Sunday, December 3, 2017

Reading too much...

Finally December is here. As always, I like to go over the entire year through my diaries and note the most important events. This year, in addition to events, I am also going through my books, the books that I have bought and actually read. It has been easier this year ,as most of the books are ebooks. (Whatever paper books I have bought, I haven't even touched any of those.)

I bought my kindle in February. I was buying on an average 6-8 books, many free books and cheaper books which were on sale. But something happened in September which made these figures rise exponentially. In September, I discovered booktube !

There are several good channels on youtube ,which discuss books,there is something for everyone there. I discovered booktube and based on those recommendations I bought several books (I am embarrassed to reveal actual figure though, I have bought simply too many books in last 3 months!) I am happy that most of the books have been fantastic reads.

Booktube recommended reading has suddenly turned my reading tastes in completely opposite direction. I was totally into nonfiction a few months back, now I read only fiction. I have discovered several new authors and a new genre which I never thought I would enjoy .... science fiction/fantasy. (I always thought fantasy was for kids ...) I discovered some really fantastic adult fantasy books, set in some very intelligent and creative worlds.
Over the years, I thought I had lost capacity to read chunky books ,but I am regaining that slowly. My reading speed was always good ,but I used to succumb to temptations of social media very easily. Happily, now ,my books are more appealing to me than any other thing. I have been reading 10-12 books per month since September , which I think is very good...

Now, all is not hunky-dory. There are a few side effects,too. Apart from spending a lot of money over books, I feel ,I have withdrawn from the real world. I actually prefer reading to conversations. If I am at a particularly interesting point in the plot, I neglect everything else,especially boring housework (and exercise...) My work related reading has decreased considerably. I have lost interest in writing and music. I also feel eye fatigue very often.( I know, I am behaving like an extremist…)

I hope that this reading frenzy is just a temporary phase of my reading and everything will settle soon, hopefully this month.I was not aware of how crazily I was buying and reading ,till I looked through my diary today. Now that I have noticed,I plan to read less this month,(I finished the first book of the month yesterday, which is Robin Hobb’s 'Assassin’s apprentice', first book in a very long high fantasy series.I have started a new book today, Paul Auster's 'The NewYork Trilogy'.I will read this slowly over a week. I have heard ,that ,this is not an easy read,so it sounds perfect for me right now.)I have decided a budget and number of books that I am permitted to buy this month and I will strictly follow the rule. I will also read for only an hour or two daily.

I always thought that paradise means a place full of books. My idea of relaxation and vacation is reading without getting disturbed . But as in everything, balance is necessary.Too much of anything is detrimental to health,even books...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ghachar Ghochar - Vivek Shanbhag

This is a small book, about 115 pages and which I almost didn't buy....

Last year , when I was totally into nonfiction , I came across this book on Amazon. It kept on popping in my recommendations. Mr. Shanbhag was called a mixture of Chekhov and R.K. Narayan and that piqued my curiosity. I downloaded a sample from this book and I was hooked . There is a character of a waiter called Vincent in the book which reminded me of Jeeves .

This book is translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur ( whose well written travelogue I purchased in the same order). The translation is very good , I never felt that this was not originally written in English. This may be called as a short novel or a longish short story.

This is a story of a family- our unknown , unnamed narrator , his parents, wife, uncle and a divorced sister. When they had no money , there was love and happiness. With sudden arrival of money , the whole family dynamic changes.The uncle , who is street-smart , slightly crooked and holds the purse-strings becomes the most important person of the family. With elevation of social status , the young man , our protagonist , loses a will to be somebody ,thus justifying his unnamed character in the book. Everything revolves around  money and honesty is now termed as insanity...nothing else matters but money ..

I loved the easy, conversational tone of the book.The entire book is actually a stream of thoughts passing through our narrator's mind one day . We know about his childhood , his upbringing , arrival of money and changing family dynamics, his marriage and his aimless -drifting personality.We know that 30 hours have passed since he left home, and we know the suggestive conversation that happened before he left home. We are not given a neat conclusion of the novel , we complete it in our mind - perhaps tame , perhaps sinister or may be perhaps a feminist ending...We only know one thing for sure - our narrator is so used to the money that he will never give up the comfort , he has accepted his spineless existence as the only possible one...

