Monthly Archives: January 2015

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Fourth Estate
ISBN: 978-0008130824
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 544
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books and then there are books you cannot tear yourself away from. Books with intricate details and sub-plots that make you beg for more. The kind of books where the writing shines on every page and all you want to do is get home and race through it, savour it, hold it and not let go of the book till you are done with it. The book is “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and while I was late to this party, I was glad that I attended it. The book will leave you speechless and I am not just saying that for the sake of it.

The characters in this book do things that ordinary people do not. They are also a part of circumstances and situations that only ordinary people are capable of being in. Doerr brings to forth WWII stories that could have been forgotten. These are fictional, however these could also be true, given all that is hidden or not seen (a wonderful play on the title).

“All the Light We Cannot See” is a book of three stories – intertwining strangely enough, and not so. There are three stories. One of a French girl, who becomes blind and her father builds her a perfect miniature of their Parisian neighborhood so she can find her way home and navigate in their town. The second story is of an orphan named Werner who grows up with his sister in a mining town in Germany and has no choice but to join the force of Hitler Academy. He is interested in science and will do anything to learn that instead of joining the forces. The third story in the book is of a man who refuses to leave his home till he has no choice but to.

The book is about these stories and how Marie and Werner’s lives converge into Saint-Malo, where the action begins and ends, almost. Doerr makes the book profound on so many levels, that it is impossible to just speak of one. The writing is around seashells, physics, electricity, love, war and what it means to be human. I was completely overwhelmed and taken in by the writing. It is pure, surreal and makes you wonder why you didn’t pick this one up sooner than later. “All the Light We Cannot See” is a treat for all literary fiction lovers and you shouldn’t miss this one at all.

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All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

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The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories : Volume 3 : Edited by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories - Volume 3 - Edited by Joseph Gordon Levitt Title: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 3
Edited by: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Publisher: It Books
ISBN: 978-0062121653
Genre: Short Stories, Flash Fiction
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

We all know of the Tiny Stories. Well, most of us do anyway. It is an effort of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his team, who encourage tiny stories to be sent from any part of the world, select the ones they like and publish them in a book format under the publishing house, It Books.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is another level of storytelling altogether. It is not flash fiction for the sake of the name. Actually it is quite ironical because it stays even after the story is long over and the book is long finished.

The book has only 128 pages to speak of and yet the impact is ten times than probably reading a novel would give you. The book can fit easily in your bag and is a sure shot way to make you smile or lift your spirits when down.

The illustrations are par excellence. They depict every single story with accuracy and great precision. I cannot stop recommending these tales enough and if you want to have a good night’s sleep then I suggest you read this and go to bed. You will dream in black and white, which will be gorgeous.

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The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 3

B is for Bad Poetry by Pamela August Russell

B is for Bad Poetry by Pamela August Russell Title: B is for Bad Poetry
Author: Pamela August Russell
Publisher: Sterling
ISBN: 978-1402767876
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 118
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Pamela August Russell takes the ordinary, the mundane and the daily situations and turns them into poetry. The title of the book is utterly misleading because her poetry is anything but bad. These poems shine. They make you want to believe in everything around you and as quickly convert you to a non-believer. They are tongue-in-cheek, raw, intense, stupidly funny at times and mostly they are just mocking all of us, with a lot of ease and panache.

Nietzsche and the Ice-Cream Truck

“B is for Bad Poetry” is one of those reads that do not end. They can be referred to or picked at any time and the reader will feel good for a bit. The feel-good factor and the melancholic angle of the book creates the right balance that is needed in a book of poems, and to top it all, Russell does this with a sense of humour.

Security Question

The poems talk of demons of everyday life, but without making them sound like demons. They soothe you and comfort you and at the same time make you see things for exactly how they are. There is irony, humour and everything else in-between in this collection. Russell makes no bones about life, nor does she sugar-coat anything for the reader. She serves it the way she sees it or has experienced it. I think that is the best way to write poems anyway.

Tea for Two

“B is for Bad Poetry” is a book which can be read anywhere. It is a small read, infused with doses of loss and love and humour to the brim. This is a book of poems for all – for some who take them seriously and for some who do not. I highly recommend this one for people who are just starting to read poetry. This one will not intimidate you for sure.

A Reading Diary : A Year of Favourite Books by Alberto Manguel

A Reading Year - A Year of Favourite Books by Alberto Manguel Title: A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books
Author: Alberto Manguel
Publisher: Canongate
ISBN: 978-1841958217
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs, Books, Reading
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

We all must keep a reading diary. Something that chronicles what we read and its impact on our lives or what lives we lead and its impact on what we read. Basically, the idea is to make notes, and not on a laptop or any other electronic device, but handwritten notes, which are so important in today’s time and age.

