Tag Archives: reading

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

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine Title: An Unnecessary Woman
Author: Rabih Alameddine
Publisher: Constable and Robinson, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 9781472119155
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What does an old woman think about? What are her thoughts? Does she think of loneliness, or love, or of life, and lust? What if she is independent at that? What if she is surrounded by books and her life comprises of nothing else? This is the story that Rabih Alameddine has conjured for us in the form of his latest book, “An Unnecessary Woman”.

Aaliya (above it all as her name implies) is a woman in Beirut in her early 70s. She is the heart and soul of the book. She is to me more than a mere protagonist. You don’t come across such strong characters every day in books and when you do, you cherish them as you must with this one.

Aaliya is a woman of great intelligence in a society that does not expect its women to be that erudite. She is an observer of things, incidents, people and times. The book chronicles her life and more than anything else it is a book of her relationship with books and reading. She translates popular books from English to Arabic for her own pleasure. Men have disappointed her. Books do not. She takes refuge in them. She also works at a bookstore and tries to avoid her family as much as she can. At one point, I almost felt that I was her, or in time I would be her. That day maybe isn’t far off.

At every given time in the book, Aaliya is trying to work her way through feelings of uselessness and loneliness. That is where the title of the book fits in. So much so that when she accidentally colours her hair blue, she lets it be. That is the only newness in her everyday monotony.

Alameddine is a fantastic storyteller. He has managed to tell a tale of a woman, without letting his manhood get in the way and that to me is a mark of a great writer. The book cuts across barriers of language and nationality and tells a tale that is universal to all – about loneliness, aging and how to cope in this world that is constantly judging and will not let you do. He speaks of these issues without bringing the reader down, also with some humour at most times. “An Unnecessary Woman” is a must read for all lovers of literature. It is almost a love song, dedicated to reading and readers everywhere.

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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)

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The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

untitled Title: The Library of Unrequited Love
Author: Sophie Divry
Translated from the French by Sian Reynolds
Publisher: MacLehose Press
ISBN: 978-1780870519
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 96
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

An unnamed lone librarian (also old before her time and quite bitter) in France. A stranger in the library. The librarian works in the Geography Section in the basement and that is where this story begins. A hundred-page monologue on the life of a librarian, on the beauty of books, reading, the world, love, losses and her crush on a reader named Martin who visits the library very often.

This in short is the exquisitely told story of “The Library of Unrequited Love” by Sophie Divry. It is sparse and yet so magnificent in its scope and treatment. What I loved about the book is that it does not exclude the non-readers. In fact, it just gives them the space to grow in a library and discover themselves.

In fact the narrator might come across as angry sometimes, but she is also very warm and speaks of the years gone by, literature and the Dewey Decimal System with much fondness. Her ranting then doesn’t seem half-bad as you go along in the book. The protagonist is fierce and melancholy and tragic, all put together but what carries her on regardless is her love for books and the written word, which again reflects immensely in Divry’s writing.

There are no traces of sentimentality at all, though it could get that road quite easily. Divry leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination as we turn the pages, which works very well when it comes to a book as short as this. The translation from French by Sian Reynolds encapsulates the rhythm of the original beautifully, while also talking of French History and Culture which is quite accessible.

“The Library of Unrequited Love” is a book for everyone who loves books and reading. It is for everyone who has ever faced or gone through unrequited love. Get that cup of hot chocolate and get started with this one. Savour it. You will be done in less than two hours and yes, the taste will still linger.

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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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So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Author: Sara Nelson
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 978-0425198193
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs, Reading
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars
Started: 24th of December 2014
Ended: 1st of January 2015

The popular adage, “So Many Books, So Little Time” couldn’t be truer. There is always the case of wanting to lap up all those words and sentences and passages and books that have withstood the test of time and the ones that are new on the literature horizon. There is always more and being the hungry reader that I am (or really hope I am), I have always felt this way. With this in mind, there are times (most often than not) that I love reading books about books and an author’s experiences in reading. “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” was one such book that completely broke my heart and mended it right back for the love of literature that Nina had. “So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading” by Sara Nelson is a great book on the love of books and the power of literature.

