3 Books to Read this January and Why (My Reading List)

A proverbial blank slate, a hint of fresh hope, an allotted time for letting go.

In other words, happy new year! I mean, I know that the demarcation of time is but a human construct, but perhaps it is so because we so desperately need it.

There are going to be lots of pretty big changes this year for me, starting in January. But the one thing I know that won’t change is books! Reading will always be a priority and a constant for me. If you’re here because one of your goals this year is to read more, good on you! Reading more will never go out of style on this site!

Most times, I don’t have a set list of books in mind, maybe one or two I hope to read (but usually don’t ever get to). But this month, I have already set aside 3 books to read. They range from historical to self-improvement to just good old fiction. Hopefully, my books to read in January will give you ideas for what to read and maybe inspiration to start your own January reading list too!

Without further ado, here are 3 books to read in January.

  1. Zealot, Reza Aslan

Zealot has been a popular but highly controversial book, stirring up a lot of conversation when it was first published in 2013. Zealot is a historically based book about the life and legacy of Jesus Christ, not as the deity figure he is portrayed as in the bible, but as a man whose life’s story cannot be divorced from the highly political times he was living in.

The novel reads more like a historical fiction, rather than a historical document. Aslan’s writing style is descriptive and highly engaging. He is clearly a master storyteller with curiosity driving the heart of his work.

I’m reading Zealot because as someone who used to be a Christian and who grew up in a Christian household, what I know about Jesus only comes from what the church told me about him. Usually, when someone is promoting or supporting a cause, their information can be pretty biased, and they may not tell you the full picture (I’m not saying this is always the case, but it usually is). And if my English major, and other experiences in life, has taught me anything, it is always to read beyond the “primary” source. It is also fascinating to read about another side of the man whose story is so intricately woven into billions of people’s lives today, thousands of years after his time.

To read Zealot is to open your eyes and think smarter about an age-old historical-deity figure. You may not fully agree (or agree at all) with Aslan, but educating yourself about and reading a new perspective on a topic you may think you know a lot about is always a good idea

2. Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership is a highly popular, but also controversial book. Written by highly acclaimed navy SEALs Willink and Babin, this book teaches leaders and everyone else around the world how taking ownership over our lives can only lead to us winning. They use lessons learnt from their time on the battlefield, but these lessons can be applied to all walks of life. My only issue with it so far is its portrayal of the US-Iraq war and Iraqis. I find the diction especially to be pretty skewed and biased against the Iraqis. The book reeks of the problematic, age-old White Man burden Western heroic narrative. Other than that, book has received stellar reviews from multiple readers about its effectiveness and applicability.

This new year, I want to take more ownership and responsibility with my choices and actions in life. Extreme Ownership is one of my books to read in January because I want to start the year right.

3. Milkman, Anna Burns

Wanting to read Milkman feels like an indulgence to me, as I am reading it because of its recent popularity surge. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Burns’ Milkman cinched the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2018. I picked up this book at the bookstore to browse the other day and the style of prose looked poetic and intriguing at the same time, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Milkman is about a young girl who gets harassed by an older male figure in her city. She tries to hide this fact and fails, and in her city, to be interesting is dangerous, and her involvement with him leads leading to gossip and devastating consequences for herself and her family.

Milkman has stirred up a lot of comments and conversation about whether it should have won the Man Booker Prize. Nevertheless, I will be reading it because I think that the issues it raises are important and relevant in our world. Milkman is about the power of community and societal expectations. In 2019, we will be seeing more of this in the world, especially as more and more individuals begin to step out for change and a voice. Milkman is a timely, universal book that speaks to a world its story mirrors.

May this month be one of hope, growth and learning!

As always, happy reading!

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