Tag Archives: reading

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

books-for-living-by-will-schwalbe Title: Books for Living
Author: Will Schwalbe
Publisher: Knopf
ISBN: 978-0385353540
Genre: Literary Non-Fiction, Books about Books
Pages: 288
Source: Author
Rating: 5 Stars

I remember reading “The End of your Life Book Club” a couple of years ago. I was mesmerized and touched deeply by it. It was a book about a mother and her son and the books they read and discussed while they went for the mother’s chemotherapy sessions and doctor appointments. The son is the author Will Schwalbe and that book touched me so deep. I could not stop crying as I read it and it just made me feel alive and raw all over again. When books do that to you, you know you are home or that is what I believe.

His second book “Books for Living” as the title suggests is just that – books that have inspired him, made him relive moments and memories right from his childhood to adult life and more than anything else, books that have made him a better person. This book as the first one comes from a personal space. Each book mentioned in this book is deeply personal and important to him and that is what I loved the most about this book. It is not a random list. It is a list of memories, handpicked and the reader is allowed to get into his life and know and experience what he went through with each read.

He deftly crafts each chapter around important life topics such as trust (the book associated with it is the girl on the Train), connecting (Giovanni’s room which was my favourite chapter in the entire book), remembering (David Copperfield, where he also speaks of his closest friend David who died and the bond they shared) and many such topics that will make you smile, cry, or remember people who you haven’t spoken or connected with in a while.

Schwalbe’s writing is stark and pure. There is this honesty to it, which I love. I think when you speak of books that have touched you and mean something, you cannot not be honest. He speaks of reading and how it changes people (rightly so). Schwalbe knows the terrain of books and the power they can have over people and that to me is beautiful. I loved how he weaves his life around books and they come to life in his hands.

365 Stories: Day 13: Cockcrow by Guy de Maupassant

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The story read on the 13th of January 2017 was “Cockcrow” by Maupassant. I remember reading him in school and enjoying his stories a lot. Sadly, I did not like this one. It was a love triangle and while the description was marvellous, the ending left me high and dry and not satisfied at all. I mean, I wish there was more to this tale.

The Three Questions: Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

the-three-questions-by-jon-j-muth Title: The Three Questions
Written and Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Adapted from a story by Leo Tolstoy
Publisher: Scholastic Books
ISBN: 978-0439199964
Genre: Picture Book, Short Story
Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This was the next book in the Story Cure challenge. The Three Questions is mentioned as a book for grown-ups in the book and rightly so. For anyone who has ever questioned life and its workings, this picture book is definitely for you.

“The Three Questions” is a book written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth and based on the same story by Leo Tolstoy. At the heart of the story, there is a boy named Nikolai who just wants answers to three questions: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? He sets out to seek the answers from Leo, the Turtle, after having received no assistance from Sonya the Heron, Gogol the Monkey and Pushkin the Dog.

The answers of course are but obvious but I cannot reveal them in this review. Also, notice how the names of the creatures and Nikolai himself are modeled either after literary characters or historic ones. I loved that while reading this picture book. And yes, rightly so it is a book for grown-ups because it is only we who are constantly seeking answers and never learn to stay still.

P.S: I’ve also read the short story by Tolstoy but hands down I prefer this version by Muth.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

a-child-of-books-by-oliver-jeffers Title: A Child of Books
Authors: Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
Publisher: Walker Books
ISBN: 978-1406358315
Genre: Children’s Books, Picture Books
Pages: 40
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Books will always remain the most inexpensive way to get access to other worlds. They always have been and always will be. I was very lucky that my parents introduced me to books when I was only five years old. I haven’t looked back since. Books and I have a relationship that will never die or fade. I am glad that I am sure of this.

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So when I saw ‘A Child of Books’ slated for release, I knew I had to get my hands on it and read it – not just once but again and again and again. It is not a children’s book – it looks and reads like one but I don’t think it is a children’s book. If anything, it is for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to be a child. I am also biased to Oliver Jeffers’ books – to me, he cannot come out with a bad book. That is something which isn’t possible.

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This book is simple – it is a picture book – with words and sentences that are so profound that it will make you sit back and contemplate about whether your child is reading enough or not. It is a love letter to reading and how it does really save us. A girl is besotted by books and reading and helps a tiny boy to take the proverbial plunge to this world of words and emotions.

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The book is about their journey – through magical lands, fairies and castles and places where anything can happen and those places are only found in books. I think this is the most fitting tribute to books, literature and the books that are so quirkily placed within this book. ‘A Child of Books’ should be read by anyone and everyone who loves books and reading. It is that essential.

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At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

at-hawthorn-time-by-melissa-harrison Title: At Hawthorn Time
Author: Melissa Harrison
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
ISBN: 978-1408859056
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

For the longest time I couldn’t understand books which had nature as an integral theme. I don’t know why but I couldn’t. Then I read “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert and it changed my view of “nature novels” forever. I was intrigued by the genre. I had to read more about the beauty we are surrounded by (albeit what we do with it) and our close connection to the flora and the fauna to speak of.

Human beings, most of them have not understood nature and its significance. It is so out of their line of thought and vision, that it doesn’t even cross paths with their day-to-day life or routine of it. Come to think of it, it is rather sad, isn’t it? To not think of what we are surrounded by and I am also one of them. I am equally to be blamed, however I hope to change that by observing, and perhaps by saving what is left.

“At Hawthorn Time” by Melissa Harrison is not the kind of book that can be read in one sitting. Not because it is difficult to read, but because you need to ponder and mull over what is written. At times, you might even feel that this book isn’t for you, but I beg you to give it some time and you will see its beauty and what it’s worth.

Let me quickly get to the plot of the book: Howard and Kitty is an ageing couple who have moved to Lodeshill, after spending a lifetime in London and their marriage is falling apart – day by day, without a word or indication. They do not have the will to do anything about it and that’s heartbreaking. Harrison has this wonderful knack of blending the ordinary with the extraordinary moments and this is where nature plays a major role in the book. Everything happens languidly, at its own pace. I even thought that the couple’s marriage was like the turn of seasons – that carried out for 30 years and now had just given up.

Lodeshill is a fictitious village (I read this in an interview as I finished the book and was surprised to read that). Having said that, it is as real as any village could be – the mannerisms, the locales and the landscape of village life are accurately and beautifully captured by Ms. Harrison.

So there is this couple whose marriage is on the rocks (or has completely fallen off the cliff so to say) and then you have Jack, a rebellious modern-day hippie who has skipped imprisonment and all he wants is to go back home and reinvent his life, keeping his body and soul together.

And to forget that there is Jamie, a nineteen-year old man who is coming of age and doesn’t know what to do with this life. There is no direction or purpose so to speak and all he wants to do is leave Lodeshill for good. At the same time, he is taking care of his grandfather who is facing dementia and just disappears one fine day, leaving Jamie wondering what happened to him.

Before the reader knows it, there are paths that cross (but eventually) and incidents occur and life isn’t what they all thought it is. At this point, I would have to talk about nature and the big role it plays in the book – it is there – bright, dark, daunting and as varied as you’d think of nature to be. The landscape in which Harrison writes is real, not brutal but definitely bordering the lonely and the aspirational and Harrison just makes us realize the worlds we inhabit. A book you must buy, read, keep, and reread.

This book was also a shortlisted title for the 2015 Costa Novel Award.

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