Tag Archives: Non-fiction

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.

Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes Title: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
Author: Roland Barthes
Publisher: Vintage, Random House
ISBN: 978-0099225416
Genre: Photography, Art, Non-Fiction
Pages: 144
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I was never interested in photography. Somehow, it just did not interest me. However, after reading “On Photography” by Susan Sontag and also “Ways of Seeing” by John Berger, I started taking some interest in the subject and I had known of Roland Barthes. Coupled with this was the fact that he had written on photography, so it was just only a matter of time before I would read it.

What the Photograph reproduces to infinity has occurred only once: the Photograph mechanically repeats what could never be repeated existentially.

“Camera Lucida” is about photos, life, and death and about the cultures we inhabit. The book is not just about photographs and photography. It is a lot more on actually how we see and how we are conditioned to see.

“The photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing being, as Sontag says, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star.”

The book is all about art – about how paintings came to lose some significance with the invention of the camera and how that was not the case after a couple of years. “Camera Lucida” is a collection of essays on “the photograph by onlooker” than what a photographer may think of his or her photograph. He questions what it means to take pictures and what the probable outcomes of it are.

It is not an easy read, but it is highly satisfying. Barthes draws on examples from life, what surrounds us and how it feels like to have a relationship with a still image in an age of constant movement and newer digital means.

“Camera Lucida” is about interpretation, imagination and art. It is more so about living and what it takes to make sense of art that is all-pervasive. The book is short and just right to know more about photography and the medium that it is. I will of course go back to it at some point. I must also say that it is not a read that you can fly by, however once you sink your teeth in it, it is an excellent read.

Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Mrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna Title: Mrs Funnybones
Author: Twinkle Khanna
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780143424468
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 248
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Books that take you out of a reading slump are hard to come by. If those kind of books are funny, then all I can say is that go for them because funny books are hard to come by, well at least for me, who is not taken in by them till I finished reading, “Mrs Funnybones” and my jaw was actually hurting from laughing out loud.

I honestly though didn’t have any expectations from this book. I mean I had heard of Twinkle Khanna’s column in DNA and TOI but did not expect anything from the book. I had not read any of her columns. However, I can safely say that all of you and I mean every single one of you must read “Mrs Funnybones”. It is hilarious and I cannot stop recommending it enough.

“Mrs Funnybones” is about a regular woman’s (not quite so given her celebrity status) often irregular and chaotic life with her celebrity husband, kids, mother-in-law, dog, domestic help, a vivacious mother, and many more characters that keep popping in and out of chapters. I could not stop turning the pages. I could also not stop giggling like a school girl. There is also a lot of profundity in the book without it being too preachy and that is what I loved second best after the humour.

Twinkle Khanna writes with a lot of ease and it’s almost effortless. The writing just flows and humour is sometimes obvious and sometimes not, which is what I call, balanced. Whether she is talking about her man Jeeves (whom she calls desi Jeeves and that somehow cracked me up) to the time she was on a flight to Delhi and had to deal with a mother and her baby who decided that it was potty time on flight and what followed later was just laugh-out-loud and disgusting at the same time, she conjures life as is, without any frills and pretensions. We need more honest writing like this I guess.

My favourite parts were the ones that involved her Mom – how she was made fun of as a child and also of how she keeps getting these emails from her with her baby and teenage picture attachments. It was a laugh riot and at times I could not help but think of what she says about growing up, life, and everything in between.

“Mrs Funnybones” is the kind of book which will appeal to everyone. There is something which everyone can relate to – if not house issues, then about the state of the country, issues which she deals with great subtlety and wit. Like I said, I cannot stop recommending this book to everyone. It sort of reminded me of Moni Mohsin’s Diary of a Social Butterfly. I will get back to it in bits and parts when I am feeling down and about, so I can laugh and forget what is going on around me, at least temporarily.

Ongoingness : The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness - The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso Title: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
Author: Sarah Manguso
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1555977030
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 104
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What is “Ongoingness”? What does it mean and how does it come to be defined? Is it even a word like that? Is it okay for anyone to invent something like that? And does it also then mean that it is all okay and to just experience moments as they come by? “Ongoingness” by Sarah Manguso is a diary – it is however, not your usual run-of-the-mill diary either. Come to think of it, it is not like something I have read in a very long time and trust Ms. Manguso to come up with something so uniquely different and contemplative.

Of course you can finish this book in one sitting and that is the idea. However, I also had to pause in most places and keep contemplating about life. The book is about Sarah’s life as a mother and how memory and loss of it played a major role for some time then. This diary is just a series of fragments on time, memory, the nature of the self and how one connects with the internal and the external world.

The memoir is barely only about 100 pages long and yet there is so much you will see in this book which perhaps no other book will be able to communicate or show. Manguso has dealt with the passage of time beautifully from the time when she was not a mother to the time she became one and how things changed drastically.

“Ongoinginess” is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is about relationships and life and yet Manguso has a different perspective and outlook in everything. It is a poetic meditation on our need to remember and capture life through words, images and sounds.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than

Zen Pencils by Gavin Aung Than Title: Zen Pencils
Author: Gavin Aung Than
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 9781449457952
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comics, Cartoon
Pages: 176
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If you have to read a self-help book this year, that is not condescending at all, but only helps you move on page by page, then you have to read “Zen Pencils”. It is a book made after the very famous website created by Gavin Aung Than and there are these cartoons there along with many more. I bumped on to the site after reading the book and could not have been happier than this.

