Category Archives: Reading

5 ways to become a book lover #NationalBookLoversDay

You have a bunch of friends – all avid readers. Bibliophiles, they call themselves. Bookworms is what you think of them as. It gets to you the way they are always talking about books. They rave about Harry, drool over Darcy and laugh at Bertie Wooster. They rant when Chetan Bhagat judges a reality show and cry when Harper Lee passes away. Even as you are comforting, smiling or simply looking on in perplexity, you wish, fervently, to be a part of it all.

The thing is they’re readers and you’re so not.

Oh you do love a good story but ‘Where’s the time?’ you ask, and ‘Who has the patience?’ There are always things to be done, deadlines to be met, bosses to be pandered to, phone calls to make and chores to be completed. Then there are the books themselves – big and cumbersome. It’s a daunting task. Right?

Well, today is Book Lovers Day (aka National Book Lovers Day in the US) and here’s help for you if you want to become one. These five simple ideas might just help you join the club.

Read what you like

That’s the first rule of increasing your reading – Make it easy for yourself – you’re doing it for pleasure, right? Well don’t let it become a chore. No stomach for classics? Let them be. For now. Remember you’re in for the long haul. There’ll be time enough later. Pick a comic, a romance, a thriller, a short story anthology – whatever suits your fancy. Don’t be cowed down by book snobs, don’t go by what’s in and do not be embarrassed of your choices.

Read everywhere

Read at the doctor’s, read as you wait to pick your son from football class, read as you wait for the milk to boil, read on the bus, on the local, in the car. I’ll leave out ‘read in the loo’ in case my mum’s reading. But you know you can. Better than reading labels on bottles of moisturiser, I say. One’s got to keep oneself occupied after all.

Keep a book close by 

Make sure a book is always within easy reach – in your bag, in your top drawer, on the centre table of your living room. And never never leave the television remote on top of your book. You know what is most likely to happen, don’t you? Yeah you’ll pick up the remote to get to your book and will forget to let it go and before you know the television will be blaring and hours would have gone by, your reading time swallowed in one big time-leap. Remotes have a habit of doing that. Stash them away somewhere deep.

Never go ‘bookless’

Once you’ve finished a good book – make sure you have another one waiting. Reading is a habit that feeds on itself. You give yourself a gap and you begin to forget how much fun it is. Before you know it, months have gone by without you having read a thing.

Give technology a chance

If you put in Gone With the Wind in your holiday bag all you’ll end up with is a very painful shoulder. Go for a Kindle. It’s way easier to carry around specially while you’re travelling and want to carry more than one book. Give audio books a chance. It might not be reading but you’re still listening to a book. It might lead you to a real book one day.

That’s it. Vary your reading, mix up genres and keep at it. Once you strike a real friendship with books you’ll find joining in your friends’ book gossip is just the smallest of pleasures. Books will give you much more for they are friends, philosophers and guides all rolled in one enchanting mix.

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The Night Rainbow – A hauntingly beautiful read

Book Title: The Night Rainbow
Author: Claire King

What do you do if you lose your papa in an accident and your maman, pregnant with a baby, moves to a far away place in her head where you cannot reach her? In a place where she cannot abide loud noises, cooks when she feels up to it but mostly keeps to her room?

Well, you take care of yourself the best you can even if you’re just five. You make sure you don’t bother maman, you play in the meadow, splash around in the stream and eat fruits or make yourself a sandwich when you’re hungry. Most of all, you try to find ways to make maman happy because you want her back with all the wanting in your little heart.

That’s the story

..of five and half year old Peony, better known as Pea, her little sister Margot and their mum Joanna. As Joanna loses herself to depression the two little girls are left to their own devices. They spend their days talking and playing. During their wanderings they meet a man, Claude and Merlin his dog, and strike up a friendship. Claude keeps his distance even though he is affectionate and caring but the girls come to look upon him as the father figure they miss so much.

Set in the summer of a small French village, that is the all the plot you’ll find in The Night Rainbow. It isn’t much, so if you’re looking for a story you will be disappointed. Nothing really happens. The narrative has the dull sameness of the  routine of Pea’s days. As you progress through the pages you wait for something to happen. You wait for the market days when Pea gets to go out with her mum as much as she does. You look forward to her interactions with Calude or even the small chance encounters with other village folk.

But here’s the thing, the book draws you in. You step into it and you feel what Pea is feeling. You find yourself grinning when she manages to draw a smile from Joanna, you cringe in the dark with her as she battles her imagined monsters and you want to hold her and hug away her yearning for a real family.

