interviews are more like stories being narrated. What made you choose this form of storytelling?

I think it’s because I’m not trained as a writer. I really think it’s because I am an artist, and when you study art or go to art school or make something in a studio, your primary motive is to create something out of nothing. You’re making imagery; you’re trying to transport the person to a particular place through images. I think personally as a writer that should be your job as well.  I started writing based on the images people were creating for me or the imaginary landscape I was making, I think my writing is very visual, it’s sensorial.  I don’t know anything about writing, I write because of what I feel which is how I make stuff as well. Maybe it’s like an emotion-driven process but in the case of the book, it also had to be married into facts and academia. So I had to learn a lot of tools on the way; like I had to learn how to be a historian and I had to learn how to be an archaeologist of memory; how do you ask a question? You learn to be an interviewer; you learn to be a researcher. You learn that you can’t spend your day in the studio and you actually have to spend 12 hours in the library. The form of storytelling will always remain visual for me. For me, the texture of every story is very different. The color of every story is different, the landscape of every story is different; it moves. So it’s very important to make distinctness in people that each person stands for a different kind of narrative.

 

  • Most of the younger generation seem to be uninterested when it comes to Partition or they don’t know enough about it. Do you think material memory can be the catalyst in bringing together generations and opening a discussion?

I hope so. I see it happening even on my blog or Instagram. It can be a very simple thing like maybe I’ve posted a photo of a Kadhai or glass, and if a person from India and a person from Pakistan or a person from Bangladesh are all talking about the same thing in the comment section then something is happening. Maybe the object is a very frivolous thing to be talking about but maybe it can also be considered a democratic space for cross-border conversation. It’s just something you connect to.

 

  • You’ve spoken about how the topic of Partition is almost always dealt with hesitation by the very people who were a huge part of it. What do you think is the reason?

I think it depends on people’s perspective or what they went through or their experience. But there’s a certain amount of shame in being driven out of your house, in not being able to do anything, in seeing what people around you are doing. There is anger and I think that many people that lived through it did not have the time and space to comprehend what they had gone through. I always think about this: Imagine if after the partition there had been psychologists or counselors to talk to people, imagine how different an experience it would have been. But you went through this incredibly traumatic event, you were driven out of your house, you had nothing, you were reduced to penury, and then you just had to move on, and start life again in this new place. I can’t even imagine. Would I ever talk about it if I went through it and would I ever be able to unsee the things that people saw? You know what really shocks me, and I always ask this question to people: Do you think it’s weird that something we study as a historical component in textbooks is something that you have lived through?  These people are living histories. The other thing is that after Partition no one talked about it, it’s not like the Holocaust where people wrote about it extensively. And it’s also not like the Holocaust where there’s a clear demarcation of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? There was nothing like this here; everyone was at fault at some point or the other. The boundaries became very blurred as to who did what and who was responsible for what and who started the killing and who started the bombings. It is difficult to say because we weren’t there and I think even the people who lived through it cannot say with certainty and certainly not with an unbiased perspective who started it.

 

  • On reading the book, one also realizes that Partition is as much about people’s kindness towards other communities as it is about hatred and violence. Don’t you think the stories about Partition merely just state facts when it’s much more than that? Why don’t we hear about such stories?

Because those stories don’t sell. Violence sells a lot. There are so many stories about goodness. People don’t talk about it. Virtually everyone person I’ve met in Pakistan has some family in India and growing up in India I didn’t even think about this. Now it’s like such a common thing for me to hear.

 

 

  • Is there any story that is close to your heart but didn’t make it to the book?

Yes. There’s a particular story I heard in Karachi, just last month. And I want to tell you because it’s a very important story for me, and it really shook me. It really moved me. There was a woman, who was traveling from Delhi to Lahore, and the train got attacked by rioters and so many people died on the train. Her husband was one of the people who was stabbed and was thrown off the train. She was alive but she jumped after him. The train had stopped and the rioters had fled. All the people who had died were just lying on the train. Her husband bled till death. She took off her dupatta and she soaked up all of his blood that she could. She made the train’s attendant promise that he would bury her husband as she couldn’t take the body by herself being pregnant at the time. She soaked up the blood, got on the train by herself and reached Lahore where she didn’t know anyone. She went to the graveyard and bought a plot and buried that blood-soaked dupatta. It was the only thing she had of her husband. And she gave birth to a son whom she would take to the graveyard every week to visit his father. Can you imagine a dupatta standing in for a person? It is just heartbreaking on so many levels.  The woman had no regret, no malice for people that had done that. She understood that it was circumstance. But the sheer act of picking up the part of somebody else, that’s also one form of an object I suppose.

