Five Books for the Holidays

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In the upcoming holidays and the new year, I'm hoping to have some time to sit down and read. I have a whole pile of lovely books that I'd love to get through: some gifts from my best friend on my birthday and some that I've treated myself to. If you're looking for some inspiration and think you might like to start something new soon, here is a list of books that inspired, touched and entertained me. A few are perfect to keep dipping into again and again. All opened my eyes to new and varied worlds — and allowed me to partake of them. So I present them to you, in no particular order of preference:

 

Maps for Lost Lovers
Nadeem Aslam

The snow storm has rinsed the air of incense... but it is there even when absent, drawing attention to its own disappearance.

A beautiful, poetic and evocative piece of work, this lush and detailed book takes us into different narratives within a Pakistani immigrant family in a small unnamed town in England. Mr. Aslam uses his signature exquisite prose to vividly describe situations of beauty and banality, those of despair, anger and violence. Set within a Muslim community, it weighs heavily with sorrow and uncertainty, misunderstanding and non-belonging. Family, religion and individuality are themes that repeat themselves in the context of various protagonists and lead almost without exception to a sense of sorrow and tragedy. From the oppressive, almost fanatical matriarch who hates her adoptive country and yearns everyday for her motherland to her husband, liberal and progressive yet as distant from his children as she is to the couple at the heart of the story and the tragedy of their love story that throws the entire community into focus, it is a journey that is beautiful and very human in all its failings.

 

/ You Will Not Have My Hate
Antoine Leiris

That night, 13 November, is the story of the moon that will never rise again. He doesn’t know it yet.

I finished this book within a few hours of starting it I almost could not put it down and yet wanted to because the slimness of the book belies the intensity it conveys. Each sentence is so loaded in meaning and emotion — I was pulled straight in and made to marvel at Mr. Leiris’ skill with words and the brevity with which he can conjure entire worlds of love, joy, pain and unbelievable loss. I cried a few times, for this brave human being, his beautiful son — too young to speak and yet ageless enough to communicate his pain and fear and loss. And for the beautiful woman whose loss is the foundation of the book. No one should die in fear and agony at the hands of hate. Hate that refuses to be hated back, as Mr. Leiris so succinctly describes.

 

/ Silence — The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Sound
Thich Nhat Hanh

Silence is essential.
We need silence,
just as much as we need air,
just as much as plants need light.
If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts,
there is no space for us.

If there’s just one book that I could recommend starting this new year off with, this is this one. Thay (Teacher) Hahn is a world-renowned Zen Buddhist monk whose teachings on mindfulness are profound yet gentle. In this beautiful book, he shows us how our worlds are constantly filled with noise, both within and without. We have forgotten how to listen to our hearts and to connect to love and life. Through anecdotes from his own life, simple Buddhist wisdom and practical exercises he demonstrates how we can practise cultivating silence and living with mindfulness in order to truly connect to the magnificence of life and our living energy.

 

/ The Kinfolk Home
Nathan Williams

I love that my house is … like a grown-up playground for my creativity and ideas.
— Nathalie Schwer, stylist

The underlying theme of this beautiful book is slow living — a consciously and intentional approach to life and living. We are invited into 35 beautiful homes that illustrate this considered ethos, spanning Tokyo, Copenhagen, Berlin, London and far more. All of them share the same ethos whilst being dramatically different in terms of aesthetic, location and composition. Each has a personal essay on the meaning of home, the most important aspects of that particular home and how the inhabitants love living there. Short essays on a varied range of topics — “Before the day starts” (making the most of the pre-dawn hours), “Single Servings” (on cooking for one) and “A Guide for Black Thumbs” (how to keep house plants and the atmosphere they bring alive) to name a few— punctuate the home tours and make this a beautiful source of inspiration that can be opened at any time and to any page. 

 

/ The Hungry Tide
Amitav Ghosh

Set within the archipelago of the Sunderbans, this 400-page novel is an exploration of identity, language and belonging. Its three protagonists are wildly different from each other and are yet strangely drawn to one another; how do you communicate, though, when you have no common language? Mr. Ghosh explores different facets of the Indian identity — both individual and collective, through the protagonists’ histories and strangely enough, even given their wildly different backgrounds, they seem to share more commonalities than differences. The strange, otherworldly backdrop of the watery, overgrown islands of the Sunderbans create a capsule within which various dramas are played out and secrets revealed, whilst nature reasserts its implacability with absolute dominion.

Happy holidays!

 

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