What I Read In November


Books / Saturday, January 20th, 2018

I am a little behind my usual monthly post about the books I read. That has mostly to do with all the work from the ‘December Reflections’ project, and a fair bit of laziness from me over the last month of the year. This month, though, as indeed this year, I am promising myself that I would write more than ever before.

Books read in November 10
Number of pages 2,889
Average book length 288 pages
Average rating 3.7
Highest-rated book/s The Wise Fool Of Baghdad by Mohammed Ali Vakil and The Forty Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak

World Literature

The Forty Rules Of Love: Elif Shafak

Rating: 5

What an astounding work! I was completely at a loss for words when I read this book. One of the most beguiling, compelling books I have ever read! The kind of book I want to gift to everyone I meet – urging them to breathe in the wisdom and utter magic of this world of Rumi and Shams. Elif Shafak has quickly become one of my favorite authors – her words carry the wisdom of ages, transporting me, like all good works of fiction must, into another world of honor, integrity, and the magic of the Universe.

Read this, please. And read it again. Books like these are magic. Just magic.

Favorite Quote:

Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

Honor: Elif Shafak

Rating: 4

What an utterly beguiling book! Elif Shafak kept me entranced in a world where “men have honor, women have shame.” This is a book that is to be cherished on multiple levels – where does loyalty begin? What is the true meaning of family? Of forgiveness? How do we bear guilt? How do we understand selfishness? This is a masterpiece.

Pachinko: Min Jin Lee

Rating: 3

My friend, the easily bored Poodle, and I started reading this book together. This was one of the most acclaimed books of last year. Curious to know more about different cultures, we picked this one up. The reviews, perhaps, ended up heightening our expectations because the generational saga of Koreans living in Japan became a bit dragging after a point. But I still recommend this book. Why?

Pachinko was the sort of book that opened my eyes. I had traveled to both South Korea and Japan and had no idea of the history of these two countries. Sigh. Shows that I need to be a more-informed traveler. This lengthy saga traverses generations – starting with a small fishing village in Korea and then moving through Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohoma, and more. Throughout it all, what fascinated me was that I was shown a world that was completely unknown to me. To be born in Japan, and still have to have a South Korean passport? Wow.

Poetry

The Truro Bear and Other Adventures: Poems and Essays: Mary Oliver

Rating: 3

Before I am done with my reading life, and when will that ever be? When I can’t see anymore? Before that, I want to read all of Mary Oliver’s poems.

Mary Oliver’s observation of nature humbles me. The collection of poems here includes one of my favorites – and the essay on the spider reminds me of just what I do here in my home. I have a spider spinning its web, and I just can’t seem to sweep it away. Yet, the first thing anyone notices when they come home is the web! Why can’t they leave it alone?

Indian Writing in English

The Wise Fool Of Baghdad: Mohammed Ali Vakil

Rating: 5

What a beautiful collection of stories in breathtaking art! The wisdom in this book is timeless and the illustrations gorgeous! There was no more beautiful book I had read this year. I can imagine the love that Mohammed Ali Vakil must have invested into this book. It’s an artist’s gift to the world. And I was delighted I could speak to him here.

Contemporary Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere: Celeste Ng

Rating: 4

Celeste Ng is a marvelous author – I remember reading her debut novel a couple of years ago. What Ng does so well is to take the ordinary of our lives and extract the emotions that run through it. Little Fires Everywhere is an apt title for this book. There is no one character you love or hate – there are parts of you in every character.

This, surely, is an author I am going to follow keenly in the years to come. Was it the best book I have read this year? No. Not for me.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: Gail Honeyman

Rating: 4

Many times, I end up thinking this of me: “I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.”

When I picked up this book, I hadn’t really read the reviews. I just knew that this was one of the finalists on the ‘Best Books of the Year’ lists. Have you ever read a book which starts on your slowly – you kind of chuckle your way through it -and then suddenly, you just realize that, amidst all the fun, Gail Honeyman is building you up into the kind of story that can warm every breath you take? ‘Eleanor..’ was like that for me. I laughed initially with Eleanor’s narration, and then I was entranced by her. And then, I wished I could be Eleanor’s friend. To hug her close and have her give me half-empty Vodka bottles as gifts. Or a Playboy magazine if I am in a coma. Ok, that sounds weird. But that’s what Eleanor turns you into – a mashball of goodness in a ball of lemon souffle.

Fantasy

Starbook: Ben Okri

Rating: 3

Just a few minutes after I read the last page in Ben Okri‘s ‘Starbook,’ I found myself struggling to put together the words to express what I feel. At one level, ‘Starbook’ was one of the most lyrical books I have ever read. If poems could be compressed into sentences, then Ben Okri has done just that.

A parable of a prince and the almost-mythical love affair with the ‘maiden’ – Okri weaves in a lamentation for art, for colonization, for the loss of the world’s beauty as we know it. He also drew me into a world where gaps exist in forests and where art is pure and the symbol of the soul and the Universe. In the end, I was kind of puzzled what I felt about the book. I loved the lyricism. But this was not an easy read.

Non Fiction

The Power Of Now: Eckhart Tolle

Rating: 3

I am not quite sure what I felt about reading one of the all-time classics. I didn’t go to this book with a lot of expectations, but it didn’t quite resonate with me the way I thought it would. While the emphasis on the Now was revealing, Tolle lost me with the whole “pain-body” and menstrual flow later. This is not an easy read in the sense that trying to grasp what he is saying with the mind is difficult. That’s the whole point of his philosophy, anyway, isn’t it? That we should move through our mind and into the Being. Maybe, I will visit of his other books.

Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore: TJS George

Rating: 3

My love affair with Bangalore’s past continues. TJS George is one of Bangalore’s most respected chroniclers and he gives a beautiful insight into the growth of Bangalore from beloved city to chaotic metropolis that is no longer recognizable. I dropped a rating because I wasn’t sure why so many pages in a very short book were devoted to Siddhartha Mallya and Rohan Murty. Are these people the ‘real’ Bangaloreans? Not sure what the purpose of that was.

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