Monthly Archives: January 2016

5 picture books and graphic novels read in January 2016

Whenever I read picture books or graphic novels there is warmth that travels through the entire being and reaches the heart. It is the most satisfying feeling for which I have no words. I really don’t. Picture books make me feel hopeful again. Every single time and it is as easy as that – pick up a picture book with words or without words and see the magic unfold. You’d be surprised. So over the past couple of days, these are some of the picture books and graphic novels I have read and thoroughly enjoyed them.

V is for Vulnerable by Seth Godin:

This is a must-read for all grownups. It is the alphabet for grownups who are too scared to take chances. It is about life-situations and how we get when faced by them and what it really means to live life outside the comfort zone.

V is for Vulnerable

Seth Godin is brutally honest and says it the way he sees it and it is a book that I cannot stop recommending it to everyone. The illustrations by Hugh Macleod are something else. A must read.

V is for Vulnerable - Image 1

Once upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers:

Another brilliant book of the alphabet, once again seen differently by the brilliant Oliver Jeffers. These are short stories (at times interconnected) for every letter, so you get 26 short stories in all.

Once upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Why did I like this book? It is quirky, it is funny and more than anything else it leaves a smile on your face. The stories are also dark which I think is alright, because it is okay to be read by children as well. It is more in the vein of Lemony Snicket and a treat for all ages.

Madame Eiffel by Alice Briere-Haquet & CSIL

There is no way that you will not enjoy this book. Everyone will. Everyone who reads it will and that is just my guarantee on this one.

Madame Eiffel

It is a love story of how the Eiffel tower was made. I don’t know if it is a true story or not but it is something you must read just for the illustrations and the story. I read it thrice and I know I will read it some more times.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg

A graphic novel of epic proportions, I would say. Why? Because it is all about early earth – mmythological, a love story and more so a story of finding your roots and your missing self.

An Encyclopedia of Early Earth

This is a must graphic novel read in my opinion. The kind you will not regret at all.


All Quiet in Vikaspuri by Sarnath Banerjee

The pioneer of the graphic novel in India is back after a hiatus of four years and it is worth it every single day and minute that he was away. “All Quiet in Vikaspuri” is a treat for the mind and the eyes.

All Quiet in Vikaspuri by Sarnath Banerjee

It is almost the near-future. There are water wars in Delhi and a man is sent to find the mythical Saraswati. There is so much more happening in this graphic novel that it deserves its own review, which I will post soon.For now this is it.

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The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War by Aditya Iyengar

The Thirteenth Day by Aditya Iyengar Title: The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War
Author: Aditya Iyengar
Publisher: Rupa Publications
ISBN: 978-8129134752
Genre: Fiction, Myths
Pages: 260
Source: Author
Rating: 4/5

I have always maintained that mythology must not be tampered with. I am sort of wary of the idea of retellings (so-called) and drifting away from the original or the real deal. It somehow scares me to read something like that. Having said that, I was quite taken by surprise by a book that had a retelling (of sorts) and somehow also stuck close to the original plot (had no choice given it was the Mahabharata).

Aditya Iyengar’s “The Thirteenth Day” is about the thirteenth day (well of course) but it a part of the war that is known only on the surface to most. It is the day when Yudhisthira, Radheya and Abhimanyu collide on the battlefield and what is the past and present to that day. It is about Abhimanyu majorly and how the story moves ahead using the “chakravyuh” as the core metaphor (at least that is what I interpreted from it).

There have been a lot of retellings of the Mahabharata – there is no dearth of stories out there on the epic. Then why must you read this book?

The book is no frills. It is simple, clear and tells a story that is riveting and keeps you hooked. What else do you need from a book?

The narration is in first person, which I am most comfortable with and might I add that it is most difficult to write a book in first person. The danger of losing the plot or the readers’ interest is quite high. However, Aditya never manages to do any of that at any point.

The thing with retelling or writing a story from the Mahabharata is that your research has to be five folds over and nitpicked. If that is not then, then you have already set yourself up for failure. But this book doesn’t do that. The research is thorough – so much so the minor characters also stand out and sometimes have their own stories to tell. There is also the element of surrealism (in some places) and it doesn’t at any point become an impediment but only helps the story move ahead. There are a lot of layers and sub-layers to Mahabharata. One cannot write about it and not be swayed to include some of them, which is what also happens in this narrative and that works for the book at every page.

The reason I am not talking much about the plot is that I would really want more people to read this book and experience it for themselves. A read that I would urge you to pick up because it is a fresh voice and tells the old tale with that voice harnessed all along.

