Book Reflections of 2018

Note: This blogpost is a featured post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.
Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

I began this year by reading two books that were a gift from my mother. Knowing my obsessive compulsive need for books, she had selected these because they are about books and bookshops. To be precise, they are about the Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which is also exactly what the book’s title is (that and More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops). With a start like that, it was evident 2018 had to grow into another awesome year of reading.

At the first BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) meet this year, I remember we were discussing reading targets for 2018 and I quoted mine at 108 books – same as the previous three years. Someone pointed out that like business targets, I needed to show a 20% growth rate in my reading potential. The comment, though made in jest, made me gasp, prompting me to think how that was even possible. Even so, I silently thought I could manage an official target of 108 and strive to read a few more books. Little did I know, then, that my annual reading target would have a friendly companion joining it this year.

By the time I finished reading those first two books, I was dying to share my experience. The books turned out to be absurdly hilarious in a way that book lovers everywhere would relate to. I thought a bookstagram would be ideal for this purpose, like the ones I had posted for a few books I reviewed in 2017. Well, the first bookstagram led to a second, then a third and before I knew it, I had resolved (something I resolutely avoid doing) to post an Insta-review of E.V.E.R.Y book I read in 2018.

I was clear I didn’t want to post generic pictures of books photographed in eye-catching locations. Instead, I wanted to continue from the craft and colouring experiments I had started in 2017. Thus began a journey of creativity during which I rediscovered a new-found passion for art and craft after nearly two decades. I added many more techniques to the basket, such as drawing, painting, paper-folding, Origami – both traditional as well as 3D Chinese Origami, paper-model building, and various other types of paper-craft. Feeding this passion also called for a substantial investment in art & craft supplies, as well as shelf space to store them. But the book and crafts partnership was a go.

And so, every book I have read this year, whether standalone or a series, is supplemented with a review – either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram. For each of these posts, I have created an art project keeping to the book’s theme.

To know more about these 108 books, or to read their reviews and see the projects I paired them with, click here.

2018 Brunch Book Challenge Landscape Resized.jpg

Of course, if you have been following my reading, you would know how much I love collating reading statistics at the end of the year. These are also my way of taking stock of where I want my reading to go the next year. So, once again I am sharing a few figures from my 2018 reading challenge:

Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,347 pages (big thanks to Goodreads’ My Year in Books for this). Almost the same number as last year, which is surprising since I read quite a lot of children’s fiction this year. Even then, an average book length works out to 281 pages which is very reasonable.
Longest book = Airport by Arthur Hailey at 522 pages. This was my introduction to Hailey and his best of the ones I’ve read so far.
Most popular book = Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. As far as I recall, I had never read a Roald Dahl before this year.
Number of Non-Fiction books = 21. Up 5% from last year. This genre has seen a steady growth in my reading list over the last four years.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 41. A 7% drop from last year but still a comfortable number.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 16. Up 7.5% from 2017. I also read a book in Hindi this year – something I haven’t done since college.
Number of books by debut authors = 21. Up by 5.5%.
Number of books by Women authors = 38. This makes 35% of my total reading and could definitely do with an increase.
Number of books reviewed = 108 (that’s 100%) with 15 detailed reviews on the blog or on Women’s Web and balance as Insta-reviews on Instagram. My Goodreads profile also carries reviews of all 108 books. I consider that a personal achievement.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 79. That is a massive 20.5% increase from last year. I do confess that I prefer to pick up titles by Indian authors as physical books.
Most books read in a month = 27 in April, of which 15 were Roald Dahl titles from a box set.
Least books read in a month = 2 in August. It was a time I was severely ill, catching one infection after another and was just not upto reading.

Now that the business side of reading is done, let’s move on to the side that offers pure joy – the act of reading itself.

In line with Aquamarine Flavours’ annual reading tradition, the start of the new year also means it is time to share with you a list of my favourite books from the ones I have read this past year. These are books that have sparked joy (how Marie Kondo of me!) and continue to remain close to my heart.

As before, I have categorised these favourites into Fiction and Non-Fiction, under Indian Authors and International Authors for easy reference.

If you want to know my review of the book, click on the book’s title or photo.

Note that this list is in no particular order.

Indian Fiction
1. IMG_20180409_132645_583Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
Picking up a military thriller by an Indian author is not easy when it comes with expectations piled high after reading innumerable international thrillers over the years. But this one is an absolute treat and even has two women commandoes who go toe-to-toe with the best of the best. (Buy here)

IMG_-q1voxg
2. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
An insanely hilarious peek into a couple’s mind-journal before and during pregnancy, taking you through the changes that a soon-to-arrive baby brings in their lives. (Buy here)

IMG_20180706_100545_415

3. Two – Gulzar
A translation by Gulzar of his novella originally written in Urdu – a painfully tragic story of many lives thrown about by the tornado that cut a sharp line dividing a land and its people – not once, not twice, but over and over again. (Buy here)

IMG_20181003_095527_019

4. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
A story within a story about a little girl desperate to unravel the messy tangle of secrets that plague her childhood. (Buy here)

International Fiction
IMG_20180109_135956_9731. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
This was my first children’s fiction of the year and of the many I read, I particularly loved this one. It is a heartwarming story of a father who does some bad things, only to save the good in his life. But when, suddenly, things begin to go awry, help comes most unexpected. (Buy here)

Fredrik Backman.jpg

2. Fredrik Backman – This year I finally read all his remaining books on my TBR which include:
Two novellas –
And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (Buy here)
The Deal of a Lifetime (Buy here)
A series – 
Beartown  (Buy here)
Us Against You (Sequel to Beartown) (Buy here)
He continues to remain a top favourite and I am waiting with bated breath for the 3rd book in the Beartown series.

