My 2021 Reading Challenge has been going surprisingly great so far. In previous years I haven’t ever really tried to do the yearly reading challenge. I first came across the challenge in the year 2020 when we were all in our first lockdown. At that time I made a GoodReads account and I began my reading challenge. It was in and off and I never really made reading a habit despite the fact that my love of reading was being reignited. I ended the year by reading 15 books. I was determined to try the 2021 reading challenge and see how many books I can read.
I started the 2021 reading challenge the first day of the year. I made my 2021 goal to be 30 books. That would have been double the amount I read in 2020 and it would have been 20 books away from being the amount that some of the big hitters in the world read. Since then I admit I’ve performed far better than I would have imagined. I’m not sure if my “reading muscle” became stronger or if it’s because I’ve made it a habit but I have read 45 books this year and it’s only August! That means I am on track to smashing the 50 mark and perhaps even hitting 60+. For someone who has only read 15 books all last year, this is a great achievement.
How has this changed my life?
This is actually a question I have always wanted to ask someone who has read a lot of books in one year and someone who has made it a habit to read daily. The good news is that I can finally answer the question myself. Reading books bends your brain and stretches it out. It literally changed your brain according to scientists. For me, reading a difficult book definitely felt like it had a changing affect on the way I think. As a result, I feel like I have become more articulate as well as someone who can think clearly and logically. Oddly enough, I feel like I’ve become more patient. I’m not sure where this came from but it’s definitely a change that I see in my life.
Reading takes you out of your comfort zone. It forcibly takes you out of your bubble and it pops that bubble to be honest. It’s amazing how there is an entire world inside a few books. Literally, entire worlds and ideas are inside books that you can get lost in, write thesis’s on, start wars on etc. There was a book that I saw many months ago which was a manuscript that was from 900 years ago. It was only discovered now and mass printed into a book. I just found it mind boggling how empires have literally come and went and that book was just idly sitting by whilst all of that was happening only for someone to pick it up now and study it. The book literally survived the ages.
That’s the power of reading and I’ve always been amazed at scholarship particularly the scholars that have come out of Islamic civilisations. Their worlds are being studied in higher institutions (modern universities) in the east and the west. In Harvard university, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, etc. Some of those scholars (who I’m looking forward to writing about on my other blog page history fusion) have inspired me as a child to pursue knowledge and become a scholar myself. That’s what reading has done for me this year, it’s taken me far out of my comfort zone and it has showed me new world where I can spend my time and get lost in.
It’s exposed me to great stories of great people in civilisations that many people haven’t even heard of. It’s helped me survive lockdown for over a year without resorting to doing anything unhealthy or having any sort of breakdown. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of life lessons I’ve learnt from studying other biographies or the amount of things that I have learnt from reading books. It has changed me and made me into a better person and taught me the most important lesson I will need in my academic or professional life. That only through knowledge can anyone become successful.
I’m not going to list the books that I have already read so far this year. At the end of the year (or the beginning of the new year) I usually go through each book that I have read and give each book a small review and commentary. Right now I’m simply going to list the 45 books that I have read this year along with their stars out of 5 and perhaps a small review as well. Enjoy!
1) The Caliphate Of Banu Umayyah – Ibn Kathir (5/5)
I really enjoyed this book because I am very interested in the Umayyad dynasty and I do very much respect Ibn Kathir both as a person and as an authority of knowledge. The book really gave me interesting knowledge about the men and women who lived in the early period of the Umayyad dynasty and it also gave me a picture of what life in that time period was like. There were some questionable narrations in there, for example, there is a narration in that book claiming that Mughira Ibn Shuba (ra) convinced the Caliph Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyān (ra) to appoint his son full well knowing that his son wasn’t fit for office. When asked by his peers why he did this, Mughira claimed to have done this so he could essentially ruin Caliph Muawiyah (ra) and make him someone who is hated until the end of time. This is beyond questionable as a narration and Mughira Ibn Shuba (ra) would never attempt to ruin the Muslim world much less ruin his own dear friend who was the caliph. My guess is that Ibn Kathir narrated this story without filtering the story because as a historian, his job is to transmit every piece of history that he hears. All in all, it was a wonderful book that I really loved reading. There are so many benefits in the book, too many to count. For that reason I have given Ibn Kathir’s book a clean 5/5 star.
