Tag Archives: random house

Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer by Ann Morgan

Reading the World by Ann Morgan Title: Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer
Author: Ann Morgan
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 9781846557873
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It was about a year ago, when I was led to a site where I discovered a lady who was reading a book from every country. It was her reading project for the year and I was most intrigued by the concept. I then knew that I had to read the book of how it all began when it came out.

“Reading the World” by Ann Morgan is literally about a woman’s journey across the world through books from each country. It is obviously not as simple as this. There is more to the entire process and revelation which this book is all about.
I am a big fan of books about books and that also blends in cultures of various places, which Morgan manages to do beautifully in this book. I agree that initially I did have a problem getting into it, given the tone and structure, but once you do, it is an effortless read (at least for some I am sure).

If you are expecting reviews of every book she read, then you should check out her site, ayearofreadingtheworld.com and not the book, because the book is not about that. The book is about Morgan’s experiences to get to the project and how people all over the world contributed to it. “Reading the World” is about how she chose the books for the project, the things she learned about literature and the experiences that made her question everything.

Books about books and the experience of reading just goes to show that there is so much hope for the world. I say that because I genuinely believe in the redemptive power of books and each book that Morgan picked up led her to questioning, working it all over again and reading books which she otherwise would not have. I urge all book lovers to get hold of this one and read it. It will make you more mindful of the literature that exists in the world, which is not ridden only by American or British literature, but a whole lot more.

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Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird Title: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Author: Anne Lamott
Publisher: Anchor, Vintage, Random House
ISBN: 9780385480017
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I had wanted to read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott since a while now. I think the very nature of the book appealed to me. Thoughts on writing and life seemed quite interesting and insightful. Anne Lamott’s writing style coupled with it, only makes the book more interesting and worth the read.

“Bird by Bird” is not just about writing. There are life lessons in this one which like I said make the book better. Lamott’s writing is not inclined to making this a “how-to” book. It is not that, nor does it intend to be that. It is also not a self-help manual. At the same time, this book is not specifically for writers. It can be read by anyone who wants to write and does. This is for some of us who are struggling with writing and at the same time are embroiled in following rigid rules, which Lamott is completely against.

She makes writing seem very simple and of course admits to it being hard work. Writing to Lamott is about facing truths, growing up with your drafts, about revelations and most of all it is about determination – the idea to not give up and keep at it, page after page.

“Bird by Bird” is all about bettering oneself at writing and gradually at life. Her personal stories are out there and as a reader I was in awe of her writing skills and the life she leads. This is the kind of book that does not restrict itself to a certain audience. Lamott makes you see things and urges you to experience life, your characters, the plot you have devised and see it through. I strongly recommend “Bird by Bird” for any upcoming writer and also for an established writer who wants to work on his or her craft.

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The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger

The Three Incestuous Sisters  by Audrey Niffenegger Title: The Three Incestuous Sisters
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 9780224076869
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

This one is a strange book. And at the heart of it, not so strange after all. It is all about envy, longing, and gorgeously illustrated. Though the book can be read almost immediately and maybe within fifteen minutes, you still will pore and ponder over it. The book has a very Goth appeal to it (which I personally loved) and it somehow just adds to the atmosphere and no better time to read this book than Winter.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 1

The book as the title suggests, is about three sisters, Bettine, Ophile and Clothilde, who live together in a lonely house by the sea, miles away from the city, when a stranger named Paris arrives and everything changes for the sisters.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 2

Bettine, the youngest, falls in love with Paris. The oldest, Ophile also feels that she loves the young man and then the whole story falls into place, with the middle sister Clothilde playing her own role.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 3

Niffenegger’s writing is simple and weird in most places, as you will experience when reading the book. The relationship between the three sisters is strange and then there is also the element of magic involved.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 4

There is a lot which is left to the reader to deduce from the story. There are fewer sentences and everything is said through pictures, which is befitting for a book like this one.

The Three Incestuous Sisters - 5

And to top it all, the book is not creepy at all as the title suggests. The relationships are almost mystical in nature and pass time like sand through a sieve. It is a beautifully conceptualized book and I cannot give away much or else it will turn out to be a spoiler. All I can say is that you need to experience “The Three Incestuous Sisters” for yourself and trust me you will not forget it.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami Title: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker
ISBN: 9781846558337
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

There will always come a time in a reader’s time when his or her favourite author diverts a little bit from the writing style and the reader will not appreciate that move. There will also be a time when the reader will start reading the book, leave it, be riddled with preconceived notions and come back to it eventually. Reading is a love-affair, between the reader and the author at so many levels. The reader bickers. The author retorts. The reader loves. The author returns the favour. There is so much going on between the two and what conjoins them of course – the written word. I felt like a jilted lover mid-way of “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami. I had a love-hate relationship with it to suffice the least.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” sustain most elements of Murakami’s writing and yet seems to move away from them. While I appreciated that, there were times that nothing would make sense (not in terms of plot) and even that was alright, till it reached a stage when everything that I read felt like I had already read before. Maybe even that was alright, but somehow the pace could not keep me attached to the book after page seventy or so. I left it. I was angry. I had fought with the book.