This one isn’t meant to be read for its racy narrative, it is one of those soul-stirring stories whose beauty lies in its slowness. There’s a bit of a revelation towards the end which makes the story even more poignant. And I wonder how I missed it through the book.

Perhaps the book affected me as it did because it spoke in a child’s voice.

Pea was a delightful heroine. Sometimes she seems a trifle old for her age but I forgave her considering she’s had to run her life on her own. I had to try hard to not get judgemental about Joanna. Mothers cannot afford the luxury of withdrawing into themselves when they have a five-year-olds to look out for. My heart broke for Pea as she tries, tries ever so hard to make Joanna happy. Her deep yearning to bring a smile to her maman’s face, for the hugs, the kisses and the cuddles, for the warmth of the old times and her childish attempts towards that are heartbreaking. When she fights the night demons, her loneliness is palpable and yet so strong is her concern for Joanna that she is refuses to wake her up.

There were times where I wanted to shake Joanna out of her depression. If that were even possible. But when I would put away the  judgemental mum in me I’d feel so so sorry for her. To have lost a baby first then your husband, to be far away from your own home, with hostile in-laws, heavily pregnant and all alone – how terrible must that be. She tries. She cooks somedays and smiles too but the sadness weighs too heavily on her leaving her lethargic and uncaring.

Though Pea rarely cries or even complains, her longing is tangible and that is what makes this a sad, haunting, beautiful read. When Shelly said ‘the most beautiful songs were born out of the saddest things’ he could have been talking about The Night Rainbow.

Last thought: It’s definitely worth a read but it’s likely to pull you down into a well of sadness so pick it up with care.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info

Reading plan for 2019



Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Hola people and welcome to this brand new year. Reading-wise 2018 was a good year for me. I got through 36 books and am pretty happy with that.

Normally I plan my reading meticulously but the end of 2018 was so chaotic on the home front that I was caught off guard without a reading plan. The thing to do then was to get my act together fast.

Very quickly then, here are the Challenges I’m taking up.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge

To be honest this was already a part of the plan formulating in my head for a long time even though I did not consciously give it voice. Taking a cue from that (the voice in my head) the first Challenge I pledge myself to this year, is the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks Challenge. I desperately need to, and I will, focus on reading the books I already have, at least one, maybe two, of the three I hope to read each month. I really have just too many of them and it’s an absolute shame to have them all sitting there staring at me while I pretend to ignore them and continue on a buying spree.

Of course part of me is already protesting:
There are new books coming out everyday and they’re so interesting and everyone talks about them all the time, and social media is buzzing with them; the covers are so enticing and the blurbs are intriguing and they’re so inexpensive on the kindle…

But Shushhh! I tell that part of me, as I renew my pledge to make a dent in the TBR pile at home. That’s going to be the mainstay of my reading this year.

The Goodreads Challenge

Then there’s the Goodreads Challenge which I’ve faithfully taken up and completed for the past three years. I love the freedom it offers: one can set his/her own target, read any kind of book and also that one can revise it at any point in time. Though if one does revise it, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of the challenge. But hey! To each his own.

That said, it works well for me because it gives me a push without making me feel the pressure. That sounds oxymoromish but it works perfectly. Also, more importantly, it does not distract me from my primary goal of reading the books I already have. In fact it is right in line with it.

The Write Tribe Challenge

Lastly there’s the Write Tribe Reading Challenge that sounds deliciously interesting while seeming easy to take up. Since I’m already pledging to read 36 books, this one seems doable too and so I look forward to reaching the level of a ‘bookworm’ at WT. I’m hoping the one ‘luxury book’ I allow myself each month shall go towards this Challenge.

And now I feel guilty for implying that books I already have are ‘non-luxury’ which sounds like they’re unloved and that is not the case at all – they’re all books I’ve bought or have been been gifted, very lovingly. I still need to fit titles into the WT categories and I shall get to it soon enough. I shall certainly be sharing it all here with you guys and looking for recommendations too.

That’s it from me. I’d love to hear from you. What challenges are you taking up? Do you too have a pile of books waiting to be read?

#BookLover’sTag

BookLoversTag

That’s the latest bookmark my daughter made for me

Many of my book loving friends have taken up this tag and I couldn’t resist it either. Talking about books and comparing reading habits with other book lovers is fun, isn’t it? So here goes – my attempt to answer 13 questions on books and reading.

1.  Do you have a specific place for reading?

Nope. Somedays it’s the beanbag on the balcony, somedays my bed, somedays I curl up on the sofa in the living room. Sometimes, when I want to be around the children, I even make place for myself in their room among sketch pens and stuffed toys and other such mess. So just about any place is good.

