Béhen Bhai Book Club



The Portrait of a  Lady       
Currently reading my first Henry James.


I wish I had the talent Manjit Thapp has to create art that captures complex emotions with such simple yet beautiful illustrations.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow 

You’ve probably seen this book everywhere but my favorite part is the mention of Harvest Moon. I spent many hours (probably thousands) as a kid playing Harvest Moon on my gameboy.


Some good paragraphs here and there.

Conversations on Love

Conversations on love… and friendship and loss and being alone.

Free Food for Millionaires 

Gripping novel with complex characters but Pachinko is better.

One Woman Show

This book is told through museum wall labels which, as an artist, I found interesting and the execution clever.

Our Mutual Friend

Not gonna lie, this was a difficult read but I persevered and found out that Dickens was the genius behind: “Is it better to have had a good thing and lost it, or never have had it?”

I Who Have Never Known Men

I never pick up dystopian stories but I picked up this 1995 novel by French author, Jacqueline Harpman, after reading the introduction by Sophie Mackintosh, I was invested and couldn’t wait to read this book.

Talking at Night

I came across a post stating Love, Rosie + Normal People = Talking at Night. As a teenager, Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahren was a favorite, so this was enough to get me to pick this up. 

American Fever

This novel gives words to many of my experiences and thoughts as an international student during freshman year.

Divine Rivals

Tiktok influenced me to read this book. I am only human.

Western Lane

Read it on Osama’s recommendation and it features an evil chachi.

Stay True

I went into this book without knowing what it was about and wasn’t ready for the emotions.

Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger is a story of a portrait artist getting face blindness and the plot had me captivated all throughout 320 pages!

This Time Tomorrow

Didn’t think I’d like a time travel book but this was well done. Based on a father-daughter relationship and questions what we consider a successful life.

Yours Truly

This book made me happy, sad, and laugh out loud which is why it is my favorite of 2023!

The Ballad of Never After

Read all three books of this trilogy this year. The first had a lot of world building, the last was a little disappointing but the middle one was my favorite.

As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow

The plot twist in this book was such that I had a lump in my throat with emotions.

Lessons in Chemistry

I didn’t read this book for the longest time because I didn’t like the US or UK cover, but eventually did pick it up after Osama recommended it. Great book about female struggles and ambitions, and powerful characters and dialogue. Lesson: don’t judge a book by its cover.


Great writing around topics of home and parents.

Girls That Never Die

Safia Elhillo poetry + Hassan Hajjaj cover = 🔥


This book takes place alongside Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, imagining the belowstairs. I thought it was an interesting take on the lives of the servants as they move about the Bennet family.

They Called Us Exceptional: And Other Lies That Raised Us

A powerful and brave memoir.

Who We Are Now

Story about four friends graduating college, moving into adult life and navigating through their twenties and thirties. Each year is told from one of the character’s pov over fifteen years.

Three Holidays and a Wedding

Do I pick up books because the protagonist has the same name as me? Yes.

This is my third Uzma Jalaluddin book, however this one is co-authored by Marissa Stapley. Both authors bring their unique perspective on female friendship in the alternating chapters for the two protagonists. 

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The Loot       
Abbas builds an automaton for Tipu Sultan, which gets looted by the British during their annexation of Mysore. The topic of western museums returning loot has been written about in detail to no avail – so James uses fiction to have Abbas travel to Europe to get his automaton back.

What Napoleon Could Not Do        
Nnuro writes a compelling narrative around a topic that I’ve always struggled to weave into a plot: visa issues. The cover is an incredible portrait by Amoako Boafo, whose show, what could possibly go wrong, if we tell it like it is, I saw at Gagosian a few weeks after finishing the novel. 

Inside Story        
This book is a biryani. Three layers of rice: Larkin, Bellow, Hitchens. The masala is Amis’s swaggering prose and the aloo is the interspersed writing advice.