On the whole , a book definitely worth reading...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fiction or nonfiction

Fiction is stories. Nonfiction is information. Like most readers,I started my reading journey with stories. I passed through phases like ‘only fiction’ and ‘no-fiction’ and now settling down, hopefully into a balanced reading habit.

My English reading started literally overnight. A friend told me that you have to improve your english or else you would do badly in a medical college.( She advised me to read Agatha Christie to improve my english!) I had read only marathi for first 18 years of my life and gave it up just like that one fine(or not so fine) day ! My initial Agatha Christies were read with a dictionary by my side.’N or M ‘was the first title I read and I actually did not understand much.(Now I know that it is a boring book and I would not recommend it to anyone!) 

It is easier to enumerate the genres which I avoid than the ones I enjoy. I don't read thrillers, too dark or depressing novels(I need some positivity in the book), novels with medical background ( probably because I am in that profession? A notable exception is Arthur Hailey's ‘The final Diagnosis’. As a pathology resident, I was asked to read this novel and I enjoyed the book).

My favourite nonfiction genres are psychology/spiritual(Brian Weiss , M.Scott Peck), autobiographies, travelogues(I suspect that I prefer them to actual travelling!), popular science books( The emperor of all maladies , A short history of nearly everything ) and essays on easy to read subjects such as food, movies,books and writing. I also enjoyed reading ‘The Penguin nonfiction collection ,volume 1 to 3 ‘ as it allowed me to try out samples from various topics outside my comfort zone.

Most interesting fiction I read recently : Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. I have read first two books in the series and they are fantastic. I love the parallel universe in which these books are set. It is a universe where books are important. There are literary detectives and people have ability to enter the books to interact with the characters.Ingenious , fascinating and complicated!

What I am reading currently : Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I had started it a few months back ,then dropped it and read a lot of fiction.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More about books, e books and some re reading

I finally bought a Kindle last month. After months of reading( mainly free samples and some unsatisfactorily converted e-books ) on the Kindle app on my cell and consequent eye strain , I gathered enough courage to switch over to electronic  format of books.

As expected ,as soon as I bought it, I went on buying e-books that were comparatively cheap.I got some good e-books at really low price ,as low as Rs.39.

These include….

1.An unsuitable boy...Karan Johar

2. Khullam Khulla...Rishi Kapoor

3. Why I write ..essays by Saadat Hasan Manto

4.Sapiens ,a brief history of humankind...Yuval Harari

5.Chai,chai...Biswanath Rai

6.Hot tea across India...Rishad Saam Mehta

7.Chasing monsoon by Alexander Frater

8.A strange kind of Paradise by Sam Miller

9.When the road beckons..another travelogue

Then there were other books which were not so cheap,but I bought anyway because I wanted to read them….

1.Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders

2.Chillies and Porridge ...essays on food,edited by Meeta Kapoor

3.An anthology : First 3 novels in the Thursday Next series by Jasper fforde

4.Popcorn essayists edited by Jai Arjun Singh

5.The little Paris bookshop by Nina George

6.Would you like some bread with that book,essays by Veena Venugopal

7.Wild mind...essays on craft of writing by Natalie Goldberg

( Warning : I will post reviews of many of these books !)

In addition, I also ‘purchased’ several other books which were free,some classics like Thoreau and Sherlock Holmes and some romantic novels. These, I may never read…. The lure of free,cheap things !!!

I read around 7 books during last month ( my kindle arrived on 13th February) and read a few partially.That number surely gives me a feeling of becoming even more reclusive and withdrawn from life after the grand entry of kindle  ! (Or it may be due to a minor illness for which I was at home on sick leave…)

But then one can not give up on the paper books so easily…. they are a part of your life,you made a promise to the book , when you purchased it….. of giving a loving attention ….nurturing it , taming it…..

