Kaleidoscope 2015: Best Books I’ve Read in 2015

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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.

Genre: Fiction

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:Β 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.

Genre: Fiction

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.

7) The Weaverbirds (Burung-Burung Manyar)YB Mangunwijaya

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.

8) Norwegian WoodHaruki Murakami

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.

9) Larung Ayu Utami

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.

 

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14 thoughts on “Kaleidoscope 2015: Best Books I’ve Read in 2015

  1. I finished Pulang in early March and I love it. Definitely Leila S. Chudori’s best work so far and definitely my standout novel of the year!

    I’ve been on the fence whether or not to pick up Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Murakami, but since I love more realistic fiction I think I’ll give it a go once I read the other unread Murakami books on my shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you.. Chudori’s ‘Pulang’ is definitely her best literary work so far. It’s fun to read yet contains historical accuracy based on her own journalistic investigation and historical research.

    If you prefer realistic works (just like I do), you’ll definitely enjoy Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. It doesn’t contain any surrealistic nuances like his other works and more focus on characters development, their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to events in their everyday life. I do recommend it for you.. πŸ™‚

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  3. I’m quite surprised that you enjoy more realist fiction. You’ve read and enjoyed quite a lot of novels with a magical realism bent. Any recommendations from a more surreal front for a beginner like me? πŸ™‚

    Now that I’ve read all of Chudori’s fiction I really ought to get working on that author spotlight on her I planned from way, way back in September hahaha

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  4. Well I’m surprised too that you expect me as a more magical-realism reader πŸ™‚ I’m fond of Indonesian realist authors: Pramoedya Ananta Toer, YB Mangunwijaya, and Mochtar Lubis for example. But lately I quite enjoyed several literary works that introduce surrealistic theme: Haruki Murakami was the first (‘Kafka on the Shore’ and ‘1Q84’ were among of his surrealistic books I’ve read). Later I also enjoyed Eka Kurniawan, Indonesian author whose name I discovered lately (shame on me) who wrote several magical realism themed novels (Man Booker Prize 2016 long-listed ‘Lelaki Harimau’ is one of them).

    So, I’m not that extensive surrealistic reader. I think you already have an experience in reading magical realism, I saw your review on Murakami’s short stories. Looking forward to your spotlight post on Leila S Chudori.. πŸ™‚

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  5. I should check out your review on Lelaki Harimau. I’ve only read the first page and I found it a sensory assault, haha.

    Fun Fact: I’ve met Eka Kurniawan and even sat with him for about twenty minutes. It was pretty awkward though since I didn’t know what to say, I hadn’t read anything by him and he wasn’t much of a talker either. Very nice and polite, but not talkative. Then again most authors are introverts, right? πŸ™‚

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  6. Well, Lelaki Harimau is much more ‘normal’ than his another work ‘Seperti Dendam Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas’ and if you ever read it you’ll know that it’s much more assaulting than Lelaki Harimau :p

    Whoa, you seems to get involved in a lot of literary activities. In what occation you meet him and when?

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  7. I met him at a book fair late last year. πŸ™‚

    Eka’s doing so well; nominated for the Man Booker International, he’s a sought after international author for this year’s London Book Fair. It makes me feel a bit unpatriotic that I still haven’t read any of his novels. I have an unread Cantik itu Luka glowering at me from my shelf haha.

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  8. Is it on Indonesia Book Fair at JCC last year? I met Sudjiwo Tedjo and Tere Liye there but haven’t met Eka.

    Yea, he is one of the Indonesia’s most potential authors to have international readers. I really want to read Beauty is A Wound (Cantik Itu Luka), but shortly after seeing the Indonesian edition cover, I suddenly felt reluctant to buy it. That Gramedia cover is hideous in my taste.. :p I prefer the international edition..

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  9. Nope, I was actually lucky enough to go to Frankfurt Book Fair last year when Indonesia was the guest of honor. So many top Indonesian authors there, it was crazy!

    Ugh I agree, that cover is truly hideous. I actually considered writing a rant post on how bad a lot of Indonesian book covers are. They are a deterrent to buying, publishers!

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  10. Whoaaa awesome! I bet you’re not relying on your ‘luck’. You must be some kind of reviewer who are invited to that greatest book festival on Earth! πŸ˜€ I wish I can attend prestigious book festivals like you did.

    Hehe, I don’t exactly know what was came up in the designer’s mind. But fortunately his two other books got fresh new surreal covers which are designed by Eka Kurniawan himself! Hopefully he will do this to Cantik itu Luka also..

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  11. Hahaha, I wish I was that kind of book reviewer! πŸ˜€

    Sobs, I’ll be sad if Cantik itu Luka gets a new, awesome cover. I’d be stuck with the ugly one. And buying a new copy is just so wasteful.

    But that’s selfish of me. I hope it does get a better cover. I mean, come on! Considering Eka’s growing popularity he ought to get the top marketing budget from his publisher. And you’ll get a pretty edition. Yayy!

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  12. Haha exactly. Everyone keeps saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. I know that’s only an idiom but come on it doesn’t applies in the actual world. For book collectors like us, book covers are important, because if we buy books with a great cover designs we are not only buying the literary art inside but also the design art outside as well..

    I’ll definitely buy Cantik itu Luka if it get fresh design like Eka’s other two books..

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  13. Hi Abi! I like your list.
    I personally like Norwegian Wood more than Colorless Tsukuru which seems a light work of Murakami. And speaking about Andrea Hirata, I only read Laskar Pelangi which was okay but after hearing that the sequels are not that good, I am a bit skeptical about Hirata’s. Burung2 Manyar is on my TBR ever since, it is still sealed, I hope I can read it this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Opat! Thanks for visiting.
    I think it might be a matter of taste, both Norwegian Wood and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki are considered more realistic works of Murakami.

    I do agree with you, Andrea Hirata’s other novels post The Rainbow Troops quartet were far behind their predecessors in terms of literary quality and plot strength. But I still have a high hope in him to create another wonderful story like The Rainbow Troops.

    You should read Burung-Burung Manyar. I personally think that it’s Romo Mangun’s best work. It’s full of tragedy but told in a comical manner.. It’s an interesting read, you should try to read it.

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