 

  • What has been the most difficult part of writing Remnants of a Separation? Finding people to interview or waiting for them to unearth memories they’ve buried deep within?

Talking about it. It’s really hard. You know some people have this skill of being able to extract information in an unobtrusive way, and I’m one of those people. When you get to that conversation with a person, it comes quite naturally because you don’t start with Partition. You never start with Partition. You start with all the other things and eventually you get to Partition. I think for me right now the most challenging thing is constantly talking about it.  What happens when you keep talking about something that’s so magnanimous is that the more you talk about it, the more it seems to be reduced to data. It seems like a rehearsed activity that you’re doing all the time. Now the most challenging thing is talking about it again and again. These people are not just people, they are my family. Somebody has opened their life and told me something infinite, you have to respect that. Sometimes journalists have these habits of asking questions and it seems like data.

 

  • Are you working on any other project?

I am working on a novel about an Indian Soldier who fights in World War I in the                Western front. It won’t be out for another two years.

 

(This interview was first published in a monthly newsletter, OfTheNefeli)

 

About the Author:
Aanchal Malhotra is an artist and oral historian, working with memory and material culture. She was educated in Traditional Printmaking and Art History at OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design), Toronto and Concordia University, Montréal. She is the author of ‘Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory’ (HarperCollins 2017) and can be found at The Hiatus Project, Instagram and her website.

Tackling the Big-Bad monster: The Reading Slump

A few tips on how to get out of a reading slump.

If there’s anything readers despise more than running out of cups of caffeine, and books, is getting into a reading slump. What is it, you ask? It’s when the reader has saturated his/her ability to read, and regardless of the efforts, is unable to read. There can be several reasons for this tragedy to befall on you. Maybe you’ve read too much at a go, maybe the book you’ve read was so good that you can no longer drag yourself out of it or maybe a book you’ve read was terrible, and now you want your life back. Whatever the reason, not being able to read can get quite frustrating. But sometimes, getting out of a reading slump is easier than you think. Let’s see how:

  • Rereading: Going back to books that have provided comfort, and are your favorites is the surest way to get out of a slump. The familiarity of the words, the rekindling of love with your favorite characters, and knowing how the story unfolds, helps your mind unravel. Remember, you’re unable to concentrate and pay attention to the story because you’re burned out.  Not having to focus and knowing how the story unfolds helps to get in the flow.

 

  • Shorten the length: Pick up shorter novels. Most of the time the thickness of the book intimidates you. The mere sight of them is enough for you to discard reading anything at all. Go for short stories or novellas or Graphic novels or comic books. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after finishing these books will encourage you to read more. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here, right?

 

  • Mix up the genres: It’s time to shuffle that TBR of yours. Monotony can be lethal. Step out of your comfort zone and read something you’d never dare to. I’ve realized that reading non-fiction always helps me beat the reading slump. It’s really weird and often baffles me. So if you’re someone who always reads historical fiction, go for a thriller. Not only will you fly through the pages, but you will also discover new genres.

PRO TIP: If you can’t find a particular book you seem to be interested in, I’d suggest reading the first two chapters of different books. Now depending on which one captures your attention the most, start with that one. (I only recently started doing this, and it works. Well, mostly. )

 

  • Listen to the words: Audiobooks are the new cool. In a time where people are always busy and on the go, listening to books has been a life-savior. There are several apps that have free audio-books available. Just choose one that perks your interest, and listen away. My go-to app is storytel.in. Storytel app

 

  • Making reading time fun: The ambiance you’re in plays an important role in helping you get into the reading mood. Make yourself a cup of tea, light a few candles, dim the lights and set some soothing music. You’ll find yourself winding down, your nerves starting to settle, and within no time you’ll be immersed in the book. You can also go to a café or a park to give you some alone time.

