Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance Title: Modern Romance
Author: Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594206276
Genre: Non-Fiction, Sociology
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

From the moment this book reached me, I knew I would enjoy it. Just the title was enough for me to make that decision and of course I had read something about it online, but I guess the entire concept of modern romance and dating and how we all get today when it comes to love and relationships was enough for me to get hooked on to this one. Teaming up with Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari provides us the much needed perspective on what relationships are like today and what it takes to actually find the one “true love” in today’s age and time, with several dating apps and people literally at the beck and call of a swipe and click.

“Modern Romance” looks at data, a lot of data, given that Ansari and Klinenberg also conducted surveys in different cities of the world to subreddits whose responses were recorded and analyzed to getting privy to their texts (of course after their permission) to learn as much as they could about modern dating. The book has a lot of information on the psychology of dating and romance over the years and how we view it today, given the onslaught of apps and sites, catering to every single need and whim of what one expects in a partner.

What I found most interesting about the book is the way we use technology and how it has changed the way we think and perceive love and relationships. For instance, Ansari speaks of texting and how that has changed the way our patience levels have transformed and how we want things instantly. In many such examples and anecdotes, keeping the humour intact, Ansari explores the do’s and don’ts of dating. It is not a self-help book at all. Don’t be taken in by the way it sounds or seems. It is in fact a funny take on technology and also mentioning its advantages, so as readers are not disillusioned by it.

I wish there was more on the LGBT dating scene, but as the author mentions at the beginning that there would need to be a different book written for that and I couldn’t agree more. At times I would also see myself in all those stories, given that somewhere down the line we have all gone through the same old emotions as others when we search for anything meaningful online – from fear of rejection to boredom to thinking that more choices and options are good for us to sometimes just wanting that one single person.

“Modern Romance” is a funny and insightful book on how to navigate the terrain of love in the digital space. For instance, all the time Ansari emphasizes on humour and good it is to break the ice at most times. Aziz with his insights will make you reconsider and think of online dating differently for sure and at the same time make you see how investing, both in terms of time and effort might actually lead to something amazing between two people.

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SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770461987
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love graphic novels. The genre makes me smile all the time. Well, mostly all the time. There are times when I go all morose as well, but that’s only because of the plot and nothing more than that. So when I received a copy of Jillian Tamaki’s new graphic novel, “SuperMutant Magic Academy” by the publisher, I was overjoyed.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 1

What is the book about?

It is true to its title. It is about Mutants, who are in an academy, and of course who are magical. That being said, they are almost like any other teenager – bursting with puberty, adolescence making them think otherwise and going through the same old pangs of growing up and deciding whether to love or not and how does one then become popular.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 2

Why should you read this book?

There is humour in the book, loads of it and also sprinkled with a whole lot of irreverence and not to forget their paranormal abilities that are juxtaposed brilliantly against the everyday teen concerns. The world is but surely familiar and yet it is the abilities that come along in the book, that take you by surprise and sometimes shock.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 3

I cannot talk about individual characters because there are so many of them, but needless to say that you might just fall in love with each of them and their little quirks. It is a mash-up of Hogwarts and Gossip Girl (I know some of you might be cringing but that’s what it is and it is a delightful read at that).

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 4

Tamaki’s illustrations are almost perfect and invite you to a world like none other. Her characterization is sharp and full of detailing, page after page and that is what also will appeal to the serious reader in some of you. Tamaki has a knack to understand the psyche of her characters and to bring each nuance to life through her illustrations and story-telling capacity. There are just right enough doses of angst, hopelessness and so much hope at times that you will wonder where that came from in the book.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 5

“SuperMutant Magic Academy” will take you through vignettes of every single character and their kinks – from Trixie, a dinosaur girl to Everlasting Boy who is immortal, to Wendy who has cat ears and also you will meet Marsha, the grumpy friend who carries a secret torch for Wendy and many more, equally weird and strange. The thing though is that you will fall in love with each and every one of them and hope that the book doesn’t end. I could not stop thinking about them long after I had finished the book and I am almost certain that I will go back to it. This is also the kind of book that can be enjoyed by anyone – from teenagers to the middle-aged readers. I wish there is a sequel in line for this one.

