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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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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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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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

From My BookShelf

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A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel

by David Horovitz

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This book is written by the Israeli journalist¬†David Horowitz¬†after¬†he moves with his family from England to Israel in 1983. It gives us a look into the day-to-day life in Israel as it moved from Rabin’s years to¬†the more orthodox Netanyahu. (He has become even worse since then.)

The book is a nice look into the question all liberal Israelis face about the question of Palestine and how to live with them on a daily basis and their conflict with the more orthodox Israelis.

The book is okay and I picked it up only to introduce myself to Israel. However, the question of the friction between the orthodox and the liberals will always remain and the conflict has become even more profound across the world as migration, wars and terrorism create a disruptive impact across the globe.

A decent read.

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A Thousand Suns

by Dominique Lapierre

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Dominique Lapierre, a journalist who has interviewed several big personalities from Mother Teresa to Lord Mountbatten. In this non-fiction book, Lapierre tells us stories of some of the extraordinary people he met during his time as a journalist and as a writer.

The list varies from one of the most popular bull-fighter in Spain to a Nazi general who refused to invade Paris to Mother Teresa. The book is an interesting read and the list of characters is also interesting with one we will not hear about in general.

I plan to include more books from this author in the coming months.

Pick it up, it is a light read. ūüôā

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Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia

by S. Hussain Zaidi

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I picked up this book reluctantly because I generally avoid the popular books in India, because their writing is bad. It is not an Amitav Ghosh or an Rohinton Mistry. But I picked this up because crime and mafia in India interest me.

The story is about the history of the Mumbai Mafia, especially Dawood Ibrahim. I do not have much to say about the book except that it is a swift read and easy to follow. Hussain Zaidi, an investigative reporter himself is a credible source to know about the Mumbai Mafia and hence a better source than any other.

Pick it up if crime and mafia interest you.

From My BookShelf

From My Bookshelf

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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

by Malcolm Gladwell

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Malcolm Gladwell¬†has written five books and all of them have been on¬†The New York Times Best Seller List.¬†However, it always seems like his books are incomplete and at one point it feels like “Is this all there is?”

I suppose as a would-be author, working for The New Yorker probably helps in taking your books to that list.

This is my third Gladwell¬†book. Why would I read his third book when I don’t find him that good?

Simply because his books deal with subjects and back it up with research which we generally do not think about. This book is no different.

In this book, Gladwell talks about how disadvantages can be turned into advantages for people and organizations. There are some interesting concepts which I could easily relate to those in India.

One of them being the student-teacher ratio which people think to be as low as possible for better education, but that is not entirely the case. Or the fact that harsher punishments do not necessarily mean a reduction in crime…the cases of exploitation and rapes of women can learn a lot from that.

Malcolm Gladwell’s¬†books are okay, but they will always have something new. This is why I pick one of his books from time to time.

 

 

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Man’s Search for Meaning

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Victor Frankl was a holocaust¬†survivor and a psychotherapist. He was the founder of¬†Logotherapy,¬†which is considered the¬†Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy¬†after¬†Freud’s¬†and¬†Adler’s.¬†

The focus of Logotherapy¬†is to find meaning in the life of a person (will to meaning) as opposed to¬†Adler’s will to power¬†and¬†Freud’s will to pleasure.¬†The basis for this book came to¬†Frankl¬†when he was in a concentration camp and the test for his theory were the people in the camp, including himself.

The book is divided into two parts: the first deals with his time in the concentration camps and the second part is about Logotherapy. The book is just around 150 pages but it is the content which matters. Philosophy and Psychology are always subjects that have interesting content and this is no different.

 

 

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The Glass Palace

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Amitav Ghosh is one of the best writers I have come across and this is his third book I have read. He has elevated the level of the genre of historical fiction to an entirely different plane.

The Glass Palace¬†is¬†set during the¬†period¬†between the¬†fall of¬†the¬†Konbaung¬†Dynasty¬†in Burma¬†and the post WWII and takes us to Burma, Bengal and Malaya.¬†It traces the story of Rajkumar¬†who comes to¬†Burma¬†as a young boy and witnesses the fall of the¬†Konbaung Dynasty¬†and falls in love with one of the girls (Dolly) who belongs to the queen’s entourage.

While she follows her Queen to Ratnagiri as the royal members are sent into exile by the British, Rajkumar builds his own empire in the teak trade in Burma and then goes in search of her to Ratnagiri. They get married, have kids and grand-kids while the world around them crumbles as WWII approaches.

The story however, has other important characters too who go through their own trials and tribulations in love, relationships, family, pride and honor. This is very much at the forefront for¬†Arjun¬†and Dinu.¬†Arjun¬†is¬†Uma’s¬†(Dolly’s friend) nephew and is in the army and is fighting for the British. His character explores the moral and the ethical dilemma that Indian soldiers went through while fighting for their masters (British) during WWII.¬†Dinu¬†is¬†Rajkumar’s¬†son who is involved in his father’s business before his interest in photography and a long-lost love takes over him.

Like other historical fiction books, this one takes us back to that period and makes us re-live it. That is the beauty that historical fiction as a genre provides where history is brought back to life and through the trials of its characters we learn what it must have been like to live during that period.

Amitav Ghosh seems to have mastered this genre and at this point and after three of his books, I don’t think I can ever give him¬†a bad review or even just a good one.

P.S. The third book in his Ibis Trilogy recently released and I hope to read it soon. Check out the reviews for the first two books in that series below.

From My Bookshelf

From My Bookshelf