2) Hazreti Musa – Harun Yahya (2/5)
A short book of 150 pages that did not go into too much detail. It as obviously written from a Muslim paradigm. Furthermore there was a lot of unnecessary blocks within the book. The presentation in the middle of the story of a man being interviewed about Mahdi was not necessary to the biography of Musa (as). After all, Mahdi will be his own individual and I don’t think the references for those stories were even strong. Moreover, the refutation of evolution at the end of the book had no link to the biography of Musa as well.On the bright side, the story had a central theme of the Quran and used the Quran for all of its references which was a good move to make. Furthermore, it showed the users how beautiful the Quran was as a book. I do recommend this book if you want a semi-detailed life of Musa (as). So I’ll give it a 3 star rating.
3) How To Read A Book – Mortimer J Adler (5/5)
This is quite literally one of the most important books I have ever read. I’m really amazed with the intelligence of Adler. This book is the key to understanding every other type of book in the world. It definitely has opened the doors of knowledge for me. In fact I was so amazed by this book that I purchased it online so I could keep a hard copy of it in my personal library. I highly recommend everyone to read this book.
4) The Return Of Sherlock Holmes #11 – Arthur Conan Doyle (3/5)
This is my first time reading a sherlock work directly from Doyle. I’ve read one other book by a different author based on the works of Doyle. I was expecting the book to be long but it was only 57 pages on my ibooks. The plot line wasn’t complex as well so it’s three stars for me.
5) What Is Tao – Alan Watts (4/5)
A short easy to read book on eastern philosophy. I’d often see Alan Watts on YouTube and listen to a few of his tapes from time to time. So I figured I’d read this book. It was very short and I finished it in one setting very quickly. Yet it feel like it answered some deep questions I didn’t know I had. I’ll give the book 4/5 and I do recommend it. A good read.
6) Forgotten Peoples Of The Ancient World – Philip Matyszak (3/5)
An interesting overview of the history of forgotten empires from the start of what we know as recorded history.
7) The 48 Laws Of Power – Robert Greene
One of the best books ive ever read. I started reading this book on the 4th of February and finished at the 18th March. I took my time taking in this book because I wanted to completely comprehend each law. This book was important to me because everyone uses power tactics and obeys the laws of power in their lives. Sometimes knowlingly and sometimes subconsciously. For me, I was subconsciously obeying some of these laws of power. After I read this book, the laws of power have become very clear to me. A small dislike about the book for me was how the long quotes/sayings would randomly appear and disrupt my flow whilst I was reading each chapter. Overall, I am very grateful to have found this book and it meant to much to me that I wrote all 48 laws of power down to revise them in the future.
8) Enola Holmes #1 – Nancy Springer (4/5)
A rather short novel (300 pages on my ibooks) and a really good mystery. At times the writing style was quite unique and it took me some time to get used to. However, Enola Holmes really is the first detective book that I really enjoy. It’s strange because many people would disagree with me and choose Sherlock Holmes but I could never quite click with the great work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I know this might seem strange but I just really like the vibe of Enola Holmes and as I finished reading this novel, I couldn’t wait to pick up the second book in the Enola Holmes series.
9) The Power Of Habit – Charles Duhigg (3/5)
A fairly good self help book in the sense that it taught me about what habits really are, how they are formed, how I could break them, how I could form beneficial habits as well as many many examples that allowed me to understand what the author was trying to teach me. In terms of enjoyment, it felt like a text book at times so I didn’t enjoy reading it. It was beneficial for educational purposes but I didn’t enjoy reading the book because it felt like it was just composed of example stories.
10) Enola Holmes #2 – Nancy Springer (5/5)
Utterly fantastic book. It first started off very slow and had a completely different vibe to the first book. It was slower and had more deductions going on. Yet the end of the book really picked up and had me completely glued to each page and at the edge of my seat. For me it’s a 5/5 amazing novel to read.
11) A Clash Of Kings – George RR Martin (4/5)
A wonderful book. I feel like the tempo was slightly different to the first because it was a continuation of the chaotic ending of the first book. The book was incredibly detailed and well written. I can see that the author carefully focused on every single chapter. No wonder why this book series is world famous, there aren’t many books that are written with this level of detail. With that being said, it was like 1000 odd pages long and many times I gave up on finishing the book. I’m not sure if I’ll read another game of thrones book just because it will take me forever to finish it. All in all, a wonderful book.