Sara Nelson decided one New Year’s Day to read fifty-two books in that year and link those reads to the on-goings of her personal life. That is how the book “So Many Books, So Little Time” was born. The idea of the book is to talk about reading but obviously, but also as a reader you are privy to Sara’s world – that of her family, her work and life in general. This is what makes the book so intimate and special. She talks of her roles of being a daughter, mother, wife and sister and effortlessly there are books in every stage. Of the squabbles between her and her sister, of how she chose her books and how some books just came along her way to the way books have always been integral to her life.

I guess for every reader this book hits home. We have all gone through some of it. Of trying to balance home and work and read at the same time. Of just wanting to curl with your favourite read and forget about the world. For Nelson, this book happens to be “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk; a story of a young girl’s coming into her own and discovering the world and her. Nelson first read this book when she was sixteen and it stayed. When she went back to it, something had changed. Either she had outgrown the book or the book had outgrown her. Such experiences in reading and the love of the written word make the book what it is: An absolute delight to read.

There are also her thoughts on reading which makes the book funny in most places. My favourite parts of the book are when she is talking about evolving as a reader and how she can’t imagine life without a book at hand. I also thought that the idea of revisiting writers and reading their works in succession feels like going out on a second or third date too soon to her, which I couldn’t agree more with. She talks of lending and borrowing books, of how books cure everything, and how she just can’t do any bedtime reading to her son. And most of all what I could connect with is the recommendation part – where Nelson talks about how difficult it is to get along with people whose book recommendations you did not like and you know for a fact that just by that you will never connect with those people. It has happened to me – several times.

Let me give you an example of her writing:

Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin.

See what I mean? This is what “So Many Books, So Little Time” is about. About books and more books and also when the year ended and she succeeded in her resolution; the idea was to perhaps stop for a while and see the world as well, with renewed eyes and renewed perception, only with a stronger determination and faith that books will always remain.

Here are some of my favourite parts of the book for you to preview:

Book lovers simply have no choice: we can’t tear ourselves away from the beloved.
A book is a way to shut out the noise of the world. It’s a way to be alone without being totally alone.
I believe that an unreturned book between friends is like a debt unpaid.
I’ve decided never to lie again about what books I’ve read. If I haven’t read something everybody else says they did, I won’t say I have.
When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.
But I approach a novel, no matter how difficult or sophisticated or “literary”, as a form of “pleasure and connection.”
Hell hath no fury like an expectant reader scorned.
To read a book is to have a relationship. And I’ve had dozens of them in the past dozen months.

P.S: Do not forget to read the appendixes of the books she wanted to read, the books she read and the books that still pile on in the to-be-read shelf.

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Around the World Reading

So, it had been a while since I chanced upon this website:

http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/

This site is owned and run by Ann Morgan (@annmorgan30 on Twitter), a freelance writer and sub-editor. She took on the project of reading books around the world. A book for each country in the world. So there were 196 books for 196 independent countries.

I read the posts on her site and could not help but take on the same project. She made it easier for me by providing me with a list. The question now is whether to read everything listed by her or read what she picked or create my own list.

I think I will do a bit of all. The list will be perfect. Another reading challenge.

Here are the books I plan to read from the countries starting with “A”. This list is from Afghanistan for now:

Afghanistan: The Original List

• The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (This will be a reread)
• A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
• Waiting for the Taliban by Anna Badkhen
• The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert (This will be a reread)
• Behind the Burqa by Batya Swift Yasgur
• The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi (This one will be a reread)
• A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

Afghanistan: My List

• And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (This will be a reread)
• The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya (This will be a reread)
• The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
• The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan
• The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam (This will be reread)
• The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari

The challenge will start from today and I am super excited. Starting with “A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” by Atiq Rahimi.