Category Archives: India

30 Day Book Challenge — Day 15 | Books that Should be on High School/ College Required Reading Lists

Sorry about posting late. I had another paper due today and I literally submitted it and wrote this 10 min later. Also, I apologise for the pedantic tone of this post. I mean well. Really.

I actually have two books that ought to be required reading material for everybody regardless of if they are in high school/college or just adults going about their lives.

The first one is a novel. It is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This is an adult dystopian novel, which is one of my favourite genres, as I’ve mentioned before. It is a book in which firemen track down and set fires to books instead of putting them out. Reading books is forbidden and televisions are the order of the day. Thinking and being eccentric in general are frowned upon because thinking breeds dissatisfaction. Essentially, people aren’t allowed to be different in any way because that leads to trouble. Instead, they are allowed mindless distractions.

A lot of people have focussed on the book burning aspect in this book but I can’t help feeling like that isn’t actually the point. When books were burnt during the Nazi regime or whenever else, there was a lot of silent outrage felt against the burnings and they weren’t ALL books, but only the books that dissented against the ruler at the time. The thing that struck me about this book is that all books are uniformly burnt, and nobody seems to oppose it except for the people who secretly hoard the books. It’s more all-pervasive and nobody really cares that it’s happening. The book burning part at least didn’t strike me as part of a reign of terror but something nobody really cares about. I can’t help feeling like that’s how most of us treat major issues today because they have more than enough distractions from the real problems that other people may be facing, whatever those problems may be. I too am guilty of this,because it’s just easier to bury one’s head in the sand than to admit that there’s this massive problem that I possibly can’t do anything about. There isn’t enough awareness or dialogue about these problems either. And that is depressing.

It is what struck me about this book as well as about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I feel like a tyrannical or corrupt government doesn’t need terror to keep people in check anymore because most people compliantly ignore them when supplied with sufficient distractions. I chose to talk about this one, however, because Ray Bradbury seems to be promoting “book learning” in a time when it is dying out. Book sales are declining and book stores are shutting and this just breaks my heart.

The other book that everyone needs to read (At least everyone in India) is Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P. Sainath. He’s a journalist who toured a bunch of villages and interviewed them about how well-meaning government policy actually influenced them. This book is a collection of short articles on that topic. (Hint: It was a fiasco.) Poor implementation, corruption, neglect, bureaucratic barriers are all shown in this book in the form of anecdotes. They are written with wry humour. This book taught me so much. I have my senior to thank for recommending this book to my Constitutional Law class.

Hoot

Sin

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30 Day Book Challenge — Day 12 | The First Novel I Remember Reading aka A Nostalgia Festival

Are we talking about children’s novels? I can’t remember what the first adult novel I read was.Or Young Adult.

I can’t remember what the first children’s novel I read was either but I remember that it was an Enid Blyton book. I may have read novels before this but I can’t remember. I think it was one of the Famous Five ones or one of the Five FInd-outers ones. I can’t for the life of me remember which one it was, but I do know that Enid Blyton and her children and the worlds they inhabited consumed me for many many coming years.I re-read a few favourites well into my teen years, each time I needed comforting or was just bored. Her mystery books and her boarding school stories are simply divine. I can’t wait to introduce them to my own children. I have my mother to thank for my time with these enthralling, timeless books. 

Till this point, I had read a lot of comic books like Tinkle, I had read a whole lot of Amar Chitra Katha, I regularly read Champak ,Chandamama, etc. I had read a fair number of illustrated short stories for children with those glossy illustrated pages. I devoured the stories in my English textbooks, I had read fairy tales. I had read Aesop’s fables, Akbar and Birbal, Tenali Raman, and all of those other Indian childhood heroes. I also read joke books, fact books, (or books of trivia), and also Childcraft and other Encyclopaedias. 

I just cast my mind back and I remember two humongous books of short stories that I hoarded and read in my pre-novel era. 