After almost one and a half month , today I went through all my paper books. This was for updating my book list-to see how many books are still untouched  and to  rearrange it by size( I know it is a silly way but I see it as the only effective way to solve my space crunch.)

I discovered that almost 25-30% books are still unread. It is likely that I may never read some of those books( These include ,for example, How Proust can change your life, The lexus and the olive tree,The undercover economist, 4 novels by Henry James etc.)I wonder what made me buy these….a really low price,an attractive cover, some books which may be winners of  literary prizes ,some very enthusiastic and positive review of the book or a feeling that I must read this book to become a well read person….

But I still can not bring myself to give away those books...what if my reading taste changes when I am 65 ?

I also came across several  books which I love and wanted to re-read them immediately. I started with St.Exupery’s ‘The little prince ‘ and a very tiny short story book by Khushwant Singh.

Short stories by Khushwant Singh : I actually don't remember where I got this particular book,there is no inscription.It is an outlook exclusive,which has one original story-’The princess of kahin nahin ‘and 2 stories which have been published previously in Collected stories of Khushwant Singh.(The bottom pincher and India is a strange country) .I have a feeling that I got it from a raddi shop for Rs.5 or 10.

As the introduction says,K. S.’s short stories are brimming with fun ,malice and vividly drawn characters. I especially enjoy the malice ….

All the  3 stories are great . I can not write more about it because of the possibility that my review will have more words that the story. In short, the first story is about a gossip mongering,attention seeking lady who calls herself a Princess. (the suffix ‘of Kahin nahin (nowhere) ‘is supplied by the narrator) The second  is about a parsi gentleman who is a bottom pincher(a hilarious story !) . The last one, ‘India is a strange country ‘ is a story of an Englishman (and his dog) whose puzzling behaviour is suddenly seen in a new perspective after a tragic event in his life.

K.S.’s short stories are based on the people he met,he changed the names ,put them in colorful circumstances and weaved wonderfully entertaining stories. They remind me of short stories by Maugham.

A tiny gem in my collection….

Sunday, February 5, 2017


Every year I decide to finish the books which I already have,before buying more.

This year is no exception.I have started reading and finishing the books which I have already bought.But this hasn't stopped me from buying more books. 

I have already bought 9 books last month, 6 brand new marathi and 3 secondhand English.

I have finished 2 marathi books and 4 english books of the previous lot that I bought from Amazon. In between , I read a few from my local library. So roughly my speed has been more than one book per week,which is good,considering I have a 6 day,8 hour job and of the remaining few hours I devote 1 hour daily to my subject reading too.

Here is a short summary of the books read in January -

1.सय - by Sai Paranjape- I am going in reverse. I finished this today,just before lunch. Writing about it first,because it is very fresh in my mind.

The book is about the famous director’s journey in films and theatre . There is no mention of her TV serials,it would have been interesting to read about them too.The book does not have many stories from her personal life,which is actually fine,her creative journey deserves more attention in my opinion.

 She mentions the fact that it is not an autobiography but she writes a few pages about meeting her Russian father. 

I liked the book because she has written about the origin and development of her films and dramas. I have watched a few of her plays (‘Sakkhe shejari’ and its revival ‘Punha sakkhe shejari’...translation is ‘Close neighbours ‘ : both the plays were entertaining and light hearted.) I have also watched a few movies ...Sparsh ,Katha and Chashme Baddoor. In her movies,she narrates the stories of ordinary people in a very entertaining way.

2.कुंपणापलिकडचा देश :पाकिस्तान :by Manisha Tikekar- My family fears that I have become a ‘Pakiphile’, if there is such a word . 

This is my second book on Pakistan,after ‘Lahore’ ,I have written about which here. A third one is sitting in my bookcase...

The author stayed in Pakistan for a few months in 1990s when she was doing some research. The book is about the  people and culture ,a little history and more about the modern day citizens..their views,their aspirations and life. I liked it because it dwells in the now, the present mindset of the educated people in Pakistan.

3. Mr.Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore by Robin Sloan: A literary mystery,involving an endearing old man ,a secret society and an eccentric bookstore full of books written in a secret language.I have a soft corner about novels with a literary background.This actually deserves a full length review....let's see when that happens...

