Archive for the ‘books’ category

Bed time reading : Installment #7

October 10, 2017



Bed time reading : Installment #6

June 26, 2017


Renewed – June 25th

Bed time reading : Installment #5

December 10, 2016


Update (December 9th)

Possibly the last set of books this year. But since it is all from comfort zone, I do not expect them to last long.

Mahabharatha, (Book IV – Virata) 

Why :  A translation with transliteration on the side. And it is a pretty slim book that can be carried around. I’m excited!

Breathing lessons

Why : This was picked up randomly when book hopping through the library. Came back and googled and realized I had a Pulitzer prize winning novel on my hands.

Short stories are not real life

Why :  Again, a random book selection. The title sounds fun. Or at least interesting.

Twixt Land and Sea Tales

Why : Because Conrad.

40 retakes

Why : Because it is a list of slightly lesser known Hindi films with synopses. Hopefully all of them are on youtube.


Bed time reading : Installment #4

November 26, 2016


Random library book selection day. And it turned out to be a treasure trove.

Update (November 26th):

Japanese fairy tales : 

The artist and the mathematician :

Persian fairy tales : 

Bed time reading : Installment #3

November 26, 2016


Just some reading of Dame Christie’s books. I picked some titles off the rack which looked unfamiliar and lo, they all turned out to be books I hadn’t read before.

Update (November 26th):

The big four : Surprisingly, I have never read this before. Poirot gets called to South America just when Hastings surprises him with an England visit. After a mysterious person dying in Poirot’s apartment, the duo realize it is the Mysterious number four of the Big Four at work. It’s all a bit too .. amateurish though, compared to the finesse of Agatha Christie’s other novels. And there’s a strong sense of Sherlock Holmes and Watson parody running through the story, possibly intentional. Anyway .. not something I would re-read.

Ordeal by innocence : What happens when an accused in a murder case gets his star witness clearing his alibi for him long after the case has been done and dusted and the defendant .. dead in fact ? Do the living innocents have to pay the fine for the dead to get their name cleared.

Arthur Calgary returns from his south pole(?) expedition to clear Jacko Argyle’s name in the murder of his adoptive mother, though Jacko is himself dead. But this plunges the rest of the family into an ordeal, where in the usual style of Christie, every one is under suspicion and suspicious of everyone else. Arthur Calgary and the police investigate a trail gone stale while the murderer awakens, desperate. A good plot, though perhaps a little gray and not that *fun*, maybe because we don’t have a Miss Marple or a Poirot or a Mrs Oliver to head the investigating team.

I think there’s a BBC adaptation of this with Richard Armitage playing one of the characters. Should watch it sometime!

Poem : Still to be read.


Bed time reading : Installment #2

October 15, 2016


October 16th : I’m now a public library member! Hurray!

Update (November 26th):

One library return deadline has come and gone and I’m nowhere done with these, which is unsurprising because I purposefully went out of my comfort zone here and also I smuggled in a few other books in the interim and read them.

Chicken with plums : It was not as spectacular as Persepolis, but nevertheless a great read. Left me wondering about how all kinds of emotions and states of mind in one’s life are so densely fused with each other. And how complicated it is to judge someone’s action, even after hearing both or many sides of the story.

Watchmen : This probably is the best pick of the lot. Never been a great ‘super hero’ book fan nor a very interested graphic novel reader. But there are reasons why some books gain such an ardent following – they are simply mind-blowingly spectacular. And Watchmen is one such. Dr Manhattan’s story arc (and even his picturization) is probably THE highlight of the story. What miracles can life show you when you know everything in advance ? It was an intense, thrilling and draining read. I loved it. Aside : I’ve also probably found the best quote ever.



Update (Dec 9th):

Issac Newton : I must confess I do not very often read non-fiction. And popular science books (apart from some popular-math books). So this was quite a departure from norm for me, and mostly enjoyable at that. Really loved Gleick’s style of writing. It brought out the personality of Newton and also listed several interesting anecdotes about his life. For instance, I never knew the tumultuous relationship he shared with Hooke (which started out when Newton put forth his theories about colours). Gleick says “Hooke was Newton’s inspiration (though Newton never acknowledged it). He became Newton’s goad, nemesis, tormentor and victim.”

But the book also served as a harsh reminder that I have forgotten any physics I might have learnt in school. So now I can empathize a little bit when people zone out when I bring up math they have probably learnt in high school. It was especially galling when the two and the three-body problems were mentioned  (since I did read that at some point long long ago). Alas!

Also TIL : Gravity for the ladies apparently




Death of a salesman : 

As expected, it was a most depressing read. But fascinating all the same. Also I finally understood how hard it might be to *stage* such a play, let alone writing it.

Death of a salesman revolves around Willy, the salesman and switches between his past and present continuously and fluidly. For instance, Willy starts talking to his son Biff in the present and suddenly his mind and the play wanders into the past, where he seamlessly continues talking to his son Biff.. but in the past! It is so artfully crafted that it reveals how the characters and the equations between them have changed. It rather seems like Time is an invisible stand alone character himself in this play.

Now how do you showcase this, on a stage ?  How do you avoid confusing the audience between the past and the present without spelling it out in dreary detail ? How do you retail the magic of Miller’s play while performing it ?

I think this book finally helped me see that theatre is more than just the playwright speaking to the audience through a bunch of human puppets. So much more.

