Monday, June 11, 2018

Books in 2018 - #1

2018 is going to be a year of books. At-least far higher than previous years. I had made a resolution to read about Indian authors / books about India. But that is not the only thing that I am going to read. Here is a brief summary about what I have read so far -

Miss Laila armed and Dangerous by Manu Joseph
Review here -

Aap & Down by Mayank Gandhi
Review - A decent book to give a glimpse on what went behind the journey of AAP - both its rise and subsequnt downfall, as told from the first hand experience of Mayank Gandhi. I liked all Mayank explains the AAP chapter when it comes to dealing with Anna Hazare, and sums up his experiences of working with Anna before. This information is something that not everyone has been pricy to and is a delightful read.
However, I have many misgivings about Mayank's role in the AAP saga during its downfall. He should have spoken more eloquently and atleast resigned much earlier. Even in the book, those chapters needed more details, more information should have been made transparent. But it fails to do so. In addition, Mayank has some spiritual philosophies which are difficult to digest. However, given that Mayank is doing some wonderful work now in Parli, it is difficult to have any misgivings about him.
Overall, this is a fine book, written in easy English and is a good accompaniment for what may be the best political struggle of my time yet.

The Dreamers by Snigdha Poona
Review - A must read. The idea behind reading about Indian author or books about India is to know and learn about India up close. From the position of privilege that I have, from this bubble that I live in, it has often been hard to understand why India is behaving the way it is. Deep down, I like to believe that people are rational, sensible beings and they truly want what is the best for the nation. Yet, given that, the choices they make are sometimes difficult to rationalize with. 
The Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam goes to the heart of my conundrum by focussing on folks from all walks of life and trying to make sense of the idea of India through their aspirations. While at one end are individual stories, witty, delightful, full of interesting people and their colorful experiences, hard work and sometimes scary as well. But where the Dreamers shine is when Ms. Poonam is able to find the common emotion across these diverse narratives - that of challenging the status quo and an intrinsic nature to stand apart from your surrounding milieu and fighting very hard to win the respect of your local peers. This drive is the one that pulls India ahead and it is this drive due to which folks are able to look past the trashy environment and plow to build a secure and rich future for themselves.
I would highly recommend the chapter on Richa Singh - who for the first time became the President of University of Allahabad and the one which involves a Gau Rakshak.

Sahir Ludhianvi - The People's poet by Akshay Manwani
Review - My fascination with Sahir Ludhianvi's lyrics has been in the background for quite sometime. In numerous cases I had marvelled at the quality of lyrics of songs and upon research I had found that they were penned by Sahir saab. In addition, his zidd to have the name of lyricist announced on radio is something that i deeply respected. The newer radio stations do not follow this and I hate them for it. In March, I saw a play Ek Mulaqat featuring Deepti Naval and Shekhar Suman as Amirta Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi respectively that touched about their stories. While the play was alright, the next day I had ordered this biography and I finished it during my Munnar trip.
On the biography itself, Manwani does a good job in covering the childhood and young days of Mr. Ludhianvi. It is his roots from his earlier days, his association with the leftist, the people's movement that has shaped Sahir views and his poems are mere reflection of his conscience. Manwani talks about his struggles and then the first breakthrough and from there on documents his journey. This journey documentation becomes little non-interesting as it is devoid of much anecdotes. Manwani shows glimpse of various eccentricities of Sahir, example - his fear of lifts but does not go into its manifestations. Sahir was also very arrogant and had taken fights with everyone, Manwani documents these instances but feels incomplete in certain ways. However, the first part of Sahir's life, his pre-Bombay life comes across very nicely in the book. 'Bada artist banoonga' - Sahir's claim to become successful and awareness that he is very good put against a backdrop of partition, bad father and a family to take care of. The other great part of the book is that it is filled with his lyrics along with their English translation. 
Definitely a good read for fans of Sahir Ludhianvi.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Review - I had always longed to read novels about people, the kind which are frequently adapted and made into movies such as Fault in Our Stars. But I have always been confused on which one to pick up. This dilemma was solved when Parul had recommended this book.  With this weird title, I thought to first check its reviews and was surprised that it was loved so much. So, I immediately picked it up, ahead of my this year's reading list.
TGLPPPS is worthy of all its praise and probably more. It is truly a delightful read, written with wittiness and a tone of utmost candidness and genuine caring and warmth. Set in post-world war II UK, it is a story of an author living in London where half of the city is in ruins. She starts to communicate with residents of a island under the United Kingdom which was under the German occupation, these residents had created the TGLPPPPS. Narration unfolds in the form of letters that flow from its characters. In the backdrop of a literary society, casualties of a world war, an island with beautiful landscape, it is an unlikely love story but very fulfilling read.
I highly recommend this book, infact I have already gifted three copies of this book,

Foundation 2 & Foundation 3 by Asimov
What a joy to have finished the ultimate Sci-fi series of all time. I would rate Foundation 1 > Foundation 3 > Foundation 2. I did not like that much of Mule storylines. Also, Foundation 3 ending finale reveal felt forced as well but other than that, books are awesome to read. Truly inspirational in their scope from beginning, what I loved about these books is that Asimov continues to add mysteries and unravels them masterfully in subsequent chapters. With such a premise, the options are numerous and many will not work. It is truly Asimov's skill that he binds these instance in a coherent manner while keeping the literary thrills intact.

Its been 7 books so far and one that is 65% over. More about that one in next edition.

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