12) The History of al-Tabari #1 – Tabari (4/5)
Up until now I didn’t really truly read this history series from the beginning to end. Previously, I jumped right in the middle and read a few volumes on the Umayyad Dynasty. I decided early on this week to read from the beginning to the end in one go and become knowledgeable of this series. This book was a good book in the sense that it was easy to read. It was shorter than I anticipated. The book can be split up into four sections. The first section is before creation, the second is creation, the third is the life of Adam (as) and the fourth is the life of Noah (as). In between, there is snippets of Tabari’s personal opinions as well as his commentary of the Persians. The book was clear and easy to understand. I am yet to really know for certain if some of the narrations were true but I’ll keep them in mind. I am very happy to have read this book although it is not a clear study of all human history but just a very focused piece of history following a certain line chosen by Tabari. It is a good book, and on to the next one for me! 4/5!
13) Enola Holmes #3 – Nancy Springer (3/5)
I think it’s an average book, in the end the mystery ending wasn’t all that. The writing style is a style that I don’t prefer as well. I’m not sure if this is the last of the Enola Holmes book series that I’ll read but I’m definitely not enthusiastic to continue reading more Enola Holmes books. I think Enola Holmes is young and confused and from a broken family. She is ridiculously intelligent but has a bad habit of looking down on others. She also doesn’t have much emotional intelligence and clearly doesn’t love herself too much or trust anyone. At the very least she’s not being true to her own feelings. She longs for family but doesn’t try to find one. Instead she wastes her time indirectly being involved in her brothers life.
14) History of al-Tabari #2 – Tabari (4/5)
This is the fastest time in which I have ever read a book. It took me less than half a day to complete this volume. The book started of really bad and I thought the initial discussion on the genealogy of the children of Noah (as) was somewhat backward. At that point, I was willing to give the book. 2/5. However, the book became better as I hit on the life of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael (as). Their stories were incredibly well written, easy to understand with many of the authors notes. Then the story of Jacob, Joseph and his brother (as) were incredibly well written and easy to understand. I think the middle and latter half of the book were amazingly written. The author should be proud of this book. I hope the following novel is as good as this one or better. For me this book is a 4/5, it would have been a straight 5/5 if the initial discussion on Noah’s sons wasn’t present.
15) Heartfelt Advice To A Friend – Ibn Qayyim (5/5)
I came across Imam Ibn Qayyim many years ago and I have always been aware that he is a brilliant scholar. However, I don’t think I have ever read one of his books despite having read potions of his biography and seeing his quotes in many places. I loved this book as it taught me so many life lessons that I hope I remember. Furthermore, contrary to the way people make his teachings out to be, it wasn’t all black & white and strict. I learnt about how love of God is so important from this book. Definitely 5/5 for me. It was only 81 pages so i finished it in an hour or so but I might very well end up contemplating on it forever.
16) The Whispering Of The Devil – Ibn Qayyim (4/5)
As I’ve mentioned before, Imam Ibn Qayyim is definitely one of my favourite scholars of all time. This was a beneficial book full of knowledge although the last few chapters had my head spiralling from Fiqh issues which is why I’ve given it 4/5. A great book nonetheless.
17) Characteristics of The Hypocrites – Ibn Qayyim (4/5)
A very difficult book to read and take in. I pray Allah (swt) doesn’t make me a hypocrite. Usually I’m used to the authors gentle writing style but I guess that he was dealing with a topic that he was furious about and so he had a harsh writing style throughout the book but I see that it was also necessary. 5/5 for me. Clear proof everywhere, Ibn Qayyim is a brilliant author.
18) The History Of Al-Tabari #3 – Tabari (5/5)
Brilliant. I finally understand this period of history.
19) The Short Story of Al-Husain – Ibn Kathir (5/5)
A balanced view on the death of Al-Husain. An event which triggered a lot of history. Ibn Kathir beautifully narrated the story in a balanced way and even highlights some Hadith that go along with it. The book definitely opened my eyes to what Al-Husain really went through. For the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (saw) to be killed in this way was something that was a great tragedy for the early Muslim community under Ummayad rule.
20) The Heavenly Dispute – Ibn Rajab (3/5)
A very exciting way to begin the book, followed by great detail and lots of knowledge. I loved how the author would quote poetry in there as well as example stories because that really drove the points home for me. The book felt long despite being 164 pages, I never thought I would complete it. It was the first time I read a book by Ibn Rajab.
