the year to read

i have completed 2 books to date – “the finkler question” by howard jacobson and “the wind blows away our words” by doris lessing. the first was about jews and the second was about afghans. one was a tale of fiction with plenty of spot on insights and another was an account of the author’s time spent in peshawar and pakistan.

both are equally great reads – i walked away knowing more about jews and afghans. howard jacobson’s prose and humour is excellent. there were moments where i smiled at the great use of words and even unabashedly chuckled openly in public at the humour. doris lessing’s account of afghans added weight to my being and that heaviness in the heart was there from the first page to the last. i guess what surprised me most, pardon my ignorance, was that afghans have suffered for a very long time. the book was published in the 1980s and i was surprised to learn that the worries then are almost the same as the worries now (global warming, wars, etc) and that the plight of afghans then (being attacked by Russia) and now (the battles of recent years) doesn’t seemed like any improvement to me. in a world where so much has gotten faster and better, it’s amazing how long ignorance and suffering can last for some.

on a brighter note, i think there is more about news about afghan now than say in the 1980s. this book, like much of national geographic articles i read, triggered more interest on the middle east. there’s so much out there in the world – to learn from, to read about and to help – i just don’t know how to go about accomplishing more of it.

am starting a new book tomorrow – “empress orchid” by anchee min. i think it’s a story set in the forbidden city and it’s a book julianne lent me. i went from jews to afghans and now chinese. this is totally in line with one of my resolutions to broaden my reading selection. i realized that i read mostly american books when i was reading “an education” by british author lynn barber 2 years ago. i decided i should put in more effort in reading books by british writers. last year (or was it early this year), i realised, over dinner with julianne, that there was so much i was missing out in the reading world because i’ve never read an english book authored by an asian. i also realized that you could step into a person’s world and know them on a deeper level through the books they read so i started asking people to lend me their books. i achieve 2 goals by doing that – broadening my books selection by reading stuff i usually don’t read and knowing a person better through the books they lend me.

without conscious effort, i started the year with 2 books written by british authors. how’s that for a great start to reading in 2012?

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