Most Challenging Books I Read in 2019

Early this month, I shared a blog post on the Best Books I Read in 2019.

Following that, I knew I had to do a list of books that I found challenging, that I struggled with, and perhaps, that didn’t hit a chord with me. When you read as much as 90 plus books in a year, you are bound to have myriad reading experiences and not all of them take you to cloud nine.

While the former list takes you through some of the books I totally adored, either for the plot, or characters, or narration, there were some that didn’t work for exactly those reasons. And in some cases, it was because I had great expectations from authors I have read before and found their works totally beguiling.

Having said that, it does not at all mean that you should not pick these books. No. As a reader, I always encourage readers to form their own opinion about books. And while I dissect a book for you, I believe that you may have all together different perspective of it. After all, we are all wired differently, in our thinking, our reflection, and cognitive prowess, aren’t we?

Here’s my list of the most challenging books I read in 2019, and let me also tell you that I am in no rush to pick them up any time soon. In time I might, but not unless the initial tedious taste has left me.  I have shared my reviews of these books describing exactly why I found them challenging. You can checkout my Goodreads page of my reviews.

So, let’s check out these titles.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami in which he writes about his interest and participation in long-distance running. Murakami started running in the early 1980s and since then has competed in over twenty marathons and an ultramarathon.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Baumgartner’s Bombay by Anita Desai

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Baumgartner’s Bombay is Anita Desai’s classic novel of the Holocaust era, a story of profound emotional wounds of war and its exiles. The novel follows Hugo Baumgartner as he flees Nazi Germany — and his Jewish heritage — for India, only to be imprisoned as a hostile alien and then released to Bombay at war’s end.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

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Ella Rubinstein has a husband, three teenage children, and a pleasant home. Everything that should make her confident and fulfilled. Yet there is an emptiness at the heart of Ella’s life – an emptiness once filled by love. So when Ella reads a manuscript about the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Rumi and Shams of Tabriz, and his forty rules of life and love, her world is turned upside down. She embarks on a journey to meet the mysterious author of this work. It is a quest infused with Sufi mysticism and verse, taking Ella and us into an exotic world where faith and love are heartbreakingly explored.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Trigger Warning is a cornucopia of storytelling: horror and ghost stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry. It will open your eyes to the inexhaustible supply of darkness around you, the magic and the monsters, the myths and the miracles, and to finding truths in the most extraordinary of places.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

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Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Elevation by Stephen King

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Castle Rock is a small town, where word gets around quickly. That’s why Scott Carey wants to confide only in his friend Doctor Bob Ellis about his strange condition: he’s losing weight, without getting thinner, and the scales register the same when he is in his clothes or out of them, however heavy they are.

Scott also has new neighbours, who have opened a ‘fine dining experience’ in town, although it’s an experience being shunned by the locals; Deirdre McComb and her wife Missy Donaldson don’t exactly fit in with the community’s expectations. And now Scott seems trapped in a feud with the couple over their dogs dropping their business on his lawn. Missy may be friendly, but Deirdre is cold as ice.

As the town prepares for its annual Thanksgiving 12k run, Scott starts to understand the prejudices his neighbours face and he tries to help. Unlikely alliances form and the mystery of Scott’s affliction brings out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

From master storyteller Stephen King comes this compelling tale about finding common ground despite differences, a story with deep resonance for our time.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg

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Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny—her American grandniece, and her only relative—give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War—can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh

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Bundook. Gun. A common word, but one that turns Deen Datta’s world upside down.

A dealer of rare books, Deen is used to a quiet life spent indoors, but as his once-solid beliefs begin to shift, he is forced to set out on an extraordinary journey; one that takes him from India to Los Angeles and Venice via a tangled route through the memories and experiences of those he meets along the way. There is Piya, a fellow Bengali-American who sets his journey in motion; Tipu, an entrepreneurial young man who opens Deen’s eyes to the realities of growing up in today’s world; Rafi, with his desperate attempt to help someone in need; and Cinta, an old friend who provides the missing link in the story they are all a part of. It is a journey that will upend everything he thought he knew about himself, about the Bengali legends of his childhood, and about the world around him.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay by Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi

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Star photographer Karan Seth is in Bombay to immortalize the city in a unique photo-record of its hidden faces until tragedy strikes and he is drawn into a Fitzgeraldian world of sex, crime and politics. Utterly disenchanted, he abandons the camera and Bombay and heads to England. Yet, like the flamingoes of Sewri, who unfailingly give in to the strange, haunting pull of the great metropolis, Karan too knows that he must return to his old loves. The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay is at once a razor-sharp depiction of contemporary urban society and an affecting tale about love’s betrayals and the redemptive powers of friendship.

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

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For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice–“it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.”

Tell me it’s different. Buy now.

Have you read any of these titles? How did you like them? These didn’t go down well with me, for they were challenging intellectually or psychologically, and some merely draining, making it too much a struggle to fall in line with the book’s plot or author’s thoughts. I haven’t rated them too well for that matter and some I haven’t rated at all. I intend to visit these books again to see if I change my mind about them. For now, let’s just leave it at that?

Do tell, what are some of the challenging titles you read in 2019? If you are on Goodreads, do share links of your profile in comments below so I can add you up.

Happy reading till we meet next.

Until then, carpe diem! 🙂

~~~~~

© Asha Seth

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5 Replies to “Most Challenging Books I Read in 2019”

  1. Good idea for a post. I keep meaning to try American Gods – my husband loved the book and TV series (the latter being too violent for me) and thinks I’ll like it because of the Norse gods in it. I do love the Murakami and have read it three times, which balances out your struggle nicely!

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“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

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