Posted in challenges

2019 Reading Goals

RC.jpgMore than a month into 2019, probably time for me to make some yearly reading goals. Yeah, I think I didn’t get the new year announcement on time. Sigh.
I am trying to get my life on track. Emphasis on ‘trying’. So let’s do this!
  1. Read at least 50 books (Goodreads goal)
  2. Read more classics (at least 10)
  3. Read more owned books (at least 20)
  4. Read huge books (at least 3) – Shantaram, Jane Eyre, A suitable boy, 100 years of solitude
  5. Re-read- Anna Karenina, Thirteenth Tale, To the Lighthouse
  6. Read more non-fiction/ memoir/ autobiography (at least 20)
  7. YLTO Challenge
  8. Popsugar Challenge

popsugar reading challenge.jpg

What are your yearly challenges?

 

 

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Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

35996816.jpgGenre: Non-Fiction

Date Published: March 2005

Source: Online Library – Audiobook

Goodreads Synopsis: The second child of a scholarly, alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family’s nomadic upbringing from the Arizona desert, to Las Vegas, to an Appalachian mining town, during which her siblings and she fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.

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My View: This book tore out my heart and stamped on it, again and again until I couldn’t breathe anymore. Oh, the feels. And to know that this was someone’s reality, the way they were born and brought up and lived. It’s just too much.

I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with Angela’s Ashes even though they are starkly different from each other. But the pain sometimes has no identity. It meshes from one into another and goes on until you emerge out of it stronger than you would have ever been.

It’s hard to believe Walls is where she is and with every single word of the book, I commend how far she has come. The author being the narrator was the best thing ever because she knows the inflections, the pauses, the pain. This is her story and no one could have read it better than her.

This book is devastating. It would melt your heart. It would wrench at your insides. It would make your stomach cramp but you would want to keep listening, waiting for it to get better. Does it? Get better? Read and find out for yourself.

Every once in a while comes a book that makes every book before it, disappear into the oblivion. This is one such book. Pick it up. Get into Walls’ world, see it from the inside.

4/5 stars – I really liked it.
4 stars

Author Bio:

Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005. The book was adapted into a film and released to theaters in August, 2017.

 

Posted in 3 stars, Book reviews

How I Became a Farmer’s Wife by Yashodhara Lal

39704956.jpgGenre: Fiction/ Non-Fiction

Date Published: April 19, 2018

Pages: 328

Source: Harper Collins India Review Copy

Goodreads Synopsis: Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect good Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn Farmer! Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if Yash didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers. As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked out of their comfortable life in the steel-and-chrome high-rises of Gurgaon, and thrown headfirst into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake. Will these earnest but insulated city-dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life? A laugh-out-loud romp that’ll leave you wanting more!

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 Add on Goodreads

My View: For someone who thinks forever before picking up a book by an Indian author, it took me seconds to decide I wanted my hands on this one. The premise, by itself, was so interesting. And I am glad to point out the book did not disappoint. For a person who loves anything to do with gardens and plants, this was a delight!

I had no idea how hard it was to be a farmer but well, Yashodhara has unraveled it all in this very funny, quick read. The hilarious dialogues and witty comments make this an enjoyable read.

The book draws a parallel between three generations, their actions, and reactions, all of which create a funny scene and you find yourself nodding your head to how it relates to the people around you.

The book never gets boring and you find yourself turning page after page and miss it all when the book finishes.

If you are a wannabe farmer or are trying to discourage someone from stepping into farming, this just might be the book you are looking for. 😉

3/5 stars – I liked it.
3 stars

Author Bio:

Yashodhara Lal’s USP is in taking the ordinary and making it hilarious. She graduated from IIM-Bangalore in 2002 and has over 12 years of experience in the Marketing Domain across two large corporations in FMCG and media. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband Vijay, and the three small children they call Peanut, Pickle and Papad – all of whom never fail to provide her with material for her entertaining blog at http://www.yashodharalal.com.

‘Just Married, Please Excuse’ is her first book. ‘Sorting Out Sid’ is her latest work of fiction.

Thank you, Harper Collins India for the review copy. All views expressed are my own and unbiased.