4. The love song of Miss.Queenie Hennessy:

I have read the first book which was written from Harold Fry’s point of view. I have written about it here.

The central theme of the book is the idea of unrequited love, loving someone from far away,without him being even aware of it, loving someone for being a good and a gentle human being .Harold Fry is not a conventionally good looking man ,just an ordinary middle aged fellow, but Queenie loves him even then. This book is the about the journey of that love. This  journey that Queenie undertakes is healing and so is her solitude,but at some point her suffering starts feeling pointless.On the whole,I think the first book was better.

5.Death is now my neighbour : A Colin Dexter,Inspector Morse mystery- A detective story is always welcome and Inspector Morse is a favourite...probably his love of classics and cryptic crosswords appeals to me.There is a BBC TV series on Morse novels,which I might watch some time in future...I actually prefer books to television adaptations,only exception is book number 8 in this list.

6.Magpie murders:Anthony Horowitz-I started 2017 with this book.This was actually ordered by my son, who loves reading mysteries. This serves as a much needed break in the preparation of his 10th boards. He loved the book,I found it a bit childish.But the idea of a novel within the novel was great.So,another literary fiction.

7.The Guernsey literary and potato peel pie society: An extremely lovable and feel good novel. Just the thing needed after stressful workdays.

This book in written entirely in letter form,which is unique.It is about a group of people who discover books amidst the second world war. They are helped by these books when everything around them is bleak and hopeless. Another literary fiction.

8.Pride and Prejudice : Read it because I wanted to see how much true the movie and the TV version is to the book.

Now,I am in that space,where I have many books but can not decide which one to pick...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Love actually.....

Any emotion is not easy to describe. I believe that pure,single emotions are rare. They will always comprise of a mixture of various shades of multiple emotions,sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another.

Love is particularly complex. That is because the qualities which made you love a person might make you dislike him or her.

Love ,like most emotions, evolves and grows over time. Definition of love changes over time , varies from person to person(Just like God ! Is that why they say Love is God and vice versa ?).I will not talk about all types of love here ,which will include mother-child or friend’s love or love for animals or things like books. Just the romantic love.

There have been different definitions of the love in various books and movies.

‘Love is a verb ‘proclaimed one so called self help book. It may be, but doing things for your partner because you want to show your love, even if you don't actually love her, will not qualify as Love. It will be just a discharge of a duty.and no one would like to accept such an obligation.

‘Love is friendship ‘was a motto of many bollywood flicks, although a few new movies show a different side of this - so called friendzoning. “I love you , but not that way !” May be, to an extent love needs friendship ,but it needs something beyond that  too.

Many movies and books say that love will mean reading of silence between the words or understanding your loved one without him or her saying things actually. Well, that would mean,familiarity more than love. Or perhaps magic - mind reading.

Initial surge of love feels like excitement . It causes expansion of the self when you think everything is beautiful. This phase is caused by hormones and it does not/can not stay forever. Sooner or later it will turn into one or all of the above feelings . That is the changing dynamic of love which everybody experiences. This will involve friendship,companionship,communication , also trust and co-dependency.

Love to me means growing together -learning  and growing old.

(I have always disliked talking about this topic….as this topic is intensely personal…but a friend had suggested this topic long back. This one is for you,friend !!)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Carpe diem !!

I am attending a training workshop on ISO 15189 from last 3 days. Being away from my routine work has suddenly stimulated by brain. I have been writing and writing since last two days. Unfortunately,all my friends who read and like my writing are busy. No readers for this writer( or a scribbler ?) this weekend ! Surprisingly, I find that this hasn't stopped me . ( Should I say ‘unfortunately’ ?)  

It is very much likely that after this frenzied activity,my brain will go into hibernation. It has happened before. It is logical : anything in excess,howmuch ever good ,can be nauseating after a certain point. I will disappear from the blogging scene for many months and reappear when I attend my next training workshop !

Tomorrow is the last day of workshop !

I tell myself  - Carpe Diem !