“April is the cruelest month,” wrote one of my favorite writers, TS Eliot, in that magnum opus of a poem, The Wasteland. If you haven’t read the poem, please go and carve out some decrepitude of time and read it. “Hurry up, please, it’s time.”
April wasn’t cruel for me, though. Last month was beautiful, peaceful, enervating, and terrifying. I don’t remember a month in my life that I have read so much. I realized that there are no excuses for not reading. I was ‘busy’ most of the time. But I read on the train. I read while waiting at the dentist. I read while waiting for the microwave oven to heat up. I just read anywhere. I grit my teeth when people tell me that they have no time to exercise or read. I grit my teeth actually any time I hear people say, “I have no time,” for just about anything. No wonder I have to see my dentist on a regular basis with all that teeth grinding.
But to the reading. This then was my reading in April:
|Books read in April||17|
|Number of pages||2,838|
|Average book length||166 pages|
|Highest-rated book/s||Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck|
“I do not understand “damned.” You are. And because you are, you can walk where you will, into peace, oblivion, or pits of fire, but you will always choose.”- The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden
Indian Writing in English
Em and the Big Hoom: Jerry Pinto
I received this book as a gift from Travelling Birdy after I was mesmerized by reviews of it online. I always have this problem with contemporary books that receive rave reviews. (Alliteration alert here dedicated to one reader). I usually end up not liking highly rated books. While the premise of Em and the Big Hoom was interesting and intriguing, I felt distanced from the narrator. And when I can’t feel with the narrator, the book fails for me.
Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck
This was one of the shortest books I read, but it also one of the most powerful. Em and the Big Hoom was wrapped in the subject of mental illness, Of Mice and Men was wrapped in the same. But in much shorter punches, Steinbeck pulls off a miracle. I am also partial to American Literature. I guess you know why I loved this book so much.
Amazing Animals: Dr. Seuss
Amazing Animals was a book for children. It was really meant for children. Not for adults masquerading as children. Not that I minded. What was I doing in childhood? I just grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton and the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews. Our libraries were not really home to other children’s literature. Or was it that I was blind? One of those enduring mysteries of my life.
Your Soul is a River: Nikita Gill
I read a lot of recommended books last month, which is rare for me since I don’t take too kindly to recommendations. I usually don’t like what others recommend with the rare exception being the wonderful JoV from Bibliojunkie. But the poems here were starry and the skies sprinkled with the dust of words. I could not help but like it.
Milk and Honey: Rupi Kaur
I understand this book is supposed to be highly important. That it addresses the issues of abuse. That it portrays the new Indian woman. Well, the new Indian woman also bleeds her words into echoes of nothingness. Sound very heartbroken and melancholic and you have thousands lining up to read you. I am being harsh, perhaps.
The Return of the Young Prince: AG Roemmers
Ah! The anticipation of expectation! The failure of it! Our lives! Sequels, please stay away from me. I am yet to like a sequel. After the young prince stole my heart in the classic Antoine Saint de Exupery classic, I ran into this book with all the love that only remembered memories can bring. It wasn’t really bad on its own, but it was just awful because the original was so good.
The Bear and the Nightingale: Katherine Arden
The title of this book still makes me smile. I doubt I will forget this book in a hurry peopled as it was with strange characters like cute domovais and rusalkas. What am I talking of? Yes, you have to read the book to find out. The pace was a bit glacial and the writing soporific, but well, I can’t forget Solovey,the stallion. To this day, I wait to hear these words from anyone in my life. Sigh.
“Where you go, I go,” said the stallion.
On the Shortness of Life: Seneca
Many thousands of years ago, a Roman Stoic philosopher wrote about the busyness of life. That we are still busying ourselves with life instead of living it, might make him come back from the dead to write a sequel. I keep hearing this refrain all too often now: Live in the moment.
I keep trying. I keep failing miserably.
“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
Adulthood is a Myth: Sarah Andersen
The wonderfully talented Sarah Andersen draws up a series of deft portraits of modern life. Whimsical and funny, I loved this one. I haven’t said that for a while now, have I?
I Wrote This for You: pleasefindthis
The world of modern literature is changing. Pop literature is all the rage. Take the best Tumblr posts and you have a book. I didn’t like this book. I thought it to be too cliched and filled with romantic fluff. But I saw it differently through someone else’s eyes. That’s the reason I love sharing what I read. The words you see are never the same as they appear.
The Tao of Pooh: Benjamin Hoff
How do you take a well-loved children’s classic and interpret it as philosophy? And do it well? You can’t. I felt that Hoff went overboard in trying to portray Pooh as the wisest in the Hundred Acre Wood, which is not what I think AA Milne intended. Or for that matter, not what Tao intends.
The Giver: Lois Lowry
I had read one of Lois Lowry’s earlier books, and I picked up ‘The Giver’ because I wanted to add to my reading of Science Fiction. The book was slow to pick up, but its vision of a dystopian community that bled out all emotions in an attempt to restore a sense of certainty reminded me of our own selves today. There was a passage where the Memory Giver hands over the memory of snow. Oh. That moved me because it brought my own memories of snow and the touch of cold on my fingers to my mind. I will remember that passage for a long time. Snow and memories. SM’s two favorite words in a book.
A Chinese Garden of Serenity: Reflections of a Zen Buddhist: Hung Tzu-ch’eng
Part of the Peter Pauper collection, I struggled with this book. Why? I wish I knew. I have never understood Zen with its cryptic meaning. I understand in its practicality. I have seen Zen in sipping tea. I have seen Zen in having hypnotic conversations. I have seen Zen in the butterfly’s poise. I have seen Zen in the whiff of cigarette smoke. But I can’t read and understand Zen.
Mademoiselle de Scuderi: ETA Hoffman
My favorite bookshop keeps churning up books I had never heard of. Mademoiselle de Scuderi is supposed to be the original precursor to the classic crime novel. I can understand its importance in literature, therefore. But the charming Mademoiselle de Scuderi is all I remember from the book.
The Book of Tea: Kakuzo Okakura
Tea. My old love! My only love. My eternal love! I can spend the ripples of moments sipping Thy divinity. See, tea can turn me into an awful poet. An entire book about tea? It can make me drool. Okakura starts off promisingly, tapers off in the middle, and ends with a flowery flourish. This book was meditative.
Indian Translations in English
Gone Are the Rivers: Dilip Kaur Tiwana
I am struggling with Indian novels in translation. This was my first Punjabi novel and although I came away enriched by the world of the old Sardars and Sardarnis, the novel read a bit like having dosas in Amritsar. Just not the same.
The Summer Before the War: Helene Simonson
I think I am being a bit unfair in my rating. I don’t think this is a bad book at all. I picked this one up after suffering from withdrawal symptoms after finishing ‘Downton Abbey.’ This book is supposed to come as close as possible to recreating the charm of that period. Sadly, it came close to recreating only boredom for me. I suffered for two months before finishing this.
When I look back at this post, I can only think that reading is a solitary art. It’s something that you do in the spirit of communion with yourself. But over last month, I read in public with a bunch of strangers in a Silent Reading Club. I read a lot of books with a friend. I read by myself. I was never alone. Reading is just not solitary, I realized.