Tag Archives: Fiction

Books and Travel – My Lifelines

Madurai

It’s been over 6 months, it feels like 2 years and I actually want it to be yesterday. I’m obviously talking about the gap between my previous post and this one. The last two years have been a lot of fun along with some crazy challenges. We did a bit of travelling, local and international, though it’s nothing close to what my dream travel schedule would look like*. I read a lot of books over the last six months, as I have done all my life**, with quite a few new authors thrown in. Sadly, I didn’t update this blog on the book front, however, I did update friends and family on facebook ad nauseum. Maybe, once I get a bit more organised here, I’ll catch my few readers up on the books and travel. For now, here’s a small list of places we visited and some of the books that stood out.

Travel (apart from visits to family in the U.A.E and different parts of India): South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia which Andaman South Buttonwill need many posts to cover, Germany (Cologne and Dusseldorf, nowhere close to Munich or Berlin), an adventure along the middle Himalayas in India – Kashmir to Kufri and diving in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which are part of India but geographically closer to Indonesia and Thailand. We missed a family trip to St. Tropez and Geneva due to work commitments, but that’s life my friend.

Books that stand out because the authors are new to me, for sentimental reasons, the content/genre is something I haven’t really delved in before or I just remember it at this moment: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Elanor and Park by Rainbow Powell (followed by FanGirl), The Ship of Brides by JoJo Moyes (this followed The Girl You Left behind), Those Pricey Thakur Girls (and it’s sequel) by Anuja Chauhan, 10% happier by Dan Harris, Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares, The Wildling by Maria McCann, How It Happened by Shazaf Fatima Haide, Madame Picasso by Ann Girard, The Great Zoo of China by Mathew Reilly, The Harem within by Fatima Mernissi.

And The Mountains Echoed

The little bit of travel and lots of reading has me, once more, creating a list of places to go and things to do. Which just makes me realise how short human lives are! Again, making me more determined to enjoy everyday*** and work towards creating the life I want.

So, this was a quick catch-up session. I’m going to make a real effort to write at least once a week, maybe more. Here’s to new beginnings halfway through the year. Cheers.

*that’s why it’s a dream which, rest assured, I’m working towards realising

** an average of 4-5 a week since I was 6 years old

***every minute is just exaggerating, everyday is true

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer

Copyright 2015 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.

Why I Went Back to the Library – PART 2

Reading in Soltitude
                                                     Reading in Solitude

In my last post I spoke about my actual journey back to being an active library-user. That story is true, however, it didn’t touch on the real reasons as to why I continue using a library and what makes me promote the library habit among the people I know. For this I’ll have to give you a bit of background, so here are a few more stories.

Like I mentioned before, my mom is the person who got me hooked on reading. She’s not a big reader herself, being more of a learner, but she was convinced that reading is the absolute best gift she could give her kids. I completely agree with her, both as a child and a mother, and will talk about this in another post for sure. Initially, she started with the standard books – Ladybird Bird’s Peter and Jane reading series, Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl – with a few eccentric finds thrown in. However, as we grew, and my brother and I started devouring the books she handed us (that’s how she describes our obsession), finding new age appropriate authors was a challenge for two reasons. One she had not been that into reading as a child and the second, considering that there was no real internet then, the concept of reviewing children’s books in magazines and newspapers was rare. So she started dedicating one afternoon a week to book searches. We would visit a bookstore or our library and spend hours reading all the blurbs and a few paragraphs of different books from different series. Considering that she had two huge book appetites to satisfy, she preferred to focus on books that were part of a series. I remember these afternoons as some of the best times of my life. If we really liked a series, she would go out and invest in buying the whole set for us. It was through this exercise that we discovered authors like Willard Price, a Canadian author who wrote a travel adventure series featuring two teenagers and their dad. Even today, in the age of extreme information access, a lot of the amazing books we read, then, are not very well-known.

Today, this is what the library gives me. A source to discover forgotten books and authors. Some of these books have been published decades before and some a few months earlier. Some of them are duds, however many of them are gems that I would have never come across at a regular bookstore*. The librarians themselves have been around for ages and sometimes give me pointers or help me find a certain genre of book that I’m in the mood for**. The library also gives me the flexibility to read the first in a series and figure out if I want to add it to my collection at home or forget the second book***.

