Why I read

I have been asked this question enough times in my life to be bothered by it. Most times, I just get all prickly and silently bark ‘why the heck should you be concerned’ at the questioner while the audible quip is something more puerile and polite. I do not find it odd at all, for example, if someone who is knackered and at the threshold of being comatose, wills themselves to stay up a wee bit and read a couple of pages- so that if they die in their sleep reading is the last thing they did. Hyperbole eh?

Another common but equally witless query is ‘why so many books simultaneously? Huh? Come again please. We rotate clothes and food and even people (if we can)- and yet you want me to read the same book, at one go, without regard for how or what I feel at the moment? How naive can you be?

Then, there is the problem of content. Apparently, some people find it hard to wrap their heads around to the fact that Middle Eastern history, witches, reborn kings, lone- man demolition armies, Afghani housewives, serial killers, quirks of Gandhi, Indian elections, American democracy, second- chances romance; everything is worth a read. Of course it is, just depends on the disposition at the time of choice.

Now coming back to the question of why I read. I do not have or need a reason to do so. It is not for the need for information, or want of enlightenment or to further intellect or wisdom. I do so, because I enjoy it. Period.

Till next time,

J.

P.S. – Now, if someone asks me why I am an obsessive book hoarder- there is a question I CAN answer. I attribute it to the trauma during my childhood where my parents enforced the thought upon me that reading anything other than school textbooks is an utter and almost complete waste of my time. Probably.

Nerdy Sunday- Weekly bookshelf preview. And over-hyped, under- performers….

What’s on Dr J’s book shelf this week?

Aah..nothing spectacular folks! It’s time to dust off old undergraduate books and start pouring over the “basics” again. Whole bunch of exams coming up 😦

The “reading- for- pleasure” books will soon dwindle, and probably become non- existent again in the near future. The magazine subscriptions will keep me abreast of all the political ruckus and the current fashion/ style ballyhoo.

 

The usual mish- mash of texts, journals, magazines….

 

Old work-horses!
Old, trusty work- horses!

 

A festive, edition. Ideal "bathroom" reads ;-)
A festive, edition. Ideal “bathroom” read 😉

 

Excellent issue. All the snobby, blatantly intellectual, politically sensitive Indian reader- pick this one up.
Excellent issue. All the snobby, blatantly intellectual, politically sensitive Indian readers-kindly pick this one up.

 

Occasionally, I have this uncontrollable urge to re- visit an old classic. I rummaged through my half- a- dozen- cartons and found this one in the last one…

 

Oldie but goodie!
Oldie but goodie!

 

I was 13 I think, when I first met Catherine and Heathcliff. Ill fated though their romance was, the book made me crave for a Heathcliff in my life….

Next, Anna Karenina is calling out to me from the depths of carton no. 4.

And yeah, I do try and read to Zoe, but she is more interested in grabbing and ripping the book apart!

On another note, there have been a couple of books that I have read recently which were immense let- downs.

 

The Fault in Our Stars- best seller?
The Fault in Our Stars- best seller?

 

And…

Gone Girl- New York Times best seller!
Gone Girl- New York Times best seller!

 

These books have received rave reviews and have topped several best- seller lists. But I cannot for the life of me, see what the fuss is about. They are average books. Run- of- the- mill even. With predictable plots and endings. Even the prose is nothing extraordinary. Or so I think. Of course I am no expert. Just an average, run- of- the- mill reader.

I guess an 18 year old Dr J might have thought otherwise. She might have enjoyed them more.

I might review them, I have not done a book- review for a while now.

So folks, any book recommendations for the week? Please don’t mention anything from those weird,  fabricated  “bestseller” lists. I am looking for an obscure, hidden gem that not many know of or have read. Preferably something dark and moody; convoluted. J is in the mood for something dark and convoluted!

Till next time…

Dr J.

 

What’s on my book- shelf this week? And reading routine.

Hella folks!

My last “What’s on my book-shelf” post was ages ago. Things have changed a bit since then.

I am back to work again… Yay!

