I like beautifully written prose. I like reading non-fiction that educates me without alienating me first. I also like sharing books that I thought were particularly well-written or that left me thinking about what I’d read for quite a while after; so I decided to compose a list of the three best books I read in 2016.
Anyone who has heard of Mona Eltahawy knows she’s quite a controversial figure. A staunch feminist; she’s been vocal about women’s rights, especially for women in the Arab world, for years. Headscarves and Hymens was her first book and managed to cause quite a bit of controversy (for its title, and later, its dedication) before it was ever even published. Despite all of the claims that she panders too much to the West and is a fan of “white feminism”, I actually really like Mona. I do not agree with most of her views regarding hijab and niqab, but after watching a number of her lectures and reading her articles, I have a lot of respect for her. This book not only taught me a lot (whilst infuriating me in the process), but I also feel like it helped Mona quash all the baseless criticisms made against her over the last few years in, what I believe was, an attempt to discredit her. This book is very important, especially if you are a woman from the Arab world, as that is who I feel like this book is written for; and no, it does not in any way ponder to white Westernness. This book is basically a summary, or even a continuation, of everything Mona has been saying, and writing about, for the past few years. She came with facts. It is absolutely a must read and I would encourage everyone, including those who do not like Mona, to at least give it a go.
I must say, I am a fan of Nigerian literature. I feel that Nigerians just have such a way with words, and they use it to write so beautifully; I also tend to relate a lot to their writing as Nigeria and its people remind me very much of my own country. I believe that Ghana Must Go was Taiye Selasi’s first book and wow, what a brilliant piece of literature it is. Masterfully written, I found myself having to take a moment to myself after reading certain passages, so I could fully digest what I had just read. The entire book made me feel like I was reading poetry. I’m not usually one for details, as long passages where authors take the time to describe every single leaf on a tree tend to irritate me; but I did not mind this time. It was one of those books that I put off finishing because the thought of it ending upset me. The book explores a number of subjects through a number of characters; all of them important. Despite the sadness of the story in general, as well as the themes explored by the author, I found myself at peace by the end of it.
I came across Tahmima Anam by accident. I was in a second-hand bookstore around three years ago when I found a copy of her book The Good Muslim and thought it looked pretty interesting. I soon found out that The Good Muslim was the second of a three-part series, so I figured I might as well read the first book. It took me two years before I got around to buying A Golden Age and I regret it because I loved it as soon as I opened it. It is beautifully written and the story touched me deeply, especially as the main character reminded me so much of my own mother. I finished the book in a day, moved onto The Good Muslim, and ended up finishing that within 24 hours as well. I connected to the characters so much in the first book and it was interesting, as well as sad, to see how they fared later on in life in The Good Muslim. I also learned quite a bit about Bangladesh’s history in the process. Tahmima’s characters are real to me, she brought them to life with her writing, and she got me hook, line, and sinker. I thoroughly look forward to purchasing and reading the final book in the series (which was released last year) and any other books Tahmima may write in the future.
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