21) The Midnight Library – Matt Haig (5/5)
Probably the best book that I read all year. I read it after being in lockdown for a year as well and at that time I was mentally tired. To read this book was amazing and it definitely highlights mental health issues in the most amazing way because it highlights these issues within a truly captivating story.
22) The Devils Deception – Ibn Al Jawzi (4/5)
A very interesting book written that had a wonderful amount of history, explanation and commentary in it. I have greatly benefited this book. Ibn Jawzi is an excellent scholar. It would have been 5/5 for me if it was longer and contained more sects.
23) The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett (1/5)
Below average. Poor. This was a short book which only had a 125 or so pages but it wasn’t good at all. Initially I was excited because the book is about the Queen becoming a reader but the author acts as if readers are some sort of aliens that are shunned by society. Everyone behaves strangely around the Queen when she picks up her reading habit. She also underestimates the power of reading. Reading IS doing. She says “reading can only take you so far” – nonsense! Reading will take you everywhere. The book also just didn’t have that spark about it. I never rate books as 1/5 but unfortunately I have no choice but to do that now.
24) A Critical Analysis of the Modernists and Hadith Rejectors – Sajid Abdul-Kayum (4/5)
I actually saw this book yesterday and acquired it and I was looking forward to reading it but yesterday I was tired. I finished the book and I greatly benefited form the book. It’s a 4/5 stars for me! Brilliant!
25) The History of al-Tabari #4 – Tabari (5/5)
I finished this book on my birthday! A brilliant work of history that really made me understand the period of the ancient kingdom. I also loved the explanation from the author. I would have wished for more information and Jesus and for the author not to have mistaken Alexander the Great as Dhul-Qarnayn, nonetheless the rest of the book was exceptional. 4/5 stars for me.
26) The History of al-Tabari #5 – Tabari (5/5)
This book was amazing. Definitely my favourite book of Tabari. Finally the history of al-Tabari clicked and I completed the history of these different empires. I understand the Persians, Byzantines, Abyssinians and the Lakhmids. I understand 5th century history thanks to this specific book. I also understand the set up of the life of prophet Muhammad (saw). The book was incredibly detailed and had an interesting storyline. The author did a great job and I’m looking forward to reading the next volume.
27) The Republic of Pirates – Colin Woodard (5/5)
Amazing! For me it’s 5 stars. The book was incredibly detailed, easy to follow, well written with information from good sources. Above all, it educated me about the interesting pirate history in an exciting way.
28) ‘Abd al-Malik – Chase F. Robinson (4/5)
The author has written a detailed historical book and has definitely convinced me that Abdāl Malik Ibn Marwān has done something unprecedented in Islamic history. It’s true that Muawiyā was a political genius unlike no other but he himself wasn’t able to bring many of his ideas into fruition. Abdāl Malik not only did that but surpassed him with his visionary plans of establishing an Islamic Arab civilisation that would change the course of world history permanently. Credit is given to Muawiyā, but more is given to Abdāl Malik.
29) The Art of War – Sun Tzu (5/5)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it is definitely beneficial because some of the concepts within the book can be applied in your daily life. The book is special because it’s just a work of genius and the fact that it was written thousands of years ago in a different language and now I’m able to read it is a miracle for me. I believe that Sun Tzu is a genius. 5/5 for me. Brilliant.
30) The History of al-Tabari #6 – Tabari (5/5)
Loved it! Previously until now I was disinterested in the Meccan period because I just viewed it as the period is sadness and struggle but after reading this volume of Tabari I am sad to be finishing this period of history because I feel like the Meccan period was the most interesting and fascinating beyond explanation.
31) Muawiyā Ibn Abu Sufyan – The Saviour of the Caliphate – R. Stephen Humphreys (5/5) (book was read 2 times)
32) Muawiyā Ibn Abu Sufyan – The Saviour of the Caliphate – R. Stephen Humphreys (5/5) (book was read 2 times)
I loved it. Islamic theologians would argue that the companions of the prophet were 100% sincere and faithful to the religion and therefore would disagree with the authors comments about them. With that being said, I enjoyed reading this book as it was highly detailed and it highlighted the genius that Muawiyā was. I feel like, it’s sad how Muslims don’t know about this great mans great legacy. They should try to read more about him and see how he was a political genius that was unrivalled that saved the caliphate with his forward thinking decisions.
