My favourite books of 2016

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As cliché as it sounds, 2016 really was one of the most difficult years I’ve had. Everyone warns you about how stressful it is to finish a PhD, but you never quite expect it. More than anything, it’s the ups and downs of it – one day you love what you’re writing and the next you feel like it’s not new enough/edgy enough/critical enough or just plain doesn’t make sense. Finishing a dissertation is also by default a lonely process; you’re the only person who knows the intimate history of what you’re trying to do, as well as the politics surrounding your institution. On the other hand, it really is something you see growing and transforming into something you had no idea it could be. The feeling of finishing and finally submitting it is priceless. I will never forget the moment when I sat down to write my acknowledgments section; it was then that I realized that while a PhD may feel lonely, it really is such a collective project. The care and effort so many friends and family put into pushing me forward, encouraging me, and also giving me tough love when I needed it makes me speechless. Most people did this without once complaining or feeling like it, or I, was a burden, and for that I will always be grateful.

Other parts of this year have also been a rollercoaster of learning and unlearning. I learned that some mistakes have to be made twice for you to realize they aren’t what you are meant to be doing with your life. I learned that – finally – you can’t control everything and that sometimes you get opportunities after you’ve all but given up. I’ve learned that the most valuable thing in friends, family, and significant others is feeling safe and secure; knowing that you’re in something together and that you can make mistakes, fight, and talk things out in the end. For some reason 2016 was a year during which so many things changed in so many of my friend’s and family’s lives. It really was a rollercoaster; but, that said, rollercoasters can be rewarding because all of the lessons you learn about yourself and others (afterwards, when the panic and adrenalin dissipates, of course).

But above all I think I’ve learned that timing is everything. Things happen when they are supposed to and with the people they are supposed to happen with. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that at age X I should have XY and Z. Some of it has happened earlier than I thought it would, some of it later, and a lot of it hasn’t yet. Sometimes people are ready for something, and sometimes they aren’t. Despite my being a die-hard control freak, 2016 was the year I accepted I can’t actually plan anything (at least I’ve hopefully accepted this!). I did a lot of things this year I’m proud of. Some of it worked out, and some of it didn’t. But without my friends and family, I wouldn’t be at the end of this year reflecting on the good things rather than fixating on the bad. And, OF COURSE, my books 🙂 So, finally, the subject of the post.

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My favourite books, in no particular order:

  1. The Country Life – Rachel Cusk
  2. Egypt’s Long Revolution – Maha Abdelrahman
  3. States of Injury – Wendy Brown
  4. The Folded Earth – Anuradha Roy
  5. Golden Gulag – Ruthie Wilson Gilmore
  6. The Door – Madga Szabo
  7. Shapeshifters – Aimee Meredith Cox
  8. From Black Power to Hip Hop – Patricia Hill Collins
  9. Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
  10. The Vegetarian – Han Kang
  11. Woman, Native, Other – Trinh Minh-ha
  12. Human Rights and the Uses of History – Samuel Moyn
  13. White Innocence – Gloria Wekker
  14. Reversed Realities – Naila Kabeer
  15. Dark Matters – Simone Brown
  16. Ladivine – Marie Ndiaye
  17. Political Life in Cairo’s New Quarters – Farha Ghannam
  18. Shadow Lines – Amitav Ghosh
  19. White Teeth – Zadie Smith
  20. The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860-1914 – Ilham Khuri-Makdisi
  21. The Wages of Whiteness – David Roediger
  22. The Biopolitics of Mixing – Jinthana Haritaworn
  23. Gramsci’s Common Sense – Kate Crehan
  24. The Glass Palace – Amitav Ghosh
  25. The Sellout – Paul Beatty
  26. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
  27. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being – Christina Sharpe
  28. The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt – Omnia el Shakry
  29. Cold War Anthropology: The CIA, the Pentagon, and the Growth of Dual Use Anthropology – David Price
  30. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest – Anne McClinktock




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