After about a week or so, I went back to it. I pleaded with it. I wooed it. I wanted to love it. I wanted to be loved by the book. I took off from where I left and somewhere down the line; I began reading it with an open mind more than anything else. Some parts I had to underline – I loved them so much, while others, I could not care for much. And now to the plot.

Tsukuru Tazaki is not someone special. He is ordinary. He loves trains and train stations. He works with trains. He is away from home and does not miss them. This is typical of a Murakami novel. Well, at least so far it is. He had his friends once upon a time. The five of them were inseparable. Till they decided one fine day to cut all ties with him. Tsukuru did not know why and he never asked. He moved away from his hometown and began living life differently. Something changed within him and now after all these years, he wants to know the reason they drifted apart, and that stimulus has come in the form of someone who he is currently dating.

The title comes from all his friends’ last names representing colors, while Tsukuru’s last name is colorless. The years of pilgrimage represents something else, however I shall not reveal it for now. The book is linear (for some time) and then it goes into Murakami territory – where dreams mingle with reality and nothing is what it seems. The range of emotions is wide – from envy to love to lust to everything possible, Murakami looks at it all.

For me, the connect came with the friends leaving bit – it hit hard and I could not stop thinking about my friends. The parts I was disappointed in: Too many subplots, too many themes running wild in the book, with no closure at all. But of course that is what one expects from a typical Murakami novel, isn’t it? Perhaps. But for me the expectations from this one were very high and I am also glad to say that the last two chapters of the book make up for every disappointment. There are magnificently written. The words, the expressions and Tazaki’s thoughts and dreams are succinctly put for the reader to just soak himself or herself in them.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” is a book that maybe is not like other Murakami books; however he does manage to stir emotions. It was a mixed read for me, as I have said before. It is mostly confusing in parts, but if you let go of those notions and read it the way it is meant to be read, then you will get to see the other side of Murakami.

Here is the trailer of the book:

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi Title: The Complete Persepolis
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Publisher: Random House USA
ISBN: 9780375714832
Genre: Graphic Novel, Biographies and Autobiographies
Pages: 341
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I always thought graphic novels were an easy read. At least, in my experience they always have been. Till I reread “The Complete Persepolis” and realized that it could get tough, rereading a graphic novel as well. “Persepolis” is a story which has so many layers to it.

“The Complete Persepolis” is the combination of two books – The story of a Childhood and the story of a Return. The story is of Marjane Satrapi (the author), growing up in war-torn Iran, from the Shah’s regime to the Ayatollah’s Iran, and finally living her life in Austria, till she returns home – only to see that things have only become worse.

The title of the book is taken from ancient Persia’s capital. “Persepolis” is autobiographical and hits the spot very hard. While it speaks of cultures and war and fundamentalism to a very large extent, it also draws on the concepts of alienation and the need to be home. I think this reread was in many ways most important for me, as I am away from home, so the connect was very strong. Perhaps not the same, given that I have not seen wars. But, nonetheless, one can empathize with Marjane and her family and her mental and emotional state.

The book doesn’t seek validation. Neither does it seek sympathy or empathy. It is just an honest account of life and how it goes through various stages and how sometimes in times of adversity, there is only humour and hope to live by. Marjane characterizes herself as an outsider, throughout the book. As a young girl, when her parents are revolting against the system to when she is an adult living in a different land, and when she is back in Iran to when she leaves for France for good.

The Islamic revolution in Iran is depicted truthfully through the black and white illustrations. My heart went out when people were executed for no fault and to think that people lived through all of that is something which you and I cannot even begin to imagine. The illustrations are stark and true, without any fluff or sugar-coating. “Persepolis” is a gem of a graphic novel – the kind that you do not forget at all and also the kind that you keep going back to time after time. Also, do watch the movie if you have not already. It is simply super.