“These family values have been since thousands of years,” Sima Aunty said in an interview to prove there is a method to the madness. The method is carefully curated caste, socio-economic, religious, and horoscope aligned marriages. But what happens if someone — especially from lower or lower middle class in rising India— dares go against this ancient arrangement? Mansi Choksi details with gripping narration the lives of four such couples and their love marriages, which are equal parts inspiring and equal parts deeply disheartening, over a period of six years. “If its worth having, it’s worth fighting for,” Cheryl Cole preached in her hit 2009 song Fight for this Love. That’s the question that haunts these eloped couples: is it worth it? In one heartbreaking scene, a defeated lover sends out this regret-filled text: “Love marriage = destroy life of everyone who belong to you”

Golden Age        
Wang Xiaobo wrote under authoritarian rule about unchecked authority in a funny and urgent manner. His writing – both fiction and essays –  offer us a blueprint for our times. 

Home Fire       
Maryam recommended this novel to me many times over the past years. I downloaded the audiobook before my flight from New York to Karachi and was hooked after listening to the first few scenes of Isma and Eamonn meeting for their daily coffees. The suspenseful ending was — spoiler alert! — set in Karachi and I heard it at 3x to make sure I finished by the time I landed in Karachi myself.

“It sounds like an explosion,” Gary Shteyngart notes in a video on how to pronounce Pnin. The novel starts with an immigrant professor on a train, not knowing that he is on the wrong train. I started reading this book (my first Nabokov) on a train and was suddenly worried that I might also be on the wrong train.

Forbidden Notebook        
I enjoy reading novels that are structured like a diary and Valeria Cossati’s secret journal is the best of all time.

Fathers and Children        
After reading an essay on how Turgenev managed to piss off “almost everyone he cared about'' with this book, I picked it up. I found the dialogues/debates/quarrels had incredible energy and built the momentum to propel the characters and story forward.

I took Elissa’s humor writing class many years ago and have always recommended it to everyone – now I also recommend her memoir and substack.

Falling Walls        
I came across the English translation of Girti Deewarein when the translator, Daisy Rockwell, won the Booker for her translation of Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand. A story of a struggling writer from Jalandhar (where my Grandmother was born), who crisscrosses an undivided Punjabi freely to go from Lahore to Jalandar to Shimla and back, in the 1930s, as he aspires to write and make a living. I recently saw this piece about the last remaining Koreans who remember an un-divided Korea and was reminded of the sadness that I felt when reading this century old novel: we might never get to experience what pre-partition Punjab was like.

American Fever         
I had read Dure’s essay and had admired how she wove Urdu poetry into English prose. Maryam, when visiting me, picked out the unread novel from my shelf and devoured it in a day and then was so eager to discuss it that I also read it in a single sitting the next day. We both discussed the many scenes where Hira dealt with so many of the same anxieties that we had when we first moved to America. 

All My Rage        
I always enjoy a multi-perspective novel. In her review of A Burning, which also has multiple narrators, Parul Sehgal noted that: “The director Akira Kurosawa famously used three cameras to shoot each scene. The A camera he placed in the most conventional position. The B camera provided swift, impressionistic shots. The C camera, he described as a “guerrilla unit.” Rolling simultaneously, the three-camera system ensured that no detail would go missing.” I heard this novel on an audiobook, after Maryam recommended it, and the voice of Misbah gave me goosebumps.

Western Lane        
No athlete ever dominated a sport like Jehangir Khan dominated squash in the 90s: winning a world record five hundred and fifty five consecutive matches. This novel weaves in that fact, and the careers of the great Pakistani squash players, into a quietly contemplative novel about grief.

Best of Friends
When Maryam read the first draft of my novel in December 2022, she told me that the novel felt disjointed. She liked the Karachi sections of my novel but found the New York ones lacking. She told me she had felt similarly when reading Shamsie’s Best of Friends, like this review, and asked me to read it. I also loved the Karachi half of Shamsie’s novel, and felt disappointed by the London half, and started revising my draft.

The Gray Notebook
In my past trips to Karachi, I have come home with many books, aspiring to catch up on my reading list, and have gone back with all of them unread. This time I wanted to keep just one book. I ended up picking one in which the author is also visiting his hometown and journals daily— a practice that I’ve always aspired to keep but have never had the discipline to do so. 

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