After many,many years- perhaps almost half a decade- I accidentally rebooted my interest in reading in 2013- more precisely,almost towards the last few months of 2013. Hopefully I get to read more in the coming years!
These are the books I read:
(a) A Tale for the time being – This was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2013, and seemed to be the popular choice tipped to be the winner, but ended losing. It is set in the backdrop of tsunami which hit Japan few years back.There is a certain elegance and simplicity in the narration that keeps you curious about what is to come.The ending was a slight dampener for me – I cant say I am a big fan of quantum physics interpreted by a practicing Buddhist priestess . However, the book is a really good take on the ephemeral moments of life. I suspect this has a lot to do with the author being a Buddhist priestess- she is in her zone while articulating about things she probably understands best. A worthwhile read.
(b) One hundred years of Solitude Overall,I liked this book. I say this almost grudgingly. Not for the faint of heart. Highly recommended for bald /balding people, who will not be able to pull their hair while cursing the author. The author, in my opinion, did not take his book seriously- and did not care a bit for the mental health of his readers.
I like that honesty.No pretensions about catering to anyone’s semi-intellectual-half-grown brain,and giving an illusion of increase in net intelligence. I suspect the author woke up each morning and started his day by asking himself “How can I make my book weirder,today?”, and succeeded mostly.I liked the book because it was weird. The genre is officially called “Magical Realism” .To give an example,if I were to write a book about the emotional catharsis of homosexual satanic demons in Papua New Guinea wearing pink suits, hopping upside down, on one hand, while holding a mobile phone to their ear – that would be magical realism.
The story is about events which occur across almost endless generations of a kooky,morally-challenged, intellectually-challenged(?) family in lala-land. Across generations people share the same names- Arcadio/ Aureliano. There is a ghost too, for good measure, and random weird things keep happening all the time. And there is non-linear narrative. So, you are never sure which character is alive or dead.After a while you stop bothering about mundane things like life and death.Lots of fun.
(c) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murukami : This is an English translation of a Japanese work.I was blown away by this book. The genre it falls under is “Surrealism” .The story woven has layers upon layers upon layers. It is profound,hard-hitting,philosophical,and very weird, a.k.a surreal. Since this is an English translation of a Japanese work, there are certain minor language idiosyncrasies of the translation- which can mostly be ignored.
(d) India after Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha : A nice book on the contemporary history of India. ( After independence). Very,very interesting and informative. Just take a look at the number of references the author has used to write this book! That’s some major hard work.Additionally, the author is honest enough to admit this- On very recent events, (late 90′s /2000′s)- he holds very strong views on what transpired. Hence, as a historian, his view would be clouded/biased- and should be viewed as such. For major events between 1947- 1980′s – it’s an amazing read- for instance, he would juxtapose events happening in the world- while something was happening in India-and why it was significant. For instance, in early 1950′s when India held its first general election, there were coups/wars/failed government world-wide- and everyone was speculating when India would disintegrate/government overthrown.
(e) Memoirs of a Geisha : An enjoyable,time-pass book. Plot-wise, not very substantive-I think the central theme is heavily inspired from “Cinderella and her evil step-sisters”. The strength of the book is that it sheds light about Japan during the world-war era, and about Japanese culture at that time. The author is not Japanese,so I am not a judge of the accuracy or relevance of what he has written. So, if a Japanese dude were to ask me about my pet cobra or my pet tiger, I wouldn’t hold it against him if he face-palms when I ask him about the interesting Geishas he has run into.
(f) Dalai Lama’s cat (Strictly speaking,I read this in 2014): A feel-good,short and sweet book. Uplifting when feeling upset/emotionally down.A nice read.
Revisited this book:
(h) Tesla -Man out of time : About one of the greatest ever minds to visit Earth in a human body.A nice read. On the flip-side-I think there was a time when Tesla was not recognized much for his contributions. Now, I guess if someone actually invents a time-travelling- machine the “Edison-sucks-Tesla-rocks-club” mob would come with knives and hand-grenades shouting
“But Tesla already did that-what’s new?” -ie, I think he is now deified,much like what Thomas Alva Edison probably was -in his heyday.