From My Book-Shelf

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Modern Romance

by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg

GoodReads Link

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

I thoroughly enjoyed Aziz Ansari’s stand-up act & his show Master of None on Netflix & that got me to pick up this book. It is about dating & relationships in today’s age where choices are just an app away.

Aziz teams up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg & they conduct several experiments to understand the implications of such a dating scenario. The book is interesting, well written & is not lengthy at less than 300 pages.

Since Aziz has covered these topics on his show and his stand-up act, the book will feel a little repetitive if you have watched them. But it is a book which should be read by people who are in the dating world now & are used to the swipe-right-swipe-left phenomena.

Definitely worth a read.

 

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Narcopolis

by Jeet Thayil

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GoodReads Link

Jeet Thayil is a poet with a Sahitya Akademi Award for English to his name. Narcopolis is his first attempt at a novel. The book is an amalgamation of people who live or spend time at Shuklaji street in Old Bombay.

Thayil, an alcoholic & an addict for almost two decades wrote this novel as a memorial to all those people he met & hung out with during those days. It is based in the 70s and 80s Bombay when opium was being replaced by the more potent heroin.

Hookers, eunuchs, pimps, dealers, all of them turn up in this book & bring alive the underbelly of Mumbai in such a way that no movie or other book has been able to capture before.

Narcopolis is like a hallucinatory dream. It has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012, Man Asia Literary Prize (2012) and the Hindu Literary Prize (2013).

Even though it is beautifully written, it is not a book for everyone.

 

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Ramayana

by C. Rajagopalachari

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GoodReads Link

Yes, my bookshelf this week has a book on opium right next to one of India’s biggest epics.

This year I decided that maybe I should include some philosophy & religious texts to my book-shelf. While I have watched this epic saga countless number of times on TV, I wanted to know how it was portrayed in the written word.

Also, reading this got me some brownie points from my mother. 😀

This English translation by C. Rajagopalachari is one of the most popular translations of Ramayana. He has also translated Mahabharata and was actively involved in the Indian Independence movement & was the last Governor-General of India.

If only today’s politicians could read & write or at least inculcate policies that would make more people read & write.

But this book falls way short. I was looking for a story which combines mythology, history & fiction but instead this is an extremely simple translation of the text.

It fails to bring the epic to life, has the author’s comments at the end of chapters for those who don’t believe this story to be true & is a pain to read. My hunt for a genuine translation of Indian & the world’s religious texts continues.

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From My Book-Shelf

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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From My Bookshelf

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Iacocca: An Autobiography

by Lee Iacocca, William Novak

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/486319.Iacocca

This is the autobiography of Lee Iacocca who succeeded Henry Ford to become the President of the Ford Motor Company until he was fired due to differences with Henry Ford. He then joined Chrysler which was a mess at that time & turned it around. He was named the 18th greatest CEO of all time by Portfolio.

He was successful behind many promotional campaigns by Ford & also for launching the iconic Mustang & Pinto series.

I like businessmen’s autobiographies. They have some valuable lessons in business & give a glimpse into the minds of the people at the top who are running things. This book also brings to light the automobile industry in the US & the insecurities of the man who started it all, Henry Ford.

It is an interesting read as the book does not get boring. Hell, it could be made into a movie or a TV show.

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My Name is Red

by Orhan Pamuk, Erdağ M. Göknar (Translator)

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2517.My_Name_is_Red

I was a little reluctant to pick this book & did not think I would have enjoyed it. However, this book gave Orhan Pamuk instant recognition & made him a serious Nobel contender which he won in 2006 so I thought I will pick it up.

This book takes us to medieval Turkey where the Sultan has commissioned a book which celebrates his realm but the book needs to be illuminated in the European style.

At the heart of the book is the theme which every culture in every age grapples with. The modernists vs the traditionalists. There are those who want to explore & do things in a new way and then there are those who do not want to change the old ways for they are held sacred.

This includes religion as well.

This book explores that theme as the artists working on the Sultan’s book are murdered & nobody knows who is doing it. It has a unique style of writing wherein the narrator changes in every chapter and even the person who is dead narrates some chapters, including the first!.

It makes for a thrilling read.

 

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist

by Mohsin Hamid

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88815.The_Reluctant_Fundamentalist

The first Mohsin Hamid book I have read & I finished it in 3-4 days. It is a very short book at less than 200 pages.

At a cafe on a busy street in Lahore, a bearded man strikes a conversation with an American stranger. He talks about his life when he was in Princeton after which he is hired by an elite valuation firm in New York & is involved in a broken relationship with Erica.

While his relationship is going nowhere, he is excelling at work. However, the more he becomes politically aware, the more he realizes how his home country is used by America for its own benefits. His life changes post 9/11 as he notices a change in the way people behave around him & it goes downhill from thereon. He starts growing a beard, is fired from his job & his visa is about to expire. He takes up a job as a professor in Lahore and is now speaking to this American stranger at a cafe.

This is one of those rare books which explores how America’s relationship slowly changed with the world post-9/11 & how they burned the world with themselves.

This is the story of so many jihadis we hear & read about who are educated & smart from elite institutions & yet end up killing civilians.

Mohsin Hamid has brought this facet out beautifully to the extent that even Americans have appreciated this book. It was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize.

From My Bookshelf