One was a book called the Adventures of Dennis by Victor Dragunsky, translated from Russian. It told the story of a boy Dennis and his friend Misha. I think my mum thought it had something to do with Dennis the Menace when she bought it for me because I loved those comics in the newspaper. It didn’t , but I still loved it. One particular story sticks out to me even now. It was the story of how Dennis hated that his father smoked because cigarettes “have enough nicotine to kill a horse”. His aunt Tamara gifts his father a cigarette holder but his father’s cigarettes are too short to fit in it. His dad asks him to trim the cigarettes and Dennis trims the end with the tobacco and nicotine in it. I can’t remember how this ends though. The weird things one remembers from childhood defy all logic. 

Another book that I hoarded was a book of Ukrainian Folk tales, It was a massive brown hardback and I haven’t the faintest idea how i got my hands on it but I read these weird stories again and again.

But novels? Not that I can remember.  

Anyway, let us amble back up memory lane to talk about what is actually required, shall we?

I was 9 and I had just returned from summer camp, the staying-over kind, which was for a full 10 days and it was the longest I had ever been away from home.I had had a lot of fun but I was glad to be back home. (I was and still am a bit of a homebug, happiest in my own room in my own bed.) My parents picked me up and took me home and I was looking forward to idling the rest of the summer away. But alas! It was not to be.

My mum told me I had been signed up for swimming lessons till the end of my idyllic summer vacation and I was to leave at 7 in the morning to take them.This was what annoyed me the most, I think. (I loved water and I’d still have the rest of the day after that to chill.) Even as a child, I disliked waking up early almost as much as I hated sleeping early. It’s good to think back and realise that some things never change, even if they are the things that make me a failure at life.

My mum is smart though. She knew what buttons to push on her lazy, nerdy, bookworm daughter to cheer her up. She still does, in fact. She gave me two Enid Blyton books from the new library at which she’d gotten me a membership. Those shut me up and I got down to them immediately.  And it was… the start of a new era. The era of Enid Blyton, but also, I think, the era of novels in my life. May it never end! 🙂

Also, since I need to not break the rules of the challenge, I think it was Five Run Away Together. I can’t be sure though.

Hoot.

–Sin

30 Day Book Challenge — Day 8 | Most Overrated Book

This one is easy. And it’s a short one, which is good because I have a paper due tomorrow and I also need to present it. -sighs- It may seem like I’m lazy and I’m procrastinating, but I promise you: I’m panicking on the inside. -shudder- 

The book which I think is the most overrated is A God of Small Things by Arundathi Roy. This book… it’s messed up. I’m not kidding. I honestly have not met a single person who’s liked this book, and yet it’s critically acclaimed and it won the Booker Prize in 1997 which is just… what?! I don’t understand it.

I haven’t actually finished this book, so I may be woefully mistaken,but trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. I have started this book multiple times and I have gotten a tiny bit further each time but I have put it down in frustration because it just left a bad taste in my mouth. And yes, the content is sad, but as I’ve said before, I read mostly sad books. I read realistic post-modern fiction mostly. This book is just disconcerting and mystifying to no end. I don’t get it at all, even though I have tried. I have given this book far more attention than it deserves simply because of some misguided patriotism to read this acclaimed Indian book, but the only thing it taught me was to not blindly trust literary awards.

One thing though. I love the title. It’s so beautiful, meaningful and poetic. 🙂

If you are someone who enjoyed this book, feel free to tell me why. I am nothing if not open-minded. 🙂

Well, that’s it for today. Wish me luck for my paper.

Hoot.

–Sin

30 Day Book Challenge — Day 3 |My Favourite Series

I am being so good about this! I’ve already started this post, and it’s only noon. Let’s hope that this zeal continues to last, especially in November, when I have exams. (Is this foreshadowing for bleak times to come, Sindhu? Uh…maybe?)

Okay, my favourite series in life is Harry Potter. In fact, the various books of Harry Potter are my go-to answers for a LOT of these questions. But I won’t mention them. (Except to say that I won’t mention them… Yeah. Logic.) The reason for that is obvious. It’s that it would make things REALLY boring.

Also, I’m assuming here that a series is every story that has more than one book in it, including trilogies. 

