Friday, December 15, 2017

Chekhov in My Life By Lydia Avilov

This was a quick read.

This is a journal (or may be a memoir) of Lydia Avilov and her sad love affair with Chekhov. She was herself a short story writer, and as per her wishes this was published posthumously.

She has broadly described her eight meetings with Chekhov, and her dilemma of choosing between her love, and her duties.

Chekhov was a famous man of her time, and he was known to have affairs with a lot of women (about 33 as per theguardian). So if you look at it this may not really look like a new thing but it is one of the recorded documents (or memoir) from one of those women. A women who was in dilemma, and her relationship with Chekhov never materialized because Chekhov was never really committed.

The lines from Chekhov in the book seems to coming out fluent, and well rehearsed. It is quite possible that if another woman with an affair with Chekhov might have ended up writing the same lines.

It's a quick read not to judge Chekhov but to listen to Lydia, and what she went through because of the hope she had in love.


Monday, December 4, 2017

The Nineteen by Alexander Fadeyev

My readings have become more infrequent and it's becoming a bit difficult to catch with the books I started some 2 months back. Didn't really pick up anything recently.

Given that this was a relatively smaller book (about 180 Pages) this was supposed to be a quick read but took almost 2 months.

Anyways, this is definitely a great read for anybody who is or is not interested in Russian literature.

The book revolves around the difficulties, and circumstances of gorilla revolutionary.

It is difficult to be a leader but it is more difficult to take decisions which may not be of liking for everybody who get affected by these decisions. The bigger problem is that a lot of times it is not humanly possible to gauge the affect of your decisions in advance. Once you're in soup than only you know how hot it is.

But this has life been all about. You make decisions, hope it to turn out well, and if it doesn't you've to make another choice.

War is not good but a lot of times even if you don't choose war, others choose it for you. And you're left with the option either to stay low, and perish or face it irrespective of where it leads to.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

This was a quick read, and honestly I was not aware that it was included in the 100 best novels by The Guardian.
It was a quick read, and given the current time period it is fairly old. The things have changed in Africa but this doesn't mean that this has lost the relevance. That is the whole idea behind a good story, it's always great to read them.
The plot revolves around Salim, who has recently shifted to Africa and his one point program is to survive till he makes enough money.
I'll not delve too much into the story but the plot is not everything here, it is the narrative which gets more attention.
Go for it if you're fine with an open ended story.

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Again a Russian novel from a master. And as expected it did took a lot of time. I just couldn't run through it.

So this is a satire which is political, personal, ungodly and what not. It was such a great fun but a pain because it was so long (worth the effort).

Plot revolves around Satan, ordinary people (master and Margarita) in extraordinary circumstances, God, Messenger, and Pontius Pilate.

Of course there are 2 plots which are century apart but the connect is so great that you never feel the time leap while reading. It all looks so natural that there is no question of getting lost in the narrative.

It's definitely a great read, and also a platter for thoughts.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

Another Russian novel, and it didn't fail to meet the great standards of Russian literature from that era.

The story is basically a love story of a young nobleman Oblomov who is incapable of taking any decisions. Love story may not be the most appropriate term for this because is has all the usual impressions of philosophy, character development, larger narration, and longer depiction of all important scenes.

Oblomov is shown as a great young man with great knowledge, a pure heart, and a tender gentleman. The only problem is that he can't decide on anything. He is dependent on others to decide on his behalf. He falls in love with beautiful Olga but the doubts always keep his thoughts hazy, and he doesn't know how to move ahead.

His best friend Stoltz tries to do all he can to pull him out of lethargy, and put him in action but didn't succeed.

The condition of Oblomov is described in a word "Oblomovitis" which is described as a family disorder which got transferred from one generation to another. All the kids have grown up in such a protective environment that when they are on their own they can't take a decision even after all the education, and learning.

I'm unsure if I should feel sorry for him or take pity on him but this is one of those personalities which we see around us sometimes if not frequently. We all no that one person who can't decide, and in turn been exploited by others for the good nature.

It's a long read, and of course a tiring one at time but definitely worth the effort. If you're a fan of Russian greats than this is one of the books that you should read.

Friday, June 30, 2017

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

So I picked this book after reading Norse Mythology. Another factor was that the series based on this got some rave reviews so thought of reading the book, and chuck the series.

