Review of The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
Published in 2021, this book was a lovely, heartwarming story that all book lovers will enjoy and appreciate—an outstanding debut novel. The author’s parents are Indian and English, so she renders the Indian characters and the London setting beautifully. I read the print book, but I can imagine it would be wonderful on Audible. Each chapter featured the perspective of a single character, and they used several narrators to give voice to the very different characters in the book.
Elderly widower Mukesh Patel is not thriving after his wife’s death from cancer. He is lonely and tends to be reclusive, unlike his warm, outgoing wife Naina. His grown daughters are hovering over him and treating him like a child. But when he finds one of Naina’s library books and remembers her love of reading, he decides to venture out to the neighborhood library, setting in motion an adventure that gives him a new purpose in life and connects him with the troubled librarian, Aleisha, along with several other library patrons.
Aleisha has just discovered a reading list of eight books tucked into the back of one of the library books she was putting away. She decides to read the books on the list, and when Mukesh shows up and asks for reading recommendations, she shares the list with him too. Copies of this reading list have been mysteriously found by several others in the community, and their shared reading experience—reflecting the magic, wisdom, and lessons derived from each book—brings them together in the community library in a beautiful way as they all experience the power of reading to expand the mind and the heart.
Here’s what was written on these reading lists:
Just in case you need it:
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- The Kite Runner
- Life of Pi
- Pride and Prejudice
- Little Women
- A Suitable Boy
Connecting through books
I consider our Connection with Others to be one of the Heartspoken Life’s four essential connections, but the way we connect with others in our individual lives can vary so much depending on our age, physical condition, circumstances, and personality. Even among the characters in this book, some were drawn to the community library to enjoy fellowship and interaction with other patrons, but others were too shy, withdrawn, or depressed to come without an external nudge.
As in life, there is sadness and heartache in this book, but it was such a poignant reminder that books can introduce us to people, places, times, worlds, situations, and emotions that we might not (or indeed cannot) otherwise experience on our own. Through their reading, both Aleisha and Mukesh came to realize they were not alone in their individual hardships and pain, and that knowledge gave them the ability to transcend that misery and paralysis. When they were able to get out of themselves and think of others, they found both usefulness and purpose.
The story and characters stayed with me long after I read the last word, marveling at the intricate plot and character threads woven so skillfully by the author.
I loved this book.
What books have helped you connect with others?
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of the books on “The Reading List” and what you thought of them. The author, in her notes at the end of the book, shared her own list of books that had inspired and taught her “more than any school lesson could”…books that have stayed with her ever since she read them:
- Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
- Zadie Smith, White Teeth
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, Americanah
- Katherine Heiny, Standard Deviation
- Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance
- Hiromi Kawakami, Strange Weather in Tokyo
- Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop
- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
- Attia Hosain, Sunlight on a Broken Column
- Ali Smith, There But For The
My own reading list
I’m way behind in updating my reading list, but in case you’re interested in seeing my spreadsheet from the last couple of years, CLICK HERE. My updates are in progress, so forgive the gaps. Where there is a link to a specific book, it is my Amazon affiliate link (you pay no more, but I receive a tiny fee). Or if you’re just in the mood to shop books on Amazon, CLICK HERE.
Or buy from the Heartspoken Bookshop! CLICK HERE
Amazon is incredibly convenient, and of course that’s the only place to get Kindle books. But if you’d like to support my work AND support independent bookstores at the same time, check out my Heartspoken Bookshop. I try to upload books that I’ve loved or that will, I believe, strengthen one or more of the Heartspoken Life’s four essential connections. You’ll see that’s how I’ve organized them. Of course, I also have a bookshelf about Notes and Letters and a few other categories that just begged to be included.
Do you keep a reading journal?
I do, and I find it enriches my reading experience to think about what I read enough to make some notes about it in my journal. Of course, I also enjoy perusing the journal occasionally to be reminded of the books I’ve read. You might enjoy an earlier blog post called “10 Great Reasons To Keep A Reading Journal.”