A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

In the quiet corners of literary realms, 2023 unfurls its parchment of prose and verse, echoing the symphony of pages turned and narratives unfolded. As the year fades into the sepia-toned archives of memory, it leaves behind a tapestry woven with the finest threads of imagination, emotion, and intellect. Starting a literary odyssey, the radiant glow of extraordinary books that have left deep impressions on the soul illuminates the journey through the realms of ink and paper. Within this bibliophilic treasure trove, a constellation of literary luminaries emerges, each star bearing the name of an author whose craft has transfigured mere words into portals of transcendence.

Deep Halder’s pen, an alchemist’s wand, along with Avishek Biswas’s, conjures narratives that resonate with the harmonies of the human experience of Hindus in Bangladesh. His book, a melody, traverses the realms of the heart, exploring the lives of Hindus in Bangladesh, its politics, society, history, and a culture that is getting extinct every day, but very few people are talking about it. In the literary firmament, Salman Rushdie’s opus stands as a celestial constellation, an intricate tapestry interwoven with the warp and weft of magical realism and philosophical inquiry. The shadows of Vajpayee’s eloquence dance across the pages, leaving behind the footprints of political sagas and the echoes of statesmanship.

Jhumpa Lahiri, the weaver of Roman stories, spins a tapestry of diasporic narratives, where the threads of identity are woven into a vibrant mosaic. Amitav Ghosh, a literary alchemist, embarks on a journey through opium’s hidden histories in “Smoke and Ashes,” unravelling the clandestine tales that linger within the folds of time. “I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home” by Patricia Evangelista pierces the veil of societal indifference, unravelling the narratives of the dispossessed with a poignant clarity that reverberates in the depths of one’s conscience. In the labyrinth of words, Jesmyn Ward beckons readers to “Let Us Descend,” a literary descent into the recesses of the human spirit, navigating the complexities of identity, race, and the haunting echoes of history. “Some People Need Killing,” a stark proclamation by Evangelista, challenges moral certitudes, laying bare the jagged contours of justice in a world teetering on the precipice.

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As the pages of these tomes flutter in the breeze of contemplation, the narrative mosaic of 2023 emerges—a testament to the enduring power of the written word, each book a portal to worlds uncharted and emotions profound. This literary sojourn, a pilgrimage through the written cosmos, leaves in its wake a constellation of favourite reads, where the alchemy of language and the artistry of storytelling converge in a celestial dance.

Here is a list of my favourite reads of 2023 and why you should read it:

1) Roman Stories By Jhumpa Lahiri

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About: Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest collection, ‘Roman Stories,’ isn’t a postcard tour of ancient ruins and gelato-covered smiles. Instead, it plunges us into the underbelly of the Eternal City, where nine souls grapple with displacement, grief, and the elusive dream of belonging. Lahiri, herself an immigrant navigating new frontiers in Italian, crafts tales that transcend Rome’s cobbled streets to resonate with anyone traversing life’s labyrinthine paths. Each story unveils a poignant fragment of human experience. In “P’s Parties,” a married couple finds themselves adrift in a sea of bourgeois Italian acquaintances, yearning for connection beneath the superficiality. “The Museum” showcases a Bangladeshi family wrestling with their son’s death, while “Well-Lit House” whispers the haunting tale of a refugee haunted by ghosts of the past. Through Lahiri’s masterful prose, the city pulsates with life—crowded buses whispering anxieties, hidden trattorias harbouring secret longings, and the Colosseum’s grandeur casting long shadows of history.