And what are the thoughts? Well it is not that great. It's actually full of cliches, and there are so many details of weather, localities, and what not which has unnecessarily added the number of pages.

The whole plot is a long shot fight between the old gods, and the new gods. The old gods are any gods which you can think of from mythology. New gods are weird like internet, and media.

I don't generally look for a reason but this went beyond the realm (cliche).

I've not watched the series, and if you're liking it there are chances that this is actually better than the book.

The book ends on a note which I was anticipating, but the whole narrative couldn't build that charisma of a good read with such a huge plot.

I hope there is a sequel to it because you just can't leave it here but I also understand that this has got so twisted you may never know how to end it properly.

Give the book a pass if you can. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan, & Cacilda Jethá

Of course the title was so catchy that I couldn't drop the book.

It took me more time than I thought but the reason was mainly me juggling between 3 books together.

Anyways, the book is about what it's title says. It explores the copulation habits of humans and other related (distantly or otherwise) to build a case that monogamy is not something which comes naturally to humans.

According to this book the humans are wired for uncontrolled out of bound copulation activities.

The book is full of citations, and references to prove the point from different sources related to different fields, be it anatomy, archaeology, behavioural studies etc.

However, the biggest disconnect was that the book starts backwards. It takes the premise that humans are not one partner species, and they subsequently start adding the references etc to drive this point.

I really don't have any opinion on what should be the sexual preferences of anybody because it is a very personal choice. Neither anybody should be forced to comply to what others think/call/label indecent or immoral.

One thing that I'm in favour of is that over all the years of civilisation (really???) whole society has created a moral fabric that everybody is supposed to be follow the rules, and any aberration should be punished, discarded or hated. Which is not a welcoming situation if you're on the other side.

The book is a fun read, and the only caution is that don't make any opinion based on this book alone. Since you might be reading this book doesn't give you a permit to cheat on your partners, and justify it with it's being the human nature :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas by Romila Thapar

Here is another book which was pending since long. I think I should make the list, and start working (reading) on it.

Anyways, here is another book on historical figure, Asoka. This book is so fact based that it qualifies as a thesis or a research project. Plus this book is big. It's about 350 pages along with all the references. And I'll like to add that I never felt so good while going through the appendix, footnotes etc.

I believe that the historical figures can't be reported without an imagination, and supporting facts. Nobody can claim anything about such myths. Most probably there can be an educated construct around the fossils and remains but we never know when the bias of a viewer or writer will come into the picture, and distort the facts as their liking.

This book sound very unbiased because the author has mentioned that a lot of myths/stories about Asoka are created by those religious authors who wanted to show their religion in the best possible way, and these can't be taken as an evidence. There is so much contradiction between different accounts that we can't really conclude anything from these. There will always be a biased view if we take these stories as a fact.

This is a difficult book to read, and even I felt to leave it in between a lot of times. But as I mentioned this is full of facts and references this was never meant to be entertaining.

If you're interested to read an unbiased account of what would have Asoka been like than this is the book for you.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I came across the book when an interview of this author was published in a newspaper.

This was a short excerpt and author mentioned what all he liked about Norse mythology, and story telling culture from the olden days.

Of course, I knew Thor, Loki, Odin and other gods from those Hollywood movies but it didn't really occurred to me that there can be whole series of stories having all these characters.

So here I was with this book. This is a quick read about 300 pages. There is no plot as such because this is not really a novel. It is more like a collection of stories which are told, and retold since time immemorial.

I loved all the stories, and it is great to see how detailed is the base of setting the premise of all stories. It all starts from nothing, and than many worlds, than god, giants, humans etc come into the picture. Surprisingly, the whole story have an end as well. Which is the not the end but a beginning of a new era.

Of course there are some parts related to giants, and impossible feats of gods or otherwise, but these are included to create that aura around the characters, and make them more than human.

I can say this is a must read, and I'll be exploring few more books on similar topic.


Monday, April 3, 2017

The Last Lecture co-authored by Randy Pausch

So here is another motivational book which I finished recently. I picked up this book after seeing his lecture on Youtube.

However, I believe this is more in line with how we should be like a person rather than motivational.

I kind of liked the book for the emotional, and inspiring narrative. This is the account of a man who knows that he is going to die shortly. He is not going to be around, and this book/lecture is mainly his effort to stay connected with his children (who were very young at that time) even when he is dead.

