Life has a reputation of being unpredictable. When everything goes well, we are happy and satisfied. When we face bad times or circumstances are dire, all hope seems to seep out. We feel tired, burnt out and burdened with the responsibilities of life.

Books are my go to answers for these times. Just losing myself in a good book and experiencing the world through the author’s eyes, makes me forget my everyday problems. And when the books make us hopeful and inspired, the perspective with which we face our problems change.  

These are a few of my favorites :

1.Sita’s sister by Kavitha Kane


Kavita Kane is a skilled writer who has the ability to make her characters seem real and contemporary. Even her other books are interesting because they revolve around the fringe characters in the epics. Karna’s Wife, Lanka’s Princess (about Shurpanakha), Menaka’s Choice, Fisher Queen’s Dynasty ( about Satyavathi, Bhisma’s step mother), and Ahalya’s Awakening are all about understanding at the epics from the female protagonist’s point of view.

 My favourite among them have been Sita’s sister and Karna’s wife, because I believe that these women had been given a bad deal in life. Nobody asked them what they thought about the decisions that their spouses made. The spouses were hailed for their goodness of heart, but these women’s steadfast support of their partners and their silent suffering went unsung. I always felt that they were heroes too, only, without the fame and the fanfare.

I have always been curious about Urmila, Sita’s sister. I used to wonder what she felt when her newly wed husband decided to wander away into the forest out of a massive display of brotherly bonding. How did she ever spend her time for fourteen long years? Did she ever feel angry or jealous that Sita got to go with her husband? Why did not Urmila also accompany them to the vanvas? Was she vain and attached to material pleasures or did she sacrifice her happiness for the greater good?  

Despite lacking details to build upon the character, the author has really worked well at creating a realistic story. 

What I love about the book is that, the women here are depicted as confident and intelligent.They were not afraid to make practical decisions and owned up to their mistakes. I know that this happens to be  fiction, and therefore, these characters are a product of the author’s mind…but it was so gratifying to read about independent women of our past. The book is an easy read, mainly because all of us know the story well.

Urmila is shown to handle the challenges life throws at her, and transitions from being a young immature bride to be a more responsible and caring human being. Something that all of us aspire to be.

  1. Educated  by Tara Westover:


It is the memoir of the author who decided, at the age of sixteen that she needed an organised system of education. The book begins with her being brought up in a quirky mormon family of seven children,with a father who bordered on the side of paranoia and a midwife mother. She and her sibs are made to work in a scrapyard with minimal care for their safety and are left to learn on their own because their father does not believe in the education system.She describes how she felt that this way of life was normal, mainly because there was nothing else offered as a choice. It explains how she had to rebel against her parents to move out of the house to seek education. It describes the author’s difficulty in making that decision and coming out of an abnormally sheltered life to facing the real world without anyone’s help. She explains how despite not having a birth certificate nor a school marks card, she managed to cross multiple hurdles to become successful in completing her degree. Doing this,unfortunately alienated her from her family.

This is a book about how  determination and grit can change our lives. It also tells us that we all have our unique problems and family issues, but that we can overcome these and reach our goals if we put our minds to it. It also tells us that success does come at a cost and that we will have to accept this and learn to deal with it.


3.The Last girl by Nadia Murad:


This is not a book for the faint hearted. We have all heard stories of the horrors committed by the IS or the Taliban. When we read about these in the papers, we do feel disturbed, but only in an impersonal sort of way. It fades out after a while because what we hear are numbers and statistics, not personalised stories.

Reading a first person account of the same makes it way more personal and painful. The book is the story of Nadia Murad, a girl from a Yazdi community, living peacefully in the village of Kocho in North Iraq, nursing dreams of becoming a teacher or a beautician. It describes how the political landscape of her village changed slowly with the IS gaining ground. When she was just twenty one, the IS captured her village, massacaring her six brothers and mother and forcing her into the slave trade with thousands of other girls. She would be held captive by several militants, raped and beaten. How she escaped the clutches of the IS forms the rest of the book. 

Reading the book made me grateful for every small bit of my life. To think that there are women in the world today who are struggling for their basic rights, and suffering the insufferable made my problems feel small.The book also made me realise that we need to keep trying our best till we see the rainbow behind the cloud.

 When we feel that life has been unkind to us and our problems seem gargantuan in nature, this story makes us realise that there are people who are worse off than us and are still hoping and working hard to make life better.And therefore, we should too.


  1. Untamed by Glennon Doyle:


This book is again a memoir, but a second one! That in itself is interesting premise. I cannot recall many authors who have written more than one.The book evokes strange but powerful feelings when read. Glennon Doyle discovered that she was lesbian at the age of forty after a marriage and three kids. The first book in the memoir series is about how she tried to repair her marriage after she discovered that her husband had cheated on her. This one is about how she decided to end that marriage and discover a new life with her partner and help her kids adjust to the same. Being a religious person, she explains how difficult it was for her when the church disowned her over her sexual preferences. 

The book does seem a bit over optimistic as the author seems to glide through all her difficulties with easily appearing answers, but it is worth a read for its unapologetic acceptance of what is. 

A lot of times, we struggle to accept ourselves and try to change according to the dictates of the society. This book tells us to not do that. It teaches us to accept who we are and be comfortable with ourselves.


  1. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg.

I remember listening to an interview by Indira Nooyi, the ex ceo of Pepsico in which she claims that it is impossible for women to have it all. Anyone who has worked a job and also managed a family will know that it is a tough balancing act for a woman. When one thing seems to be going right, something else usually unravels. Hence, though close to 49 percentage of the workforce in the world is “women”, there are only so many, visible at the top positions of organizations. Family, motherhood,unrealistic and often archiac expectations of the of society make it difficult for women to break the glass ceiling. 

Though I firmly believe that life does not owe us anything and that we have to work our way up, it is also true that men do have an unfair advantage in our society. 

If despite being the COO of one of the biggest organizations in the world, Sheryl Sandberg could feel the gender divide, then it is understandable that women all over the world face it more intensely. 

This books becomes interesting because it gives us a road map as to how to navigate these circumstances and explains how women have to create their own backup and help each other move on. It speaks about how we as women need to support ourselves, form a network and also be vocal about the support that we need from our partners to share responsibilities without feeling unnecessarily guilty.


I’m sure that there are many more beautiful and inspiring books out there waiting to be read, but somehow, when in trouble, I always keep these few handy.

For a Tough day at work, Lean In.

For a day when my confidence ebbs, Untamed

For a day, when I feel life is bad, The Last Girl.

When I feel that the world is against me, Educated.

And finally, on days when I get tired of everyday hassles, Sita’s sister.


Do you have any favorites?


About the Author

Preethi Shanbhag


My name is Preethi Shanbhag. I am a psychiatrist and a mother. In my free time I love to read, write, travel and cook.

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