Ok, I’ve decided to cheat a bit on this question and name one series which has ended and one which is ongoing which I’ve loved so far because both these are amazing.

I don’t read a lot of series and trilogies because most series and trilogies are fantasy related and that’s usually just not my cup of tea. (Yes yes. The horror! Bring on the brickbats!) OF course, there are a few fantasy authors that I really do like such as Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks, etc though I’ve read exactly one trilogy by each of them and no more. I liked the ones I read. Most of the books I read are standalones, most are post-modern books, although I also read a lot of classics, and I like it that way.

Now there’s also this new trend where every trilogy is dystopian young adult and I jumped on the bandwagon for the first couple (Hunger Games and Divergent, basically.) but now they’re just everywhere and the premises are just so strange and they’re a combination of paranormal and dystopian and there’s just not enough focus on the hopelessness of the situation… They’re not even REALLY Dystopian I think. They’re just fantasy novels in different universes.

My favourite genre is in fact, dystopian, which is why I have strong opinions on this subject. A Clockwork Orange, anyone? Now THAT’S a bleak book! Which is as it should be.

Anyway, onto my favourite series/ trilogy that has ended, ie. in which all of the books have already been published:

The winner is… The Gameworld Trilogy by Samit Basu. Now, this is an Indian fantasy series, and it is hilarious, dark, adventuous and completely fabulous. I am in love with both of the main characters, Maya and Kirrin and they are also one of my main ‘ships‘. (Click on that if you don’t know what a ‘ship’ is. What rock have you been living under? Huh? I only found out what the hell it was at the beginning of the year, but whatever.) Maya is one of the most badass female leads in the history of forever. Guys. Guys. Read these. Please. Samit Basu deserves far more love and attention than he gets. It transcends borders. And his world builfding? -Phwoar- That’s the sound my mind made when it was blown. READ THIS. OR FACE MY WRATH.

Now, onto the ongoing series that is my current favourite, or at the very least, my most anticipated series ending-book-release of 2015. This series is somewhat dystopian, I think, and they’re fairytale retellings. They are also set in the future in a world where humans, cyborgs and androids all co-exist. I know right? WHAT! THEY’RE SO GOOD. They’re immaculately thought out, fascinating and familiar and yet, so original at the same time. If you haven’t already guessed what I am talking about, I am talking about the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer. The first book, Cinder, is a retelling of Cinderella. The second, Scarlet, is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The Third, Cress, is a retelling of Rapunzel. The third one is my favourite. 🙂 There are two more books due to come out. One is a prequel and one is the final book of the series and I MA DYING TO GET MY HANDS ON THEM. I want to know. I can’t wait to know. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Yes. Give this series a chance for sure. It may seem formulaic in this day and age because of the dystopian/fantast/sci-fi young adult thing but it’s refreshingly original and amazing.

Also, the opinions expressed about fantasy, etc/, in this post are very personal and I don’t think it’s a comment on the actual quality of the book, but just a comment on what I enjoy reading. I hope i didn’t offend anyone. 🙂

So yes. Until tomorrow,

Hoot.

–Sin

Breaking Challenges :(

I caved and have had to give a temporary hiatus to the Indian authors thing I was to do this month because all the books I’d wanted to read are so heavy and I had a reading slump and I wasn’t reading ANYTHING so I just picked up a light read to ease me back in; something I was almost certain to like: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I adored the other two books in this companion novel series, though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that.

They are: Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Super fun books, both of them.

And John Green liked Anna and the French Kiss. Just sayin’. (Defensive? Who, me?)

Sad hoot.

–Sin

Em and the Big Hoom | Book Review

The book I’m going to review today is Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.

I have not written a book review in so long. My previous blog (Yes, I’ve had several blogs that I ground into obscurity every time I emerge from a fresh bout of writer’s block.) was to consist primarily of book reviews and that was its undoing, I think. I read a series of books which overwhelmed me and I just did not know how to review them without spoiling them and without sounding repetitive about how much I love them and then I just stopped reviewing books, and panicked at the thought of reviewing one. This particular doozy took me a full 3 days to write to my satisfaction, and it’s still halting in parts… I’m just going to go ahead and post before I change my mind. In the future, may be I’ll do wrap-ups in the style of booktubers to talk about what I’ve been reading briefly. 