Death is not really a thing that anybody would like to discuss but there has always been people around us who have incurable diseases, and they already know that they are going to die very soon. This is a miserable condition to be in but Randy has definitely given a message of positivism even in the face of adversity which can be as huge as death itself.

Nobody is going to live forever but anybody can choose what they want to leave behind when they are gone.

I felt that the whole narrative was great but a lot of places it was going very close to boasting but I never knew Randy in person so I'll take the words on it's face value, and will not contradict to it. But I'll also add that not all of us can be as brilliant as Randy (as mentioned in the book), and we may not be able to touch so many lives in our lives but even if we made a difference to the life of one person than it was worth it.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vayam Rakshamah by Acharya Chatursen

After reading "Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu" this was the book I was looking forward to.

Acharya Chatursen said it in the preface that "मेरे हृदय और मस्तिष्क में भावों और विचारों की जो आधी शताब्दी की अर्जित प्रज्ञा-पूंजी थी, उन सबको मैंने ‘वयं रक्षाम:’ में झोंक दिया है। अब मेरे पास कुछ नहीं है। लुटा-पिटा-सा, ठगा-सा श्रान्त-कलान्त बैठा हूं। चाहती हूं-अब विश्राम मिले। चिर न सही, अचिर ही। परन्तु यह हवा में उड़ने का युग है।"

This summarises he gave all that he knew, believed or understood to this book. This book openly tells us how the life had been in those days. The book is so open that people may feel ashamed of hearing such things or wouldn't believe it at all because that is the easy way out.

The whole narration goes around Ravan who was a marked villain in the epic Ramayan. There had been different views on how Ravan was, in fact it is a long pending discussion across cultures who portray Ravan in different characteristics.

This book portrays Ravan as a young man full of ambition, challenging all the orthodaox rituals, and creating a society on equality which apparently doesn't go very well with the existing rulers/gods.

The whole plot is so thoroughly researched and there are so many citations from the ancient scriptures that this can easily qualify for a thesis.

This is not a book for closed minds. If you're willing enough to accept or at least listen to the things that obviously may not be very pleasant earlier, than this book is for you otherwise it can hurt your sentiments very easily withing very first few pages.


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

There are times in life when you realise that you could have avoided doing something. Reading this book was one of them for me.

The title was so catchy that I didn't try to find much about the author. As a rule of thumb I don't read other's review before picking a book but sometimes I go for a check on author. I so missed it here because I'm stuck with another point that I don't leave the books in the middle irrespective of my opinion.

Personally, I'm against any type of self help or motivational books. I believe that there are a lot of people who might have been benefited from such readings but I don't fall in those cases.

So, I'll say don't waste time on this book. If you've a problem, all you need to do is find a solution or at least start searching for it. Reading such book is not really going to help much.

Vaishali Ki Nagarvadhu by Acharya Chatursen

This one is a historical book around the time when Buddhism was expanding it's reach.

This is said to be the best book from Acharya Chatursen.

I read it in Hindi, and again it felt like long lost language has come back. But I must say that it was a great read.

The whole story revolves around the power conflicts around that era. It openly talks about the bad rituals in the society which were harming it's stability, and fairness.

Since the whole narrative is weaved around that era a lot of things has been assumed or directly taken from the scriptures but this should be fine as long as we're treating it as a story, and not really taking it word by word.

It was not a quick read since I was reading in Hindi after a long time since Mrityunjay. Planning to take Hindi books more frequently, and the next in line is "Vayam Rakshamah" from the Acharya Chatursen again.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I was thinking of reading this from quite some time now, and I picked it up last month.

To start with it's a quick read, and didn't take much time.

Like you might have heard of this being famous in teenagers who connect with it's theme of teenage rebellion, and complexity of thoughts in that age.

I must say that I'm way past the teenage, and this can be reason why I couldn't connect with it very well.

However, I'll like to add that the whole narrative was incoherent, plots were lost, and finally you don't feel the completion in the whole narrative. I don't know if this incompletion is by choice or otherwise but it does leave you lost.

I don't really recommend this even it being a quick read because this is something which is blown out of proportion. It doesn't offer anything for thought or even fun read. Somebody who wants to read about teenagers can pick something else but this book for that matter.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant

This is one of the books which I read in a hardcopy and not an ebook. I heard a lot about this book and finally ordered it to take a break from ebooks.