33) The Prince – Machiavelli (5/5)
I’m always hearing about Machiavelli so I thought I would read his book. I’m giving this book 5/5 because of the fact that it is a book that has literally shaped political theory and history. I think the author is a genius and the lessons from this book are universal and ones that I will implement in this book. I feel like Machiavelli is a great man but also a misunderstood man and he is one the faces of modern political theory. A prestigious position that he deserves. I feel like I’m lucky to have read this book.
34) Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland: Betrayal and Redemption 1899-1921
Am interesting book that I read for the sake of learning history but it was poorly written and wasn’t academic at all. In fact it was very one sided. Though I admit, the writer was fair in his opinion of the Sayid.
35) The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle (2/5)
Unfortunately I wasn’t super happy with the book, I did benefit in terms of the fact that I did learn how important it is to live in the moment but the book continues from there and essentially branches off into lots of eastern philosophy which I don’t agree with. Yes to living in the moment, no to me being the universe.
36) The Soul of A New Machine – Tracy Kidder (5/5)
After finishing this book and having casual glimpses back and forward at it I felt like this book is unlike any other that I have read. I felt like it was a hidden treasure in society. Each chapter contained nuggets of gold that I still think about now. West was an incredibly talented, hardworking and gifted man. Someone who isn’t as famous as he deserves to be. He also had a unique personality that touched me. As a man who could go days without sleeping, a unique leader that gave freedom to his workers thus allowing them to reach their potential. As a casual yet complex man who from the outside might have appeared like a husband, father, friend but secretly was a genius who viewed life in an exciting way. I am saddened to hear that he died and I honestly wish I could have met him. I definitely have benefited from reading about his life and I really want to become like him. I’m grateful to the author for this amazingly written book that I always think about. I wish more people read this book!
37) The History of al-Tabari #7 – Tabari (5/5)
Amazingly written as usual from this great author. This section of Prophet Muhammad (saw)‘s biography I found interesting since it was an incredibly unstable time. In fact, it was mostly expedition after expedition and I respect the prophet (saw) and his companions for showing great mental strength. I’m looking forward to reading the next volume of Tabari’s work.
38) Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday (3/5)
A book full of wisdom. The writing style was somewhat repetitive which might tire people but I read until the end because I wanted to learn something and I did.
39) Avicenna (Ibn Sina) on Theology – Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (5/5)
I contemplated a long time on the amount of stars to give this review. I decided it on giving it 5/5 because of the fact that the author, the towering genius of his time, put a lot of effort into his education. Despite the fact that I don’t wholly agree with his world view or view on theology I was taken aback when I read his autobiography and biography and I felt like the author is famous in the Muslim world and West for a reason. Perhaps being that there really wasn’t anyone like him in his time. Not that I know of.
40) Al-Ma’mun – Michael Cooperson (5/5)
If you want an objective view into the life of Al-Mamun then this is certainly a good historical book for you to read. The writing style was very academic and because of the book I’ve got a glimpse into the whole biography and life of Al-Mamun as well as his times.
41) How To Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie (5/5)
It was a short book but one that was incredibly beneficial. Im glad that my mother recommended for me to read this book. In fact, whilst I was reading this book I took down notes from every single chapter. I hope, thanks to this book, I worry less in the future.
42) The Power of Politicians – Tessa Jowell, Frances D’Souza (4/5)
I thought it was an outstanding book to be honest. It gave me an insight into the life of an actual politician working in our current political institutions as well as the reality of politics. I greatly respect the politician Tessa who was being interviewed. I just wish the book was longer and contained more detail. A lovely 4/5 for me. I would definitely recommend someone who is interested in politics to read this book.
43) Atomic Habits – Blinklists (4/5)
Short and concise. Very beneficial.
44) Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt – Khaled Fahmy (3/5)
A very interesting political genius but a brutal one who seems to live for power more than anything else.
45) Abd Al-Rahman III: The First Córdoban Caliph – Fierro (4/5)
He ruled in the west for 49 years which was unheard of and he lived like his (Umayyad) ancestors with austerity despite his abundant wealth. Perhaps the reason why his life doesn’t capture attention is because of his brilliant strategic mind that always allowed him to stay ahead of the game. In that sense, he resembled his Umayyad ancestors. He will forever be an interesting caliph in the eyes of the people because he ruled in Spain which just sounds interesting.
That’s all the books that I have read so far this year. If you enjoy reading my blog posts like, subscribe and follow. Many more posts like this are on the way. LibraryEx is a website that does book reviews, book lists and discusses different subjects within academia.
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