Tag: books

Books I Read in 2019

I know I am late to the party here in all possible senses. I have wanted to do these lists ever since I began reading for knowledge (2012) and this specific list since I closed 2019 with the best-ever reading record in my life so far (28 books). So, here goes a list of all the books I read in 2019 along with a short description of how I feel about them. The descriptions are based on my notes that I scribbled after finishing the books.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – Finished it in 5 minutes. I can’t say I totally agree with the message (that unconditional love is the only love), but still amazing. (B+)

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – Brilliantly written and eye-opening, especially about anthropology. (A-)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – A classic story and one that I feel every reader should read at least once. (C+)

It’s Normal! by Mahinder Watsa – Sex ed basics for the ignorant. A book that every Indian couple should read, ideally together. My go-to gift to newly marrieds. (B-)

Educated by Tara Westover – Devastating, powerful, and mind-blowing account that seems too good to be true. A great reaffirmation to the power of education. (A-)

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – One of my all-time favourites, this still remains a great account on poverty. (A-)

The Crow Eaters by Bapsi Sidhwa – A mix of history and comedy, this one introduced me to Sidhwa and her powerful writing about Parsis. (B-)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Absolutely stunning horror book that also gives you a lot to chew on about mortality and friendship. (A-)

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson – A disappointing read that attempts and fails to trace the English language. Probably Bryson’s worst. (D+)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Another dystopian novel I picked up due to all the buzz but a bit too repetitive and inconsequential for me. (C+)

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – Fresh crime novel that kept me engaging till the last page. (A-)

Lanny by Max Porter – Rubbish. (D+)

The Wall by John Lanchester – A good reading experience but a weak dystopian novel. (B-)

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli – Pretentious nonsense. (D+)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Ordinary crime story discussing spine-tingling racism in backward America. (B-)

Exhalation by Ted Chiang – Wonderful short stories about ethics, human nature, and futuristic tech. A very good read. (A-)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Second time reading and still hilarious yet massively sexist (which is my only problem with the book). (A-)

How To by Randall Munroe – A great follow-up to What If?, one of my most favourite books of all time, this one kept me gelled to my Kindle for hours. (A-)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Charming, best book I read in 2019. (A+)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – Another fabulous dystopian novel that is worth a read every few years. (A-)

The Heat and Dust Project by Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha – Cringeworthy travelogue written by writers who behave like cheap gram influencers. (D+)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – Confirms my dislike towards romantic stories. A gimmick. (D+)

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Close contender for the best book I read in 2019 just because of the 13-point virtue table that needs a bit of update and is ready for use even today. (A)

Normal People by Sally Rooney – Reminded me of my own relationships. A very good book on millennial romance. (B)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl – A solid account about her life as a gourmet magazine publisher. Makes me want to apply to Conde Nast. (B-)

Pure by Andrew Miller – One of the best grippy horror books I have ever read. A fantastic story. (A)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Mind-numbing perfection. (A+)

Ending this quickly so that I can get back to reading and create a list for 2020 as early as January. TN.

Book Title Drops – A Project

Book Title Drops is my latest side project where I snap title drops in books and post them on Instagram. Here’s the account. The process I follow is to simply record instances where the title of the book is mentioned in the book, click a picture, and upload it with details. These include the page number (or sometimes location if it’s an ebook), edition year and publisher, type of book (paperback, hardcover, or Kindle version), and genre.

The Idea Behind Book Title Drops

The idea behind this project is to record title drops in books as a way to appreciate authorial craft. I believe that when writers mention the title of their book in the script, they are having fun. This project is just my way of celebrating and extending that sentiment.

I have always been fascinated by this practice and it is only recently I found out that it is called a title drop, synonymized as name drop. Title drops in movies, TV/web shows, and video games are more popular. According to TV Tropes, they aren’t always deliberate and either way I just get a tinge of excitement whenever I come across one. It definitely helps me make more sense of the book and retain more of the story. And I haven’t put much thought into it from a literary device angle despite myself. For example, here’s a recent one, a favourite, in Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel, Little Fires Everywhere. Without giving you spoilers, here it tells me a tad more about the context in which the title’s meaning is to be taken. And would you believe the title drops right at the start of the story, at page #8?

View this post on Instagram

#titledrop on page #8. Spoken by a character, Lexie. “The firemen said there were little fires everywhere.” In “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng Fiction – Penguin, 2017 edition, Kindle

A post shared by Book Title Drops (@booktitledrops) on

I originally started this recording side project on Tumblr but then realized Instagram is a more worthy platform where it will get more eyeballs. It is not much right now, but hey, I have only started. History tells me it’s always good to start and not worry about how it develops.

If you are into reading and share my excitement about book title drops, please follow the account on Instagram. TN.

Here are a few more:

My First IKEA Bookshelf

ikea nodeland bookshelf mumbai

Last week I bought my first-ever IKEA bookshelf. Here it is in all its glory.