 

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews, Giveaway

Giveaway (US/ CAN): Dying Well by Susan Ducharme Hoben

39014241Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Date Published: March 2018

Pages: 249

Source: Publisher

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dying Well is an inspiring love story telling of how a man celebrated life while facing his death with grace and dignity. His widow guides you through decisions made and actions taken on their nine-month journey from diagnosis through celebrations and goodbyes, to a peaceful death free of fear and regret. She shares lessons learned as their family came to terms with her husband’s impending death and found ways to make this last stage of his life as loving and joyous as possible. This uplifting end-of-life story offers a thought-provoking perspective on dying, one that may help you and those you love achieve what’s most important at the end of your lives.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository Add on Goodreads

My View: I haven’t been taking on review requests, for the most part, considering my reading is moody and I pick up books from the library and then I buy some to participate in buddy reads. However, when the request for review for this one came in, I immediately said yes. One reason being I am focusing a whole lot on non-fiction this year. And secondly, the book’s synopsis spoke to me both psychologically and as a person. So here I am.

It’s easy to get tangled in Susan’s life without realizing it. She weaves her life into a story, introduces the characters, makes us get a feel for them before venturing on to what happens to these characters. And this is precisely what happened. Reading ‘Dying Well’ is not just about life and death but so much more. About family and relationships and savoring the joyous moments of life.

Susan comes across as courageous, practical, well organized and someone who has her head firmly planted on her shoulders. And through her words, we get to know Bruce, her husband who knew what he wanted and how he wanted it in the face of death when most people would crumble and hang onto every thread of life left.

Reading this book is taking a journey with Susan, a difficult one but it has its moments of celebrations and joys that make us feel proud of their entire family and experience a sense of contentment about how Bruce lived the last few months of his life.

This book is about embarking on a journey with bravery and courage. It’s a lesson in dying and how to do it well; how to really live until the last moment of one’s life when death is staring you in the eyes. This ensures there are no regrets and you have lived your life well.

It’s a must-read for anyone and everyone who has a family member with a terminal illness or is undergoing one, themselves. It gives you a perspective of how until death arrives, every moment of life is to be celebrated and made use of, with friendships fostered and relationships made even richer.

4/5 stars – I really liked it.

4 stars

 

Giveaway – 1 Paperback Copy of Dying Well (US/ CAN)

Enter the Giveaway here.

Author Bio:

Author Photo color 2 High Res_03080613

Susan didn’t set out to be a writer but when life presented her with a compelling story that needed to be told, she rose to the challenge, beginning a new phase of her life. She hopes that what she learned can help the reader, or someone they love, achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.

Susan Ducharme Hoben is a former executive consultant with IBM’s Strategy and Change Consulting practice. She put her mathematics degree from Cornell University and graduate studies at Georgia Institute of Technology to good use in a thirty-five-year career in information technology that began with systems engineering with IBM and ended with consulting. Upon retirement, Sue founded a travel journal about luxury barging in Europe.

Susan lives in Connecticut on ancestral land, and frequently visits her six granddaughters (and their parents) in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Nashville, Tennessee. She celebrates life every day, never turning down an invitation, especially if it involves travel or dancing. Since retirement, in addition to regular sailing trips in the British Virgin Islands and barging trips in France, she seeks to expand her horizons by exploring a new destination each year, whether on safari in Africa, trekking the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, sailing the Gulf of Thailand, or striking a yoga pose on the mountain peak that rises 850 feet above Machu Picchu.

Posted in 4.5 stars, Book reviews, Psychology

Psychology Series #1: Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

My Post.jpgI am starting Psychology series on Reviewing Shelf and would be reviewing Psychology related books in this section.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology21027.jpg

Date Published: 1989

Pages: 304

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis:

The collection of ten absorbing tales by master psychotherapist Irvin D. Yalom uncovers the mysteries, frustrations, pathos, and humor at the heart of the therapeutic encounter. In recounting his patients’ dilemmas, Yalom not only gives us a rare and enthralling glimpse into their personal desires and motivations but also tells us his own story as he struggles to reconcile his all-too human responses with his sensibility as a psychiatrist. Not since Freud has an author done so much to clarify what goes on between a psychotherapist and a patient.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart Add on Goodreads

My View: I have been wanting to read Yalom since forever so when I was looking at what to start my Psychology Series with, I came upon this in my library and rest, as they say, is history.

From the very first page, Yalom intrigues you, leaving you wanting to know more about his style of therapy and the cases he has decided to discuss. Each and every case study he presents is starkly different from the other. His approach also seems different from one to another, citing how he personalizes the treatment to each client. There is a lot to be learned from each case study and my number of highlights in the book are tantamount to the fact.

I loved to know Yalom’s side of the client perception, especially because he was so frank about what he felt even when he was ‘judging’ the client and it was so refreshing to find a therapist who has no qualms in acknowledging what he was feeling irrespective of what feeling that is. It assured me as a therapist and brought back to me the realization of the therapist being a mere human too.