Zen Pencils - Image 4

There is something so reassuring about reading these snippets of self-help and motivation. Maybe that is what is needed in times such as these, which is ridden with cynicism and utter hopelessness. The anecdotes and quotes are from famous people – from Neil Gaiman to a Tibetan monk to Henry David Thoreau to Confucius, their words are heart-warming, sobering and mostly just there to shake your existence.

Zen Pencils - Image 1

“Zen Pencils” makes you realize that perhaps it is not all that bad and that there is so much hope still for all of us on this world. These quotes otherwise maybe scoffed on and probably ridiculed as well, however when combined with some fantastic art-work, it is literally work of genius. One can relate to it and also think of applying what can be to life.

Zen Pencils - Image 2

“Zen Pencils” is a definite read for almost everyone if you ask me. The graphics and the cartoons are simply charming and the book will surprise you for sure – more so when you sense that you are crying and if any book can make you do that, more so a book in a graphic format, then it is worth your time. I will reread this book perhaps multiple times and cherish it as much. Gavin’s work has enabled more people to think beyond and look at life differently.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks

Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes from Inspirational Folks

Granta 130: India: Edited by Ian Jack

Granta 130 - India Title: Granta 130 : India: Another Way of Seeing
Author: Various; Edited by Ian Jack
Publisher: Granta
ISBN: 9781905881857
Genre: Anthology
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Granta magazine has always known how to bring great stories – fiction and non-fiction, the one told through pictures and the ones told through poetry to life to its readers. They constantly strive to bring new writing to the reader and this is what keeps me going to read issue after issue of Granta. I distinctly remember when the Granta Pakistan issue came out and I was absolutely taken in by what it had to offer. There was also another Granta on India and now in January 2015, they came out with Granta 130: India – Another Way of Seeing, edited by Ian Jack.

I am absolutely floored by the pieces in this Granta. This issue takes on India in the new role that she is playing for the world to see, and at the same time quite ironically tackles matters that have been at the core to the country – poverty, homelessness, socio-economic divide, etc. The magazine has some fantastic and quite interesting pieces – right from Deepti Kapoor (author of A Bad Character) to Raghu Karnad, whose debut book will be out this year to Aman Sethi’s work, “Love Jihad” – the concept that was highly popularized in 2012 (one of my favourite pieces) to Katharine Boo’s pictures with Vijay Gadge, Devo Kadam, Sudip Sengupta and Unnati Tripathi, titled, “Annawadi” – a glimpse of what it took for her to write “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”.

Granta 130 has all in all, 20 pieces for this edition and for me each one was better than the other. I loved the way the pieces are also set together. The writing depicts India like never before and also trying to break free from the perception that people have had of it for a very long time – the serpent rope dance impression is quite fading and very soon at that, which is much needed.

My favourite pieces from this collection are: Drone by Hari Kunzru, Pyre by Amitava Kumar, The Ghost in the Kimono by Raghu Karnad (my most favourite piece), Breach Candy by Samanth Subramanian (maybe because I am from Bombay and it just felt like home was so close, though I am in Bangalore as of now), and Sticky Fingers by Arun Kolatkar.

Granta 130 – India is an issue not to be missed out on. It will in all probability open your mind to the country that maybe we see with different lens and eyes.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Granta : 130 from Flipkart.com

A Reading Diary : A Year of Favourite Books by Alberto Manguel

A Reading Year - A Year of Favourite Books by Alberto Manguel Title: A Reading Diary: A Year of Favourite Books
Author: Alberto Manguel
Publisher: Canongate
ISBN: 978-1841958217
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs, Books, Reading
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

We all must keep a reading diary. Something that chronicles what we read and its impact on our lives or what lives we lead and its impact on what we read. Basically, the idea is to make notes, and not on a laptop or any other electronic device, but handwritten notes, which are so important in today’s time and age.

“A Reading Diary” by Alberto Manguel is one such book. It is about the twelve books that Alberto read or rather reread in a year. Those are his favourite books or at least some of his favourites. He makes the reader sees ways in which time can be spent with a book and good quality time. He makes us see how the mind wanders with one reference made in the book to several made or recollected from memory in other books. That to me is pure genius when it comes to his writing.

There are lists as well in the book – random and some not quite random. There are snatches from Manguel’s life which is a treat to someone who is an ardent fan like me. He speaks of his favourite books and with great passion he tells the reader what he likes and perhaps even does not like about them.

There are so many possibilities in this one for the reader. To take a chance and read all the twelve books listed by him and more that you would come across. He treats his favourite books with great care and could talk endlessly about them and to me that is the beauty of this book. He attaches memory to books, which most readers, should do. He takes memories and conjures them to something magical in front of readers.

“A Reading Diary” is highly recommended by me to most book lovers and people who know the value of life and reading and its true integration.

List of Books read by Manguel:

1. The Invention of Morel (Adolfo Bioy Casares)
2. The Island of Dr. Moreau (Wells)
3. Kim (Kipling)
4. Memoirs From Beyond the Grave (Chateaubriand)
5. The Sign of Four (Doyle)
6. Elective Affinities (Goethe)
7. The Wind in the Willows(Graham)
8. Don Quixote (Cervantes)
9. The Tartar Steppe (Dino Buzzati)
10. The Pillow Book (Sei Shonagon)
11. Surfacing (Margaret Atwood)
12. The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (Joaquim Maria Machado De Assis)

Affiliate Link:

Buy Reading Diary