From My Book-Shelf- The New Launches

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Men Without Women

by Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator), Ted Goossen (Translator)

 

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This book was a gift so it will be one of the few books I will keep with me wherever I live. I never buy books but prefer renting them. And what better author to have other than Haruki Murakami. 🙂

He is one of my favorite authors and his books transcend the laws and boundaries defined by nature. But this one is a series of short stories (seven, to be precise) of men who have lost the women in their lives.

The causes vary and the reaction of the men to these losses vary as well, but what remains constant is Murakami’s fluency and wry humor. To understand the men in this book, one has to go beyond the words and understand how these tragedies have shaped their lives.

These are stories of men without women; Of men who had these women but lost them in tragic circumstances; Stories of men dealing with loneliness. These men are a reflection of all men and how we would react to tragedy and loneliness in our own lives; Or may have already reacted to loneliness.

Murakami had said that writing a novel is like planting a forest and writing short stories is like planting a garden. His garden gives the same shade as a forest.

 

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

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A lot has been said about Arundhati Roy’s new novel, her first since the Booker-prize winning God of Small Things.

Since her first novel, she has written extensively about the Indian state and its brutalities. I do not entirely support her views because this is politics and you cannot be righteous with it. Brutality goes hand-in-hand with kindness, war goes hand-in-hand with peace and politics is the game of balancing both the sides.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is set in an India which she has seen and written about over the last twenty years. The arrogant, Hindu chest-thumping Gujarat ka lalla (her words) who has gone on to become the Prime Minister despite presiding over one of the most brutal riots in his State; The India which has severely and authoritatively put down the people of Kashmir (and still does) and the Red Corridor which has exposed the unfairness of the  Indian State.

Anjum, a transgender who fights her tragic life to make some sense out of it; Tilo, an architect who travels to Kashmir for her love for Musa are the people who drive this story which is set against a backdrop of an India which is immoral, corrupt, brutal and uncompromising.

There is a cast of support characters as well & this motley group ends up establishing a community in a graveyard as they try to put out the fires in their own lives.

The novel takes us through a vast landscape which ends up distracting us from the stories of these people. The novel’s canvas is too big and some of it seems force-fitted. More than the individual stories, it is the nation that plays the role of the major character unlike her previous novel. Of course, all lives are shaped by external events but the focus is on those particular events rather than the characters.

In that way, it falls slightly short.

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From My Book-Shelf- The New Launches

From My Bookshelf

Two Lives

by Vikram Seth

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50363.Two_Lives

My Rating- 

This book is the story of the author’s uncle, Shanti Behari Seth who is in his eighties and lives in London and his German wife.

Shanti was born in Lucknow and immigrated to Germany in the 1930s for his studies. He lived with a Jewish family there where he meets his future wife, Helga Gerda Caro.

The author traces their story individually and then together. Shanti, an Indian living in Germany in the 30s and Helga, a Jew who went through the tumultuous journey that all Jews went through during that period.

While he moves to London as he cannot get a license to practice dentistry in Germany, she moves there years later to escape the Holocaust.

The book is an interesting read, tracing the love story of an Indian man and a Jewish woman traversing through Berlin and London during a period when the world was burning.

Since only his uncle was alive when the author was writing this book, it is from largely his voice while Helga’s journey is traced through the letters she exchanged with her family and friends.

This is where the book gets a little tedious and long as her voice in the letters is not given justice by the author. In the middle the book becomes a collection of letters Helga exchanged with her near & dear ones who were still living after the Holocaust. The book somewhere loses the plot & reading becomes a task.

However, the book has a wave of nostalgia which all younger generation people have for their grandparents and how they lived their lives. The book ends on that very note, perhaps a little bitter.

 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

 

My Rating- 

An Israeli professor holding a Ph.D started teaching an online course on A Brief History of Humankind. This course became extremely popular which made the lecturer write a book on the same.

That book is Sapiens and the lecturer is Yuval Noah Harari.

This extremely popular & highly recommended book traces evolution and puts human beings and our race in its place. Starting from the time when humans were three different species till the current age, the book traces our journey right from removing other human species from the face of the earth to now destroying other species as well.

The best thing about this book is how it puts our entire journey in perspective and what we have left behind. Wiping out other species and exploiting nature to the extent that we are on the brink of disaster is what humans as a species has been all about. Although what I do refer to as humans here is one of the species of humans which has survived.

This book is an eye-opener and should be a must read for everyone!

 

The Golden Gate

by Vikram Seth

 

My Rating- 

Yes, Vikram Seth is another Indian author I enjoy reading thoroughly. This book is a story written entirely in verse.

I do not write a lot of poems nor do I read them and that is why I was a little hesitant in picking up a book written in verse. But I am glad I did. This was Vikram Seth’s first novel & gained him instant popularity in the US & India. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in English in 1988 for this novel.

The book is based in San Francisco and was released in 1986 which is a reflection of the changes happening in the city during that time. It was emerging as the center of liberal activism and counter-cultural movement along with a rejection of set standards & celebration of alternate lifestyles.

It is important to understand this background of the city to understand the characters in this book as well. Two of them are gay and several other characters discuss homosexuality, feminism, civil disobedience and religion.

This book brings joy and sadness as it takes us to San Francisco in different seasons as love blooms and withers away and lives continue to move on. The book is a delight to read and just whisks us away to this beautiful city which has continued to be the center of a liberal art & culture, along with technology today.

It is a delight to read this book, even for those who do not enjoy poetry.

From My Bookshelf

From My Book-Shelf

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Serious Men

by Manu Joseph

My Rating- Half rating star

GoodReads Link

This is Manu Joseph’s first book & the second one I have read. The Illicit Happiness of Other People blew my mind! It is one of the finest books I have read and Serious Men was also recommended by several people & it does not disappoint.

While I did not find it as good as the previous book, it is witty, interesting, and will keep you hooked.

The Serious Men in this book are the scholars & scientists of the Institute of Theory and Research who are divided into two factions: One who want to explore alien life by listening to their signals & those (mainly Arvind Acharya, who is the head of the institute) who believes alien life forms are falling on earth in the form of particles.

Ayyan Mani is a dalit who is living in a Mumbai slum & working as a peon at this instituteHe weaves his own plot to find significance & matter in this life where he is surrounded by people who are considered important in their own right. The story revolves around him along with the events & the people.

The book is a delightful read and Manu Joseph is another good Indian author who should be read by more people.

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Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad

by Brett Martin

My Rating- 

 GoodReads Link

Let us make this very clear. This book is for those who watch American television shows. The ones who have watched either The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men or Breaking Bad. These are the shows which changed American television & introduced the concept of the lead actors who have their flaws.

This book takes us in the writers’ rooms of these shows & how the universe of these shows was created. Each lead writer has his own style and the book explores that well.

While tracing these shows, this book also traces the change in American television with HBO changing the business with The Sopranos and then following up with The Wire. Other networks followed suit and today the landscape has evolved with OTT platforms.

A fine book for those interested in television.

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Moth Smoke

by Mohsin Hamid

My Rating- Half rating star

GoodReads Link

The second Mohsin Hamid book I have read and at 256 pages, this is not a long read either.

It traces the story of Daru Shezad, a man living in Lahore who is fired from his job and descends into drugs. He cannot pay his bills, falls in love with his best friend’s wife and ends up on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed.

His story is set against the backdrop of a Pakistan which was racing against India to acquire its own nuclear bomb at the expense of its economy. This was Mohsin Hamid’s first novel and it is well-paced.

There is not a moment when one wants to put down the book as we see Daru spiral in a rabbit hole.

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