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The Thirteenth Day : A Story of the Kurukshetra War (English)

The Thirteenth Day: A Story of the Kurukshetra War

Literary Miniatures by Florence Noiville

Literary Miniatures by Florence Noiville Title: Literary Miniatures
Author: Florence Noiville
Translated by: Teresa Lavender Fagan
Publisher: Seagull books
ISBN: 978-0857421067
Genre: Literary Criticism, Interviews
Pages: 183
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Twenty-seven writers in one book. 27 perspectives on wide-ranging topics. What else could a literary lover ask for?
This book is all about the world and views of these writers. It is also about how their most famous works came to be. “Literary miniatures” is a wondrous world of words, books, and authors. Being a bibliophile, this volume was God-sent. Well not God-sent but Seagull sent and might I add here, that Seagull books publishes a lot of gems that are lesser-known and have to be discovered through their site.

Back to the book. “Literary miniatures” is a collection of interviews that appeared in Le Monde, a French daily evening newspaper and conducted by Florence Noiville. These are to me unparalleled in literary journalism. Why you ask?

Here are some reasons why:

The choice of authors. The length and breadth of authors chosen for interviews by Noiville are superlative. This collection has interviews with A.S. Byatt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Don DeLillo, Enrique Vila-Matas, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Trevor, Toni Morrison and more. Need I say more why you must read this?

The passion with which they speak of writing, reading and other topics. Trust me, as a reader I could not take my eyes off this book.

The writing is effortless. It is also easy and not taxing.

Even after all this, you don’t want to pick this up and you claim to love these writers, then I have nothing to say to you. But I still would urge you to read this one.

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Literary Miniatures (The French List)

Literary Miniatures (English)

Hurry up and Wait by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler

Hurry up and Wait Title: Hurry Up and Wait
Authors: Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler in association with Museum of Modern Art
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 978-0870709593
Genre: Picture Books
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

From the time I read “Why we broke up” by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, I have been a fan of whatever they come about to do together. Their works together are something else – for children or for adults. The creative collaboration I am sure must be quite something for the two, but the end result for the readers is magnificent. The good thing about this book is that it is also done in association with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – and is quite reflective of Handler’s and Kalman’s playful creativity.

This time for me that happened when I read “Hurry up and Wait” – another collaboration between the two (after reading this I immediately ordered a copy of Girls standing on lawns) – and as the title suggests, it is about hurrying up and also waiting to smell the roses.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 1

The book is not a long one. It can be read under fifteen to twenty minutes, however I would not recommend this book being read or seen that way. At first, it may seem nothing – this 64 page book. It might even seem a colossal waste of money (that is if you are one of those who gauge a book’s worth basis the number of pages) but trust me, it is a book that you will keep going back to once every month or so.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 2

Life’s pace is rushed. It is terribly hurried. We don’t know what to make of its pace sometimes, well at least I don’t know what to make of it. There are times then when all I want to do is stop – to look at everything closely – to perhaps give life another go.

Hurry up and Wait - Image 3

There are eleven vibrant illustrations by Kalman and each one comes with a note on hurrying up and waiting by Handler. It is whimsical, capturing people (as provided by MoMA) in motion or not, giving readers a sense of time lost or regained (if we try).
I now cannot wait for my copy of “Girls standing on lawns” to reach me.

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Hurry Up and Wait: 2

Conversations – Volume 1: Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari: Translated by Jason Wilson

Conversations - Jorge Luis Borges Title: Conversations – Volume 1
Authors: Jorge Luis Borges and Osvaldo Ferrari
Translator: Jason Wilson
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 978-0857421883
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Reading conversations with writers is fun. It is the best thing ever according to me. Their views, thoughts, expressions, blatantly calling out bull shit sometimes and most importantly their perspectives are to be cherished and worth going back to every once a while.

For me, reading about conversations with Jorge Luis Borges was a stunning experience. He doesn’t leave any stone unturned. His conversations are with Osvaldo – a poet and a university professor.

Jorge Luis Borges has always been my idol. I love everything he has written – from prose to non-fiction to his poems. They all make for some marvelous reading. What makes these conversations different, you ask?

These are two intelligent people discussing literature, art, poetry, politics and more. How much better than this can it get for you, humble reader? The sections are short, which means that you might read them fast, but it takes time to soak in all that the master (well to me he is) is saying.

The forty-seven pieces in the book are as varied and diverse than perhaps anything you’ve ever read. My favourite portions of course in the book are when they are discussing literature (which is almost all time) – from Dante to Henry James, on poetry, realist and fantasy literature (my most favourite piece in the book) to the detective story.

Borges’ fiction was always infused with dreams and so much magic realism – it makes you dizzy after a while but when you sink into the prose, it is something else. He speaks of his works (another aspect that intrigued me a lot) and the socio-economic condition (then) of Europe and the political atmosphere. Like I said, no stone is left unturned. To top it all, there is also a second volume in line which I will speak about soon. For all literary lovers, this is a treat like none other.

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Conversations, V 1

Conversations, Volume 1 (English)