From My Book-Shelf

One of the biggest challenges for a voracious reader is to find new authors & a place to discover them. Goodreads is the best platform to discover new books & authors and it has turned 10! Finding new authors is incredibly important as it leads to new stories set in different places which offer different perspectives.

Below are three authors I have not read before & reviews of their books.

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Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore

by Manu S. Pillai

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Goodreads Link

Manu S. Pillai was 19 when he started research for this book and published it when he was 25. That is a feat in itself for a 700-page historical account of the House of Travancore.

This kingdom, which was established by Martanda Verma was one of the princely states which sided with the British during the Independence movement. The book largely traces the feud between two sisters- the elder Sethu Lakshmi Bai & the younger Sethu Parvati Bai.

It shows a vibrant, cosmopolitan & a matrilineal society which spans today’s Kerala. Despite the length, the book is not a difficult read as it traces the two sisters battling for the dominion-ship of the kingdom.

There is a good queen & a bad queen and their rivalry has a huge impact on the princely state as it traverses India’s independence. People interested in history should pick up this book as this is a meticulously researched book & it shows a rare account of a princely state which sided with the British.

 

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All That Man Is

by David Szalay

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Goodreads Link

This novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016 & has a unique structure. It is considered a novel but is actually nine stories of different men in different periods of their lives spanning several countries across Europe.

The first story is that of a teenager & the main characters progress in age as the last one is that of an old man. The stories all deal with a moment of crisis in the lives of these men and while it may seem similar to Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, it captures the essence of the place beautifully which results in the crisis being portrayed externally & internally.

The stories paint a beautiful picture of Europe and the characters are well-etched out. One of the worst things about short stories is that they don’t feel complete, but this novel provides a sense of satisfaction & completion.

I intend to read more of¬†Szalay’s¬†work.

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Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Goodreads Link

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a critically- acclaimed Nigerian author whose stories largely deal with migration, feminism & racism. Americanah was her third novel & was in the New York Times list of 10 best books of 2013.

The book deals with teenagers¬†Ifemelu¬†&¬†Obinze¬†who fall is love as teenagers in Nigeria. However,¬†Ifemelu¬†moves to the US and due to circumstances they drift apart. The book traces her troubling journey in the US as she tries to find her feet & Obinze’s in¬†the UK as an undocumented worker.¬†

It tackles themes of Nigerian immigrants in the US & their place in the racist American society. Years later, both of them meet in Nigeria and pick up where they left off. But Obinze is married with kids & she had cut off all communication with him suddenly when she was in the US.

The book also reflects Nigeria’s politics & its road to democracy. The book is interesting & captures the essence really well.¬†Chimamanda¬†is a good author to know Nigerian stories.

Here are TED talks by the author which are considered one of the best.

 

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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 institute. He 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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From My Book-Shelf

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Siddhartha

by Hermann Hesse, Hilda Rosner (Translator)

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This book can be mistaken for the story of Gautam Buddha, but it is not.

It is the story of Siddhartha, a young man who leaves his family in order to search for meaning in his life with his friend Govinda. While Govinda follows Gautam Buddha, Siddhartha embarks on his own quest.

This self-discovery tale stands for the fact that an individual does not attain enlightenment through intellectual methods or by immersing oneself in the pleasures of the world.

An individual attains self-discovery by the totality of his/her experiences. Siddhartha leaves his home, ends up going after materialistic & carnal pleasures, leaves it again only to realize the true meaning of life on the banks of a river.

This is a decent book & at less than 200 pages it is able to convey the point very nicely. It is well-written & is able to move the readers. However, the book does not dwell deep into Siddhartha’s journey so it should be read for its message & what it stands for.

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Byculla to Bangkok

by S. Hussain Zaidi

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I read Dongri to Dubai earlier & thought will follow it up with this. Somehow I did not find this book interesting since a lot of it is known now. Even the writing style is not very captivating.

This book traces the stories of¬†Chhota Rajan, Arun Gawli¬†and¬†Ashwin Naik.¬†However, I think movies have done better justice to the Mumbai underworld with the likes of¬†Satya, Company¬†and some of Amitabh Bacchan’s old films.

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The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Goodreads Link

I had watched the movie in which DiCaprio plays the role of Jay Gatsby and this book is hailed as a masterpiece for depicting America during the Jazz Age. While the book is well-written and Fitzgerald is able to paint the lavishness with his words, it fails to captivate.

The book is an American classic, but only for Americans. A person (like me) who is not aware about the Jazz Age & the 20s period in the US may feel disconnected from the novel and its popularity.

The underlying theme of the book is the decline of the American dream & the moral bankruptcy prevalent in the US at that time. The period of excess consumption & greed & the divide between the new & old money is what this book has portrayed throughout.

However, the period depicted in the book has become a norm even in India. The greed & material excess is what its all about everywhere & is also being replaced with the next generation.

Nevertheless, this book is a reflection of its time & those keen on picking up classics will have this on their list. Just ensure you read a little about the American society during that time.

From My Book-Shelf