Welcome to my first ever Top Ten Tuesday! I’m really excited to join other book bloggers to write this kind of post in my blog and hopefully I’ll make some more in the future. In this wonderful occasion, I would like to sum up my reading activity in 2015 even though it’s a bit late (I know it’s April already). I must tell you that twenty-fifteen is not my greatest year in terms of bookish activity. Of the 50 books I targeted to read (I set my target on Goodreads annual reading challenge), I’ve only managed to read 49 books. I was extremely busy with my job and was preparing my post-graduate study application as well as the scholarship which pretty much hindered me to read more.
Still, 49 books were still an achievement for me, compared to number of books I’ve read in the past 3 or 4 years. In 2015, I wasn’t only reading Indonesian books written in Bahasa but also read several international works written or translated to English. Without further ado, here are the 10 Best Books I’ve Read in 2015.
1) Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Man Booker Prize 2002 winner ‘Life of Pi’ (written by Canadian author Yann Martel) tells the story of an Indian boy named Piscine Molitor Patel, who declared himself as simply ‘Pi’. He is a philosophical young man who was born as a son of a zoo owner in Pondichery. However, business difficulties have moved them to the United States using a Japanese ship to migrate all the zoo animals with them, only to face another disaster. The ship was exploded in the middle of the ocean where Pi and four animals: a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker – were the only known survivors.
It’s a story of survival, despair, nature of human being at the most difficult and unexpected situation. Nevertheless, the story can also be considered as an allegory of religion, beliefs to higher entity, and one’s tendency to rejects other person’s reality which opposes their logical framework. It’s a wonderfully written story and contains a lot of philosophical meanings.
Read This For: The detailed depictions of characters, objects, and events. Also its allegory that will challenge your inner philosophical mind.
Read This When: You’re at your low and need some motivation. Or when you need a literary fiction which includes philosophical approach.
2) The Mute’s Soliloquy (Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu) – Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Toer’s unpublished notes and unsent letters to his families and children during his 10-year imprisonment at remote Buru Island after being accused without a trial to being involved in September 30th 1965 Movement coup d’etat by Indonesian Suharto’s New Order Regime. It is a touching and mesmerizing memoir depicts the patience and toughness of an innocent man in an inhuman prison.
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Read This For: the deep meaning and powerful message in every single sentence of his memoir.
Read This When: you need a heavy dose of optimism. The imprisonment of Toer and other political prisoners is unimaginably inhuman, yet his writings in this memoir not showing any pessimism, anger, or revenge.
3) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
Tsukuru Tazaki befriended with four of his schoolmates, of which all of their names contained colors: Akamatsu (“red pine“), Oumi (“blue sea“), Shirada (“white lily”), and Kurono (“black field“). They were closely held together until someday the four of his ‘colorful’ friends suddenly abandoned the ‘colorless’ Tsukuru Tazaki without explanation. The story then wanders around Tazaki’s depressing life and his ‘pilgrimage’ until he finally decided to confront the past and learn the truth.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Read This For: the normal tone. It is one of Murakami’s most ‘normal’ works compared to his other books that largely involve magical-realism and surrealistic nuances.
Read This When: you are in the mood of Murakami’s realistic works. Or when you are being abandoned by your closest friends, struggling to search for a reason.
4) Home (Pulang) – Leila S Chudori
After 1965 coup d’etat in which Indonesian Communist Party was suspected as a sole mastermind, all Indonesian leftist activists were being hunted, captured, tortured, imprisoned without a trial, and even being murdered in place. Dimas Suryo was unfortunate in picking side as he was more often being affiliated with a left-wing organization even though he was never choosing a side. The hunting made him exile to Europe where he met Vivienne Deveraux, a French student and activist. The struggle as a political exile continued but Dimas has chosen an unconventional method; by establishing an Indonesian restaurant in the heart of Paris.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read This For: the lyrical prose, beautiful depiction of characters, and historical accuracy.
Read This When: you are interested in Indonesian history especially after 1965 tragedy and during New Order Regime from the political exile’s point of view. It also heavily featured Indonesian culture (including the culinary) in contrast with French Parisian culture.
5) Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) – George Orwell
A masterpiece from an Indian-born British author, Tony Blair (whose pen-name is George Orwell) which made his literary works were popular to contain the ‘Orwellian’ world. In the year of 1984, Great Britain is led by Big Brother, the leader of the English-Socialism Party (or ‘Ingsoc’ in Newspeak, a new language created by the Party to control society). Winston Smith, an officer with the Ministry of Truth, is an ordinary man who was trying to break in shackles made by the Party, only to find that the Party’s systems were much stronger than himself.
Genre: Dystopian Fiction
Read This For: the negative utopia that feels like a reality which is relevant with our life nowadays, even though it’s been written for almost 90 years ago.
Read This When: you need literary work that challenge your logical mind with such intensity that it won’t let you turn it down before finishing it.
6) The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Amir, a Pashtun boy who loves art and literature, is trying to attain his father’s attention by winning a prestigious kite-flying competition in Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, Afghanistan. With a support from his Hazara servant, Hassan, Amir finally became a winner. But, his winning story has sacrificed his servant’s honor and their close friendship.
Read This For: the wonderful tale of friendship, betrayal, and redemption in one of the most conflicted countries on Earth: Afghanistan. You can also observe a deep conflict and racial issues between two major Islamic groups: Sunni and Shiites.
Read This When: you’re curious about living in Afghanistan, or when you want to maintain a close relationship with your best friend.
Setadewa, or simply Teto, is a brave young man who is a decent of an aristocratic Javanese family and has enjoyed a simple life under Netherlands-Indies colonial government. But suddenly after Japan declared Pacific War and attacked Netherlands-Indies (now Indonesia) to be their military base, Teto lost his father who were killed by the Japanese and has separated from his mother who later he knew she was forced to became a sex-slave for a Japanese army officer. Teto chose a controversial path to avenge his family and defeat Japan, by not joining Indonesian Republic Army but instead joining KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger; or Kingdom of Dutch-Indies Army), a military force established by Dutch colonial government in the Indies (Indonesia).
Read This For: an unconventional approach to the meaning of a hero and patriotism. Romo Mangun (the author’s nick name) wrote this story with a comedic approach even in a seemingly intense situation with his signature colloquialism story-telling techniques.
Read This When: you feel you chose a different path from the others but you surely believe that it’s the right path for you.
A 39-year old Toru Watanabe suddenly remembered his past after hearing an orchestral version of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood, a song that really loved by his late girlfriend, Naoko. As their relationship was getting more complicated, Toru entered the academic world of university while Naoko struggled from her unexplained depression.
Read This For: the mesmerizing prose. It’s one of the first realistic works by Murakami, yet achieved international reputation.
Read This When: you’re in the middle of depression because of the dark past, you’ll relate with the story in this book.
Larung, an Indonesian Catholic priest made a turn as he became an underground movement activist against Suharto’s New Order dictatorial government after seeing injustice to the grass-root society. His decision was inseparable from his mysterious past that shaped him as an efficient idealist. But his struggle against the government has ended tragically.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Read This For: the suspense of Indonesian movement activity against corrupted government in 1990s. It also historically accurate as Suharto has implemented repression approach against activists who confront his power in the government.
Read This When: you are in the mood of another Indonesian historical fiction. But this book will also give you suspense of an underground movement full of espionage activities.
10) Father (Ayah) – Andrea Hirata
Sabari bin Insyafi is a simple-minded Malay young man in the heart of remote Belitong Island of Indonesia. His simpleness made him married a rebel girl named Marlena who was already pregnant by another man after ‘unwanted things’ happened. Nevertheless, Sabari’s love as a father grew after Zorro, Marlena’s son has born. But when his unconditional love for his step-son grew larger day by day, Zorro was taken away from his life.
Read This For: the comical tragedy. Andrea is famous for his writings that depict the wonderfully touching stories about the simpleness and toughness of Malay rural society in Belitong with a comical approach.
Read This When: you need a simple yet funny and heart-touching story to read. Or when you want a glimpse of an Indonesian rural society.
What are your favorite readings of 2015? Let me know on the comment section below.