</end typical long winded rant>

In my last post, I had said that I was currently reading this book and that I loved it so far. News Update: I do love it!

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you guys. This is one of the best books I’ve read by an Indian author. Not that I’ve read too many books by Indian authors, but I’m remedying that now.

Anyway, this is also the best book I’ve read representing somebody with a mental illness after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. (If you haven’t read it yet, why the hell not?! Go go go. Read it right now. My blog isn’t a quarter as interesting)

I’m not saying that the books are similar; they aren’t—at all— (For starters, they deal with different mental illnesses!) but this book is reminiscent of that one in its kind and balanced approach, which doesn’t sugar-coat the toll mental illness may take on the affected person, and their family, but that also doesn’t demonise the person. In fact, Pinto probably faced a greater challenge doing this because this book wasn’t from the perspective of the person with the mental illness, Imelda Mendes, ‘Em’ to her children, ‘Beloved’ to her husband, but that of her son, from the time he is around 10 years old, to when he is in his early 20’s.

The book consists entirely of remembered conversations between the boy and his family, letters and journal entries written by his mother and his actual thoughts about these which makes for interesting changes in voice throughout the book. I liked that.

It is written retrospectively, and has a hazy, reminiscing quality to it, but at the same time, it truly describes the narrator’s dominant feelings of pity, fear and frustration in equal measure, as well as the suffering he saw his mother go through. In the true style of reminisces, it is written in a non-linear fashion, each story, each incident, weaving together seamlessly, giving an actual glimpse into the claustrophobic one-bedroom house in sweltering 1980’s Mumbai.

My favourite character in the book is the titular Big Hoom, the father, the husband, the family’s rock. He’s a little two-dimensional but reading about him made me feel warm inside.

This book is so honest and uncensored, it broke my heart. The ending soothed and moved me at the same time. I do so love a book that is set in India but that isn’t about India or about living in India… if that makes sense. I also love books about living in India, but I love these more. I actually do so love a well-written book about anything set anywhere, to be honest.

I don’t even know why I need to say this at this point, but I highly recommend this book. Read it. And yes, you can thank me in advance. 😛

Hoot.

–Sin

My October TBR and a HUGE announcement!

Err… The announcement is coming first. Just roll with it okay? Okay.

Okay, I have an announcement to make to all my numerous (splutter) readers. I will almost certainly be taking up booktubing. I’ve created my channel, I’ve obtained a nice-ish camera. (Dad’s old one) And I’ve readied all my social media accounts… One only minor thing left to do: Record.

I’m very self-conscious, and even though I love books and I love…talking, I’m terrified! I’ll get to it eventually. I’ve set myself a deadline for the end of my holidays, which is Oct 27th so it’s happening. Very soon. THIS MONTH. Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

-hyperventilates-

I’ll still keep blogging though, may be even more frequently than usual. Maybe. No promises, unfortunately. (Yes. I know. This is what one wants to hear from a blogger they follow. :P) I’m LOUSY at motivating myself to do anything. I need to work on that. I will. THAT’S a promise.

In other news, I’ve read a lot more books this year than I intended to. My goal for the year was 50 and I’ve read 77…so far. So around March, I decided to make certain months category months, like in March I only read Classics, and in July, I read only non-fiction. It broadened my horizons of reading and made me slow down a little.

My point is, is that October is going to be one of those months. This month I’m only going to read books by authors who are from India or the Indian Sub-continent. I looked through my shelves and I discovered than I have a lot of books by Indian/Pakistani authors that I haven’t read yet so I’ve decided to make a TBR for this month, based on how much I think I can read.

Here it is. (Strictly tentative, okay?)

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto (Currently reading and LOVING)

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra

The Wishmaker by Ali Sethi

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

I’m also thinking of buying A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

I think this is all I can do because I’m also interning and Sacred Games is massive (947 pages)! If anybody has any suggestions, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks!

Hoot.

-Sin