“A Reading Diary” by Alberto Manguel is one such book. It is about the twelve books that Alberto read or rather reread in a year. Those are his favourite books or at least some of his favourites. He makes the reader sees ways in which time can be spent with a book and good quality time. He makes us see how the mind wanders with one reference made in the book to several made or recollected from memory in other books. That to me is pure genius when it comes to his writing.

There are lists as well in the book – random and some not quite random. There are snatches from Manguel’s life which is a treat to someone who is an ardent fan like me. He speaks of his favourite books and with great passion he tells the reader what he likes and perhaps even does not like about them.

There are so many possibilities in this one for the reader. To take a chance and read all the twelve books listed by him and more that you would come across. He treats his favourite books with great care and could talk endlessly about them and to me that is the beauty of this book. He attaches memory to books, which most readers, should do. He takes memories and conjures them to something magical in front of readers.

“A Reading Diary” is highly recommended by me to most book lovers and people who know the value of life and reading and its true integration.

List of Books read by Manguel:

1. The Invention of Morel (Adolfo Bioy Casares)
2. The Island of Dr. Moreau (Wells)
3. Kim (Kipling)
4. Memoirs From Beyond the Grave (Chateaubriand)
5. The Sign of Four (Doyle)
6. Elective Affinities (Goethe)
7. The Wind in the Willows(Graham)
8. Don Quixote (Cervantes)
9. The Tartar Steppe (Dino Buzzati)
10. The Pillow Book (Sei Shonagon)
11. Surfacing (Margaret Atwood)
12. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis)

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A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal

A Mirrored Life by Rabisankar Bal Title: A Mirrored Life
Author: Rabisankar Bal
Translator: Arunava Sinha
Publisher: Random House India
ISBN: 9788184006155
Genre: Literary Fiction, Translation
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are books that one is grateful are written. There is no other way to praise them to the skies and recommend them to all and sundry. That is the magic of the written word that can never be contained in any other form. This is then extended to translations, and when it comes to that, more so from Bengali to English, no one does it better than Arunava Sinha who gave us Rabisankar Bal’s Dozakhnama and now he does another favour on the English-speaking reader by giving us “A Mirrored Life” by the same author.

Earlier it was about Ghalib and Manto, and this time round it is about Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. Who in their right mind will not be captivated by this book? The theme was enough for me to get started and be swept by the power of language, emotion, and expression. The book is about Ibn-e-Battuta travelling away to find out more about Rumi’s life and along the way what he uncovers and what is left to speculation. It is but obvious, that when one speaks of Rumi you cannot help but mention Shams. This is how the story intertwines itself and though it may seem that there are two paths, there is just one that of amazement, wonder and life in full bloom.

“A Mirrored Life” is about Battuta chancing upon a manuscript of Rumi’s life stories, given to him by Rumi’s disciples. He then starts reading these tales and reciting them to people he meets along the way to Konya (where Rumi was born and stayed). As he starts getting involved in these tales, he begins to make sense of the world around him and what is really important.

The book is not complex. It is not an easy read either. You have to let go of all inhibitions before reading this book. “A Mirrored Life” touches on so many issues and topics without really specifying them. It gives readers the chance to interact with what the author is thinking and chooses to express through the book. The relationship between Rumi and Shams was of most importance to me as a reader. I could not help but revel in those parts and also the transition of Rumi from a Maulana to a Sufi Saint. The relationships Rumi shared with his wife, his sons and the people of Konya are beautifully described and laid out for the reader.

“A Mirrored Life” makes you look at the world differently and ask difficult questions – ask them to yourself as you turn the pages and that is the tough part. This book overwhelmed me in way too many places, so much so, there were times when I had to stop reading and just contemplate on what I had read. Arunava’s translation is par excellence. I do not know Bengali, but I do know that I did not ever find the need to read the book in Bengali. The translation made no bones of wanting a glossary to be added for words that perhaps regular readers would not understand and that is the way to stay true to the essence of the original.

Rabisankar Bal has just written a book which will take you by surprise and leave you wishing and hoping that it was a longer book, and somehow you don’t need a long book for this theme. It is perfect the way it is – with every word in its place and rhythm that is lilting and takes you to a deeper level. I could not stop recommending this enough on social media and I cannot stop doing the same here. A definite read for all Rumi or literature lovers out there.

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