2. Bookmark or some random piece of paper?

Bookmarks, generally. However with three readers in the house there is a constant struggle for them resulting in deep debates on which bookmark belongs to whom. For instance, if my daughter makes one and gives it to me – is it hers (because she made it) or mine (because she gave it away)? We still haven’t figured that one out. In desperate times I make do with old receipts or pamphlets or ends of teabags (the dry ends, okay!) or even a comb. One time I put the TV remote in my book and had the whole house looking frantically for it. That was fun, for me, not so much for the others, perhaps.

3. Do you eat or drink while reading?

Yup. Drink, for sure. Tea and books make for a perfect combination, isn’t it? I participated in the Write Tribe Contest on Tea and Books and won another book for this picture. That’s what I call a win-win situation :-).

Eat, not so much, unless you count snacks as eating, or chocolates, which I do. Occasionally, if the book is super gripping I might take it to lunch or dinner too. I do strongly recommend having munching material around while reading. Makes the whole experience much more fun.

4. Music or TV whilst reading?

Nothing. Ideally I like to read in silence. However since the children came along I can read with music, television, arguments, laughter, teasing, fighting… pretty much anything.

5. One book at a time or several?

One. However, if the book isn’t too engrossing I might wander off with another one and then come back to it.

6.  Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I do prefer to read at home but I’m not too particular. I’ve read at the dentist’s clinic (the wait is pretty long and the book helps take my mind away from what is to come later), on the steps of the clubhouse while the children are in an activity class or on a bench in the park.

7. Read out loud or silently?

Silently. Are there people who read aloud? Even if they’re reading for themselves? That would be odd, no?

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

Mostly, no. However some books are made for skipping lines/pages. Have you read The Hunchback of Notre Dame? The descriptions are mind bogglingly long and I mean pages and pages and pages of descriptions of the church on and on and on. I completely hopped, skipped and jumped through that. The story was beautiful though, sad and touching.

9. Break the spine or keep it like new?

Keep it like new as far as I can.

10. Do you write in books?

No way. But if I’m reading a book for a professional review I like to make points. Kindle is a blessing because I can highlight the bits I need to get back to.

11. What books are you reading now?

I am between books, so to say. I bought Shashi Tharoor’s An Era of Darkness (at just Rs 199 on the Kindle! Thrilled with that!) and am wondering if I should start with it. But then again I think it will make me just too angry/outraged. I recently read Lolita and that had me feeling sick for ages. So perhaps I should stick to something happier and keep this one for the vacations.

12. What is your childhood favourite book?

Like most people from my generation Enid Blyton ruled all the way. I loved her Faraway Tree series as also St Clare’s, Malory Towers best of all.

13. What is your all time favourite book?

I refuse to answer this one. It’s like the twins asking me who I love more. And perhaps only the recent ones will jump out of my memory which would be so very unfair to the ones I read earlier. So no, I won’t answer that question at all, thank you.

If you liked the tag and are a blogger, do take it up or else share your preferences with me in the comments.

Books and Memories

reading childhood

Books and reading formed a huge part of my childhood and for that I shall always be grateful. I had no clue then, that my stolen moments with this favourite hobby would one day offer me a second chance at a career.

To our extreme good fortune our father was friends with the owner of Universal , the biggest bookshop of the city back then. So we would get brand new books on loan, to be read and returned. I lost myself in those large glossy pages or the super glamorous pop-up books. I had one of Goldilocks that I haven’t been able to get over even now. Reading them once always left me wanting more. I didn’t want to let them go. I wanted to keep them with me forever.

Perhaps that’s where the itch to buy and own books was born.

Between our school and home lay the poshest market of the city with our dream bookstore. Hobby Corner. Nope, this wasn’t the one that belonged to our father’s friend but another one that sold books and then bought them back, at a small discount.

So some days (and I hope the children never ever read this bit) we’d sneak off the school bus mid-way, my sister and I, and we’d go to this book shop and indulge ourselves. Those days we didn’t have helpers in the bus to keep an eye on us so it must have been easier. Even so, this was a rare treat because we hardly ever had any money – even the two or three rupees that we would have had to pay up. Besides, there was also the issue of getting back home without the bus (for which we had a pass) and that also meant money for private transport. We managed it on some very lucky days and our parents never knew.

Long summer holidays were painful because with no access to the school library we were left bookless. Lending libraries were a dream in our city back then. Once we heard of one close by and I jumped and joined it only to find it was one of those that only stocked books on subjects like ‘meditation’ and ‘finding the true meaning of life’. I have nothing against all of that, but it most definitely wasn’t what my young teen self was looking for dreaming as it was of Heathcliff and Rhet Butler and the like.

I never did develop a taste for non-fiction.

