This is a special review, focusing on some of my all-time favorite reads. These are the books that I’ll never part with. If I were to do a Marie Kondo clean-up style, these will never leave my shelf.
These are the books which stories and characters had stayed with me even after years of reading it (Middlesex in 2005, Falling Leaves before that, Snow Flower some time after Middlesex). Since this is going to be a post about many books, I’ll include only a brief synopsis of the book and a short explanation on why it has made my all-time favorite list.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”
That first line hooked me right away. It’s about Calliope, who later became Cal, and her journey in discovering a family secret and a genetic history that made her different from other girls.
The writing was beautiful and Cal(liope)’s story kept me captivated. Her story taught me about hermaphrodite. At the same time I got to learn about Cal’s Greek-American family who travelled from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to Michigan.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
This is one rare book recommendation from my sister, who isn’t much of a reader. And wow, does she have good taste! 🙂 I became a Lisa See fan because of this book. I have even met her at a book talk. She was amazing!
It’s set in the 19th-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion. The women in one remote Hunan county communicated through a secret code they created called nu shu (“women’s writing”). Using nu-shu, Lily’s and Snow Flower’s friendship blossomed, and they became ‘laotong’ a friendship that last throughout their lives. Their friendship was tested when a misunderstanding arose and threatened to tear their relationship apart.
Loved her writing and how she made 19th-century China come alive. I learned about foot-binding, nu-shu, and how sacred the laotong relationships were. Lisa See did a tremendous job weaving fact and fiction into one beautiful, memorable story.
Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
This is one rare pick, because it was one big book (I rarely pick tomes because they seem so intimidating!). I forgot how I stumbled upon it, but I remember borrowing it from the library because I wasn’t sure if I’ll enjoy it even after reading the reviews. But I ended up like it so much that I got a copy of it for myself 😅
Here’s a glimpse of what’s it about: It’s set in Istanbul. About a boy, Mevlut, who’s a street vendor, who’s in love with a girl only to elope with her sister by mistake. Although he grows to cherish his wife and the family they have together, Mevlut stumbles toward middle age as everyone around him seems to be reaping the benefits of a rapidly modernizing Turkey. Told through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters, you’ll get to see how life changes in Istanbul over the past 50 years.
Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
The book that made me fall in love with memoirs. You can learn so much from them! This memoir was heart-wrenching and shocking. One that showed me how money can tear families apart. The story that made me so angry I almost threw the book to the wall. I did, however, screamed into my pillow. I just needed an outlet to vent all that anger that was bottled up. Mind you, I read this book more than 10 years ago and I still remember how it made me feel.
Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But beneath all that, Adeline suffered emotional abuse from her tyrannical stepmother. And her dad? Her dad has got no balls! (Sorry, please mind my language) Her faith in family unity was what kept her going. And she survived.
Roots by Alex Haley
This came highly recommended by my dad. I only read it a couple of years ago and didn’t regret it. When the TV series came out I was utterly disappointed. It didn’t do the book justice!
“Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a man-child was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte.”
I love love that intro! From it, I just knew I’d love this memoir. Alex Haley dug deep into his family roots and brought to life the two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the 6 generations who came after him. They were of slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workmen and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects, and one author. Be prepared to be enthralled by the author’s writing and history, one that’ll stay with you forever, as it did me. This book had me bawling towards the end. Ugly tears and all.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
I was a little hesitant about reading this book at first, afraid that it might be too ‘scientific’ for me. But after reading a couple of reviews I decided to give it a go, and truth to be told, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did!
Henrietta Lacks, or to scientists, HeLa was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cell was taken without her knowledge in 1951 and became one of the most important tools in medicine. Her cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance. A book on racial and ethical issues in modern medicine. A book you won’t regret reading.
Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope (new favorite)
Please click here for my review. This is ‘Catch Me If You Can’ & ‘The Great Gatsby’ played in real life. This is “an epic tale of white-collar crime on a global scale” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), revealing how a young social climber from Malaysia pulled off one of the biggest heists in history.
This whale is still on the move and is believed to be in China. I abhor him.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (new favorite)
Reviewed this a couple of days ago. A definite must read. Some readers have read it a couple of times, some are using it as a reference in their jobs, some can relate to it, and they all sang high praises of it. Some have shared their differing opinions on death penalties, and I can understand where they’re coming from, especially if they are or a family of a victim. What about you?
This is such an important book. Add this to your pile and read it if you can!
Have you read any of the above books before? What didi you think?
Do you have a book or books that stay high in your recommendation list? Please do share them with me!
Till then, HAPPY READING!