IMG_20180426_115949_153
3. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
The third book in the Me Before You series that finally brings Lou full circle in her journey to discovering herself. I thought the end for this trilogy was most fitting. (Buy here)

IMG_20180615_102814_916

4. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
A story exploring the complex mother-daughter relationships between these two sets of women born in two different worlds, along with their secrets and conflicts. This is Classic Asian-American Literature that will continue to be relevant for a long time to come. (Buy here)
A special shout-out to my friend who recommended it (you know who you are) 🙂

IMG_20181008_091836_388

5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A young author stumbles upon a book club formed during WW2 for a few stolen moments of peace in their warn-torn lives. A tale told by way of letters that describe the simplistic beauty of Guernsey, and a love story that very nearly breaks your heart. (Buy here)

IMG_20180618_100335_872
6. Airport – Arthur Hailey
This was my first Arthur Hailey novel and while I’ve read others too, this is clearly my favourite – a nail-biting thriller set at a fictional Chicago airport in the middle of a raging blizzard that shows exactly how the aviation industry functions. (Buy here)

Thriller Favs.jpg7. Thrillers call for their very own list so I am listing my top picks here:
Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz (Buy here)
War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson (Buy here)
The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn (Buy here)
Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb (Buy here)
The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni (Buy here)
The Terminal List – Jack Carr (Buy here)
Skyjack – K.J. Howe (Buy here)
The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz (Buy here)
Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes (Buy here)
After Anna – Lisa Scottoline (Buy here)
Button Man by Andrew Gross (Buy here)
Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly (Buy here)

Note: Check out my thriller reading challenge which I undertook as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, here.

Indian Non-Fiction
IMG_20180213_140309_7391. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
A meticulously researched account of the Nanavati case from 1959 where the author has tracked down people and corroborated events to put together a comprehensive account of this true-crime. Not to be confused by the events of the movie which are largely fictional. (Buy here)

IMG_20180217_082953_785
2. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
An eye-opener on how, in today’s political environment, children perceive religion and the segregation that adults have knowingly let creep into their young lives. This book forces one to look at themselves and start questioning what values they want to raise their children with because those values are what are becoming the changing face of our society. (Buy here)

IMG_20180329_090113_208
3. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
The author retraces the lives of 19 families from both sides of the border who hold their deepest, darkest memories of the partition in the objects they carried across with them as well as those they left behind. (Buy here)

IMG_20181019_142624_5734. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
A remarkable biography of the woman who was the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India. One who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India and yet, accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to. (Buy here)

International Non-Fiction
IMG_20180430_092803_9541. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
This book is nothing short of magical where the author takes you around the world on a journey to discover rare and unique bookshops. From the oldest, to the smallest, to those in unused barns, disused factories, old run-down railway stations, in buses, on boats, undercover, and even booktowns – she tracks over three hundred weirdly wonderful bookshops across six continents to learn what makes them so special. (Buy here)

IMG_20180606_104121_7732. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight means business. And she does not care what anyone thinks of how she gets her work done. As long as it gets done. Here, she breaks down existing rules of time-management into smaller, more manageable chunks of information which make them easier to assimilate and incorporate into your daily routine thus helping you achieve Work Life Balance. (Buy here)

IMG_20181116_091223_4583. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
You’ve all heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’. Well, Amy Cuddy teaches you how to ‘Fake it till you become it’. A life altering book that shows how behaviour can be altered subconsciously by tweaking the mind and nudging your body language to power-pose and in turn creating a more honest and meaningful impact, or presence, on your audience. (Buy here)

I have often been asked why my target is always 108 books and not 100 (a nice round number) or 104 (52weeks x 2 books per week). To be honest, I don’t have an answer. It’s just something that happened once and carried on.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend pointed out that reading 108 books was like chanting the 108 names of God and we both ended up laughing at the absurdity of that analogy. Since then, I’ve decided this will be my official explanation (let me clarify here that I am not overtly religious). So if you’re curious why 108 books, there’s your answer 😁

My reading target for 2019 is 52 books (one per week) even though Brunch Magazine upped their target for #BrunchBookChallenge to 60 books this year. But Week One of 2019 just went by and I am already two books down on my reading challenge, so I don’t trust myself to maintain it. Which direction the scale finally tips is something we will have to wait to find out at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, I am heading over to the New Delhi World Book Fair this week. I am on a strict budget and the bigger challenge at the moment is to make sure I stay within its constraints. Hopefully I will and my family won’t be compelled to throw me out of the house for bringing in more books. Besides, I do have a library membership now which doesn’t exactly justify new purchases and I intend to make good use of it.