Have applied to a couple of fellowships as well, so I maybe a fellow soon.

Back to the crazy hours….

I have to get back into the game. Read up. Dust the old textbooks and open the journals that are lying untouched and brush up on the current literature. This means I will have to scale down drastically on my “non-surgical” reading 😦

No worries though. I am content. The book- monster is englutted.

I had a fantastic year. The break was exactly what I envisioned, in some ways.

I read like a maniac. Caught up with all my nerdy, bibliophilic peers who had left me far behind, thanks to  residency.

Pregnancy and Nursing Time was time well spent.

It’s time to move on. On to the next chapter of life.

So, what IS on my shelf this week?

WP_20141125_15_25_58_Pro

 

Twelve Years a Slave (on the iPad)-  You folks know my pet peeve. I HAVE to read the book before watching the movie.

The Hindu– Newspaper.

No Easy Day– Started it weeks ago. Then left for the Epic All- Kerala trip. Hate unfinished books.

CIMS– A drug index. Need to be up to date on all the trade names and dosages.

FEMINA– An indigenous Marie- Claire/ Cosmo mash-up.

The Caravan– Something I saw on the News-stand at my local grocery store. Seemed new. Picked it up. A journal of politics and culture, the blurb said. I love the tamasha, that is Indian Politics!

Surgical Journals- Finally got them out of their postal envelopes!

Stell and Maran’s– Ahem… need to start studying for endless exams again!

WP_20141125_15_18_35_Pro

I am old- fashioned when it comes to newspapers. I still love my morning paper with my tea/ coffee/ milk, first thing in the morning. And it better be a paper- version!

When in Doha, it is the digital version though.

WP_20141125_16_25_45_Pro

The local newspapers and the press are very different in Qatar. Gulf News (one of the very- few English dailies in Qatar) is sort of a “world- news- synopsis” with a barely there local touch. In a sense, one can never really know the “real news” in Qatar. Hence, I don’t bother buying the paper. I just skim through it anyway. I get my world news from other sources.

Sometime during the day, whenever I have time to spare, or in between patients or during lunch, I make a “news- round”. It’s a habit that I picked up from Mr. H. He is the true news- monger. The news addict. I am only a mild case.

The tabs are neatly book- marked and ready to go…

WP_20141125_17_07_32_Pro

 

Starting with the Times of India and and ending with Doha News. That satiates my inner news- hound.

The magazines are read in waiting rooms and on the dining table. It’s a habit that irks Mr. H to no end.

I read at the dinner- table.

I can watch TV, eat, talk to him and read a magazine at the same time. I truly can!

Magazines are light reads anyway. They require very little “brain RAM” is my routine defense.

WP_20141125_15_22_00_Pro

Journals and texts generally involve highlighting, note- taking etc., which is a pain these days. Lil’ Z wants it all to herself. The books, the pens, the notebooks, the highlighters…..

And I might have to get used to the occasional wrinkly page and torn up notes. I might need some therapy for that!

WP_20141125_15_20_38_Pro

Non- surgical reading is reserved for nighttime.

My down- time.

De- stress time.

Go- to- sleep time.

While Zoe sleeps and Mr. H fiddles with his laptop and reads more news analysis….

 

I read on all devices and at all places. 

 

So, what’s on your book- stand these days folks?

Any conscience altering reads that you might suggest?

And no, I DO NOT read in the toilet!

 

Till next time…

Dr J.

What’s on Dr J’s bookshelf? Reads for the week…

One of the perils of marrying someone who is not from your city, is having your belongings spread out randomly.

To complicate matters further, the two sets of parents live in two capital cities across two states- almost 750 kilometers apart.

You then have your other half live abroad, and you chose to pursue your higher education at a far- off village.

Just when you think your belongings cannot be split any further, you move to another country (Oh yeah, for the second time!)

You spend a good part of your adult- existence packing and unpacking and re-packing.

Your clothes, shoes, bags, books, belongings are all hiding in places unbeknown to you.

Something is forgotten at Mum’s place, something at the “other- Mum’s”  place.