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SuperMutant Magic Academy

Judge This by Chip Kidd

Judge This by Chip Kidd Title: Judge This
Author: Chip Kidd
Publisher: Simon and Schuster, TED Talks
ISBN: 9781471138928
Genre: Motivation, Inspiration, Design, TED Talks
Pages: 134
Source: Personal
Rating: 5/5

I have always loved and admired book covers designed by Chip Kidd. He is one designer who keeps things minimalist and yet does not make it vague for the reader. Vague in the sense that the reader can get a certain idea of the book by looking at the cover and that’s how we do it anyway, don’t we? We judge the book by the cover and sometimes it is the only thing to do when more information about the book is just not given or when the eye just lands on the cover the very first thing (but of course).

Judge This - Image 1

“Judge This” by Chip Kidd is about judging or about the way we judge. It is also about how we look at daily objects and what purpose or role they play in our lives. Kidd takes all relevant instances from his life as a book cover designer (what a cool, cool job to have) and analyzes the way we see objects.

Judge This - Image 2

(This image for the cover of Oliver Sack’s book for instance came from a regular eye-testing chart)

Kidd creates a continuum, a horizontal line that goes from clarity to mystery, rating various elements of daily life according to how much effort it takes to understand them. He measures images in the book from extreme clarity to mysteriousness and how that is detrimental in so many ways.

Judge This - Image 3

There are images on almost every page, accompanied by a narrative of how Kidd sees it and how he used it later for his books. This is also a part of the TED Series and I am sure that the TED video would be just as great. Kidd’s writing is simple, direct and clear. That is the major reason why the book works on so many levels.

“Judge This” will make you look at design, logo and brand imagery more carefully. It will also make you look at book covers in a unique manner. A read that I would for sure highly recommend.

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill, Penguin
ISBN: 978-1595148032
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Teens
Pages: 464
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I am not a fan of fantasy fiction for young adults. I honestly try and avoid that genre and with good reason. I have never been enticed and intrigued by it as I read and read some more. I finally decided to not pursue that genre, till “An Ember in the Ashes” piqued my interest and something told me that I must read it and boy oh boy did I love it.

“An Ember in the Ashes” is a stunning debut. It has everything that you would expect from a first-timer or just may not. Sabaa Tahir’s writing is sharp, precise and there are more than enough cliff-hanging moments to keep the reader hooked.

What is the book all about?

It is about two individuals who want to chart their own courses of life and not be stuck with the ones panned out for them. The book is set in a totalitarian society inspired by ancient Rome, where the Empire’s word is the last word. It is the only word. When there is totalitarianism there is also a revolution. This book is a fantastic addition to the world of YA fantasy fiction. It is the kind of book which can be enjoyed by adults as well without it being felt that they are reading a book written for teenagers.

There are war-like rulers and then there are the Scholars, who are forced into slavery and poverty. Their libraries are destroyed. They aren’t allowed to read. Nothing is what it was. The Martials took over the Scholars Empire five hundred years ago and things have not changed since. There is a warrior school known as Blackcliff which is run by the current Empire. They train the Martial children to become Masks, elite assassins. I know it sounds kind of complex till now but it isn’t.

There are of course two teenagers at the heart of this story. One from the Scholar’s side and one from the Martial’s side. Laia, a young Scholar lives in the city. One night she witnesses her brother Darin being arrested by the Mask and decides to set him free. However, for this she needs the help of the Resistance, the rebellion formed against the Empire. Laia must serve as a spy and endure if she has to set her brother free.

On the other hand there is Elias, who at the opening of the book is about to graduate to becoming a Mask. He doesn’t want to be a Mask. All he wants to do is run away and almost does the night before the graduation, till things take a different turn and he stays.

This is where the story begins. Laia enters the Empire and her interactions with Elias begin. It may seem to be a predictable tale but it is so not. You must read it to believe what is different and how. It is also not like The Hunger Games or any other dystopian YA novel.

I would most certainly recommend this book to one and all. The supporting characters are so carefully etched and play a major role in the book. Elias and Laia make you want to turn the pages as fast as possible. The writing is playful and extremely careful, making you believe in this world like none other. The detailing is perfect. I bet you will not stop while reading this one. Go for it!

