Category Archives: Bibliophile

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

the-clothing-of-books-by-jhumpa-lahiri Title: The Clothing of Books
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0670089741
Genre: Non-Fiction, Books
Pages: 80
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

The Clothing of Books originally started off as a talk that Jhumpa Lahiri gave in Italian. It is now translated from Italian to English and is 80 pages long. The book is about book covers and what they mean to the reader, the writer and the relationship it shares and holds between the two. I was expecting a longer read (though I knew it was a short one but not this short) and that disappointed me a bit.

Having said that, Lahiri’s book is definitely not irrelevant to any reader. If anything, it will make you think about the cover as more than just an accessory to a book and what it means to you at a personal level as well. Lahiri touches on the history of book jackets (very briefly) and lets us know how they have now become just marketing vehicles that carry a lot of blurbs and nothing else. She also speaks of her book covers and how important it is for a writer to have his or her opinion about their book covers.

She further goes on to talk about how we judge books by their covers (literally so) and lends it to the metaphor of identity as she was growing-up (different in a foreign land). She doesn’t waste her words when it comes to explaining the concept of covers and how they have come to be – the dust jacket, the naked book (my favourite piece in the entire book) and the visual language it communicates through.

“The Clothing of Books” is an intimate essay of an author and book covers. It is about the experience it carries with itself. It is also about what covers do to books (playing a major role sometimes in the success of a book as well), the personal stories they carry and how art and reading intersect at a certain subliminal level.

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Author: Sara Nelson
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 978-0425198193
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs, Reading
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars
Started: 24th of December 2014
Ended: 1st of January 2015

The popular adage, “So Many Books, So Little Time” couldn’t be truer. There is always the case of wanting to lap up all those words and sentences and passages and books that have withstood the test of time and the ones that are new on the literature horizon. There is always more and being the hungry reader that I am (or really hope I am), I have always felt this way. With this in mind, there are times (most often than not) that I love reading books about books and an author’s experiences in reading. “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” was one such book that completely broke my heart and mended it right back for the love of literature that Nina had. “So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading” by Sara Nelson is a great book on the love of books and the power of literature.

Sara Nelson decided one New Year’s Day to read fifty-two books in that year and link those reads to the on-goings of her personal life. That is how the book “So Many Books, So Little Time” was born. The idea of the book is to talk about reading but obviously, but also as a reader you are privy to Sara’s world – that of her family, her work and life in general. This is what makes the book so intimate and special. She talks of her roles of being a daughter, mother, wife and sister and effortlessly there are books in every stage. Of the squabbles between her and her sister, of how she chose her books and how some books just came along her way to the way books have always been integral to her life.

I guess for every reader this book hits home. We have all gone through some of it. Of trying to balance home and work and read at the same time. Of just wanting to curl with your favourite read and forget about the world. For Nelson, this book happens to be “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk; a story of a young girl’s coming into her own and discovering the world and her. Nelson first read this book when she was sixteen and it stayed. When she went back to it, something had changed. Either she had outgrown the book or the book had outgrown her. Such experiences in reading and the love of the written word make the book what it is: An absolute delight to read.

There are also her thoughts on reading which makes the book funny in most places. My favourite parts of the book are when she is talking about evolving as a reader and how she can’t imagine life without a book at hand. I also thought that the idea of revisiting writers and reading their works in succession feels like going out on a second or third date too soon to her, which I couldn’t agree more with. She talks of lending and borrowing books, of how books cure everything, and how she just can’t do any bedtime reading to her son. And most of all what I could connect with is the recommendation part – where Nelson talks about how difficult it is to get along with people whose book recommendations you did not like and you know for a fact that just by that you will never connect with those people. It has happened to me – several times.

Let me give you an example of her writing:

Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin.

See what I mean? This is what “So Many Books, So Little Time” is about. About books and more books and also when the year ended and she succeeded in her resolution; the idea was to perhaps stop for a while and see the world as well, with renewed eyes and renewed perception, only with a stronger determination and faith that books will always remain.

Here are some of my favourite parts of the book for you to preview:

Book lovers simply have no choice: we can’t tear ourselves away from the beloved.
A book is a way to shut out the noise of the world. It’s a way to be alone without being totally alone.
I believe that an unreturned book between friends is like a debt unpaid.
I’ve decided never to lie again about what books I’ve read. If I haven’t read something everybody else says they did, I won’t say I have.
When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.
But I approach a novel, no matter how difficult or sophisticated or “literary”, as a form of “pleasure and connection.”
Hell hath no fury like an expectant reader scorned.
To read a book is to have a relationship. And I’ve had dozens of them in the past dozen months.

P.S: Do not forget to read the appendixes of the books she wanted to read, the books she read and the books that still pile on in the to-be-read shelf.

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A Passion for Books : Edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan

A Passion for Books Title: A Passion for Books: A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books
Edited by: Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 9780812931136
Genre: Non-Fiction, Bibliophile, Books, Reading
Pages: 384
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Books about books and more books about books. That is almost four times that I have used books in a sentence and it only feels less. The joy of reading yet another book about books, collectors, book lovers, book stores and more only feels more exhilarating as an experience. As though, nothing compares to it or everything is pale in comparison. There are so many stories booklovers share – from where they bought a particular book to what they loved or did not love at all. It is almost an ocean ready to unravel its mysteries and what lies within. The treasury of books, a different world which readers inhabit and do not ever want to come out of.

