What I Read In September


Books / Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Isn’t time just rolling its merry wand by? It’s hard to believe that in two months we will see the end of yet another year. Where would 2019 take us? Would this world that seems so chaotic this year finally settle into a beautiful eternal colored sky of peace?

If I could describe my reading for September, I would probably use that word. Peace. I went on a bit of a non-fiction reading binge last month. The more I embrace my meditation practice, the more curious I am about the ways we shackle our souls, imprint our hearts with the scars of the past, and live generally in ways that neither benefit us nor the ones we love. How best do we live? How do we turn to that inward compass of kindness? Most of my reading for September revolved around these questions.

Books read in September  12
Number of pages 2,622
Average book length 218 pages
Average rating 3
Highest-rated book/s Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Non-Fiction

The Little Book Of Sloth Philosophy: Jennifer McCartney

Rating: 3

sloth philosophyThis is one of those cute books that somehow make their way to publishing. Not that this book shouldn’t be published, but I have noticed that we have a new genre here – an emerging genre of gentle, almost whimsical philosophy that is not too tough to grasp and is often adorable. Whoever said philosophy could be adorable?

I had read ‘The Tao Of Pooh’ last year, and this is in a similar vein. In an era where you feel guilty if you have done ‘nothing,’ Jennifer draws on the adorable way of life of the sloths to tell us that maybe we need to lighten up a little. Maybe, it’s ok to be non-productive. Maybe, it’s ok to let go. To have fun. To just hang on a tree and watch life go by. Well, I haven’t hung on a tree yet, but I get the message. I need a little bit of sloth in my life. Not that I don’t sloth, but I end up feeling horribly guilty if I do sloth. So, this book was a reminder to me to just sloth mindfully and to be present for the silly, often unheard-of moments of silence, laughter, and solitude.

‘Meditations: Marcus Aurelius

Rating: 5

aurelius

It is absurd to give a rating to a book that was never meant to be published. This is not a book to be ‘reviewed’ with our petty thoughts. I was given ‘Meditations’ by an ex-friend’s father. For a while, I tried to read a little bit each day at random, and then I lost that habit. So, I finally resolved to read it in one shot. However, life had its own game to play with me. I left the book elsewhere, and it took me a while to get back to it after a gap of a week.

What do I say of ‘Meditations?’ These are the thoughts of a Roman emperor who wrote in Greek. From these thoughts, you can discern probably one of the greatest philosophical discourses of all time. Doubt, despair, hope, faith, and above all, an understanding of the transience of time shine through in Aurelius’ thoughts. Bear in mind that the emperor wrote these as admonitions to himself. They were not written to an audience. A younger me would have dismissed this book, but now, I could only gasp in awe at how much this king’s musings resemble much of contemporary philosophy on mindfulness, the nature of impermanence, acceptance, and constantly to look inward while being in harmony with others.

A breathtaking work and I can only be grateful that I was given this book. Probably, left to myself, I wouldn’t have picked it up.

Totto-Chan: The Little Girl At The Window: Tetsuko Kuroyanagi

Rating: 3

the little girl at the window

I stumbled upon this book by chance, and I think I was sold a pirated version of it. Sigh. But Totto-Chan is a classic that had escaped my radar all this while. Told simply, Kuroyanagi recollects her childhood as told through Totto-Chan at the unique Tomoe School in Tokyo. This is not just a story to be savored and forgotten later. The methods employed by the beloved headmaster at the Tomoe School were far ahead of his time and involved something that we don’t give much to our children these days: freedom, love, and attention.

A bit of a slow read, but that’s probably our reading these days – we just can’t seem to relax into a book and read mindfully, one line at a time!

The Happiness Project: Gretchen Rubin

Rating: 2

I had been following Gretchen Rubin on LinkedIn for a while before I got around to reading this book. The Happiness Project is well-intended, but for some reason, it didn’t quite click with me. There were lots of practical tips that Rubin thinks will enhance our happiness quotient. But somehow, a white woman with a wonderful doting family in New York wanting to find out more about happiness didn’t sit well with me.

I am happy that it turned into a project that became a book. But well, somehow this project wasn’t for me.

Why We Sleep: Matthew Walker

Rating: 2

Matthew Walker is an eminent sleep scientist. His book is important, therefore. But readable it is not. Overly long and filled too much with scientific research findings, I found myself sleeping over many pages. Walker might be happy about that!

What I really wanted was a bit more practical advice on sleeping better. I have seen too many people who claim that they “get by with 6 or 5 hours,” of sleep. This book would have done well to address those people in more detail. Instead, I did get to read and understand how lack of sleep can have horrific effects on your body and mind. A seminal book and much needed for its times. I would probably ask you not to stay up too late reading the book! Grin.