Lahiri’s characters are beautifully flawed, yearning for a home that constantly eludes them. Whether it’s an Indian student struggling with loneliness, an ageing widow facing solitude, or an Eritrean housekeeper navigating the city’s underclass, each carries a unique burden of being an outsider. Lahiri delves into their vulnerabilities with exquisite empathy, exposing the raw nerves of displacement and the ache of unfulfilled dreams. However, ‘Roman Stories’ is not solely a melancholic symphony. Interspersed with moments of quiet humour and unexpected kindness, the stories glisten with glimmers of hope. Lahiri reminds us that connection, however imperfect, can blossom in the most unexpected corners. A shared meal with a stranger, a stolen glance on a bus, or the comforting weight of shared loss—these fragile threads weave a tapestry of human resilience against the backdrop of existential loneliness. While some may find the collection’s introspective nature demanding, it is precisely this depth that makes ‘Roman Stories’ a literary gem. Lahiri compels us to confront our own vulnerabilities, our yearning for belonging, and the constant negotiation between past and present, self and others. This is not a book to be rushed; it’s a companion to be savored, with its nuanced portraits lingering long after the final page is turned.

Why Should You Read It? In the literary constellation, “Roman Stories” shines as a celestial gem beckoning readers to embark on a transcendent journey. Lahiri’s narrative alchemy transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, weaving a spell that lingers long after the final page. This collection is a pilgrimage for the soul, navigating the labyrinth of human experience with profound insight and empathy. Lahiri’s prose is a balm for the wanderer’s heart, offering solace and resonance to those grappling with the nuances of identity, love, and the perennial quest for home. “Roman Stories” is not merely a book; it is a literary odyssey that invites readers to explore the intricacies of the human spirit against the backdrop of one of the world’s most captivating cities. To read this book is to embark on a transformative sojourn, where the echoes of Lahiri’s narratives reverberate in the corridors of the reader’s consciousness, leaving an indelible mark on the literary landscape of the heart.

2) Being Hindu In Bangladesh: The Untold Story” by Deep Halder and Avishek Biswas

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About: “Being Hindu In Bangladesh: The Untold Story” unravels the tapestry of religious identity in the complex socio-political landscape of Bangladesh. Deep Halder and Avishek Biswas navigate the untrodden paths of narratives, shedding light on the experiences of the Hindu minority. The book intricately weaves personal testimonies, historical contexts, and contemporary challenges, providing a nuanced understanding of the struggles and resilience of a community often overlooked. The authors’ journalistic acumen unveils the untold, presenting a mosaic of voices that resonate with both vulnerability and fortitude. Through meticulous research and empathetic storytelling, Halder and Biswas offer readers a profound glimpse into the intricate interplay of faith and identity in a dynamic cultural tapestry.

Why Should You Read It?

This book is an essential read for those seeking to comprehend the nuanced interplay of religion, identity, and socio-political dynamics. In an era where cultural diversity is at the forefront of global discourse, “Being Hindu In Bangladesh” serves as a vital exploration into the often-unheard narratives, fostering empathy and understanding. Halder and Biswas unravel a compelling narrative that transcends borders, making this book an enlightening voyage into the human experience, urging readers to confront, contemplate, and connect with the rich tapestry of diversity that defines our shared humanity.

3) VAJPAYEE: The Ascent of the Hindu Right, 1924–1977 By Abhishek Choudhary

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

Abhishek Choudhary’s “Vajpayee: The Ascent of the Hindu Right” isn’t a typical hagiography. It delves beyond the polished image of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India’s first prime minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to unveil a complex figure whose life intertwined with the rise of Hindutva ideology. Choudhary meticulously documents Vajpayee’s early years, his association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and his evolution as a skilled orator and political strategist. He paints a nuanced picture of a man straddling the lines of moderation and Hindu nationalism, often employing pragmatic manoeuvres to advance his party’s agenda. The book doesn’t shy away from Vajpayee’s controversial stances and their long-term consequences. It sheds light on his complicity in the Sangh’s anti-Muslim campaigns and his ambiguous role during the Emergency under Indira Gandhi. Choudhary exposes the deliberate cultivation of a moderate persona even while pushing Hindutva ideals, making Vajpayee a crucial figure in normalising the ideology within Indian politics. Despite its critical lens, the book acknowledges Vajpayee’s charisma and undeniable political acumen. It showcases his masterful use of language, his ability to build bridges across political divides, and his contributions to economic liberalization. However, it never loses sight of the larger narrative—how Vajpayee’s political ascendancy paved the way for the Hindu Right’s eventual dominance in contemporary India.