Oxford book of Sonnets :

Again, half done. Wasn’t enthralled by it as much as I would have liked. Maybe I did not get to the good bits. Or maybe my poetry appreciation begins and ends with Indian film songs. Most memorable one I finished reading was



The owl who liked sitting on Caesar :

Much as I loved the title and the chronicles of Mumble, the tawny owl, I only managed to get through half of the book. The writing is fun, funny and filled with facts about owls (and the author’s life and his fascinating brother). I guess I might give it another shot next year, but now the library deadline looms ahead and I have to part with it.

Cosmos, Yoga, Money, Drawing : 

Did not read. Note to self, do not be over-ambitious and borrow so much non-fiction in one library trip. Hopefully, will get to reading all this next year



Bed time reading : Installment #1

September 30, 2016


September 30 : Only thing left to do is to keep the angst and depression at bay.

Update (October 16):

Loved Bhima the lone warrior and Bagombo Snuff box and other short stories. I think I will read more of MT and Vonnegut’s works.

Bhima the Lone warrior

Bhima the lone warrior was a very unpretentious but subtle retelling of the Mahabharatha. As MT points out in the introduction, he did not wander from the Mahabharatha, instead only choosing to fill in some of the thought provoking silences that Vyasa maintained. And maybe disregarding “stories of the past” which explained away the more morally ambiguous events. Most of the narrative consisted of stories which were of course very familiar, but I was blown away by the spin MT put on the Mahabharatha.

I am usually very wary of reading “interpretations” of the classic, because usually it dismembers and mutilates the image I have of them. Truth be told, I usually detest most of them. But from the start to the end, I felt .. comfortable reading Bhima, the lone warrior. Sometimes you simply know you can trust the author. I especially loved the part in MT’s introduction where he recalls how he was told to read the Mahabharatha in its original form. He tells the reader how he did “more out of duty” than genuine interest in the beginning but the epic intrigued and inspired him so much that it became a precious hobby and indeed contributed to some of his other works.


Though the black and white characters are grayed out here, they still retain their flavour. The complexities are gently thrown into the mixture and mixed so thoroughly that you don’t … *feel* the shock you might expect to feel. I wish I could learn enough Malayalam to read the original, but that is a very golden and far away dream indeed.

Bagombo Snuff box and other short stories

This is actually the first time I’m reading a Kurt Vonnegut book. I’m not very fond of science fiction and I vaguely remember someone telling he wrote science fiction. This collection of short stories represents his earlier work and they are amazing. Again, the introduction is wonderful and gave me the confidence that I would enjoy the rest of the book. There is a lightness to his words which is the comfort I seek while reading any book.

I especially loved the stories featuring mastero music master and incorrigible spender on band uniforms, the George M. Helmholtz. “The No-Talent kid” was fabulous. “Der Arme Dolmetscher” left me with a laugh, “Runaways” with a smile and “This son of mine” with an ache. Just what a great collection of short stories should be.

Barren Corn

Barren Corn is as unlike a Georgette Heyer novel as possible. It tackles a theme of inequality, but with a startlingly practical and almost cold gaze. The girl is of solid good lower class/middle class qualities. The man is an upper class, public school educated, dreamer/artist with no real talent or inclination to work.

They fall in love because they look good to each other, literally. The woman of course, is an idealist. She loves him with all her heart, though I don’t know why and I don’t think she does either. Sometimes I think this is the case with all women. They take love too seriously, without a single solid or compelling reason. For all the “uncertain, coy, hard to please and variable as the shade” labels slung at us by drunk lovers and poets, it seems to be the other way around .. Here’s an extract from Wodehouse for evidence (The adventures of Sally).

“For an instant it stood out nakedly without concealment, and the world became a forlorn place. She had realized the fundamental difference between man’s outlook on life and woman’s.

Success! How men worshipped it, and how little of themselves they had to spare for anything else. Ironically, it was the theme of this very play of Gerald’s which she had saved from destruction. Of all the men she knew, how many had any view of life except as a race which they must strain every nerve to win, regardless of what they missed by the wayside in their haste? Fillmore—Gerald—all of them. There might be a woman in each of their lives, but she came second—an afterthought—a thing for their spare time. Gerald was everything to her. His success would never be more than a side-issue as far as she was concerned. He himself, without any of the trappings of success, was enough for her. But she was not enough for him. A spasm of futile jealousy shook her. She shivered.”

Anyway, back to Barren Corn. They get married, against everyone’s wishes and along with their own doubts because she is not too respectable to be a mistress and his conscience pricks him when he thinks about seducing her. After the honeymoon period, when they have to return back to life .. trouble starts.

He thinks about issues he feels ashamed to think about. After a while he starts feeling trapped and begins to think he’s thrown his life away. She finally sees that his love is not strong enough to overcome them. The honeymoon is over. It is time to part ways. But being a “gentleman”, he will rather suffer through life with this marriage than usher in scandal with talk of a divorce. So she runs off a cliff. Literally.

There’s much to be found wrong with this book. It’s treatment is heavy handed (no witty banter, no clever repartee, basically no Heyer trademark) and the ending is terrible. But .. it is honest.

Conversational Telugu

The introduction is GOLD. And I’m just starting Chapter 1, so we’ll see how it goes.

The outcry

I read two pages and the sentences jumbled up and dashed around in my mind. I reread them and still nothing made sense. I don’t know what it is. I will give it one more try but it mostly looks like I’m going to give this one a miss.