Here is the trailer:

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Corgi Books
ISBN: 9780552565974
Genre: Teenage Fiction/Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are times I have seen that people are not kind. That is the easiest to be. Isn’t it? There are times when I have found myself not that kind and I have wondered: Why? Why was there a need to be rude or mean to someone? Just because someone was the way he or she was, did that mean that I had to become like this? Was it necessary? It is not about being mister goody-two-shoes either. It is just about kindness and “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio is all about that.

I had that book lying around with me for the longest time. I think for about a year and a half and I did not read it. I then moved to Bangalore and thank God for P, who spoke of the book and sent me a review copy, I finally read it and all I could do after that and during the read, was call her, text her and keep telling her how I felt. We talked a lot about the book and somehow, it just felt so good. “Wonder” is probably one of the best reads for me this year. I take it back. Not probably. Definitely so.

“Wonder” by Palacio is about August (Auggie) Pullman. A ten-year old boy. But Auggie is not your regular ten-year old boy. He is deformed beyond belief with surgeries and their scars that run across his face. He is something which you and I cannot even imagine and yet he is perfectly normal like any other child. Just that the world doesn’t see what his parents and sister see in him. He is truly a wonder and that you will come to see as you go along the book.

So Auggie’s parents decide that it is time for him to face the world that is to go to middle school and from there on Auggie’s life takes a very different turn. The book is about that one year of school and what happens thereafter to the boy who was born different.

The book is told by various perspectives. From Auggie’s to that of his sister Via’s (Olivia), his friend Jack, his sister’s friend Miranda, Olivia’s boyfriend Justin, and to Auggie’s friend Summer. All their perspectives have Auggie in it. This book is all about kindness and where it can find you, sometimes even in places, where you least expect it.

“Wonder” had me hooting for Auggie, like I have for no other character in fiction in a very long time. I also choked and cried in many places. It is not that Palacio has written an extremely melodramatic novel. It is just that sometimes, as a reader, as I could see myself in Auggie and in other characters in very different or similar ways and that shook me up. It is all about kindness and how far are we willing to go to accept the ones who are different. I think it all comes down to this in the world – acceptance and kindness and sometimes we just forget about them and I do not know why.

“Wonder” is just about life and the way we choose to live it. It is about a ten-year old who at times does not want to be what he is, but also knows that he has to live with what he is. It is about friendship and all the love that is there. It is funny and also sad. It is the book which will have you in tears at one point or the other and if you aren’t in tears, then perhaps you need to get your emotional quotient checked.

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In Defense of Murakami

Murakami Assortment

A lot of people have discovered Murakami rather late and are taken by what he writes. There is one set of people who love his works, another who don’t understand his works and yet love him because everyone is reading him, and a third set who detest him, mostly because they have not read anything or have read but do not seem to understand the fuss around him.

I do not defend writers. Their work speaks for themselves, however with Murakami, it is a different matter altogether. He is more than a writer from where I see it. I first read a Murakami in 2001, when I think most people had not even heard of him, let alone talk of him and his books. I was lucky enough to have spotted Sputnik Sweetheart then and very proud of owning a first edition at that. I saved and ordered the book from Amazon dot com in those days and I knew somehow that my love affair with Murakami’s works would be a never-ending one.

Sputnik Sweetheart

Sometimes I wonder, how he writes, the way he does and then I do not. I just take in what he has to offer. I may be biased, but who is not toward their favourite writer/s? We all are and with good reason. To us, they are impeccable. To me, Murakami is. It went on from there – one after the other. By 2003, I think I had read all that he had to pen and then there was more. A lot more to come. His worlds are not easy. His people are not perfect and yet he seems to bring balance to their lives, after much distraught and complexities.

Murakami’s worlds are parallel and maybe he is repetitive, but most good authors are. That is also because one book is not enough for them to say it all or maybe two books. They need more and yet all his stories are distinctive or just follow a thread of bare similarity and that is where it ends. He is fond of finer things – cats, elephants and jazz. So? That is just how the man is. May be this is not even in defense of him, as much as it is my love for my favourite writer. His words resonate and reverberate along after I finish his books and to me that is sheer genius. I remember reading his short story from, “After the Quake” called Honey Pie and I for one could not stop crying. For me if a writer can do something like this, get to the heart of my emotions, then the deal is sealed.

I do not know what it is about Murakami’s writing that moves me so. I think because he connects us all through loneliness. His characters are forever seeking, wanting better, wanting to be loved and love someone in return, which maybe everyone can relate with. Yes, he takes time to get to the point, but to me that is just the beginning of a wonderful story waiting to be revealed. It is a rollercoaster ride of emotions and connections that last. To me, that is it about him. He is a genius. I love his works. That is that.