My favourite books this year

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Looking back at 2014 it definitely feels like I can clearly trace some of the key changes in the way I see the world and in my intellectual journey. The more I think about these changes, the more I realize that I am very much indebted to the thought-provoking literature that I have been lucky enough to come across this year. In this post, I want to share some of my favourite books from this year. Whether they have challenged me, infuriated me, made me feel at home, or comforted me, there is little doubt that books remain an important part of my life.

From when I was little, I loved reading simply because a book has the magical ability to take you somewhere else, to show you worlds you have never seen before, and may never see again. So many times I have wondered where I know something from, only to realize it came from a book I read when I was younger. The older I got, the more I began to realize the politics of writing: the ways in which an author’s position and experiences not only impact the text here and there, but create the text itself. I began to think about reading differently, as a process that I too was a part of, as a reader. This added a whole new dimension of reading, where it became essential that I begin to think more carefully about what I was taking in, and challenge it rather than simply accept it. This past year I have read many challenging books, that have left me angry, frustrated, or upset. And yet, even these books have tremendous value, because they shed light on ways of seeing the world that are very much real. I have a tendency to think that other people will see things the way I do (as those close to me never tire of pointing out, haha) but this could not be further from the truth. Books offer such a useful way of catching a glimpse of these other worldviews, not in order to sing kumbaya and have a peaceful dialogue, but simply in order to expand my own understanding of how things work. This year I have also read books that have left me feeling happy and content, that have made me feel at home even while I was far away from home.

And finally, I have read books about subjects and experiences that have been extremely painful and heavy. I never know how to approach books like these. Take, for example, Assata Shakur’s autobiography, which I finished two weeks ago. It feels wrong and problematic to say that I learned from her pain. I think approaching it this way again commodifies Black pain as something to be consumed by others, as something to teach other people. I found myself trying to relate to it in other ways: trying to constantly draw parallels between her experiences and the way the United States continues to function in the same ways today. Reading her autobiography as events unfolded in Ferguson allowed me to make those parallels easily. I of course did learn from her experiences as well. The way she spoke about race, about international politics, about feminism. And above all, the way she spoke with absolute honesty: no pretensions, no ego, no insecurities. She laid herself bare and there was no way, as a reader, to respond to that except with vulnerability and the feeling of attachment to her as a person. This is just one example of the process I have gone through with so many books. There is no doubt, also, and in the spirit of honesty, that books create an escape that I have needed this year…a way to stop thinking, stop analyzing, stop over-feeling certain emotions, and just read. And I always knew, right away, what my favourite books were from their ability to do this. So here are my 30 favourite books:

  1. Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone
    by Eduardo Galeano
  2. Understories: The Political Life of Forests in Northern New Mexico
    by Jake Kosek
  3. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses
    by Oyeronke Oyewumi
  4. Live and Die Like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt
    by Farha Ghannam
  5. An Atlas of Impossible Longing
    by Anuradha Roy
  6. Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East
    by Adam Hanieh
  7. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
    by Gloria E. Anzaldúa
  8. The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics: Western International Theory, 1760-2010
    by John M. Hobson
  9. The House of the Spirits
    by Isabel Allende
  10. Feminist Edges of the Qur’an
    by Aysha A. Hidayatullah
  11. The Political Economy of the Egyptian Revolution: Mubarak, Economic Reforms and Failed Hegemony
    by Roberto Roccu
  12. Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science
    by Johanna Tayloe Crane
  13. Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination
    by Ann Laura Stoler
  14. The Promise of Happiness
    by Sara Ahmed
  15. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
    by Michelle Alexander
  16. Marx And The End Of Orientalism
    by Bryan S. Turner
  17. salt.
    by Nayyirah Waheed
  18. Nejma
    by Nayyirah Waheed
  19. Kindred
    by Octavia E. Butler
  20. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
    by Chandra Talpade Mohanty
  21. Home
    by Toni Morrison
  22. A Mercy
    by Toni Morrison
  23. Tar Baby
    by Toni Morrison
  24. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story
    by Elaine Brown
  25. Algeria Cuts: Women and Representation, 1830 to the Present
    by Ranjana Khanna
  26. Dangerous Liaisons: The Marriages and Divorces of Marxism and Feminism
    by Cinzia Arruzza
  27. Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
    by Harriet A. Washington
  28. An Autobiography
    by Angela Y. Davis
  29. European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe
    by Fatima El-Tayeb
  30. Assata: An Autobiography
    by Assata Shakur

I’ll end this list with some short poems from what was probably my favorite book of the year: salt, by Nayyirah Waheed. I really believe that you find things just when you need them, and I found this book just when I needed to read it and hear what she was saying. Every page taught me something, and there are days where all I do is read and re-read the entire book. Her are some of my favourite poems:

11MrDd43bOL

you broke the ocean in
half to be here
only to meet nothing that wants you.

– immigrant

when you are struggling
in your
writing (art).
it usually means
you
are hearing one thing.
but
writing (creating) another.

– honest | risk

if i write
what you may feel
but cannot say.
it does not
make
me a poet.
it makes me a bridge.
and
i am humbled
and
i am grateful
to assist your heart in speaking.

– grateful

i don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

i want more ‘men’
with flowers falling from their skin.
more water in their eyes
more tremble in their bodies.
more women in their hearts
than
on their hands.
more softness in their height.
more honesty in their voice.
more wonder.
more humility in their feet.

– less

getting yourself together
what about undoing yourself.

– the fix

in our own ways
we all break.
it is okay
to hold your heart outside of your body
for
days.
months.
years.
at a time.

– heal

there have been so many times
i have seen a man wanting to weep
but
instead
beat his heart until it was unconscious

– masculine

These are just some of the beautiful poems in salt. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. It is a stunning, life-changing book.

I hope you all have a lovely 2015. Hugs to everyone!

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7 thoughts on “My favourite books this year

  1. Robita

    I am amazed to read your this blog. You are really good at reading and the books you have mentioned here I also would like to read some of them. Keep sharing about your reading and anything on neocolonialism.

  2. Reblogged this on Love Iris… and commented:
    “There is no doubt, also, and in the spirit of honesty, that books create an escape that I have needed this year…a way to stop thinking, stop analyzing, stop over-feeling certain emotions, and just read.”

  3. Cinzia

    I was looking for reviews of my book online (tenure application this year!!!) and I found this post. Thank you so much. This is better than any review: having my book as your favorite among these other wonderful titles is a honor. Thanks. Cinzia

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