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I Like Cats by Anushka Ravishankar, Gita Wolf and Various Artists

I Like Cats by Anushka Ravishankar, Gita Wolf and Various Artists Title: I Like Cats
Author: Anushka Ravishankar, Gita Wolf and Various Artists
Publisher: Tara Books
ISBN: 978-8190675611
Genre: Children’s Book, Picture Book
Pages: 48
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I was never an animal lover till I fell in love with dogs. Till about 2009, I did not even like cats and then I fell in love with them and things weren’t the same since then. I began to take a great fondness to them and to fall in love with them was as easy as learning the alphabet.

Bad Cats

It is therefore no wonder that I picked up this beautifully designed and made by Tara Books aptly titled “I Like Cats” by Anushka Ravishankar, Gita Wolf and other various tribal artists. The cat drawings are superbly done. The illustrations and the texture of the hand-made paper is something else when it comes in contact with your eyes and touch.

Greedy Cats

What I admire the most about Tara Books is that they are always driven for a cause and that is what makes them this unique. Even though they are expensive, you’d still want to own them because of how they look and feel.

Hurried Cats

The cats and their representation in this book are simply adorable. There are times when the feline form is most abstract, but then too it is quite recognizable. I would say that this book is a treat for both adults and children and with the limited edition printing, it is only found in physical stores.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood & Illustrated by Renata Liwska

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood Title: The Quiet Book
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrated by: Renata Liwska
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 978-0547215679
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

The beauty of stillness is something else. Not to forget what happens when there is a certain kind of hush all over the world. There is almost something magical about silences. When no one needs to say a word and maybe that is good enough. In hindsight, maybe that is how the world is supposed to be. And what better place for the world to start learning these lessons than from a children’s book.

The Quiet Book - Image 1

I honestly believe that children’s books aren’t written for children alone. There is a lot that adults can learn from these books and apply in our day to day lives.

The Quiet Book - Image 2

“The Quiet Book” is about simple twenty-nine kinds of quiet that children go through in their daily life. What makes it so special is that it is so relatable even to adults. We have all been children at some point, so we know how it was to experience the quiet before we have to yell “Happy Birthday” surprise (which we still do) and also the kind of quiet when we do something not so good.
There are all types of quiet in the book – happy quiet, sad quiet, also pondering quiet (for instance when you are the last one to be picked up from school) and many more.

The Quiet Book - Image 4

The idea really is to introduce children to “types of quiet” and the serenity they bring to life. Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska’s combination when it comes to words and illustrations is simply terrific. It is adorable. It is cute. It is a book full of heart and soul.

The Quiet Book - Image 3

No word or illustration is out of place and that is how a picture book should be. I have as an adult read it close to five times now, just because it helps me find my calm. I can then only imagine the effect it will have on children. If you are stuck on what to gift a child, I highly recommend this book.

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The Quiet Book

Ongoingness : The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness - The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso Title: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
Author: Sarah Manguso
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1555977030
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 104
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What is “Ongoingness”? What does it mean and how does it come to be defined? Is it even a word like that? Is it okay for anyone to invent something like that? And does it also then mean that it is all okay and to just experience moments as they come by? “Ongoingness” by Sarah Manguso is a diary – it is however, not your usual run-of-the-mill diary either. Come to think of it, it is not like something I have read in a very long time and trust Ms. Manguso to come up with something so uniquely different and contemplative.

Of course you can finish this book in one sitting and that is the idea. However, I also had to pause in most places and keep contemplating about life. The book is about Sarah’s life as a mother and how memory and loss of it played a major role for some time then. This diary is just a series of fragments on time, memory, the nature of the self and how one connects with the internal and the external world.

The memoir is barely only about 100 pages long and yet there is so much you will see in this book which perhaps no other book will be able to communicate or show. Manguso has dealt with the passage of time beautifully from the time when she was not a mother to the time she became one and how things changed drastically.

“Ongoinginess” is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is about relationships and life and yet Manguso has a different perspective and outlook in everything. It is a poetic meditation on our need to remember and capture life through words, images and sounds.

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