Moving on to another story, when I first got married, my husband just couldn’t understand my desire to go off to a coffee shop on my own to read. I am a really social person, though not an extrovert, so this characteristic of mine just didn’t fit in for him. Over time he has come to accept and understand this quirk and now we even go on reading dates. We order coffee, hold hands and read. I’m sure our neighborhood coffee shops advertise our presence as some weird social experiment. Anyway, a library takes this experience to the next level. Now, the library I go to does not have space for reading, but it does have a couple of old wonky chairs at the back, which are secluded and comfy. On many a stressful day I have escaped for a break to the library. There’s no way to describe the rejuvenating effects of browsing, choosing a book and then reading among the towering shelves in absolute silence. You have to experience it. It’s my secret room of sorts and way cheaper than a weekend getaway (though I love those too).

So there you have it. The real reasons why I will continue to go to a library as long as I can, and will try to convince everyone, including you my lovely reader, to do the same.

Always Stay Happy

The Dreamer

*The number of bookstores all over the world, has drastically gone down and most of them only focus on bestsellers and popular authors. Another pet peeve of mine is many of the employees don’t have a clue about books or authors. I understand the constraints in getting knowledgeable employees, but it’s still an irritant. Again fodder for another discussion?

**Obviously, you have to be lucky enough to find a library and librarians who have been around for a while.

***Looking at you Shades of Grey.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I recently re-joined my old library after almost 9 years. It was one of the best decisions I could have made (which I’ll discuss in another post). While browsing the shelves on my lunch break I came across an author I had never read before, John Boyne. Apparently, he is fairly high profile but I had never heard of him before! I picked up his book ‘The Thief of Time’ and was pleasantly surprised. I finished it in two sittings, which is no mean feat when you have a five year-old, run a full-time business and get to read only after 11pm at night. I was hooked.

When I went in to return the Thief of Time, I was looking for a slim volume to fit into my handbag. I had a longish ride to meet a business contact the next day and wanted to read on the commute, without having to lug around a brick in my handbag. I went back to take a quick look at the other titles by John Boyne and ‘lo and behold!’ there was a slim volume in the bunch. I immediately  grabbed it, barely scanned the title, and rushed to check it out.

The next morning I got settled for the long drive (I wasn’t driving) and pulled out the book. When we pulled up in front of my contact’s office an hour or so later, I had to literally pull myself out of a trance. The book was so easy to read (and even relate to a bit), while making you think hard that it had my undivided attention. I finished it on the commute home over the next few days and though that was a few months back, the book has stayed with me since.

The cover of the version I read

The story is viewed through the eyes of a nine year old boy, Bruno, who’s like any other nine year old child I have met. Completely involved in his own world of friendships, adventures (real and make believe) and fights with his older sister ‘The Hopeless Case’. The story starts with the family’s move to support the father’s promotion. Though this is a rise up through the ranks of ‘The Fury’s’ (Hitler) administration for his father, it feels like a punishment to Bruno, his mother and sister. They are moved from the center of Berlin, to a god-forsaken house, where their only company are the soldiers reporting to Bruno’s father. Separated from his friends and grandparents, Bruno decides to entertain himself with his favourite pastime exploring.

Unlike his old house, which had five floors and dozens of undiscovered nooks and crannies, the current house offers no such delights. There isn’t even a marketplace or crowded street where he can be pushed ‘from pillar to post’. So the young explorer decides to find out the significance and extent of the barbed wire fence he can see from his bedroom window. His burning questions are “Why does everyone on the other side of the fence get to live in loose, striped pyjamas all day, while he has to wear shoes that pinch his feet? Why can’t he play with any of the children that he can see from his window?”

His adventures lead him to Shmuel, one of the striped pyjama people. A friendship blossoms between the two, based solely on the sharing of food and conversation (a usually strange notion for nine-year old boys). Apart from a shared birthday, the two boys have nothing in common but come to depend on each other’s company to get through their individual days.

The story ends with a simple but highly poignant twist that makes sure you will never forget this book.

Why choose to review this book on a blog about making life happy? Well, the book actually made me appreciate the smaller pleasures in life, gave me an idea of what could be going through my little one’s head and did not for a moment linger on the morbid (unusual for a book set right in the middle of wartime).

Read this and I guarantee real happiness whenever you think of it. Not because of the actual story, but because of the way it is told.

Here’s a transcript of a talk by the author on this particular book.

Stay Happy Everyday

The Dreamer

Credits: Image 1

Copyright 2013 (c). Please do not reproduce this article in its entirety without permission. Alternatively, a link to this URL would be appreciated.