Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

We all go through that stage of pointlessness in our lives. A goalless appraoch without a clear path and unsure of everything. ‘The catcher in the Rye’ by J.D Salinger is an extended rant of a teenager going through a similar phase where he doesn’t hold back anything.

Imagine describing every emotion, every feeling about other people or situations being blurted out without thinking twice. The entire story is an exact depiction of that very feeling. The unsaid being said out loud or at least thought of in contradictory fashion. The Main Character’s (Holden) views shift from one extreme to another. Typical bipolarity, if you can term it. He’d hate someone for a while and then miss not being with them. He’ll call almost everyone a phony for sticking to the traditional or conventional system.

What I like about the book is the sheer audacity to not hold back anything. It can be wrong in thought but not wrong on the front of being honest to oneself, which is an achievement.

The story is a first person account of Holden Caulfield who is struggling to adjust with the set processes of his various schools from which he gets kicked out of. From the day of this being known, how every encounter with people: roommate, hostellers, teachers, random co-travellers and even family and how he terms them all as ‘phonies’ and ‘lousies’ and questions their motives all the time.

I found myself laughing at a lot of simple inferences spread through the narration. Spread over 5 days, this is a brilliant way to bring to life the complexity of a teenage mind .

It’s a very easy read over a lazy afternoon and highly recommended. It’s approach towards philosophy is directed towards asking questions and constantly re-evaluating life’s choices.

Go grab a copy of this masterpiece.

Book Review: George Orwell’s 1984

This book is the stuff of which nightmares are made of. An Orwellian Nightmare to be precise.

The dystopian nature of this puts you in a headspace you don’t want to keep yourself in.

I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted to this, had I read it few years back. Now, it’s a reality check. Like, we’re either in the midst of one or being taken towards one.
The book throws up a question, ‘What if your government monitored everything you did?’

And of course, control everything. From your thoughts, to media to altering history  (rather manufacturing a parallel one) and make you believe in the existence of an enemy that doesn’t exist. By not only shifting agendas at will but making you believe that it was never changed.
Taking the economy to a bad state and yet making you believe that ‘we’re doing better than before’.
Bizarre execution of ideas that are normal for the citizen of the fictitious super-nation of Oceania here. This includes, conducting ‘hate-week’ where you shout profanities at the enemy of the state. Children trained to be spies to ‘rat-out’ their own parents for any ‘anti-state’ activity and making them all believe that it is all for the overall good of their nation.
It’s a book that must be read to know what absolute power can turn nations into.
George Orwell, you’ve again succeeded in  giving me a few nightmares for which I won’t even have to sleep.

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Reading List 2018

This year is going to be about targets instead of resolutions. Resolutions that get recycled every year instead of getting accomplished. Targets that I’m going to put out there to help achieve them for the sake of ‘my word’ if nothing else.

One of my many targets is to read more. The target is 24! Yes. Pretty Humongous. But I figured, if I stick to the good books, it should be pretty easy. What say?

Reading List 2018

Hence, I sat down to jot down a list of 18 books that I plan to read in 2018. I’ve selected 18 different books by 18 different authors from across the globe. There’s a scope for adding 6 new titles to the list, including non-fiction, but maybe I’ll just pick something up as the year unfolds. Maybe, Khaled Hussaini will finally come out with his 4th book? Although, there’s hardly any Internet chatter on that!

I’ve included 2 Hindi Novels to the list as well. A few excerpts of Godan were part of our Hindi Books and I do remember watching a tv-series on Doordarshan back in the day, so, that’ll be interesting. Apart from Comics, I’ve not read a good Hindi book. I’m actually looking forward to these.

Apart from George Orwell and Mark Twain, I’ve not read any of the other authors yet. But, hey, that’s a start.
I’ve already watched, The Great Gatsby, but I’m still interested in reading the book. It’s always fun to compare the book and the movie.

The biggest hindrance to reading more is the habit of indulgence to Visual Medium and I’ve been guilty of spending time in that. Most of my reading last year happened when I was traveling or away from my laptop. With more trips planned, the laptop can be replaced with the extra book, and resisting myself from starting any new television series might do the trick.

The Goal is pretty big and unrealistic to some extent. But, what’s a goal if it isn’t out of your reach. Or, was it something else? 

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Shattered stories of our times

‘How to tell a shattered story?

By slowly becoming everybody.

No.

By slowly becoming everything’.

True to this, Arundhati Roy is able to become the shattered selves of each of the characters she pens down in the book. It is a story of one, and it is the story of others, as we read.

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ is a fiction about current affair calamities woven together into a book about the modern conflicts. It mirrors through the length and breadth of the country’s many tragedies like a pendulum swindling across unsymmetrically.

 

I’d still rate ‘God of small things’ as a better book but this is still one amazing book I’ve read in a while. Although, full disclosure, I read only a select few. The half-read books on my shelf are now shouting, ‘Say..finish reading only a few’. However, if you are looking for a recommendation, then I’ll say, yes, go ahead and buy one!

It has been a few years since I read ‘The God of Small Things’ which was Arundhati Roy’s first novel. A Booker prize winning debut novel. When I first read it, it was a fascinating insight of Kerala, at least a little, Communism, caste-system among other things which formed the backdrop of the lives of two twins. They were central and everything else was background.

‘The Ministry of utmost happiness’ keeps the background running parallel along with the many protagonists that are scattered through the storyline.

It has an interesting ensemble of characters. There is a ‘hijda’ Aftab who became Anjum, who is central to her world of other characters, ranging from her gharana, to people who walk through and along with her, literally to the graveyard. A graveyard which gives refuge to the shattered souls of the world. Then there is Tilo, the non-beautiful dark skinned woman, who is loved by three distinctive men with shattered stories of their own. Each of the characters walks across others’ lives. Making a difference, to their own, and others they touch.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness captures the unrest in Kashmir as well as the plight of ‘naxals’. It talks about transgender lives and their conflicts, changing face of our society, communal riots, political commentary, and things which as a subject, you won’t tag as fiction.

Yes, sometimes, Roy seems to go overboard in blurring the line between political commentary and fiction, and if you’re acquainted about the happenings, appears like a view point pushed deliberately. But this happens in the case of issues, I’m familiar with, the ones I’m not; seems fascinating for the lack of a better word. But, even with this, the commentary does work in giving you an overview of the times.

The joy of reading the book was in how the characters appeared to say so much without telling it. The book is like a narration of a theatre play where the actors are very emotive, grabbing your utmost attention and giving you a semblance of happiness, grief and more importantly an understanding of their worlds.

Thank you, Arundhati Roy for your second novel!