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.


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.



All That Man Is

by David Szalay

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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.



by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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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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From My Book-Shelf- The New Launches


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.



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.

GoodReads Link

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Norwegian Wood

by Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (Translator)

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This is the first Haruki Murakami book I picked up and since then I have been reading a lot of his books. I think I would learn Japanese just to read Murakami’s novels.

His characters go through an outward and an inward journey and the stories are very surreal. However, Norwegian Wood was an exception as this was still more realistic than his other books, although I didn’t know that until I read his other books.

Norwegian Wood is about three people- Toru,  Naoko and Midori. When a 37-year old Toru hears the song “Norwegian Wood”, he is reminded of his college days when he ran into Naoko. Murakami was extremely influenced by Western culture and this book named after a Beatles song reflects that notion.

Naoko and Kizuki were a couple and Toru was their best friend when they were kids. The three of them were thick as thieves until Kizuki commits suicide. While Toru moved to a different place, Naoko couldn’t really get over it and they drift apart until Toru runs into her when he is 18.

The story explores Naoko’s grief and how she deals with it and when Toru runs into her they start seeing each other. But Naoko goes away to deal with Kizuki’s suicide and everything that happened in her life after; In the interim Toru meets Midori.

Midori is someone who pushes boundaries and wants to explore herself sexually with Toru. She openly expresses herself and we see Toru torn between the emotionally damaged Naoko whose life has stood still and Midori who is a living and breathing person.

This book was extremely popular with the young audiences since it dealt with sex, relationships, death and finding one’s way in life. It is this book that brought Murakami in the limelight in Japan. However, this book is very depressing and chilling…quite literally with winters being dead and dull.

The thing I like about Murakami’s books are the hidden meanings and how philosophy and emotions are weaved in every story and every character. Its like peeling layers of every character and yet there is always something beyond reach about a character.

Just like it is in real life. 



by J.M. Coetzee

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This Pulitzer prize winner is a story set in post-apartheid South Africa. This is the first J.M. Coetzee book I have read. It won the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003.

The book is about a professor David Lurie who is forced to leave his job after he has had affairs with his student and he refuses to apologize for it. He goes to live with his lesbian daughter away from the city and for a while the daily chores at the farm bring some sort of balance to his life.

Until one night three black men enter their house and rape his daughter. She becomes agorophobic and refuses to terminate her pregnancy as well from that night. The rapists are not brought to justice and even his daughter refuses to speak to him about that night.

After a while, David goes back to the city only to find the windows of his house broken. He apologizes to his student’s father and ends up coming back on the farm to work there.

This book is a reflection of a society in transition post-apartheid in South Africa. On one hand is a white man who has reached a position of respect in teaching and yet he treats the people he has power over anyway he wants. On the other hand is the violence that three black men commit by entering Lurie’s daughter’s house and raping her.

While the book is engaging and very well-written, I felt some bits missing. Lucy never reveals why she chose to keep the baby or why she didn’t go to the cops. A lot of other characters are not revealed properly and it seems like the novel has an abrupt end, which is really surprising since the book is only 220 pages long.

But it is definitely worth a read.


What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

by Haruki Murakami

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More Murakami book reviews are coming. 🙂

I picked up this book just when I had started running regularly and it is about Murakami and how he got to running.

The book is a personal look into Murakami and how he came to writing and how running helped him maintain his discipline. The book is a good read, especially those who enjoy running or who want to take it up.

It inspired me and every time I run I think of the title and wonder what I am thinking about when I am running. One of the nicest autobiographical reads I have read in a while!

From My Bookshelf