I have a passion for traveling and meeting new people. I find it immensely gratifying to venture out in the open and explore. Similarly, I have a bunch of friends, who have their own ways of finding adventure in their stack of books. Just like I would come back with stories from my travels, they would passionately share tales from their latest read. Always makes for a lovely conversation!
So today, I am here with a booklover friend of mine – Sulika Swu from Kohima. She has an insatiable appetite for books – all kinds, and personally, I find her reading list very interesting. However, her well-written reviews are the real deal. For a casual reader like me, her curated reading list – each with a personal review is super insightful. Infact, I enjoy the experience of going through her reviews just as much as I would enjoy a book. On that note, Sulika recently launched an Instagram account to share her personal reviews on all the books she’s read. Stay on with me and Sulika as we chat books, her current favorites and more.
Deno: Hi Sulika, thanks for sitting down with me for this chat:) Please introduce yourself to the R&L community.
Sulika: Hello! I’m Sulika. I was born and brought up in Kohima and I’m currently living here with my parents. I drink a lot of tea and loves to read. I’m the bookstagrammer behind @swu.onbooks which I started in May 2020.
Deno: I am already a fan of that account! So how did it all start? Do you remember the first books you read?
Sulika: I’m a bibliophile — I read and collect books. I started reading at an early age. It started with comics and books like abridged Dickens and Narnia and it took off from there. I’m lucky to have grown up in a family that values reading. We’ve always had a decent collection of books in the house. There are battered copies of fiction, classics, self-help books that my mother is big on, my parents’ old college texts, and some boring thick volumes of encyclopedia. I’m adding to it. It’s slow but it’s looking up for now.
Sulika’s collection of books she read in 2020 “Without counting re-reads, I read a total of 54 books, e-books, and audiobooks combined” ~ Sulika Swu
Deno: Tell me more about your ‘BooksStagram’ account. Why should we follow it? 🙂
Sulika: It’s always been at the back of my mind, to have my own space on the internet where I can have discourses on what I’ve been reading with other people who passionately reads. Every time I finish a book, especially if it’s a good book, there’s always thoughts upon thoughts on it. I want to take it apart and discuss its finer points and why I loved it. And starting a page on IG has been serving that purpose so well.
The book community is one of the most responsive ones out there so it’s also unexpectedly been a gateway for me to meet and interact with fellow Naga book lovers as well. We may be a rare breed but I discovered we’re not lacking either. It’s probably a long shot but I hope this shared interest that brings us together can someday manifest into some form of meaningful fraternities for a wider reading culture to evolve amongst us.
‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates | From Sulika Swu’s reading collection
Here’s a sample of what to expect from her bookstagram @swu.onbooks. A personal review on ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“I went through this book twice because once wasn’t enough to truly let the essence of it sink in. Quite frankly, another reason was I had to do a bit of wrestling with the use of intellectual language.
‘Between the World and Me’ is an essay/letter written by Ta-Nehisi Coates to his adolescent son. In here, Coates has poured out what it meant to be a young black man growing up in the 90s in America. His narration was a new vantage point from where I came as close to truly understand what it feels like to share a country with a race whose forefathers oppressed them in the most inhuman ways.
The ramifications of that past oppression lives on today as systemic racism that white Americans continues to harbour. This very tradition is essentially what Coates has made to be the whole point of his story and though poignant, it was enlightening to hear. He recounts how each action and decision for him has been a moment of fear, conflict and uncertainty as a citizen of his own country because he’s a black person. And this is certainly not something anyone has to go through because of their skin colour!
Injustice to black bodies, black lives surely continues to shape today’s American society.
From an outsider’s point of view, anyone can observe that white Americans have a unique responsibility to offer compensation for the irreparable damage they’ve done to a generation of black people that still lives with its scars. This has to come by consciously breaking down the walls they’ve built to shut them out, by curing themselves of the belief that dark-skinned people are dangerous to a society that they built, when in fact, history is proof that it has always been the other way round.
The book was such a great compendium of insight on Black lives in America. The take-away from here was underlined with visceral wisdom. It gave me so much to question, to apply this thinking into my own space as a person of color, of a different ethnicity living among hundreds of other such groups. Writing is one thing, but for a writer to weaponize their story to prod someone else’s comfortable views on society is hard to come by yet Coates champions gloriously at that.” ~ Sulika
‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy | From Sulika Swu’s reading collection
‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy is rightfully one of the finest works of Russian Classical literature. The book is as vast as the scenic country itself. I stood small at its gates at page 1, looking up at Tolstoy’s monumental work telling it to be worthwhile. To my delight, I was carried through a magnificent journey where the societies of Moscow and St.Petersburg sprawled to life in the air around me… (..more on @swu.onbooks)
‘The Goldfinch’ and ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ | From Sulika’s TBR (to-be-read) list
‘Catch and Kill’ by Ronan Farrow, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl and ‘Trick Mirror’ by Jia Tolentino | From Sulika’s ebook collection
Deno: Wow! Quite a list! Curious how many hours you read daily..
Sulika: Because it’s a hobby, it just depends on the free time I have. Ranges from a half-hour a day to reading late into the night. I usually save the weekends to take photographs and scribbling up content for my page.
Deno: Besides your reading, what is/are your current favorites?
Sulika: I stumbled upon a playlist on Architectural Digest’s YouTube channel called ‘Open Door’. That’s my current favorite watch.
Deno: I Will definitely check that out over the weekend! one last Q. What’s on your playlist?
Sulika: I’ve been listening to a lot of David Bowie. I recently picked up his newly released biography. The music as a backdrop complements the book well. Bowie is extraordinary.
Deno: Ok, before we wrap up, do you want to share about any upcoming goals for 2021..any personal projects?
Sulika: In 2021, I’d like to carry out a personal completist reading project, that is, finish the complete works of a certain author. His works are massively prolific, so I’m working on drafting up a plan to tackle that throughout next year. At the same time, I’m trying to set up a proper blog for my book reviews.
Deno: Looking forward to that! Friends, if you like these snippets from Sulika’s reading list and her reviews, do follow her account on Instagram @swu.onbooks. Until then, have a great week ahead!
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