- Ainesh Madan
Ten Memorable Reads of 2020 (edited by Dayita Nereyeth)
Reading has provided me with much needed solace this year. At the beginning of the year, I set out with the goal of reading at least fifty books. If not for this light-hearted agenda, I cannot imagine having learnt as much as I did. In this article is a list of the ten books that I resonated with most. This list is by no means any sort of critical rating; the books I have chosen are specific to my experiences as a reading enthusiast. Appended to this article is a comprehensive list of the books that I read this year (including current reads), which might serve as fodder for discussion.
I would like to dedicate this piece to all the generous souls who lent me books from their personal collections this past year. Thank you for being so kind, and for continuing to feed my, almost obsessive, thirst to read. Also, a special thanks to all independent booksellers and publishing houses that continue to sustain the art of reading.
10. The Hobbit I remember being quite intimidated when I first began to read The Hobbit. Having made several failed attempts to read The Lord of The Rings as a child, I was not sure if I would enjoy what serves as a steppingstone to the series. But I was pleasantly surprised. The Hobbit is a tale filled with wonder and joy that makes you fall in love with fairy tales all over again. I deeply cherish the memory of the two days I spent reading the novel, squatting on my yoga mat.
9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values The highlight of my year has been joining a teacher training course in the Alexander Technique, a practice I have taken to like a moth to a flame. So when I came upon a blog by an Alexander Technique teacher that mentioned ZAMM as a must read for Alexander Technique enthusiasts, I just had to get my hands on the book. As someone who appreciates philosophical texts, this was in many ways a book I was destined to read. It is not just deep, complex, and provocative, but also wholesome. Zen and the Art of Archery, the inspiration for ZAMM, is on my agenda for 2021.
8. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow A lot of people had suggested that I read Sapiens, the prequel to Homo Deus. It was just a matter of chance that I came across Homo Deus first. It was introduced to me as an extremely powerful read, and it proved to be just that. Considering that the pandemic was on the rise when I was reading it, the content seemed disturbingly real. To anyone even remotely interested in questions that surround our fate as a species, I would highly suggest Homo Deus. I would also advise reading a book of light fiction concurrently, so as to not be overwhelmed by the subject matter.
7. Curiosity Recaptured: Exploring Ways We Think and Move In a report that I recently wrote about this book, I referred to it as an experience akin to receiving distinct lessons from fourteen senior Alexander Technique teachers. As an outspoken proponent of the practice, I have been lending Alexander Technique books to friends and family to inspire them to connect with it. But if the opportunity to arises, it may be hard for me to be too generous with this particular book because I might read it again very soon.
6. Flood of Fire The most satisfying element of reading a trilogy is that the work accumulates. With each text, there is a higher reward for anyone who has read the previous parts. Flood of Fire utilises this idea to the fullest. The book concludes an epic narrative. I can’t imagine having read it with the same excitement had it not been for the build-up in the books preceding it.
5. Marjorie Barstow, Her Teaching and Training We all revere globally popular figures, and due to the transience of life, we will never be able to meet most of them. Marjorie Barstow is undoubtedly one such figure for me. I have developed a deep respect for her after reading this collection of homages to her. She was a teacher (among many other things) and this book clearly illustrates her prowess in communicating the fundamentals of the Alexander Technique in a cultivated, yet unique, manner.
4. The Hungry Tide When a book brings you to tears, I don’t think there is much more that needs to be said. The Hungry Tide is a brilliantly crafted narrative that rekindled my love for nature and humanity. I remember being in a place of quiet reflection each time I took a break from reading and was deeply inspired by the novel’s female protagonist.
3. The Nickel Boys The pandemic has revealed some of the racial prejudices that are deeply entrenched in the American social landscape. The Nickel Boys provided a strong means to staying connected with the happenings in America during the George Floyd protests. The book, through the narratives of two African American children, teaches the value of privilege.
2. Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart When I first began to study the Alexander Technique intensively, I found myself wondering how questions about love, humanity, and compassion could be answered through my enquiries. Reading Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart revealed a completely new dimension of the Technique. Up until then, my understanding of Technique had been about acknowledging my use in various activities. However, the stories in this book helped me understand that I can also recognise the Alexander Technique as means to being kinder, more loving, and compassionate towards myself and others.
1. The Lord of the Rings The Lord of the Rings is arguably three books, not one. But for me the narrative provided one larger-than-life experience. Before I read the series, I remember coming across a statement that said something like ‘The English-speaking world is divided into two kinds of people: those who have read the Lord of The Rings books and those who are yet to read them’. I am glad to now be in the former group.
Appendix: Complete List of Books I Read in 2020
‘[x2]’ means I read the book twice.