And I'm glad that I did order it. It is a great book which is an autobiography of Karn (from Mahabharat), and I believe if Karn might have written it himself, he'd have written more or less on similar lines.

Mahabharat is such an epic that every single character can have a book on his/her story. In fact, a lot of such books are in the market but it's a bit difficult to bring something new on table.

So here was this book, and I was able to finish in three odd weeks (given the size it was a bit faster, on top of it I read in Hindi).

The book is full of philosophy, musings, thoughts etc. And the best part is that the author has not dedicated a lot of pages to mere description of characters. The book is full of narration without missing the plot.

Since I've read the story of Mahabharat a lot many times, and I was aware how the things going to end. However, I was looking for a new point of view, and this book didn't disappoint.

Amazing book, and a must read irrespective of your taste for mythological stories or not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

To start with I want to say that this book is pretty boring. It is full of descriptions of visiting places/sites/museums, and interviewing people. And further putting it all together in not so coherent narrative.

I believe that being a journalist Elizabeth missed a lot of points which should have been provided as facts, and not just passing on remarks from the researchers she interviewed. I'm not really degrading the efforts but what I'm trying to say is that this could have been much better with a good researcher as a co-author.

The very reason I picked this book was the title, and it didn't do justice to the book.

Anyways, the book gives good examples of how the species are getting extinct around us along with the possible causes. The book has a lot of scientific jargon, and may sound difficult for a reader with non-science background.

Overall, the book is a good start if you're interested in how the current conditions climatic or otherwise can lead to the next wave of mass extinction, and probably this time humans will be on the receiving side. The book definitely ends on a positive note for all of us.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It Every Time by Maria Konnikova

What is the oldest profession in the world? Some say religion, others go with prostitution. This book says it was the confidence game.

I'm not sure which one is the oldest because I'm not really an archaeologist, and I'm not getting to delve on this point.

But what this book makes me think that en-cashing others' hopes, beliefs, fallacies etc is something a con man does. And falling for a con is a human tendency. Humans are naturally programmed to trust others, and have hopes. We all want to have better future and anybody/anything that promises it can win us.

The book has lots of cases to quote from small time cons to large business scams, and overall it's a good read.

It doesn't equip you to identify a scam but next time you'll know what it was that made you fall for it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

I'll accept the fact that the reason for choosing this novel was because of it's winning the Man Booker.

It was a quick read, but it left a lasting impression for sure.

This is a story of an African-American kid grown up in a ghetto near LA.

I had heard about the racial crime, and people's attitude towards the people of colour but this was a real eye opener. Acceptance is a problem but the bigger problem is that we don't want to let the people be. People who can do great in their lives, end up fighting the biases against themselves.

This is definitely a great read, not because it won Booker but it helps us understand that there are people who are not treated equally, and the reason can be anything from colour, religious beliefs, societal status etc.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

So this was a quick read.

The book is about a young boy Charlie who doesn't have any idea of what is happening around. But he also portrayed like a super genius who reads a lot, listen to lot of bands, and understanding a lot of things which even the more mature guys don't.

Did I mention that he is a crying baby too?

I know there are some takers for this kind of narratives, and there are good chances for a adolescent person to identify with Charlie. We may have those lows in our life but that is just a phase. Charlie seems to be stuck in it like forever.

I think this is not a great book but if you think that you can't be influenced by pseudo emotional content which tries too hard to make you cry than this book is for you.

For others even if you read it you'll get over it by the Epilogue.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens

I'll not call it a book in the first place. It is about 100 page long essay, and not really a book.

The author of this book is already famous for criticising famous personalities around the world. He seems to be always going against anything which looks large than life.

This book is on Saint Teresa, and how she was a friend of rich people (rich by wrong ways), and poverty (not the poor). This book shows her in bad light, and there were some instances which are so logical that you can't either answer them or doge them.

There are multiple such instances where she put the wrong foot forward. She had her beliefs against  birth control, convert to Christianity, and poverty etc but that doesn't undermine her efforts.

I'm sure the donations received could have been put to a better use, but unfortunately there was no such account maintained so nobody knew how much money they had.

But one thing I'm totally against it that nobody can decide how others should behave/expect when they are on wrong side of luck. A sick person needs medication. Provide it if you can or just stay away.

Finally, it's a quick read, and definitely gives you a different perspective about the "Saint". Read it for that irrespective of your leanings.