I took away so many lessons from this book. Written in the easy, quick read style, Yalom manages to instill techniques and therapeutic skills within each case study and you leave richer than when you began reading them. It’s a hard-to-put-down book, even better than any thriller and a perfect beginning to my psychology series. I am definitely going to go back to Yalom for more. And you should too if you are interested in therapy.

4.5/5 stars: Somewhere between ‘I really liked it’ and ‘I loved it’.
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Author Bio:

909675Irvin David Yalom, M.D., is an author of fiction and nonfiction, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, an existentialist, and accomplished psychotherapist.
Posted in 4.5 stars, Book reviews

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag

903115.jpgGenre: Essays

Date Published: March 6, 2007

Pages: 235

Source: Library

Goodreads Synopsis: “A writer is someone who pays attention to the world,” Susan Sontag said in her 2003 acceptance speech for the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, and no one exemplified this definition more than she. Sontag’s incisive intelligence, expressive brilliance, and deep curiosity about art, politics, and the writer’s responsibility to bear witness have secured her place as one of the most important thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. At the Same Time gathers sixteen essays and addresses written in the last years of Sontag’s life, when her work was being honored on the international stage, that reflect on the personally liberating nature of literature, her deepest commitment, and on political activism and resistance to injustice as an ethical duty. She considers the works of writers from the little-known Soviet novelist Leonid Tsypkin, who struggled and eventually succeeded in publishing his only book days before his death; to the greats, such as Nadine Gordimer, who enlarge our capacity for moral judgment. Sontag also fearlessly addresses the dilemmas of post-9/11 America, from the degradation of our political rhetoric to the appalling torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib.

At the Same Time, which includes a foreword by her son, David Rieff, is a passionate, compelling work from an American writer at the height of her powers, who always saw literature “as a passport to enter a larger life, the zone of freedom.”

Buy it here – Amazon India | Amazon USThe Book Depository | Flipkart |

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My View:  I don’t really remember how I heard about Susan Sontag except it was in one of my bookish whatsapp groups (umm yeah, they exist, I am a part of two). And I tucked it away in the back of my mind. On my visit to the library a couple of months back, I stumbled upon ‘In America’ by her but the title didn’t interest me much. What did I have to do with America anyhow? And I put it back on the shelf.

And then I came across this book by Sontag on my recent library visit. I contemplated keeping it back. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for essays (I usually never am. Those were things written and memorized in school and never read again.) but I decided to bring it home. It sat beside my bed while I read fictional works I had issued. And finally I decided to atleast get a flavor of what it was about. The introduction by Sontag’s son, Davie Rieff piqued my curiosity. And thereafter I didn’t look back, turning page upon page until I devoured it, albeit a bit slow in the beginning and faster at the end.

It was a brilliant read. I think I am in love with Sontag. And I deeply mourn her loss. I wish she was alive now. I am sure she would have so much to say about Trump’s win and the state of America now. She seems very vocal and unfazed by critics and people in the power. I admire her tenacity and bravado. We need more people like her.

My favorite essay in this book was on Pasternak, Tsvetayeva and Rilke. How she talks about their personal and professional lives giving us a peek into their private lives. Mesmerizing!

I deeply appreciate her insights into books, the lives of authors, political situations and almost everything under the sun. She’s well read, thorough in her research, and her writing just pulls you in and keeps you focused. I could feel the time she has taken in penning down each and every word. I totally am with her when she says not many writers today are knowledgeable. They don’t know about the world they reside in. I agree when she says it’s important as a writer to know what’s happening around.

Ah. The feeling. The aftertaste this book leaves in your mouth. You feel like just sitting for a while, letting it all sink in. To not let that get murky by reading another book. *Sigh*

I need to pick up another book by her. I am gravitating towards ‘Regarding the pain of others’. Have you read Sontag? Which book of hers do you recommend?

4.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘I really liked it’ and ‘I loved it’.
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Author Bio:

Susan Sontag was born in New York City on January 16, 1933, grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended high school in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from the College of the University of Chicago and did graduate work in philosophy, literature, and theology at Harvard University and Saint Anne’s College, Oxford.

Her books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include four novels, The Benefactor, Death Kit, The Volcano Lover, and In America; a collection of short stories, I, etcetera; several plays, including Alice in Bed and Lady from the Sea; and nine works of nonfiction, starting with Against Interpretation and including On Photography, Illness as Metaphor, Where the Stress Falls, Regarding the Pain of Others, and At the Same Time. In 1982, FSG published A Susan Sontag Reader.

