F E A T U R E – B O O K S T A G R A M
Tasnia Shahrin, Sara Kabir
Shehrin Tabassum Odri’s blog is one of the most underrated hidden gems of the Bangladeshi Bookstagram community. Her username, @alltheuglyandpoeticthings, speaks volumes about her philosophy and style — it is full of her personal experiences and words that impacted her deeply. She is also a big advocate for breaking down the age-old stigmas and taboos surrounding mental health in Bangladesh.
Her mantra in life is “Let out the chaos” (chaos meaning the mental sufferings). In a conversation with The Dhaka Apologue team, Odri discussed about some books that crushed her soul and left an impact on her life.
Classic books are called “classic” because they always find a way to come back to every reader’s heart. The magic of these books never fade. So if you have or have not read many classic books, you should definitely read them as they can carry you into their world anytime and for this, Odri recommends Shesher Kobita by Rabindranath Tagore.
“I think as a Bangali reader, every one of us should read Tagore’s work at least once in our life. Whether one can relate to the story or not, you will realise he was an author ahead of his times. In a time like Tagore’s, it was highly unlikely for a woman to have the right (or a say) to refuse a marriage proposal yet with his writing, he gave that power to Labanya. Even after decades, Labanya remains as one of the strongest characters of Bangla literature who refused to exist just as a figment of her lover’s imagination and did not settle for anything less than she deserves.”
Historical fiction novels have a separate fanbase as they capture the details of the time period as accurately as possible for authenticity, including social norms, manners, customs, and traditions. Two of such books are Jochona O Jononir Golpo and The Song of Achilles. Odri recommended and described both of these books.
Jochona O Jononir Golpo
Set in the period of the liberation war, this book by Humayun Ahmed is a must-read for anyone who can read and speak Bangla. Narrated in a manner of a fictional story, the book also contains excerpts from actual “Bangladesher Shadhinota Juddher Dolilpotro”, which paints an accurate picture of the barbaric and heinous acts that people have suffered during 1971.
TW: Graphical description of the murder, destroyed dead bodies, etc.
The Song of Achilles
Written based on the epic Trojan War by Madeline Miller, the book is about the devastating love story between Achilles and Patroclus. The book was full of raw and genuine emotion. But a fair warning: It will make you sob and cry like a baby.”
Reading mystery novels is always a treat because it allows readers to process the situation through the hints given to them. Regarding this genre Odri recommends,
“I can suggest the good old classic Tin Goyenda, Feluda or Sherlock Holmes for this genre, or maybe Dan Brown or Agatha Christie, but instead, I am going to go with my favourite read of 2020 — Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah.
This book is a mixture of mystery, fantasy, and contemporary fiction. Talking about important topics like child abuse, trauma dealing, taboos of mental health, and sexual abuse, the story will stay inside your heart for a long time.”
If your preferences are anything like Odri’s, you would definitely woo over a male lead who respects women, treats them as their equal, and does not overshadow their potential.
Ao Haru Ride is the exact novel you should start reading for that. In this high-school romance novel, the main leads Futaba Yoshioka and Kou Tanaka show you a purely heartfelt and respectful relationship like that. As you read through the pages, you will find that underneath a sweet, light, and entertaining novel, there are so many underlying messages about friendship, family conflicts, and other harsh realities of life.
Let us be clear, poetry helps us understand the significance of words in a far more meaningful way. Also through continually reading poetry, we ensure that these ideas are constantly being recognised, yet in new and innovative ways each time the words come off the page. So, for this genre Odri recommends Chharpatra by Sukanta Bhattacharya.
“Chharpatra by Sukanta Bhattacharya will always be my number one favourite poetry book. The book is a collection of Shukanto’s best works and what makes it stand out the most (in my preference) is that the poems are written from the perspective of many non-living but essential objects of our daily life. The poems have a firing power inside them (a potential to start an uprising), and they are filled with raw emotions and sincerity. The poems spoke strongly against the tyranny of the British Raj and the oppression by the social elites through the work of his poetry.”
For the romance genre, Odri recommended two books.
1. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
This is not a regular romance book. Set on the time period of 2002, just a few months after the 9/11 attack, the book talks about the struggles and difficulty every Muslim person had to go through because of stereotypes and xenophobia. The love story between Shirin — who is being dangerously mistreated everywhere and Ocean James — a regular White boy — will leave you smiling and crying at the same time. It was a book far from being cliche and predictable.
2. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
This is a book about romance and books. It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets. It’s a story about two best friends falling in love yet drifting apart and experiencing tragic losses. It is a story about longing, waiting, and having to accept reality and moving on. It is a book hitting you the most when you expected the least and to the places in your heart you didn’t know can feel so much pain.
For this genre, Odri recommends A Monster Calls by Patrcik Ness. According to her,
“No other book explains to you the importance of letting go (of the past) after a tragic loss, better than this. Narrated about a 13-year-old boy Connor and his dreams about a Monster, this book will teach you so much about dealing with pain, loss, tragedy, self-growth, and give you the necessary courage to move forward towards a new beginning.”
One of Odri’s favourite genre of books is Muhammed Zafar Iqbal Sir’s science fictions. In fact, she claims that her love of reading novels in general grew stronger because of them. Hence, for this genre she recommends Triton Ekti Groher Naam and Mohakashe Mohatrash. Both are stories narrated from space-ships that are stuck in outer space due to an antagonist as well as how the characters survive through the indefinite days of danger.
To conclude this fun recommendation list, Odri has a knack for finding books that are not always on the top charts and this is exactly why we think a recommendation list by her is really essential for contemporary readers. The books suggested by her above will definitely crush your soul with its tragedy and you are sure to have a fun reading experience!
The writers are part of TDA Editorial team.