Why Should You Read It?

“Vajpayee: The Ascent of the Hindu Right” is a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of not just Vajpayee himself, but also the complex trajectory of Hindutva in Indian politics. It demands a critical reassessment of Vajpayee’s legacy and offers valuable insights into the forces shaping India’s present and future.

4) Victory City” by Salman Rushdie

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

In “Victory City,” Salman Rushdie once again proves his mastery in weaving intricate narratives that traverse the realms of history, fantasy, and human resilience. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the novel immerses readers in the tumultuous atmosphere of New York City, where the war’s echoes reverberate through every alley and skyscraper. Rushdie’s characters, a kaleidoscope of personalities, navigate the complexities of love, loss, and the search for identity in a world on the brink. The prose is a lyrical symphony, blending historical facts with the magical realism that has become synonymous with Rushdie’s storytelling. “Victory City” is not merely a historical novel; it is a spellbinding exploration of the human spirit amid the chaos of war.

Why Should You Read It?

Salman Rushdie’s “Victory City” is a literary voyage that transcends time and space, making it a must-read for those who crave narratives that push the boundaries of storytelling. In this tapestry of words, Rushdie not only captures the zeitgeist of a pivotal era but also delves into the universal themes of love, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit. The novel is a testament to the power of literature to illuminate the darkest corners of history while offering a beacon of hope. For readers seeking a rich blend of historical fiction and magical realism, “Victory City” is a compelling journey into a world where reality and fantasy dance in a mesmerizing duet.

5) I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

Moore’s latest novel is a genre-bending tapestry of grief, displacement, and the elusive search for home. Set against the backdrop of a tumultuous 2016 America, the story follows Finn, a history teacher grappling with his dying brother, a mysterious ex-girlfriend, and a world spiraling towards uncertainty. Through a fragmented narrative that blends past and present, reality and dream, Moore delves into the depths of human vulnerability. Finn’s journey is not just personal; it reflects the collective anxieties of a society facing political upheaval, environmental crisis, and the ever-present shadow of mortality. “I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home” is not a comforting read. It’s a raw and unsettling exploration of loss, loneliness, and the precariousness of our existence. Yet, amidst the darkness, Moore glimmers of hope and resilience, reminding us of the enduring power of human connection and the transformative potential of storytelling.

Why Should You Read It?

Readers should immerse themselves in “I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home” by Lorrie Moore to experience a masterful exploration of the human condition, where Moore’s incisive prose dissects the complexities of love, loss, and the poignant minutiae of everyday life. Through her artful storytelling, Moore crafts a narrative that resonates with authenticity, inviting readers to navigate the emotional landscapes of her characters with both empathy and introspection.

6) Smoke and Ashes: A Writer’s Journey Through Opium’s Hidden Histories by Amitava Ghosh

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

Ghosh’s “Smoke and Ashes” isn’t merely a book, it’s a mesmerizing dance through history’s opium-tainted alleys. We, hand in hand with the author, traverse landscapes sculpted by poppy dreams and colonial greed. India’s fields whisper forgotten stories, China’s ports choke on memories of addiction, and empires rise and crumble on the fumes of forbidden pleasure. The narrative, a hypnotic symphony of personal reflection and scholarly insight, unveils the invisible threads that bind opium to our world’s fabric. Each page hums with a haunting beauty, weaving a tapestry of tragedy, resilience, and the enduring legacy of this enigmatic plant. It’s a journey that lingers long after the smoke clears, leaving you questioning history’s shadows and searching for the faint scent of truth in the ashes.

Why Should You Read It?

Amitav Ghosh’s book “Smoke and Ashes: A Writer’s Journey Through Opium’s Hidden Histories” invites readers to embark on a fascinating exploration of the historical tapestry that opium has woven. Ghosh’s narrative prowess transforms the subject into a riveting journey, unraveling hidden tales that span continents and centuries, offering a profound understanding of the impact of this notorious substance on the course of human history.

