The Reading Spree: Vicarious Travels in India

This is a very very late post!

I usually upload The Reading Spree blog posts by end of the month. But I this time I forgot that it was February and it has fewer days! From then I just spiraled into procrastination and never got to writing this post!

So in February, I managed to armchair travel to different parts of India through books!

These are the four books I read in February:

  1. The Legends of Pensam by Mamang Dai: This is a short novel about folk tales and family stories mingling together and creating unique histories. The stories revolve around the erstwhile and modern day lives of the Adi tribe in Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Seahorse by Janice Pariat: This was by far the best novel of the last month. The soul stirring and palpable descriptions of the relationship between the protagonist, Nem and Nicholas. This book not only takes you through the university lanes of Delhi but also through the mysterious moors of England. It also takes you on a thoughtful literary and musical ride, leaving you with ideas of how both love and gender are fluid. The rich tapestry Pariat creates around two main relationships through motifs of water, seahorse and aquarium as well as through intricately interspersed music and literary inter textual references are bound to captivate you. It is especially delightful for lovers of literature and classical music. Continue reading

The Reading Spree: Middle Eastern Novels

This post comes a tad bit late this time as I finished reading my last book from the month of January only on 1st February and then it has taken me some time to let go of that book, because it was so powerful and moving. Read on to see which book that was!

Though I had decided to read books from the Middle East since a long time, it felt strange to have started with reading two books from Iran itself when the tensions between US and Iran had flared up.

I ended up reading 5 books this time and felt proud that the first month was so successful. So here are the books that I ended up reading:

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The Reading Spree: Hindi Writing

So this year I had set an ambitious goal of reading 50 books on Goodreads for the 2019 Reading Challenge.

Today on 31st December, I finished reading 51 books! YAY! Check out my year in books here at Goodreads.

In 2020, I think I will limit my reading to half of the 2019 ambitious goal: to read 25 books in 2020 because I think 2020 will not be as relaxed as 2019!

By the time December came, I was sure to complete my challenge and so I decided to read a few Hindi novels I have at home. I am not a fast reader of Hindi writing having lost touch with reading in Hindi after college. So I thought December would be a great time to read in Hindi as I can take it slow and steady.

Consequently, I read only 3 books this month but they were all amazing! I had wanted to read one more book, a poetry collection by Dushyant Kumar titled, Saaye Mein Dhoop, but I did not make time for that though I have read it before.

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I had also planned to read Anukriti Upadhay’s short story, Cherry Blossom but was not able to do that either. It is available online as part of one of the issues of The Bombay Literary Magazine and hoping to read it soon!

These are the three novels I read:

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The Reading Spree: Indian Women Writing in English

November is done. Unseasonal rains are behind us. Hopefully some coolness and not smog will descend over the city.

As mentioned last month in my October Yellow Book Cover Month Reading Spree post, I had decided to read Indian Women Writers in English.

It was absolute fun to be vicariously traveling from one place to the other through these books, to exploring thoughts and mindsets of varying female protagonists as they face their everyday battles.

So here are the books that made it to my list:

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The Reading Spree: October Yellow Cover Month!

I decided to pick a strange, albeit colour coordinated, theme for this month!

It was an impulse decision that came out of random coincidences converging to make my desk very yellow this month!

Thus, I embarked on reading books that had a yellow cover!

These are the books I managed to read in this very yellow month!

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  1. Musungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko by Patrick Neale: This humorous and satirical novel is based on a a fictional African country, Zambawi, that is riddled with dictatorship, revolutionaries and one lost musungu or white man, Jim, who has come there to teach. Check out my review! 
  2. Bara by U.R. Ananthamurthy: This short novella reads almost like a short story. Set possibly in Bidar in Karnataka, it unravels the problems of that district which is facing severe drought and how one civil servant is trying to help but is caught between various conflicts. Read my review here.
  3. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht: This was my favourite novel from the list. Again this novel is set in a fictional place but one that closely resembles Eastern Europe or even possibly Yugoslavia. It narrates how parallel stories of a woman’s relationship with her grandfather and his stories particular the one about the titular tiger’s wife.
  4. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl: This novel is quintessentially a Dahl story with it’s signature child hero, James, who has had a bad childhood and who, because of a strange turn of events, is able to meet the strangest of friends and go on a peculiar ride on the titular giant peach. Read my detailed review here.
  5. Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu: Told from the point of view of an Ethiopian immigrant, Seppha Stephanos, the novel traverses his present in which he is an owner of a crumbling grocery store, and his past in which he still owned his store but also had the company of Judith and her daughter, Naomi and they had fun reading sessions. Read the Guest Post review here!
  6. The Best of Laxman: The Common Man Watches Cricket: This is a fun, breezy delight through R.K. Laxman’s iconic cartoon series featuring his ubiquitous common man. Despite what the title says, it is not only about cricket but his satirical cartoons broach all kinds of subjects particularly politics. They leave no stone unturned to lay bare the hypocrisy and idiosyncrasies of our country and politicians. What is surprising is that several of the cartoons included in this collection are relevant even today which simply goes to show the vicious circle politics traps citizens in.

