2018 was a great year for Of B&B as we started out on an adventure to bring literature into mainstream dialogue. From poetry to feminist non-fiction, scandalising history to psychology, we discovered some very interesting and insightful books in the past year. Here are some of our favourites that we absolutely recommend to our readers.
The authors spent 10 years on their quest into the secret history of France and their discoveries led them to some truly shocking conclusions. The tale that begins with buried treasure spirals into a thriller which would have made for a great novel. Only, the events described in the book are too real and completely factual. A 19th-century French priest discovers something that leads him to amass a fortune. As historical detectives, the authors have no idea that their quest will lead them back through centuries of coded documents into unravelling secret societies, all of which have the power to shake the tenets of the Christian faith to its very core. When it was first published in the 80s it sparked major controversies, drawing both acclaim and heavy criticism. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown draws its influence majorly from this book.
2. Lust for Life by Irving Stone
This is the fictional re-telling of the life of the brilliant painter, Vincent Van Gogh, and his struggles through life as he works insanely to find his artistic expression. From multiple failed careers to failed love affairs, Van Gogh’s life was as rich in disasters as it was in colours. He was a damned man, a fool, a madman in his time. This is the story of his tragedy and his triumph and resonates very strongly with every person who has ever held a passion close to heart and suffered for it.
A specialist in world history, Prof. Harari is fascinated with macro-historical questions and in this book he sets out to explore the questions in the context of our past. How did Homo Sapiens, one of six human species, gain dominance over the entire world? How did our ancestors move from roving bands of hunters and foragers to farmers? How did we go around to building cities, empires and connecting geographically disparate regions with technology? All of these questions have been explored by Harari in a provocative bestseller which holds the answers to where we come from and where we are headed.
One of the best books I’ve ever read and psychologically mind-numbing, eye-opening and equal parts hope with tragedy, this book introduces us to the ten types of human that resides in us. We believe we know ourselves But do we? How would we react in situations of extreme distress? Or agony? Or hurt? What are our limits? What choices would we make? This book is an intense examination of what humans are like. It looks at the best and worst in human nature and seeks to understand why we do what we do. Hard-hitting true stories lend this book the kind of depth where you can easily lose yourself into repeatedly asking yourself questions and introspecting. Backed with neuroscience and social psychology this book seeks to explain, inspire and free the mind of tortured bodies and souls.
5. Status Single: The Truth About Being Single Woman in India by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
What’s it like to be a single woman in India in her 30s? Sreemoyee Piu Kundu explores this in her book through her own experiences and chronically the stories of other women in the country who face biases, judgements and invasive breach of privacy. Truthfully brutal, this is the daily struggle of every woman who is single in her 30s, the sword of marriage hanging on her neck and as no one fails to remind her, the clock ticking and her eggs dying.
6. Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola
This is a sinister tale of adultery set in the 19th century Paris. A claustrophobic atmosphere pervades throughout the book. The heroine of the book along with her lover murders her husband, but together they are haunted by the enormity of their action and prevented from enjoying a life of love and freedom they thought they would. Zola brings out a shocking side of humans – their beastly nature.
Living in exile, Cornelius Suttree lives in a disintegrating houseboat by himself and is friends with the deranged, eccentric and criminals. He is constantly trying to rise above the squalor and degradation he is surrounded by and attempts to survive life, living on the fringes of civilisation with wry humour. Full of doom and death but also hope in a hopeless world, Suttree is is deeply existential, deeply philosophical offering commentary on reality, human life and its various miseries, morality and even death itself.
Set in China and spanning three generations, Red Sorghum is a vivid, visceral tale of the turbulent war years in China during the 1930s. As Chinese rebels fight the Japanese invaders and each other, a man and a woman find love, fight to keep their homes safe and ultimately draw and shed blood in the fields of red sorghum. Full of metaphors and sometimes bawdy, the book is an honest examination in the lives of rural China, the degradation of humans in times of war and the will to survive by those who are left with nothing but memories of better times.
9. The Essential Rumi by Rumi
The extraordinarily talented 13th century Sufi mystic was a true poet. His words, sometimes written for his friend Shams, are as beautiful and soothing today as they must have been when first written. Every time you open this book you will discover for yourself a verse that can brighten up your day, lighten your mind and set fire to your soul. In this compilation, translated by Coleman Barks, there is a line for everyone to enjoy and lose oneself deep into introspection, insights and inspiration.
10. Learning Happiness: The Discipline of Transcendence by Osho
Osho’s discourses in this book speak of the essential nature of happiness. By living in the present moment one can find a way of living in a state of happiness, for happiness can’t really be created. Osho talks of the path to liberation outlined by Buddha and the journey one must go through in order to transcend from sex to spirituality.