Tag Archives: Non-fiction

Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

kohinoor-by-william-dalrymple-and-anita-anand Title: Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond
Authors: William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN:978-9386228086
Genre: History
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

While reading the “Kohinoor” – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand’s joint effort to make sense of the world’s infamous diamond, I was tempted to list – a list of deaths that took place in the wake of the diamond – to either capture it, or while owning it or ones who were ultimately possessed by the jewel.

There is a lot written about the Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light in Persia) – on and off Wikipedia. More so in this age of technology, you can perhaps know everything and more related to it on the internet. However, let me tell you that it will not be anything like this book, jointly penned by Anand and Dalrymple.

The story of the diamond is not just about the diamond and its lore and how it now resides in the Tower of London. I love the fact of how almost each of the five claimants of the Koh-I-Noor – India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and the Taliban are so confident of how the diamond belongs to them but no one knows how and why (well, mostly they are not sure).

From the Peacock Throne to the Mughals to the Queen Victoria’s crown, Dalrymple and Anand seek to separate history from myth and do it exceedingly well, might I add. They have researched and gathered all material from every part of the five claimants to add more gravitas to the narrative of the diamond. It is of greed and ambition – of men who coveted it and of men who would do anything for it – of the blood that was spilled for it (Shah Zaman Durrani was blinded with hot needles, Shah Rukh – grandson of Nader Shah had molted lead poured onto his head – kinda like A Song of Ice and Fire and many such incidents) and the courage to own it any cost. Why is Koh-I-Noor that important? What makes it the most beloved, even though there have been jewels far precious than this one?

The two historians do a fantastic job of trying to unearth almost every mystery surrounding the diamond and yet leave some to be speculated and mulled on by the reader. William tackles the first part of the book – of the diamond’s history while Anand looks at the Sikh history of the diamond. The tone of the book is neutral which is needed when you chronicle something from or belonging to the past. “Kohinoor” is a rock solid book which tells you almost all that you wanted to know about the diamond and never lets go of the reader.

Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind by Catherine Lepage

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage Title: Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind
Author: Catherine Lepage
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN: 978-1452145792
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Pages: 104
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Why do we get anxious? What is it about us that make us feel that way? Is it us or the environment or the circumstances surrounding us? Catherine Lepage’s books “Thin Slices of Anxiety” talks to us about anxieties, fears and phobias in a manner that is not only easy and simple but also fun.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage - Image 1

I came across this book on a friend’s blog and I knew that I had to have it on my bookshelf. This book is unlike anything I have read on anxiety and what it takes to calm down. I have read self-help books but I also cannot classify this book in that category.
“Thin Slices of Anxiety” is a meditation on how to ease the worried mind. In today’s day and age we are flooded with worries. We don’t know when one begins and the other ends. Life is almost a battle and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage - Image 2

Catherine Lepage takes us through anxiety by distilling it for us into four habits that are very clear and plain to see that actually set anxiety into motion. They are: Accumulation of fatigue, Repressing emotions, setting goals too high and collecting responsibilities. Maybe the first step is to let go and then take a back seat (how many of us actually want to do that at all?) and go through the emotional repertoire and see how we can use that better to ease life.

Thin Slices of Anxiety by Catherine Lepage - Image 4

This book doesn’t preach. It doesn’t promise to change your life. It will not do all those things. It is a basic and most needed primer of our times – given the lifestyle choices we make and how perhaps we really do need to stop and smell the roses and not run all the time – from pillar to post, without getting anywhere at all.

Upon an Old Wall Dreaming: More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches by Ruskin Bond

Upon an Old Wall Dreaming - More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches by Ruskin Bond Title: Upon an Old Wall Dreaming: More of My Favourite Stories and Sketches
Author: Ruskin Bond
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9384067472
Genre: Anthology
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

There is no way that Ruskin Bond can ever go wrong when it comes to writing. There isn’t. I don’t say that just because I adore what he writes, but because it is true. Ruskin Bond writes with charm and grace that is very rare to find in writers today. So even if a compilation of his stories and non-fiction pieces comes out, and even though you might have read most of it before, you still reach out and read it, because it is way better than what is doing the rounds right now in the book business.

“Upon an Old Wall Dreaming” is the second anthology of Mr. Bond’s fiction and non-fiction pieces, published by Aleph Book Company. This anthology has once again some of the finest pieces, handpicked by Mr. Bond with a wonderful and most surreal introduction by him. The stories (if you haven’t read them before) will most certainly warm the cockles of your heart and make you want to live in times that were calmer, more serene and stress-free. The non-fiction pieces were my most favourite in the book, only because a life this rich just keeps you in awe and makes you want to live this way.

I love how Ruskin Bond intertwines life and fiction and also the way he writers about life endlessly. “Upon an Old Wall Dreaming” is a collection that stays and lingers on with you. It is the anthology that everyone must read to keep the child in them alive and know that there is so much of the world we still have to see and discover. I would also recommend the first anthology of Mr. Bond from Aleph titled “A Gathering of Friends” – it is just as good as this one.

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.

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In Other Words (English)

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In Other Words

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)