Stay tuned next month for the next Reading Spree List! In November, we will focus on Women Writing in India in English. Don’t forget to check out what titles we pick for next month!

Happy browsing!


Read more of The Reading Spree lists and explore books from different themes!

The Reading Spree: September

30th September is International Translation Day! It was declared by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2017 to foster peace and greater understanding among nations.

It is therefore a great way to end the National Translation Month (also September!) on this day and take a look at the books that were read as part of this month.

Since August was Women in Translation Month, I simply continued that in this month as well! It is always great to read more women writers, don’t you think so?

Here’s the list:

  1. First up was Shanghai Baby which was written by Wei Hui and translated by Bruce Humes from Chinese. The the novel takes you through Coco’s story, living in Shanghai and trying to write a novel while living with her boyfriend, Tian Tian. Read my full review here.
  2. Second came A Rag Doll after My Heart. Translated from Marathi by Shruti Nargundkar and written by Anuradha Vaidya, this ‘poetic novel’ is a lovely, though a bit dated and patriarchal, look at a mother and daughter’s bond by evoking it through thought provoking metaphors. Read my full review here.

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The Reading Spree: Women in Translation Month 2019

And so the Women in Translation (WiT) month has ended. And oh what a beautiful reading spree it was!

As part of WiT, I read female writers that have been translated into English and I managed to read a humble total of six books!

Here is the list:

1. First on my list was When the Dives Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen, translated from Finnish by Lola M. Rogers. This novel is a story of two Estonian cousins and their very different reactions to first Soviet occupation, then Nazi German and then back to Soviet occupation. Told using two parallel timelines, this was my first book by an Estonian writer that also shed a lot of light on a little known aspect of world history: Estonia’s role and struggle for independence during dark periods of occupation. Read the complete Blurb Appreciation Review of this novel here

2. Next was The M usic of Solitude by Krishna Sobti, translated from Hindi by Vasudha Dalmia. This is a touching tale of two elderly people living in Delhi, Ishan and Aranya, who are diametrically opposite people yet are brought together by proximity and burdensome and very palpable questions of old age and death. Read my complete review here.

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The Reading Spree: January 2019 was Female Writers Month

No there is no such official thing but there ought to be!

Similar to how I ended 2018 on a unique note of reading The Maharajah’s Household, I had wanted to start 2019 on a diverse note (that being one of my bookish goals in 2019) and I did that with Tiger Hills.

Slowly, January became an all female authors read and I loved it!

Hopefully can carry on this streak but being an English Studies teacher it is difficult to stay away from canonical male authors for long. But lets see how far this female writers’ sojourn goes.

So let’s take a look at the books I read in the month of January:

  1. Starting off first with Tiger Hills, which was a historical saga of love and family set in the 20th century Coorg. Marred only by a few difficult to believe coincidences, Tiger Hills is a lovely and engaging read.
  2. Next on the list was a quick read of Dungri Garasiya folktales collected by Marija Sres and published by Zubaan Books titled, First There was Woman.
  3. Next came Kunzang Choden’s novel, The Circle of Karma, which is a gritty Bhutanese novel of Tsomo and her growth from being a cast out wife to a strong person who chooses to let go and carve her own path no matter how tiring that may be. This is a must read not in the least because it is the first novel to be written in English in Bhutan but also because it gives you a unique glimpse into the Himalayan country.
  4. Jeannette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry will take you on a fluid time ride and make you question all gender assumptions.
  5. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak was the only bestseller among all the January reads. It was also the only one that disappointed a bit and failed to live up to the hype.
  6. The last two for the month of January were again Indian novels. One was K.R. Meera’s The Gospel of Yudas which told Yudas and Prema’s melancholic tale of love and betrayal amidst Kerala’s Naxal movement.
  7. Annnnnnddddddddd, drum rollllllll, the last one was The Patiala Quartet by Neel Kamal Puri which was a beautiful story of siblings and their trials and tribulations in small town Patiala wracked by its royal past and growing Khalistan movement.

So that makes a total of seven books in the first month! Amazing!

All the links for the books’ reviews are given within the blog post itself.

So those were my January Reads! What books did you read in the month of January? Share in the comments below!