In hindsight, I remain grateful for each of those childhood memories. Books and reading became that much more precious. Each time the Amazon delivery person knocks at my door even today, I get a happy thrill. While I constantly bemoan the lack of space in the house, I never want to part with my books, nor put them away in cartons, as the Husband once suggested. *Shudder*.

What are your earliest reading memories?

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Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays.

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And also with  with Tina’s Mommynificent for the Booknificent Link-Up
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Shhhh! Silence in the Library!

library

‘No bookmark, no book,’ she would say in an impervious tone and that would wreck my entire week. That was Ms B our library teacher in school.

She’d stand there, one eyebrow raised in a silent dare – challenging me to challenge her. Torn between my fear of her and my love for reading – it was fear that always won. And I would have to make do with re-reading an old book or borrowing from friends.

Books were my sole entertainment back then. We were allowed three books each week – each of them a treasured treat. We had a wonderful library – not the few cupboards at the back of the class that double up as libraries these days. Rows of tables were flanked by glass cupboards full of rows upon rows of the most enticing books. Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys all sat there along with Victoria Holt, Jean Plaidy, Georgette Heyer, and scores of other authors. Within the pages of those books lay the most exciting times my young self had ever seen.

However between the most exciting times of my life and me stood Ms B, a bit like Cerberus. She had an acerbic tongue and a short temper and she wouldn’t let anyone pass unless they showed her a book-cover and a book-mark. And woe betide anyone who forgot to get their books on the assigned day! They were condemned to a book-less week. No allowances, no concessions.

Not just that, she took it upon herself to discipline us on almost anything that caught her eye. ‘Put your plaits back, who do you think you are, Rekha?’, ‘Don’t slouch’, ‘Don’t shuffle your feet when you walk’ or ‘Why must you always wear black?’ (we didn’t have a uniform in class 11 and 12). Those days teachers wielded pure dictatorship. Yet we emerged unscathed with no permanent psychological damage. Instead, we came away with a bunch of good habits that we carry with us even today.

Despite such ‘ill-treatment’, on Teacher’s Day today, the first one who comes to mind is Ms B. While she didn’t teach me any subject nor was she directly responsible for kindling a love for reading she did teach me some very valuable lessons.

She taught me to respect and love books. That’s a habit that has stayed obstinately on. It drives me crazy when I see anyone manhandling books, folding pages, scribbling in the margins (use a pencil for goodness sake if you just have to), turning down corners.. aaargh!

She taught me to widen my reading horizon. But for that raised eyebrow I would be stuck onto fairy tales forever. After she gave me one of those ‘looks’ I was forced to look at other genres and developed an eclectic taste. (I have to confess though, that I still pick up a fairy tale somedays).

She taught me essential library etiquette. I learnt to keep quiet – not a mean feat for a 12 year old. I learnt to shut out the world and lose myself in a book as also to not disturb a person engrossed in one.

She taught me discipline and punctuality – a useful lesson even outside the library.

So tell me who is that one teacher that comes to mind when you think of school?

Do you judge a person by the books he reads?

book snob_Fotor

I once read an interview of an actress during the course of which she mentioned, “I’m a prolific reader’. So what do you read, queried the interviewer? “Mills and Boons”, said she. And there right then she fell from my estimation. Mills and Boons? Is that even reading?

Yeah yeah I was a judgemental idiot.

But dear friend do bear in mind that I was an impressionable teen then. Mills and Boons, to me, were no longer forbidden but definitely looked down upon. Besides, I had begun to enjoy the classics and, I’m ashamed to admit, had turned into a bit of a snob.

Even as an adult if I chance upon a person with a book while I’m travelling I try my best to check out the cover, covertly of course, and then I cannot help but think a certain way about that person.

Do you do that too? No? Think Twilight, think Fifty Shades of Grey, think Chetan Bhagat.

Yeah, it just wouldn’t be right if Mr Bhagat doesn’t come up at this point – the most widely read and even more widely trolled of Indian authors. Not many self-respecting readers are his fans and yet his books break sales records and are made into hit films.

I am pretty eclectic in my reading as long as it’s fiction. So yes, I have read him but I’m not a fan. However, I do have friends who read only Chetan Bhagat and I do not write them off, perhaps because I know them beyond Bhagat.

The point I’m making is that I know the impression of a person purely based on the book in his hand is completely unreliable. I know nothing of the person, I have no clue how he came about the book, I don’t even know whether he is liking or disliking it and yet I form an opinion.

And what if he does enjoy a book I completely abhorred? Does that necessarily make him a ‘not my kind’ of person?

Not at all. And yet I continue to judge.

Go figure.