“A Passion for Books” is a treat for book lovers. It is a compilation of essays of various authors, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan. The editing has been done to the tee with the right amount of precision needed for a book like this. The book can be read from anywhere and that to me is definitely one of the plus points of this book. Right from a second-hand bookshop experience, to the top 100 books of the century to Pillow books and what makes them that, everything is here.

One cannot forget the contributors – from John Updike to Umberto Eco to Milton to Anna Quindlen – all of these and more talk of their book passions and why books are so important to them. More so, the introduction is by Ray Bradbury, which is a bonus in so many ways. I can go back to rereading this book anytime. The beauty, like I said, lies in starting from any page and perhaps only reading an essay or two and yet it feels so fulfilling. Full marks to the editors for compiling this wondrous book of book love and essays on reading. Also, don’t miss out on the book quotes at the end of every chapter. They also add to the charm.

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Book Review: Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman Title: Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
Author: Anne Fadiman
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 978-0374527228
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 162
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I have always been attracted to books about books and reading. There is something that makes me feel connected to such books as a reader. There is always this sense of camaraderie that strikes within the first few pages and continues, perhaps for a lifetime. Writers are readers first, no matter what one says. I have always believed that they have this special relationship with books and reading and it is true. Authors who write about books and the experience of reading hold a very special in my heart, from Manguel to Borges to Fadiman. I always revisit “Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader” at least once a year and this time it had to come to me again.

“Ex-Libris” is a light, heart-warming, witty book of essays on the reader and what she goes through with a book and her experiences – from the past and the present. This book is a small gem – which you will cherish as a reader and go back to it again and again. The opening essay, “Marrying Libraries” always manages to leave that much needed smile on my face. In this one she speaks of her husband and her finally marrying their libraries after years of togetherness. It is stunningly heart-warming. Then there is another one called, “Never Do That To A Book” which had me in splits. She speaks of the reader who cannot bear a broken spine, though according to her, it is all about reading a book over and over again, the wear and tear that conveys your love to it.

Fadiman takes the reader through various phases of her life and at every phase she can only remember books and reading, more so for the kind of book this one is. From her odd shelf to the way she and her brother read, it is personal and yet the reader can connect with every turn of the page.

Anne Fadiman’s writing is not intimidating. She doesn’t speak of books and reading like an academician. She connects with her readers and that is most needed, because she is a reader first. It is almost infusing ourselves into the novels we love and have loved over a period of time. It is about reconnecting with your bookshelves, to pick up the books you have loved and cherish them all over again.

Here are some lovely quotes from the book:

“If you truly love a book, you should sleep with it, write in it, read aloud from it, and fill its pages with muffin crumbs.”

“I have never been able to resist a book about books.”

“Books wrote our life story, and as they accumulated on our shelves (and on our windowsills, and underneath our sofa, and on top of our refrigerator), they became chapters in it themselves.”

“In my view, nineteen pounds of old books are at least nineteen times as delicious as one pound of fresh caviar.”

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Book Review: Would You Like Some Bread With That Book? And Other Instances of Literary Love by Veena Venugopal

Would-You-Like-Some-Bread-With-That-Book Title: Would You Like Some Bread With That Book? And Other Instances of Literary Love
Author: Veena Venugopal
Publisher: Yoda Press
ISBN: 9788190666855
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literature, Reading, Books
Pages: 120
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

Books about books and reading always fascinate me. It almost reminds me of the huge community we are – a community of readers. A community that can never go out of style (Hey! It is not a fad you know) and primarily a sense of togetherness that comes with it, knowingly or unknowingly. So I am always on the lookout for books about books. To read about someone else’s experience about reading and what books mean to them. It is a feeling I cannot describe. From reading Alberto Manguel’s thoughts on reading to discovering newer books and authors like this one.

I must admit that I picked up, “Would You like Some Bread with That Book? And Other Instances of Literary Love” by Veena Venugopal, primarily for the title. I could not see how a reader could go wrong with such a book, or for that matter, how a writer could go wrong with writing a book on literary love. The book proved me right. Not at all times, but mostly, it did.

From returning to rereading, “To Kill a Mocking Bird” in her childhood home (the only essay in the book which brought me to tears) to talking about books she read during her pregnancy and the impact they had on her, each essay is personal and unique, which lends the much required warm and funny tone to the book.

While I rushed through the book (and read each and every word), there were times I felt that Veena also rushed with the writing. This thought came to me only with chapters seven and eight, which I did not like as much when compared to the others. The one titled, “Love in the Aisles” is my favourite, where she speaks of finding love in bookstores. It is funny and it is one essay, every book lover, bibliophile and reader will so relate to. The chapter on Saudi Arabia and the books on the country are fascinating, heart-breaking and ironical all at the same time. Veena sure has the eye for details and how to weave them into words.

Books on books also serve a huge purpose – that of discovery. Every time I read a book about books, I end up knowing a whole lot of new authors and books which I would not have otherwise, or probably I would know of them but would not read them. A fresh perspective is always nice, and then it is the individual’s choice to accept or dismiss a read.
I laughed out the loudest when I came across a part in the book, where Veena dismisses what everyone else is reading. The literary snob is truly a rare breed and should be respected, according to me. It is may be because I am one. I would never judge someone basis what they read, but I would never read that author. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

What Veena does in the book, is what every reader can relate to – she makes books her own. She possesses them and talks about them with most admiration and adoration. She makes you relate to everything written and that very few authors manage to do. All in all, “Would You Like Some Bread With That Book? And Other Instances of Literary Love” is a small gem, not to be missed, especially if you like reading and love books.

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