IKEA India Mumbai bookshelf nodeland
I bought this from the Mumbai online store of IKEA India

Everyone who knows me closely knows that I have been waiting for IKEA to open its Navi Mumbai store ever since the news about it buying acres of land in Turbhe came out. But when it decided to throw open its online store before the physical one, I thought I might execute my lifelong dream now than wait for a few more months.

And I did it last week, spending about INR 3,000 for this modest, pretty-looking shelf called Nodeland that’s apparently only available in India. I quickly assembled it and put it in my living room where it breathes fresh air and holds the weight of literature, including a small part of my book collection. Check out my valuable Booker Prize winners collection (second rack from bottom). My eyes are now on IKEA’s most popular bookshelf model, Billy.

This has been one of my most uplifting moments and I thought I’ll share my happiness here as well as on Reddit. TN.

Why I Pursued Master of Arts After Bachelor of Engineering

Because I had always wanted to do something in the humanities.

The long answer is a combination of several interests I racked up over the years since I first signed up for Engineering. I don’t blame the education system, but it was personally a tough call for me to choose what I had wanted to do with my life career-wise at the age of 15. I was living in a bubble to take a wise decision that would capitalize on my inherent talents and interests. So, I did what the rest of the world did. Chose a path that was common and signed up for a four-year diploma course in Industrial Electronics.

This is a short summary listing the different reasons why I chose to pursue MA after doing my Bachelor’s in Engineering (BE).

I Have a Penchant for Writing

The initial years of my diploma were when I first started writing. Thanks to the internet, I was free to write and publish anything without anyone telling me not to. One thing led to another and by the end of the course, I was a seasoned writer. I wrote beautiful trash but at least I was good at publishing it.

It was a few years later that I realized that I had a thing for writing. It came naturally to me once I began blogging. The problem was that I was not reading anything, which made my writing read like a content mill product. No one reads (and still doesn’t) in my family and it would be a cliche if I said I magically caught up with reading since childhood like they show in the movies.

My writing – although looked good to me – was ridiculous from a universal readership’s point of view. I realized this when I got rejected by a couple online magazines where I had pitched for freelance writing gigs. One of the editors was too vocal about the reason why and so I knew.

After the diploma came BE and before the second year was over, I knew I wanted to explore something else. Something other than Engineering.

I Read

My aspiration to be a good writer led to me chasing books. While men (boys?) my age chase something else, which I did give a few tries and enjoyed, I focused on reading. I started reading newspapers, books, magazines – whatever I could get my hands on. I even remember the time I told a job interviewer how I tended to read everything – even the text on sleeves of shampoo containers while taking a bath. He took it seriously and asked me to read his face.

MA after Engineering

I chose literature books over engineering books. / © Nicole Honeywill

I first started reading when one of my maternal uncles handed me a semi-fictional thriller book, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. I so fondly remember its plot details, and above that, the joy of reading. But, more than the joy, what I took home that day when I completed reading that book was general information. The book gave me a little more idea about espionage, the CIA, how foreign government intelligence works, and who Charles de Gaulle was.

This little conveyance of specific information about specific things in the world from yellowed sheets of paper into my mind made me fall in love with reading. And today, I spend a good time reading every day. Which has directly impacted what I write and the way I do it.

I Want to Know the History of the World

I think it is Marco Polo’s travelogue, an online course titled “The Importance of India”, and my English professors who should collectively be blamed for my healthy interest for the general history of the world. Both reading and writing about random stuff also contributed to it, but I think that course – which I did not complete – was the main reason I began reading more about the history of humanity’s existence and associated activities.

One time I even asked a lady – a friend’s sister – out for coffee so that we could discuss the meaning of life. Maybe it was the way I framed the request but I don’t think I have had a longer conversation with her since then. Maybe you should not use WhatsApp to ask people out.

I want to know more about the origins of religion, money, and many other things. What is the meaning of life, how should I react to a particular incident in life, how do I deal with people I don’t agree with, how to ask women out, why and how is Trump president – everything that makes the world as it is right now. And I believe the only way to do it is to study literature.

Yuval Noah Harari’s account of the history of humankind, Sapiens, is an excellent prologue to the complicated answers to these questions, but I am more interested in the materials that he used to write that account. I would only get closer to them if I did something like this.

I Want to Be Better at My Job

People who know me know that I want to be a copywriter. And my current job also entails some kind of writing. There are several ways to be good at it, and last I checked I am doing all of them simultaneously. Signing up for an MA course was definitely on the list, and about two years ago, I told my mom.

 

And those are some of the biggest reasons why I pursued – or rather, pursuing (I’m in my second year right now) – Master of Arts in English Literature two years after I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. I used those two years to think through the pros and cons of making the career switch and I am glad I made that decision.

(I took the liberty to leave out another big reason – I failed to land an Engineering job that would pay my bills – from this list because let’s try to look at the positive things, shall we?)

People are often stumped when I tell them about this switch, but I think I will send them this article from now onwards. I hope they won’t mind me using WhatsApp. TN.