Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Landour Days: A Writer’s Journal by Ruskin Bond

landour-days-a-writers-journal-by-ruskin-bond Title: Landour Days: A Writer’s Journal
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0141005942
Genre: Non-Fiction, Journal
Pages: 160
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Hands down, “Landour Days: A Writer’s Journal” by Ruskin Bond is my favourite book of all that he has written. The book was first published in 2002 and I read it last week, 15 years later. It was republished by Penguin India in 2005 and now again in 2016 on their 30th anniversary. I picked this up at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year and something just made me read it right-away and loved it to the bone.

The book is based on notes and journal entries of Ruskin Bond from his private collection – describing people, nature and what he observes around Landour, Mussoorie. It is divided into four seasons of a year, and every season has its own unique entries – with humour, wit and profoundness. Mr. Bond knows how to write a book. It is simply told and there are no frills. I think I like reading him because of that – it is the primary reason and the plot or content follows close. All in all “Landour Days” is the kind of book that needs to be read slowly and savoured over time. It shouldn’t be about the length of the book as much the content. Do read it.

Queer: A Graphic History by Dr. Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

queer-a-graphic-history Title: Queer – A Graphic History
Author/s: Dr. Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele
Publisher: Icon Books
ISBN: 978-1785780714
Genre: Non-Fiction, LGBT Studies
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 2 Stars

The terrible feeling of wanting to like a book but the book not being the kind you expected it to be is known to most readers. This happened to me while reading this book. I really wanted to enjoy “Queer: A Graphic History”, however it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

I thought the book would be a lot more than what it turned to be. Sure it is a history of how queer came to be and its roots, but it isn’t interestingly told. The book had a lot of potential but it ends up being plain boring, if nothing else. The people, events and ideas do not stand out and everything seems botched, confusing and out of place.

The illustrations are alright. The history or what’s written there can be looked up at any site or searched through Wikipedia even. I wanted insights and stories being a gay man myself, which I did not get. Queer is great for an amateur who is just learning to discover himself or herself but it did not work for me.

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming Title: The Trouble with Women
Author: Jacky Fleming
Publisher: Square Peg, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-1910931097
Genre: Graphic novel, Commentary
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

There are funny graphic novels that try too hard to be funny and then there are those that evoke a laugh or a guffaw from you at every turn of the page. “The Trouble with Women” by Jacky Fleming belongs to the second category of funny graphic novels. “The Trouble with Women” is a tongue-in-cheek graphic novel and you guessed it right, it is all about what is wrong with women – or so how the men see women – right from the good old times to the modern age – it is just the patriarchal system that calls the shots. The book is about how women throughout history have been confined only to the life of domesticity and nothing else – well at least most women.

TTWW - Image 1

Jacky looks at it in a humorous way but of course – the issues are seething and real and are brought to fore nonetheless. From people like Freud to Darwin who thought women were not of much use, Fleming gives you several pointers to think about and actually what it boils down to sadly is that things haven’t changed all that much from those times. Women still have to struggle just as much and things need to change and it can only be brought about when people begin to come together and have a conversation.

TTWW - Image 2

I have never understood arm-chair activism. It may seem like it is a start but honestly to me it doesn’t go anywhere at all. At the same time, this book “The Trouble with Women” will draw out exactly what women have been struggling against (albeit in a funny way) and give everyone, both women and men, the much needed perspective and for people to stay on track when it comes to issues.

TTWW - Image 3

Jacky Fleming’s book is funny and introspective. It is also cheeky, bold and every mother, sister, friend, daughter and woman out there should read it. While they are at it, the men also must read it. Change their perspective, perhaps.

In other words by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Other Title: In Other Words
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Translated by: Ann Goldstein
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 9780670088898
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Learning a new language is not easy. At least in my experience it hasn’t been easy. I tried and struggled with French and could only get this far. After that, either I gave up on the language or the language gave up on me (I don’t even think that’s possible though). I wish I had continued with it for a while and mastered it perhaps. However, that was not meant to be.

Language is a tricky thing to learn. Some say there is a certain age to it. Some say you have to speak it with someone who is fluent, every single day and immerse yourself in it. Jhumpa Lahiri’s new book “In Other Words” is all about how she learned Italian because she wanted to, moved to Rome to learn it more and finally wrote a book in Italian (the translated version by Ann Goldstein is what I have read).

This book to me was more about life than language. It was about a writer’s struggle to not only conquer the language but also at a deeper level come to terms with identity, cultural and emotional barriers and what makes a person complete.

“In other words” is more than just a memoir even – it is going to the depths of what a writer thinks, imagines, and struggles with, dreams about and how it all comes together when she writes. The writing is simple and even though it is translated from Italian, it doesn’t lose its essence. That to me is the indication of some spectacular writing right there – when it doesn’t take away anything from the original in the translated form.

The book is meticulously crafted – giving the readers a view to the writer’s innermost fears, the insecurity of writing in another language and to reveal her new linguistic identity, so to speak. Her stay in Rome was almost a self-exile as she traded her English for Italian – almost a new life. As readers, what comes to us most of the time is the dulled down version, without any of the writer’s angst, however this is not that version. It is raw and stark and right there – demanding your time and attention.

The book is about a writer’s journey and what comes along the way – sometimes even in the name of experimentation and what shape it takes at the end of it all. Jhumpa Lahiri’s struggle with the language and the need to overcome it are so strong that you find yourself almost cheering for her, knowing that she managed to write the book in Italian after all.

“In Other Words” is the kind of book that will also make you question your own creative beliefs and think of the roads not taken. Jhumpa Lahiri’s graceful writing – in its most simple form will evoke a lot of emotions inside the reader – fear, love, frustration, anger, the desire to accomplish something, to push your boundaries and to perhaps experience something new and different in what you do.

Definitely a book not to be missed out on this February.

Affiliate Link:

Flipkart:

In Other Words (English)

Amazon:

In Other Words

El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin

El Iluminado by Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin Title: El Iluminado
Author: Ilan Stavans and Steve Sheinkin
Publisher: Basic Books
ISBN: 9780465032570
Genre: Graphic novel
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“El Iluminado” reads like a Dan Brown thriller, which is good in many ways, because after all who doesn’t enjoy a good thriller, right? At the same time it is in graphic format – so that’s a double whammy right there for you.

This is the kind of book which is thought of quite rarely and now that it is out there, I recommend it to all and sundry.

What is the plot?

A man by the name of Rolando Perez falls to his death from a cliff outside Santa Fe, Mexico and this is where the story begins. How did he die? Was it suicide? Was he killed? What has this got to do with the Catholic Church and the Jews?

In all of this arrives Professor Stavans, who is just there to give a theological lecture on the history of Jews and talks about “crypto-Jews” of that area and how did they manage to come out to America from Europe. This of course is depicted as the “fictional” Stavans.

Without even knowing, Stavans is drawn into the mystery of Rolando’s death and to find some documents that could hold the key to it all. But that’s not it. In the midst of all this, there is another angle – of Luis de Carvajal also known as “El Iluminado” (the Enlightened One) – who was a sixteenth-century Spanish Catholic, who but obviously is a “crypto-Jew”.

So who are these “crypto-Jews”? Who are these mysterious people that keep popping up helping Stavans or not in his quest?

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel. Stavans writes with great clarity and Sheinkin’s illustrations are simple and add to the story quite well. There are hints of it being real but largely this story is fictional. If you are fan of religions and want to know more about the displacement of the Jews and right from the sixteenth century or earlier than that, then this book is for you.

Affiliate Links:

Flipkart:

El Iluminado / The Enlightened One

Amazon:

Iluminado: A Graphic Novel