Ms. Sontag wrote and directed four feature-length films: Duet for Cannibals (1969) and Brother Carl (1971), both in Sweden; Promised Lands (1974), made in Israel during the war of October 1973; and Unguided Tour (1983), from her short story of the same name, made in Italy. Her play Alice in Bed has had productions in the United States, Mexico, Germany, and Holland. Another play, Lady from the Sea, has been produced in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Korea.

Ms. Sontag also directed plays in the United States and Europe, including a staging of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in the summer of 1993 in besieged Sarajevo, where she spent much of the time between early 1993 and 1996 and was made an honorary citizen of the city.

A human rights activist for more than two decades, Ms. Sontag served from 1987 to 1989 as president of the American Center of PEN, the international writers’ organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the advancement of literature, from which platform she led a number of campaigns on behalf of persecuted and imprisoned writers.

Her stories and essays appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary publications all over the world, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Art in America, Antaeus, Parnassus, The Threepenny Review, The Nation, and Granta. Her books have been translated into thirty-two languages.

Among Ms. Sontag’s many honors are the 2003 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the 2003 Prince of Asturias Prize, the 2001 Jerusalem Prize, the National Book Award for In America (2000), and the National Book Critics Circle Award forOn Photography (1978). In 1992 she received the Malaparte Prize in Italy, and in 1999 she was named a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government (she had been named an Officier in the same order in 1984). Between 1990 and 1995 she was a MacArthur Fellow.

Ms. Sontag died in New York City on December 28, 2004.

Posted in 4 stars, Book reviews

Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London by Mohsin Hamid

Date Published: November 27, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 252
Source: Review Copy provided by Random House India
Format: Paperback

Goodreads SynopsisFrom “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers” (The New York Times) , intimate and sharply observed commentary on life, art, politics, and “the war on terror.”

Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a “master critic of the modern global condition” (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.

A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home—Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen—Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious West and a volatile East, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.

Buy it here – Amazon India | Flipkart Amazon US | The Book Depository | Add on Goodreads

My View: To tell the truth, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because the author was famous for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist which went on to become a major motion picture. Otherwise, a book with a title like that would have been easily glossed over.

The book has been divided by essays into three parts – Life, Art and Politics. It’s difficult to choose which part I liked the most. But yes, I found the first two parts more easy to read and interesting while the final one was heavy and dry on the palate.

I liked the way the essays have been structured. It starts with giving us a glimpse into the author’s life which makes it easier to appreciate what comes later on. We see the world through his eyes and experiences and it lends itself a different voice than the world might see from their side of the spider’s web.

The author’s journey through his career changes, his personal life and travel within the three countries makes for an interesting narrative. In seeing the world-view through his eyes, one finds oneself wondering at the objectivity and its absence in all things meaningful.

The essays in the Art section also made for a gripping read. With my interest in all things related to books, I could identify where the author was coming from. His essays about rereading books, likeable characters, Murakami, great American novel and the change of reading experience through ebooks found a resonance within me. They made for a page turning read.

Let me now talk about the Politics section. Frankly, I have zero knowledge and/or interest in politics. But every so often, with the help of books like these, I try to keep myself abreast of the goings-on in the world. And that’s precisely where this section stepped in. The essays give a plethora of events to think about, to reflect upon. Looking at the drones and war from an insider’s perspective lends it an air of honesty and raw brutalism that makes one shudder. It’s easy to read about it in the news than to hear someone who has been through it and knows the ins and outs. It would be easier to side with the US on its drones and air strikes when its labelled as a fight with terrorism but when you hear it from the horse’s mouth do you realise it carries within it so much more than just that. The essays give a refreshing albeit heart rending stance to the whole situation. Frankly, it was difficult to go through it. It was unsettling and as is easier, one tends to pass by what is uncomfortable or evokes disturbing emotions. But I needed to know the bird’s eye view of things and not just what the newspapers tell me and hence I read it, every single word of it. It didn’t help settle my perturbed emotions but surely helped me realize that one can never see the panorama from just one side. And now that I have touched on the philosophical, let me give it a rest. And you go read the book.

Highly influential and well-written. Would definitely be trying the author again.

4/5 stars – I liked it. 4 stars

(All opinions expressed are my own and in no way influenced.)

Huge thanks to Random House India for providing the review copy.