Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Books read in recent times

First of all, by 'recent times', I am not exactly referring to yesterday or past week but the past 12 months :D. My reading rate has been appalling over this time (due to several reasons ;) ). Though I must have read close to a 70-80 research papers (many just introduction and conclusion so that they could be discarded as irrelevant), I only managed to read a few books. Hence there are not many books that I am in a position to discuss now. The plus point, however, is that my choice of books has been pretty good and I have enjoyed most of the books that I read.

» My autobiography - Charlie Chaplin: I have only read a couple of other autobiographies, and this was by far the best of them all. Right from his poor beginnings to meteoric rise in popularity to being assailed by various people for various reasons, he narrates all events in an enthralling way with a hint of dark humour, I guess much like his movies. Statutory warning: Reading the book will make you want to watch all those movies asap, so better be prepared with the CDs etc before you start reading.

» For Esme, with love and squalor - J. D. Salinger: I picked up this book as it was the most attractive of the Salinger books in our library. No, I did not read any review about it and had no inkling of what to expect. After reading, I was slightly disappointed as perhaps I was expecting a bit more from the Salinger of Catcher in the Rye fame :D. It is a collection of short stories (took a while for me to figure that out :D, as I initially thought he was just introducing different characters in different chapters) and I wasn't able to see the point in some of them. However, the short story of the same title was pretty good along with a few others (that I dont remember now :-s).

» The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut: Now, this was pretty awesome. The sarcasm and satire of the book just kills you with its ingenuity and humour. It is a science fiction of a different kind and the story moves from Earth to Mars and back to earth and then yeah, to Titan. It has an all powerful but subservient alien, mind-controlling and pain-inflicting devices, space shuttles, Earth attacked by soldiers exported from earth and train in Mars and so on. It has an idiotic multi-billionaire, an omniscient future knowing person, a glass-doll but later rugged woman and her illegitimate son and so on. I can't do it justice, you need to read it to appreciate it :D.

» Sweet Thursday - John Steinbeck: A pleasant story which is both funny and warm with an excellent narration style. The characters leave strong impressions even long after they cease to exist. All in all, a feel good novel and as most such novels ought to be, it is a love story, though of a different kind. It is actually a sequel to another novel, but I read this one directly and thoroughly enjoyed it.
PS- the librarian was mighty impressed when she noticed me getting this book issued ;)

» The curious incident of the dog in the night-time: Mark Haddon: This book has a very high reputation and not without reason. A must read is all I can say. I absolutely loved it, having read it on a one-day journey to London and back .. quite a coincidence that is, though. Why? you will know when you read it :P.

» 5 People you meet in heaven - Mitch Albom: I don't know, how I end up reading such books sometimes. They sound interesting because of their titles and their reviews, but once you read, you are left with that feeling of promises not being fulfilled. This is on the lines of the 'Alchemist' with an influence of 'The Christmas Carol' as some important people from the life of a dead man show him how his life was not so useless after all. I guess, the book attempts to provide some hope to people who find their lives quite insignificant :P. Did not impress me though.

» The Thought Gang - Tibor Fischer: I went to the library to pick up some other book but picked up this one instead. Why? The back page review was captivating! The context of the story is also so novel- a philosophy professor at Cambridge University turns into a uncatchable peaceful bank robber in France! He also has a one-hand-one-leg but very powerful associate who is a veteran criminal and falls for his philosophy. Together they form the 'thought gang' and rob banks while showering the bystanders with philosophical musings. Yeah, the book is continually peppered with references to Ionian philosophy and those ancient philosophers about whom I have no clue. But, the form of writing is so different and the story so humourous that together it turns out to be a terrific combination.

» The monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin Sharma: Aah, I had no clue about the contents of this book. But, having seen it in the favourite books lists of lots and lots of people, I assumed it should be good. However, it turned out to be a preachy self-help, improve your life dramatically by following these hazy but obvious steps that everyone knows but no one implements kind of book. The most impressive part of the book is the title :P. The book got so tiresome that I skipped a lot of pages jumping ahead to see if the next chapter had any awesome revelation hidden among its folds, only to repeat the steps and reaching the end :P. Well, what to say, I am sorry I don't like self-help books :D.

» Saturday - Ian McEwan: Set in the modern day scenario of terror threats and anti-war protests, the story is about a not-so-usual saturday in the life of a well-to-do, decent, generally happy neurosurgeon based in London. Told from the point of view of this doctor, the story conveys his various emotions, fears, love, confusion etc pretty well. Well, you get to read all this in any review :P. What particularly captured my attention was the way author easily keeps you captivated even when there might not be much happening in terms of the story. The doctor's thoughts keep going back to his memories and thats how we get to know the background of the characters. I guess this book is a nice example of how to tell a good story in an excellent manner. Now, I want to read his other works particularly Atonement and Amsterdam.

» An Equal Music - Vikram Seth: I love his poems but never read any novel, so when I found this book in a second-hand book sale, I immediately grabbed it. That was back in February. Yet, I have just finished half the book. It wasn't easy reading for a musically-ignorant person like me who didn't even know that there existed other western string instruments than guitar and violin, like say viola and cello. Yeah, the story is about a musician and his sorry life :P. Narrated in first person, the protagonist is a depressed loser and reading the book manages to depress you too :D. Hence I stopped. Also, there is a lot of music jargon that I had to read through without understanding a bit. Anyway, some day I hope to complete it :).

Book that I will soon start reading- Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham. No, its not a cookery or a brewery book :P. It about authors ... yeah authors who write literature.
Other books on my shelf in wait for a reading are: Catch-22, The Inheritance of loss and the Golden Gate.


kunal said...

I have not read any of the books you have listed here (except for one on your book-shelf, catch-22 - go read it) and have added few of them to the books-to-buy list :)

also would recommend, "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom. It is good.

Aravind Krishna K said...

woh gawd.... so many ?? i wud read them for a whole decade.. (afterall u know my reading speed better.. guess the book ?:P )

Sreejith said...

very very long list :)

mythalez said...

@kunal, yah .. well am saving catch-22 :)
tuesdays with morrie .. well it did sound interesting and I read a few pages when I saw the book somewhere ..

@aravind, eh which book? Kerninghan and Ritchie? :P

@sreejith, really? :P

dutt said...

am feeling like going home and holding a novel for some time..

RakeshB said...

I know how you feel. I used to read much more too. Funnily enough, I have got out of the habit of reading but still not managed to get out of the habit of buying. I can't walk past a bookshop (offline or online) without buying something. Browsing seems to give me as much delight as reading once used to.

- Rakesh