1. Wings ofFire: An Autobiography – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam 2. Boy No. 32 – Venita Coelho 3. Dance – M. Mukundan 4. Dance and the Alexander Technique – Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, Luc Vanier 5. My Life – Isadora Duncan 6. Recovery of Faith – Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan 7. Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History – Jack Anderson 8. Physics and the Art of Dance: Understanding Movement – Kenneth Laws 9. The Use of the Self – F. Matthias Alexander 10. Man’s Supreme Inheritance – F. Matthias Alexander [x2] 11. Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual – F. Matthias Alexander 12. The Ethics of Art: Ecological Turns in the Performing Arts – Pascal Gielen (Editor), Guy Cools (Editor), Karolien Byttebier (Text), Sidi Cherkaoui (Text) 13. Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks 14. Gujarat Files – Rana Ayyub 15. The Alexander Technique: A Skill for Life – Pedro De Alcantara [x2] 16. Body Learning: An Introduction to the Alexander Technique – Michael J. Gelb [x2] 17. The Universal Constant in Living – F. Matthias Alexander 18. The Calcutta Chromosome – Amitav Ghosh 19. Ballet and Modern Dance – Susan Au 20. Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life – J.M. Coetzee 21. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen 22. The Wonder That Was India – A.L. Basham 23. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino 24. The Story of My Life – Helen Keller 25. The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Şafak 26. Black Water Lilies – Michel Bussi 27. The Star of Kazan – Eva Ibbotson 28. Walden – Henry David Thoreau 29. The Wish List – Eoin Colfer 30. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X, Alex Haley 31. Middle East Illusions – Noam Chomsky 32. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown 33. Evam Indrajit – Badal Sarkar 34. The Importance of Being Earnest and Four Other Plays – Oscar Wilde 35. Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders 36. Das Doppelte Lottchen – Erich Kästner [x2] 37. Der Buchstabenräuber – Eveline Hasler (Author), Rolf Rettich (Illustrator) 38. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder – Arianna Huffington 39. A Short History of Slavery – James Walvin 40. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah – Richard Bach 41. Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story – Richard Bach 42. A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills – Ruskin Bond 43. The Centaur – John Updike 44. Travels in the Congo – André Gide 45. The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead
46. The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire – William Dalrymple 47. Ultralearning – Scott H. Young 48. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene 49. Normal People – Sally Rooney 50. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values – Robert M. Prisig 51. 1000 Years of Annoying the French – Stephen Clarke 52. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien 53 The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien 54. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien 55. Unfinished Tales – J.R.R. Tolkien 56. The Children of Húrin – J.R.R. Tolkien 57. The Colossus of New York – Colson Whitehead 58. Teaching by Hand, Learning by Heart – Bruce Fertman 59. The Philosopher’s Stone: Diaries of Lessons with F. Matthias Alexander – Jean M.O. Fischer (Editor) 60. Thinking Aloud – Walter Carrington 61. Freedom to Change: The Development and Science of the Alexander Technique – Frank Pierce Jones 62. Aphorisms – Frederick Matthias Alexander 63. Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening – Mary Lutyens 64. In Xanadu: A Quest – William Dalrymple 65. Apex Hides the Hurt – Colson Whitehead 66. Gebrochene Herzen: Stufe 1 – Theo Scherling, Elke Burger 67. Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen – J.K. Rowling, Klaus Fritz (Translator) 68. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India – William Dalrymple 69. Remembering the Future: Tanzfabrik Berlin 70. Arctic Diary: Surviving on Thin Ice – Richard Branson 71. Marjorie Barstow, Her Teaching and Training – Barbara Conable (Editor) 72. Communion: The Female Search for Love – Bell Hooks 73. Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy #1) – Amitav Ghosh 74. River of Smoker (Ibis Trilogy #2) – Amitav Ghosh 75. More Talk of Alexander – Wilfred Barlow 76. The Evolution of Movement: A Guide to the Procedures Originated by Raymond Dart – Robin John Simmons 77. A Choreographer’s Handbook – Jonathan Burrows 78. Curiosity Recaptured: Exploring Ways We Think and Move – Jerry Sontag (Editor) 79. The Intuitionist – Colson Whitehead 80. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo 81. Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy #3) – Amitav Ghosh 82. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead 83. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow – Yuval Noah Harari 84. Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens – J.K. Rowling, Klaus Fritz (Translator) 85. The Hungry Tide – Amitav Ghosh 86. The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran 87. Articles and Lectures – F. Matthias Alexander 88. Directed Activities – Gerard Grenell 89. More Stories of Akbar - Birbal – Tiny Tot Publications 90. The Beatles Book – Hunter Davies [current read] 91. Room – Emma Donoghue [current read] 92. Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban – J.K. Rowling, Klaus Fritz (Translator) [current read] 93. Living the Alexander Technique: Interviews with Nine Senior Teachers – Ruth Rootberg [current read]