Tag Archives: Non-fiction

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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Flipkart:

In Other Words (English)

Amazon:

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)

About Women: Conversations between a Writer and a Painter by Lisa Alther and Francoise Gilot

About Women by Lisa Alther and Francoise Gilot Title: About Women: Conversations between a Writer and a Painter
Authors: Lisa Alther and Francoise Gilot
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
ISBN: 978-0385539869
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When a writer and a painter come together (and both of them are women) and speak of women issues, their lives, emotions, growing-up years and everything else in between, you get a fascinating conversation book titled “About Women: Conversations between a writer and a painter”. The two women talking are author Lisa Alther and painter and writer Francoise Gilot.

I came across this book randomly online and decided to read it, the minute I finished reading the synopsis. The book is about their lives and experiences. It just gives you a feeling of being in a salon and hearing them speak and hoping that the conversation will not end.

They have been friends for more than twenty-five years. They come from different backgrounds – Gilot from Paris and Alther from Tennessee. They also belong to different generations but the conversations are so intriguing – from arts to parenthood to feminism and how all of this impacted their lives and more importantly their art.

“About women” is divided into eight sections and each section gives you a different perspective on living and how art is so intricately linked with our lives. The book is all about being a woman – through generations of women and how each generation views womanhood. It is not so much about feminism as it is about making a point by doing what you wish to, whatever the circumstances. The conversations are beautifully drawn – even though they might seem random sometimes; they interconnect and fall right into place.

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About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter

About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter

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.

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Flipkart:

El Iluminado / The Enlightened One

Amazon:

Iluminado: A Graphic Novel

Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks

Where I'm Reading from by Tim Parks Title: Where I’m Reading From: The Changing World of Books
Author: Tim Parks
Publisher: New York Review Books
ISBN: 978-1590178843
Genre: Non-Fiction, Reading, Bibliography
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher:
Rating: 4/5

Ever since I remember, I have loved books about books. It helps me discover new books. It helps me widen my reading horizon. It also makes me see how other people view books and reading. Tim Parks, given his portfolio on books and reviewing, him being a writer, critic and everything rolled into one, there could have been no better person to write about books and the love of reading them.

“Where I’m Reading From” speaks of books in the past, how they are viewed in the present and what is really the future of books. The book is extremely thought-provoking and makes a lot of sense most of the time. I did find myself disagreeing on some of his essays but I guess there is always this dialogue between the reader and the writer which must take place, whether it is pleasant or not.

The book is divided into four sections – the world around the book, the book in the world, the writer’s world and writing across worlds. Each section makes you nostalgic about books and reading. Each section is about how we read and how it impacts every stage of our lives.

Of course, Parks is highly opinionated but then that is how it works when it comes to most art forms and critics alike. These essays are all about the world and its connection to books and readers. For one, I was thoroughly engaged and at the same time I had to keep the book aside and just think of what I have read in the past and what I am reading now.

“Where I’m Reading From” takes its name from Raymond Carver’s beautiful short story “Where I’m Calling From” and does justice to the title in every way. The collection of essays is stunning and makes you think of books over and over again as a reader.