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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Flood of Fire (Ibis Trilogy #3)

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Goodreads Link

This is the third and final book in the Ibis Trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. I read the first two back-to-back and their reviews are in the link here- Ibis Trilogy book reviews. This book culminates in the journey of those whose lives were affected by the ship Ibis. 

A good portion of this book is also spent on the battle between China and the British Empire (who used Indian soldiers largely) which have come to be known as the Opium Wars. 

I found this book okay due to the huge plethora of characters and their sub-plots which made it difficult to keep a track of all of them. But then if you have read the first two books in the series, you will want to read the third one for closure.

Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy series has redefined the way historical fiction is written and the painstaking research and detail is reflected in this book as well. But I think the third book was not as good as the first two.

 

 

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To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird)

My Rating- 0755.rating-star-single.png-550x0 (2)0755.rating-star-single.png-550x0 (2)0755.rating-star-single.png-550x0 (2)Half rating star

Goodreads Link

I finally read this book and enjoyed the voice of the innocence of a child that this book takes up to tackle a mature topic of race in America. This classic by Harper Lee explores the racial tensions in a sleepy, Southern town in the US. The book is hugely popular and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and now I can see why.

It explores the subject of race and the crisis of conscience which one can relate to strongly even now in a world where Donald Trump is running for the American Presidency. And it explores it in a way we view it in daily life- subtly and from our own eyes. It surrounds us in the conversations we have with people and the events occurring around us, but it never directly affects us. Here we see it through the eyes of a young, white girl who cannot grasp these mature topics in her innocent age and her interpretation of things.

It is a very good book to pick up, and I think should be taught in schools too.

 

 

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The Illicit Happiness of Other People

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Goodreads Link

My sister used to post quotes from this book on her instagram profile and something about the words written in this book attracted me to it. I had never heard of Manu Joseph before.

Ousep Chacko is a journalist whose life is now consumed by one thing- finding out why his 17-year old son Unni jumped from the balcony and killed himself. He meets Unni’s friends, classmates and everybody connected to him and finds out what his son was like.

But one thing eludes him- the reason why his son killed himself.

A friend of mine from college had asked me if I had read any life-changing books in a while, and I told her I hadn’t. When I finished this book, I told her I have read a book after a really long time that made me think hard about my life and can be considered life-changing.

Deeply philosophical and captivating, this book will take you down the rabbit hole and you will need to pull yourself out of it. I sincerely hope this book is picked up by more people over the dull mythological fiction we are gorging on nowadays.

From My BookShelf

From My Bookshelf

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The Hungry Tide

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Goodreads Link

Yes, another Amitav Ghosh novel. This time he takes me to the Bay of Bengal. Piya, an American marine biologist of Indian descent is travelling to the islands in the Sunderbans  to study dolphins in the area. She runs into Kanai, a linguist who is going to visit his aunt in the area.

Their lives intertwine in Canning, a place whose name and existence has its own story. However, they go on their separate ways (for a while). Kanai explores the past of this place through his dead uncle’s notebook left to him while Piya explores the present as she is on her trail to track the dolphins.

This book has won several awards but I wish I could say it is as good as The Ibis Trilogy books, but it is not. But it is always nice to read about places I have never been to and delve into the lives of the people there through Amitav’s books.

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Blood Brothers: A Family Saga

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This is the first MJ Akbar book I have read. He is a noted journalist who has written for several media houses and written several books as well and was also the official spokesperson for the Rajiv Gandhi government.

This book is one of the few fiction books he has written and is set in Telinipara, a small town near Kolkata. It is an autobiographical account of the author starting from his grandfather, Prayaag who arrives in Telinipara as a child and is adopted by a Muslim family and is named Rahmatullah and tells the story till the author turns 17. 

The jute mill, which was driving the economy of the town made Rahmatullah prosperous as he owned a tea stall opposite the mill. With money came social standing as the British left, he migrated to East Pakistan with his family, was brought back by his son and saw old age and his family grow to become a grandfather.

The book’s underlying theme explores the Hindu-Muslim relations from the period when the British ruled India till the 1971 creation of Bangladesh. The book moves along at a quick pace and sometimes I felt that it skipped some important periods. However, this could also be because I have read some books which have explored this period at a deeper level.

It is a book good in patches but it feels like something is missing.

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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Goodreads Link

Tired of the books based in India and by Indian authors mostly, I decided I needed a break. The Narrow Road To The Deep North was exactly what I needed.

This novel places us among the Australian POWs captured by the Japanese during WWII and made to work at the Burma Railway. This railway also goes by the name of the Death Railway as it was built by forced labor with over 180,000 Asian civilian laborers (of which around 90,000 died) and around 60,000 Allied POWs (around 12,600 died) used to build it.

And there is your history lesson.

The author’s father was one of the POWs who escaped alive and was the major inspiration behind the setting of the novel.

However, this critically acclaimed and the 2014 Man-Booker prize winner novel is the story of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor who was also a POW in the Burma Railway. The book oscillates between Australia and Burma as we see Dorrigo’s love story unfold. He is about to be married to a woman until he falls in love with another woman who turns out to be his uncle’s second wife.

The book left me with a sad feeling and made me want to be alone for a while after I used to read it. The book also explores other characters beyond Dorrigo and many of them leave an imprint on the story. These were either the other Australian POWs, or the women in Dorrigo’s life or the Japanese and Korean guards at the camp.

I loved the book and it left a very profound impact on me, but it is also a very sad one too and I don’t think everyone will enjoy it. I could instantly relate to the words and the language used in the book. His love story reminded me of mine and his disinterest in the world after coming back from the war reminded me of the times I have felt the same.

In fact, I do not want to read another Richard Flanagan novel simply because I want to remember him for this novel and not any others.

From My Bookshelf