Tag Archives: Penguin Press

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

upstream-selected-essays-by-mary-oliver Title: Upstream: Selected Essays
Author: Mary Oliver
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 978-1594206702
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Sometimes in life, you just need to step back and look at life differently. Mary Oliver’s books often lend that perspective. They make you rethink life and its subtleties and what transpires in our often ignored surroundings – especially nature and how we ignore it, most of the time.

Her latest offering – a prose collection “Upstream: Selected Essays” is a magical book – it speaks of writing, life, nature and creativity – all rolled into one. My only grouse with the book is that it ended too soon. I wish there was more.

“Upstream” is the kind of book that you won’t be able to rush through even if you tried. It is meant to be read languidly and at your own pace. “You must never stop being whimsical” she says and I this one sentence hit home. Mary Oliver says things you want to say and more particularly, feel. Her writing isn’t long-drawn. She comes to the point and the beauty of her writing lies in her brevity.

“Upstream” is an ode to nature, to other writers such as Whitman, Emerson and Poe. Those by far were my favourite essays. Her poetry is of course remarkable but her essays are also not far behind. Mary Oliver is the kind of writer that observes keenly and emotes beautifully through her words.

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Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman

Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman Title: Beloved Dog
Author: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594205941
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 160
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Dogs have always been very integral to my existence. From being scared of them to loving them unconditionally, life has come a long way. They are there, always, playing a role in some way or the other, dispensing wisdom in their own way and ensuring that they never let you know. Kalman picks on these qualities of dogs and talks about them through illustrations, her life, the dogs she has encountered and how they have featured in almost every book of hers.

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“Beloved Dog” is a dedication to our canine friends all over the world. The book is of course as usual beautiful illustrated and that is what makes it so special are her personal thoughts on dogs and how she got about getting one even though she had grown up getting scared of them.

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It all started when her husband passed away and a dog came into their lives (her children and hers) and changed everything for them. The book is a mirror of who we really are and who we become when we love our dogs unconditionally. There are so many lessons in here for all of us.

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The book is essentially New York and how we think and feel with them even more than people. If you have ever had a pet or have one, then you know this book, you know it inside out. There are poignant layers of philosophy in the book that are almost cautiously hidden by the beautiful illustrations.

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“Beloved Dog” is all about the love you have for your pet, and when the pet becomes a lot more than just a four-legged creature. Dogs do not go anywhere, even after they have gone in the physical sense, they linger, forever reminding you that it is so important to have them in your life.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg

Modern Romance Title: Modern Romance
Author: Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg
Publisher: Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594206276
Genre: Non-Fiction, Sociology
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

From the moment this book reached me, I knew I would enjoy it. Just the title was enough for me to make that decision and of course I had read something about it online, but I guess the entire concept of modern romance and dating and how we all get today when it comes to love and relationships was enough for me to get hooked on to this one. Teaming up with Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari provides us the much needed perspective on what relationships are like today and what it takes to actually find the one “true love” in today’s age and time, with several dating apps and people literally at the beck and call of a swipe and click.

“Modern Romance” looks at data, a lot of data, given that Ansari and Klinenberg also conducted surveys in different cities of the world to subreddits whose responses were recorded and analyzed to getting privy to their texts (of course after their permission) to learn as much as they could about modern dating. The book has a lot of information on the psychology of dating and romance over the years and how we view it today, given the onslaught of apps and sites, catering to every single need and whim of what one expects in a partner.

What I found most interesting about the book is the way we use technology and how it has changed the way we think and perceive love and relationships. For instance, Ansari speaks of texting and how that has changed the way our patience levels have transformed and how we want things instantly. In many such examples and anecdotes, keeping the humour intact, Ansari explores the do’s and don’ts of dating. It is not a self-help book at all. Don’t be taken in by the way it sounds or seems. It is in fact a funny take on technology and also mentioning its advantages, so as readers are not disillusioned by it.

I wish there was more on the LGBT dating scene, but as the author mentions at the beginning that there would need to be a different book written for that and I couldn’t agree more. At times I would also see myself in all those stories, given that somewhere down the line we have all gone through the same old emotions as others when we search for anything meaningful online – from fear of rejection to boredom to thinking that more choices and options are good for us to sometimes just wanting that one single person.

“Modern Romance” is a funny and insightful book on how to navigate the terrain of love in the digital space. For instance, all the time Ansari emphasizes on humour and good it is to break the ice at most times. Aziz with his insights will make you reconsider and think of online dating differently for sure and at the same time make you see how investing, both in terms of time and effort might actually lead to something amazing between two people.

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Book Review: Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney

Title: Chanel: An Intimate Life
Author: Lisa Chaney
Publisher: Fig Tree, Penguin Group, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-1-905-49036-3
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

One icon that instantly comes to my mind is “Coco Chanel” and it is not because of the laurels. It is because of the life she led. So when I received a detailed biography of Chanel’s life, I jumped at it and finished it in a matter of two days. Prior to this I had seen the movie based on her life, “Coco Chanel” starring Shirley MacLaine (who by the way made a perfect Chanel in her later years) and wanted to know about the designer who ruled the fashion scene for years.

Lisa Chaney’s book, “Chanel – An Intimate Life” is the most comprehensive biography there is on Chanel’s life and I say this after the research I have done on works written on her. Chanel not only chronicles Coco’s life before she turned Coco, but also proves to be an entertaining read.

The sadness and deprivation of her early years are heartbreaking – when the family did not have enough to eat and survive. Lisa then moves on from here to her emergence into fashionable society and the love affairs that defined her, to the man she loved the most and lost (Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel), to the point when she became a brand thereby changing the face of fashion to the war years as well as the loneliness of her later years to the re-emergence of Chanel in fashion.

Chaney clearly has the extraordinary ability to enter into and make her readers also understand the lives of people who were closely connected to Chanel. The writing did get pedantic in parts; however I ignored it because the rest of it was beautifully written. I liked how the author described the times Chanel lived in and how difficult it was then for any “new fashion sense” to make its presence felt. The analysis of the artistic scene then (Dali, Picasso, Cocteau) had a great impact on Chanel’s work and Lisa has given us a brilliant take there in most chapters.

Chaney’s book is an honest attempt to detail one of the most talked about lives in Fashion. It is a moving portrayal of a strong woman who did not let go of what she thought and believed in. Chanel makes for a great read.

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Book Review: Who, or Why, or Which, or What? by John Oldale

Title: Who or Why or Which or What?: A Global Gazetteer of the Instructive and the Strange
Author: John Oldale
Publisher: Particular Books
ISBN: 978-1846143366
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Who, or Why, or Which, or What? is a strange book. It literally is. It is a book full of curious facts and amusing short anecdotes. Something you would like to talk about at a party or when you are just bored. The book is a cross between a global gazetteer (it also looks like one when opened – the illustrations and the facts reminded me of Ripley’s Believe It or Not) and a compendium of bizarre facts.

There is one page covering one country on the face of the earth and with that come various tidbits to chew on. John Oldale has archived these details in a very interesting manner. It is a lot of things put together – funny, informative and educational. A lot of fact-oriented information, which one can discuss with colleagues and friends at the same time.

The graphics sit perfectly with the text and that’s one of the other aspects that get the reader going with the book. You cannot read this book in one sitting. The reader would have to keep it down and come back to it once in every while to lap up more facts.

I normally would not have read this book. I would have in all probability shrugged it away like another useless information manual. However, the book is a lot more than that. It presents information in a funny manner and that is what is needed while writing or editing this kind of book. A good book to have in your bag or while travelling.

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