 

  • Buddy read: There’s no better way to read than to read with your friend. You will get the motivation and encouragement you need. Pick a book you both want to read and plan a reading marathon. To spice things up, hold reading discussions. This will easily help you beat the slump. If you’re the competitive type, you’ll immediately get to work.

 

  • Give yourself some break: It’s important to realize, reading isn’t a competition. It’s one of life’s most simple pleasures, one that cannot be made into a routine. If you feel worn down, take some time off. Bing watch on Netflix, or maybe movie-adaptations of your favorite novels, or go on YouTube and check out what other book tubers are up to. Take this time to journal and write down what’s happening in your mind. Whenever you’re in a slump, take this opportunity and write reviews of all the books you’ve been putting off. Just because you’re not reading doesn’t mean you’re not going to at least talk about it. I recently went on a social media detox that lasted for almost a month. It was refreshing, and I returned with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness to read and blog.

 

Hope the above tips help you overcome your reading slump. Remember to take it one day at a time. If your reading slump still persists, I’d suggest buying books you don’t need. The guilt will make you do things you never anticipated.

 

 

My Blogging Journey and Celebrating 100 Posts!

Celebrating 100 posts and reflecting on the years gone by.

This is my 100th post.

I don’t know what people write in their 100th post because I sure as heck don’t know. I didn’t think a day such as this one had any possibility of becoming a reality but here we are.

I started my blog when I was in my first year of college. But let’s go back a little further. I started reading a lot more in the 11th standard, and would read in between classes, and on my way to school even though I was always drawn to reading, devouring all the books from the library, and buying books from the Scholastic book fair. But during my late teens, there was this need to read books at all times. I would be lost in the written word, finding solace and excitement and thrill. Naturally, my choices in books were questionable but gradually my reading taste changed and has continued to do so. While in school, I had developed a deep fascination for writing. I also started writing a lot of poems( which were a cringefest) but also short stories. So when I went to college, starting a blog seemed like the right thing to do.

I figured out the logistics (googled it) and created a blog named, ‘The Literary Cat“.

For the longest time, I would write under this blog name and changed it to ‘Books and Teaa’ only recently. I started off with book reviews, short stories, and then slowly went on to writing how-tos, and listicles. However, I was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities in college and my blog wasn’t the highlight at this point in time in my life. Throughout my under-graduation, my posts were sporadic, and all over the place. I didn’t start a blog to make something out of it or to become a full-time blogger—It was created because the thoughts in my head needed a home.

Fast forward to 2016, and I had just finished my post-graduation diploma and was pursuing a Masters degree. At this point in time, two things happened.

  • I was searching for a job, and pursuing an online masters. I had time to spare.
  • I stumbled upon Bookstagram.

Here’s where things started to turn around and by that, I don’t mean I started earning money through blogging. This was never my goal. I always wanted to be known as a writer and someone who likes reading books.

Blogging has been that corner of my life which I can pick up wherever I left. I always write whenever I have an idea that can no longer be contained in my head. Here’s when the words flow smoothly, my mind running at the speed of light spewing idea after idea, and the stories writing themselves.  It’s rewarding and satisfying but at the same time A LOT of work. I still don’t understand how WordPress works and there are so many things I can improve on my site. I would like to be more active, put in more effort, and be consistent. There have also been times where I didn’t want to think I have a blog. To be honest, I still wonder why people read what I write.

If I show you the stats, it’s going to reflect poorly on me, and probably expose me as a ‘fake’ person who only claims to love writing. But wanting to do something and actually doing it are two separate things. I still haven’t figured it all out, I still can’t think of blog post ideas, and I know I will not be able to stay as consistent as I would like to be. But that’s how life is sometimes. I like to think of my blog as a safe space devoid of any obligations. I cannot force myself to do things and I don’t want to make blogging a chore, a checklist I can tick off. And neither should you.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years of blogging, it’s this:

The results are going to be slow. The views on your posts won’t be too high initially, you’ll have to promote your posts relentlessly, and even then you’ll have days where you won’t see any traffic on your blog. It’s going to get frustrating and you would want to give up. But this is exactly when you shouldn’t. The fact that you’re still sitting at your desk, typing away regardless of whether or not anyone is reading the posts is when you’ll know you’re doing this for yourself. And that’s when it won’t matter.