Books of 2018

My personal favorites for this year

As a PhD student and avid reader of books, Goodreads is my preferred social networking platform. Not only to keep track of what I’m reading, but also to browse new books inspired by reviews of friends and other readers. Kind of like strolling through an endless bookshop, that is always open, with lots of information on every available book, and my friends and colleagues are there too :)

But – PhD-ing or not – keeping up with an enjoyable and meaningful reading routine is difficult. Finding a balance between attention span, available time, encouraging titles, mixing different genres, and keeping up with publications in my research field is hard.

Here’s a cliché that works for me: gift yourself this time, as often as you can. Turn this gift into a routine.

So what I did for the last 2,5 years, is to head out in the morning (during most days of the week), get to a coffee place between home and work, order a big oat-milk latte, turn off my phone, and read for an hour or so.

It didn’t require me to get up earlier, because I see this hour as a valuable part of my work day (and I think this should actually be the case regardless of the type of work you’re doing). And yes, this is a financial investment. And this involves privilege. But I decided to go out for dinner less often to save money, spend less time scrolling Twitter in the morning, and start most days by gifting myself this small favor instead.

I love to share my reading list with others, and I always love to receive more book recommendations. My complete reading lists for 2016-2018 can be found here.

These are my favorite books read in 2018:

Cake Tree in the Ruins – 2003 – Akiyuki Nosaka

Based on his own experiences as a child in Japan during the Second World War, Nosaka tells the stories of the 15th of August, 1945. The day the war ended in Japan. They involve a whale falling in love with a submarine, a parrot and a boy teaching each other how to speak, a mother trying to save her child from burning with her own tears, a keeper fleeing the war with an elephant, and many more touching and heartbreaking perspectives from the war.

Thank you so much, Yazan, for recommending this book!

The Spinoza Problem – 2012 – Irvin D Yalom

I wholeheartedly recommend all three philosopher books by Yalom, including “When Nietzsche Wept” and “The Schopenhauer Cure”. Yalom writes a fascinating mix of fiction and biography about the lives of Spinoza, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer.

This book is about the intersections of the lives of Baruch Spinoza and Alfred Rosenberg (living 300 years apart). It deals with themes of anti-semitism, punishment, ideologies, and of course: ethics.

Thank you Meggy, for introducing me to Yalom’s books!

Hold me Tight – 2008 – Sue Johnson

Please do yourself and your (present or future) partner a favor and read this book about relationships. Based on attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy, Johnson outlines a much needed addition to engaging with romantic relationships. It has changed my views on communication, arguments, trust, and safety in close relationships with others.

Thanks again Meggy, I’ve been recommending this book widely this year.

Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet – 2017 – Anna Tsing, Heather Swanson, Elaine Gan, Nils Bubandt (Eds.)

This timely anthology offers some fascinating experimental perspectives regarding our lives on this late stage of the Earth as we know it. The book is divided in 18 different short essays by different contributors such as Donna Haraway and Ursula Le Guin. It takes various different perspectives on thinking about the future of this Earth, our bodies, and countless other species. Although it seems focused on academics, if you’re into stories of the anthropocene and posthumanism, or looking for a book to widen your perspectives on what it means to be human, I recommend it.

Thank you organizers of the NORDES Design and Care summer school for putting this on the reading list! This earlier blog post has more info on this course as well as some of the other readings.

The Wind in my Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran – 2018 – Masih Alinejad

“But as visitors we need to respect Iranian culture” I uttered in the beginning of this year in a conversation about feminism and Iran’s mandatory Hijab law.

I’ve been thinking about the definition of ‘bravery’ this year, and I think Alinejad hits the spot: people who, instead of running away from knowledge that challenges their (or others’) ways of viewing the world, approach this difference with curiosity and without hypocrisy. That, and not being afraid to admit to being wrong to me are very courageous characteristics.

With this book, Alinejad takes the reader on an engaging journey through her life filled with bravery. Obeying compulsory laws based on forcing religious practices onto others have nothing to do with the values of many Iranian women today, or feminism, as it turns out. Feminism only works if I use my rights and my power to support other women (and marginalized people in general). This means that a Swedish governmental delegation of feminists visiting Iran while not protesting the fact that they are forced to wear a veil (and therefore not using their power to support Iranian women) is not feminist.

It is only by reading through the memoir of Alinejad that I was able to get a better understanding of the complexities, paradoxes, and internal conflicts of growing up as a feminist woman in Iran. I think that, in turn, my understanding of feminism has broadened beyond western ways of thinking about the world.

Thanks to the people curating Feminist reading lists on Goodreads!

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