7) Some People Need Killing, Patricia Evangelista

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

“Some People Need Killing” by Patricia Evangelista is an unflinching and compelling exploration of justice, morality, and the harrowing realities that unfold in the shadows of societal indifference. Evangelista’s poignant prose navigates the moral complexities of her narratives with razor-sharp precision, challenging readers to confront the unsettling truths that lie beneath the surface of human existence. Through a tapestry of gripping stories, she prompts reflection on the blurred boundaries of right and wrong, leaving an indelible impact that reverberates long after the last page is turned. This collection is a testament to Evangelista’s storytelling prowess and her ability to unveil the raw essence of the human condition.

Why Should You Read It?
Dive into “Some People Need Killing” by Patricia Evangelista for a razor-sharp thriller that confronts unsettling truths about justice and vengeance. Be prepared for a wild ride where the lines between morality and action blur, leaving you questioning who truly needs killing and at what cost.

8) Modi And India: 2024 and the Battle for Bharat by Rahul Shivshankar and Siddhartha Talya

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

What Is The Book About:

“Modi And India: 2024 and the Battle for Bharat” by Rahul Shivshankar and Siddhartha Talya is a literary tapestry that unfolds with the precision of a master storyteller. In this political odyssey, the authors traverse the labyrinth of India’s future, offering readers a kaleidoscopic view of the battle for the nation’s soul. The narrative dances gracefully between journalistic scrutiny and empathetic insight, painting a vivid portrait of leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ambition, and the pulsating heartbeat of a nation on the cusp of transformation. This book is a symphony of words that resonates with the echoes of democracy, urging readers to contemplate the destiny of Bharat with both awe and introspection.

Why Should You Read It?

As the 2024 general election approaches, this literary work serves as a prelude to the upcoming political spectacle, offering a vivid introduction to the unfolding narrative of India’s political landscape.

9) Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

In “Let Us Descend,” Jesmyn Ward weaves a spellbinding tapestry of sorrow and defiance. Annis, born of an enslaved woman and her master, walks a path laced with thorns—heartbreak, betrayal, and the relentless weight of injustice. Yet, Ward’s prose blooms with an aching beauty, painting the sun-drenched fields and moonlit swamps as witnesses to Annis’ unwavering spirit. Through whispers of forgotten ancestors and Dante’s echoing verses, Annis seeks strength beyond the shackles of her life. This is not just a tale of suffering but a hymn to resilience, a testament to the flickering flame of humanity that refuses to be extinguished. Prepare to descend into the depths of history, to touch the raw nerve of injustice, and emerge, heart-heavy yet hopeful, with a story echoing in your soul.

10) Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das:

Rewind 2023 Journey Through the Pages A Curated List of the 10 Best Books Every Explorer Needs Before 2023 Ends

In Nandini Das’s “Courting India,” history dances beneath a canopy of jeweled prose. We waltz through the opulent halls of the Mughal court, where turbaned ambassadors from a fledgling England clash with silken-clad courtiers. Das guides us with the grace of a seasoned storyteller, her words shimmering with intrigue as she unveils the forgotten narrative of Thomas Roe, the first British envoy to Jahangir’s empire. This is not a dry chronicle of dates and conquests; it’s a vibrant tapestry woven with threads of cultural misunderstanding, political miscalculations, and unexpected moments of tenderness. We witness Roe’s bewilderment before Jahangir’s magnificence, his clumsy attempts at diplomacy amidst elephant hunts and tiger fights, and the slow blossoming of a grudging respect between a man of the rising West and a monarch of the waning East.

“Courting India” is not just about empire; it’s about humanity. It reminds us that behind the grand narratives of colonizer and colonized lie individuals, each grappling with their own ambitions, anxieties, and dreams. This is a book to savor, a jewel box overflowing with insights into a pivotal moment in history, when two worlds met, clashed, and, perhaps, learned a little from each other.

The author, a columnist and research scholar, teaches journalism at St. Xavier’s College (autonomous), Kolkata. He tweets at @sayantan_gh.

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