Some in your “home”.

Then something at your “grampy’s house” !

You pack and move and pack and move. And pack some more.

People put things into storage, the minute you leave.

Your most loved belongings lay orphaned.

Collecting dust.

Till you come back, and dust them clean again. For the umpteenth time!

A nomad is better off. At least he knows he is a nomad and hence never hoards or collects.

Argh!

 

We digress. Yet again..

So, what was J able to pick out of her bookshelf at Mum’s place?

Some are new reads, some re- reads.

And some brought in by a “nice- uncle” from Amazon.

Yay! J can have one- day delivery and discounted books again!

Qatar, please catch up with the world on the books front please!

 

These would suffice for a week we suppose…

FullSizeRender (95)

FullSizeRender (96)

FullSizeRender (97)

FullSizeRender (98)

FullSizeRender (99)

2

FullSizeRender 1

4

3

FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender (100)

 

Someday….

J shall have a den of her own.

With a large, antique, oak table…

Traditional-Home-Office-Cabinet-with-High-Quality-Oak

 

An ultra- cushy, leather armchair…

classic-leather-chair-new-creations

 

With floor-to- ceiling bookshelves…

vintage library interior furniture interior designs 1920x1200 wallpaper_www.wall321.com_60

 

 

And ALL her books OUT of carton boxes, suitcases, and random nooks and holes of her every “home’….

All read.

All loved.

All carefully arranged.

Displayed.

In full splendour.

In all their glory!

Someday!

 

Till next time…

Dr J.

Nerdy Sunday! The Lowland- Jhumpa Lahiri

jhumpa1_0

June brought clouds that concealed the sun, storms that turned the sea gray. The atmosphere was raw enough for Subhash to keep wearing corduroy slippers instead of flip-flops; to continue to pre-heat the electric blanket on the bed. The rhythm of the rain was nocturnal, drumming heavily on the rooftop, tapering to a drizzle in the mornings, pausing but never clearing. It gathered strength and weakened, then intensified again.

At the side of the house, he scraped scales of fungus off the shingles. His basement smelled of mildew, his eyes stinging when he put in the laundry. The soil of his vegetable garden was too wet to till, the roots of the seedlings he’d planted washing away. The rhododendrons shed their purple petals too soon, the peonies barely opening before the stalks bent over, the blossoms smashes across the drenched ground. It was carnal, the smell of so much moisture. The smell of the earth’s decay.

At night the rain would wake him. He heard it pelting the windows, washing the pitch of the driveway clean. He wondered if it was a sign of something. Of another juncture in his life. He remembered rain falling the first night he spent with Holly, in her cottage. Heavy rain the evening Bela was born.

He began expecting it to leak through the bricks around the fire-place, to drip through the ceiling, to seep in below the doors. He thought of the monsoon coming every year in Tollygunge. The two ponds flooding, the embankment between them turning invisible.

I can almost feel the heaviness of the gravid clouds upon me. I can almost hear the waves crashing. I can feel the warmth and softness of the corduroy slippers and the cozyness of the electric blanket. I can hear the rain wildly pitter- patter on the roof. I can smell the fungus and mildew and feel my eyes tearing. I can feel the squishyness of Subhash’s vegetable garden and the odour of decaying earth fills my air-conditioned room.

It’s night time, and all is quiet. The air is still hot out but the house is uncomfortably cold . The hum of the AC, the familiar and comforting sound of the husband sleeping, a baby sleeping on my chest with her little mouth open and forming an almost perfect “O”, a barely-enough night lamp , and Ms Lahiri’s latest offering in my hand…..I can almost hear the rain outside!

She does not write spectacular, cross- generational, twist- laden, super-suspenseful, heavily plotted, intimidatingly philosophical stories. Her characters are not heroes or idealistic do- gooders who save the world. Her stories do not seem to have a moral. No overtly presented societal  flaws, practices or contemporary commentary of the ills of this world.

