Spectator by Seema Goswami: Page-turners

Here’s a list of the best books I read this year; you might enjoy some of them
Here is a list of Top Reads of The Year for you
Here is a list of Top Reads of The Year for you
Updated on Dec 28, 2019 11:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySeema Goswami

So, it’s that time of year again. The time when I look back on the last 12 months through the prism of my reading list and compile my own list of Top Reads of The Year for you. Needless to say, this list is completely arbitrary, totally subjective, and entirely a creature of my personal preferences when it comes to authors and genres. That said, I am a pretty promiscuous reader, so am pretty sure there will something in there for everyone. Read on – and then, read on again.

The New Girl (Daniel Silva)

Regular readers of this column will know just how big a fan of Daniel Silva I am. And I am happy to report that after a couple of formulaic turns, Silva is back on cracking form. The Other Woman, which came out last year, was a roller-coaster ride in the best sense. And this year’s offering, The New Girl, is even better. Written with one eye on cable news and with a main character clearly based on the Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman – who enters into an unlikely alliance with Israeli avenging angel, Gabriel Allon – this thriller will keep you up at night, turning page after page until you come to that very unexpected end. Sorry, no spoilers. You’re going to have to find out for yourself.

After The End (Clare Mackintosh)

This is a bit of a departure for Mackintosh, who usually excels in murder mysteries and psychological dramas with a twist that no one ever sees coming. This tells the story of a couple with a terminally sick child, who can’t come to an agreement on how his medical treatment should go. Even though they love and respect one another, they can’t see each other’s point of view in this case. And as their relationship unravels under the strain, we are forced to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the human condition. What is love? And how far will you – and should you – go to keep someone you love alive?

Fleishman Is In Trouble (Taffy Brodesser-Akner)

Divorce, dating, depression, this has it all. The Fleishman of the title is in the throes of a divorce battle with his high-flying wife, who appears to have abandoned him (and their children) to go off on some sort of retreat. As he deals with being dumped, he seeks solace in Internet dating sites and is astounded by just how much sex is on offer – and how many women are willing to have sex with him. But, of course, sex is never simple, and love is always complicated. And oh yes, it is far from clear which of the two Fleishmans is the one in trouble.

Three Women (Lisa Taddeo)

This non-fiction book delves into the intricacies of female sexual desire by following the stories of three women. Lina, a homemaker and mother of two, whose marriage has become a passion-free zone, seeks solace in an affair; Maggie, a 17-year- old high school student who allegedly had an affair with her married English teacher; and Sloane, a restaurant owner married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other people (both men and women). But this is far from a salacious – or even erotic – read. Taddeo spent eight years covering the lives of these women. And she tells their stories with empathy, nuance, and a deep understanding of the impulses that govern them.

Pico Iyer’s new book, aptly titled A Beginner’s Guide, captures the contradictions of Japanese society without trying to make sense of them 

A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations (Pico Iyer)

Japan remains one of the most mysterious civilisations on earth. My lasting memory of the country on the one trip I made there is of a culture that was sophisticated, mired in good manners, and yes essentially opaque to the rest of us. Pico Iyer, who has lived there for decades (he famously wrote The Lady And The Monk about falling in love with a Japanese woman – whom he later married), has a better understanding of it than most people. And his new book, aptly titled A Beginner’s Guide, is brilliant because it captures the contradictions of Japanese society without trying to make sense of them. Written as a series of short vignettes, it is both profound and affecting.

Inside Out: A Memoir (Demi Moore)

I am usually not one for celebrity autobiographies – which tend to be self-serving and self-involved in equal measure – so I almost didn’t read Demi’s Moore’s account of her life. I mean, who needs to know more details about her break-ups with Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher than have already appeared in the gossip magazines? Certainly not me. But I overcame my reservations and started reading – and was hooked. This is an (often brutally) honest memoir by a woman who has often been dismissed as being hard and grasping (‘Gimme Moore’ she was dubbed at one point). But the recounting of her hardscrabble, dysfunctional childhood makes us understand her motivations, and Demi herself, a little better.

Me (Elton John)

Yes, I know I said I didn’t really do autobiographies – and here I am, recommending two. But what can I say? It’s been that kind of year. And Elton John’s memoir of his life is gloriously candid and self-deprecating, in a way that celebrity autobiographies rarely are. It is all in here: the drunkenness, the drug-taking, the tantrums, the libel suits, the heartbreaks, and of course, the hit-making. Even if you have no interest in his music, this is worth a read.

Journalist and author Seema Goswami has been a columnist with HT Brunch since 2004

Spectator appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, December 29, 2019

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