Happiness Is 500 Ways To Be In The Moment: Lisa Swerling

Rating: 3

A cute little book that made me smile and think of all the 5,000 ways to be happy. Why make it just 500? Amid all the hype over mindfulness, this book is just a reminder to enjoy what we have, right now, before the withering present becomes the past. My one regret is that I should probably read these books in color in print. Sigh.

Kindness Cure: The Five Pathways to Finding Love & Compassion Everywhere You Look: Tara Cousineau

Rating: 4

What are the values we can imbibe in life? How do we lead our lives to the most beautiful, grandest version of ourselves? These are some of the questions I am obsessed of late in life. Ever since I set off on the path to understanding kindness and compassion, I have been an eager beaver ready to devour all that I can to further this understanding.

Tara Cousineau’s lovely and thoughtful book came just at the right time. At a time when I was questioning if it is worthwhile to be kind. But there is no reason to doubt it at all! Kindfulness is a beautiful state to be in. Through a series of exercises, Tara, who is a practicing psychotherapist, lays the groundwork for us to inculcate kindness. I truly believe that kindness is love in action. And the more I give of it, the more blessed I am.

The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness: Epictetus

Rating: 4

stoicism

I haven’t really read much of Stoicism, and as the author of this new interpretation of Epictetus’ teachings, Sharon Lebell says, Stoicism has been given a bit of a bad rap. Or rather, all sorts of misunderstood memes. In this beautiful interpretation that is adapted to the modern, Western style of living, Lebell takes us through the basic tenets of what Epictetus taught: To lead a life of reason, grace, dignity, kindness, and virtue. Those are values we can do well in life irrespective of whether you subscribe to Stoicism or not.

If you have shied away from understanding Stoicism because you thought it was too ‘dry,’ this book is an excellent companion to aiding that understanding. Simple, clear, and to the heart, you can make this a wonderful introduction to understanding a bit more of the world around and within us.

Contemporary Fiction

Kudos: Rachel Cusk

Rating: 3

Having been a fan of Rachel Cusk, it was with eagerness that I turned to the last in her ‘trilogy’ – Kudos. As with the other two books in the series, Cusk employs a conversational narrative, moving briskly in and out of her character’s lives. There is no structured plot. Rather, if you have seen the Woody Allen movie, ‘Before Sunset’, (which is one of my all-time favorite movies), then you would immediately associate that movie with this book. Because really nothing really ‘happens’ in the book.

You are instead treated to an assortment of characters who relate snippets from their lives to the unnamed narrator. In that sense, this book is more of a meditation on life and the relationships we have. It’s a moving tribute to conversation and to the ability to see beyond the mundane acts that cloak people to the inner depths of our realities.

Less: Andrew Sean Greer

Rating: 2

I just don’t seem to have any luck with prize-winning books. I also take a long time before I give up. Probably, now is when I give up. I had read only one of Andrew Sean Greer’s books before, and I didn’t seem to have fond memories of it. But once this won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, I was curious to give the author another go.

And I found myself immediately struggling in a cesspool.  How is it that I couldn’t care less about Arthur Less? His journeys bored even a bohemian gypsy like me, and the love story that runs through the book did not elicit a glimmer of emotion in me. Is it me? I don’t know. I persisted rather than give up only because the prose reads fairly well, as with most of contemporary fiction. I was glad I stuck it out, though. The end is what made the cynic in me feel a bit more hopeful about the world. Maybe, love is really stars and dumbness and a certain willingness to be brave. Maybe, love is just being less of ourselves and more of others.

Sea Prayer: Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 2

For some reason, I thought this was Hosseini’s first full-fledged book in years. Well, it’s still a book. But at 48 Kindle pages, it’s a small book. The kind of small you can finish in about three or five minutes.

I am not sure if this is a short story or a poem, but this is a letter to a father composed before they embark on what would be a dangerous sea voyage. Reminiscent of a Syria before war devastated the country, it is at once poignant and evocative of the horrors that we human beings inflict on each other. The illustrations could have been better, I suppose, on a print book. But really – is this all we can write about Syria?

Children’s Literature

The Borrowers Afloat: Mary Norton

Rating: 3

the borrowers mary norton

It had been a while since I had last left Arriety and her family hanging on to a boot for dear life. A year does a lot to you, but I still love Arriety. Here, I was able to get the complete Borrowers series and it was a wonderful gift!

In ‘The Borrowers Afloat’ you continue the mad and often wet scapers that Pod, Homily, and Arriety go through. After having been rescued from the boot, they find themselves in the unwelcome embrace of Aunt Lupy. As with the previous other books, they find themselves on the run, struggling to survive. As I read through the book, the action was so fast-paced that it wasn’t until I turned the last page that I realized that I had come to the end of the book. Yet, somehow, I missed the gentleness of the first two books. Here, it seemed more like a ceaseless dash from one place to another. But I still have another three of the books to go in this series, and I still look forward to it.

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