You don’t finish a book of her’s and feel gung- ho about saving the world, or changing society. You are not thrilled and gladdened by an unrealistic yet feel-good romance. You are not pampered with a heart- warming ending. You are not adrenaline charged thanks to some swift, technology and action laden, international spy- terrorist- government conspiracy narration.

Yet her stories stand out. Just like her writing, they stand out for their simplicity. I have read all of her previous published works (Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth) and they all stand out for their characterization and simple yet mood-setting language. Her characters are almost too real. They are real because they are all inherently flawed.

So, here is my humble review of her latest book THE LOWLAND in typical Nerdy Sunday style.

1.How/Why/Where did you buy the book?

Ordered it online when on vacation- in May. With a 40% off tag, this hardcover cost me 1/10th of what it would have cost me here. The prices of books here is insane. It’s almost as though reading is discouraged. Or maybe I am wrong to compare it to prices back home (The purchasing power is light- years apart).

I have wanted to pick it up ever since it was released. I enjoy Jhumpa Lahiri’s work and I wish I could write like her! Simple tales made exceedingly readable.

2. What is the book about?

Two brothers- one an idealistic rebel who does what he pleases and the other an obedient, conformist son who goes by the parents’ plot. The actions of one changes the course of the lives of the entire family. A strong, intellectual, uncontemporary woman who falls in love with one but ends up marrying both, is sucked into the family’s maelstorm of death and misfortune.

A woman who thinks love will save her; make her life. That very love becomes a spectre that follows her across continents and haunts her even when it is long gone. It holds her back from fully living her present and from embracing future love and happiness.

An uncomplicated man who always lives by the book. Who craves adventure yet has not the heart for it. The one time he goes against convention, against his parents- that one act dictates his future life and happiness.

A woman, who grows up with a mother who is haunted by her past and a father who showers her with love and attention. A father who makes her who is, a father who one day she is told is not her father…

3. First impressions?

Don’t be fooled by the blurb/ synopsis on the cover, as I was.

” Two borothers bound by tragedy

A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past

A country torn by revolution

A love that lasts long past death”

Though the emergence and rise of the Naxalite movement, form a backdrop for the story- don’t expect it to be any more than a vague/ blurry sort of sub-plot

4. Final evaluation?

A sit on a lazy chair/ couch/ arm chair, sip hot chocolate, read on a cloudy, rainy afternoon sort of book. Yes. That would be the perfect setting for this book. It might not make it make it to your top-ten/ must- read list of books, yet a bibliophile will bask in this unsophisticated tale and relish the torn and harried central characters.

5. How long did it take to finish?

A couple of nights (339 pages). It’s not a oh- my- God- I -can’t- wait- to-see-what- happens- next sort of book. It engages you by its almost- there, let- me- not- rush- you narrative and it’s searching- for- life’s meaning characters.

6. Critique?

The Naxalite Movement is supposed to be the story’s primary setting. Yet it never makes it to the foreground. Maybe, the author intended it so. I would have liked to know more about it. I guess I should just stick to history books for historical information!

Also, at several points in the book, there is a build-up. To something happening. To get the story up and running. Something that fires the tinder. That sets the fire ablaze and flaming. But it never does. The story just simmers along. You know what to expect, yet you keep reading. There isn’t enough fuel to get a flame going, but the embers smoulder and crackle enough to keep you engaged. That is another author specialty.

7. Who would you recommend the book to?

Anybody who can read a book for its writing and feel rather than it’s story.

8.  Would you read it again?’

Yes. I may pick it up again in a few years’ time.

9.  Do you regret purchasing it?

Absolutely not. Moreover, I love hardbacks!

10. Favourite part/ quote from the book?

The excerpt I began the post with. For how it sets the scene and mood. For how the words wrap around themselves and float around in my head spreading it’s scents and odours and sights and sounds. Like a brilliant cinematographer who sets up a beautiful, perfect scene. A shot so beautiful that it seems too simple. Too real. It is always easy to make the uncommon sound interesting, but it is it is only a true artist who can make the mundane look/ sound/ feel spectacular!

photo (50)

Till the next book….

Dr J.