Here’s wishing you all a bookishly happy 2019. I’d love to hear from you all about the wonderful books you found this year and the ones that found you. So if you’re reading this, do take a moment to jot down your favourites in the comments below.

IMG_20190101_081855_762.jpg

Happy Reading!

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com
Advertisements

The 2018 Reading Challenge Part 1 | #BrunchBookChallenge

Note: This blogpost is a top post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

The year 2018 has bid goodbye and with that I have wrapped up my 2018 reading challenge in which I read 108 books. This makes 2018 my fourth consecutive year of One-Year-One-Hundred-Books which originally began from the Brunch Book Challenge, run by Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch.

If you’ve been following me on social media, you would have noticed that a large part of my reading activity this year was supplemented by writing a review for every single book I read. This was posted either in long form on the blog or in short on Instagram.

I also decided to take forward the creative streak I re-discovered last year and create bookstagrams to complement these reviews. However, instead of posting generic photos of these books, I used various art and craft techniques to pair with the book’s title or theme, some of which included drawing, colouring, painting, paper-folding (both traditional Origami as well as 3D Chinese Origami), paper-models, and various other types of papercraft.

So, as per tradition, I share below the list of of all 108 books that kept me busy in 2018. If any of these piques your curiosity, click on the name in the list below to read my review.

Also, as before, I have selected my favourite books from the ones I read this year and compiled them into a list segregated by Fiction and Non-Fiction for Indian and International releases. Click here for the curated list.

There is also a separate list of thrillers I read as part of the #BookSpyChallenge2018, run by TheRealBookSpy, which you will find here.

2018 Brunch Book Challenge Portrait Resized.jpg

1. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
2. ‎More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops – Jen Campbell
3. ‎Bad Dad – David Walliams
4. ‎House of Discord – Sadiqa Peerbhoy
5. ‎And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer – Fredrik Backman
6. ‎The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman
7. ‎The Midnight Gang – David Walliams
8. ‎The World’s Worst Children – David Walliams
9. ‎The World’s Worst Children 2 – David Walliams
10. ‎The Doodler of Dimashq – Kirthi Jayakumar
11. ‎Tinted Glasses – Mansi Laus Deo
12. ‎The Perils of Being Moderately Famous – Soha Ali Khan
13. ‎Lovers Like You and I – Minakshi Thakur
14. ‎Marital Advice to my Grandson, Joel – Peter Davidson
15. ‎In Hot Blood – Bachi Karkaria
16. ‎Mothering A Muslim – Nazia Erum
17. ‎Hellbent – Gregg Hurwitz
18. ‎Little Maryam – Hamid Baig
19. ‎Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse – Jayant Kripalani
20. ‎Gurgaon Diaries – Debeshi Gooptu
21. ‎Remnants of a Separation – Aanchal Malhotra
22. ‎Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? – Raymond Carver
23. ‎What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
24. ‎Grubbipus Maximus and the Magic Mirror – K.E. Priyamvada
25. ‎Operation Jinnah – Shiv Aroor
26. ‎The Epic City – Kushanava Choudhury
27. ‎Scene: 75 – Rahi Masoom Raza (Translated to the English by Poonam Saxena)
28. ‎Sanjay Dutt: The Crazy Untold Story of Bollywood’s Bad Boy – Yasser Usman
29. ‎War Shadows -Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson
30. ‎Clear by Fire – Joshua Hood
31. ‎James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
32. ‎Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
33. ‎The Magic Finger – Roald Dahl
34. ‎Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl
35. ‎Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – Roald Dahl
36. ‎Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl
37. ‎The Twits – Roald Dahl
38. ‎George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl
39. ‎The BFG – Roald Dahl
40. ‎The Witches – Roald Dahl
41. Boy – Roald Dahl
42. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me – Roald Dahl
43. ‎Going Solo – Roald Dahl
44. ‎Matilda – Roald Dahl
45. ‎Esio Trot – Roald Dahl
46. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
47. The Woman in the Window – A. J. Finn
48. The Bookshop Book – Jen Campbell
49. How I Became a Farmer’s Wife – Yashodhara Lal
50. The Light We Lost – Jill Santopolo
51. To Hell and Back – Anurag Anand
52. Deep Down Dead – Steph Broadribb
53. The Trapped Girl – Robert Dugoni
54. Genuine Fraud – E. Lockhart
55. Great Textpectations – Ruchi Vadehra
56. Get Your Sh*t Together – Sarah Knight
57. Pieces of Me – Róisin Ingle
58. Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
59. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
60. Airport – Arthur Hailey
61. Calling Sehmat – Harinder Sikka
62. The Good Indian’s Guide to Queue-jumping – V. Raghunathan
63. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty
64. Koi Good News? – Zarreen Khan
65. Hotel – Arthur Hailey
66. Wheels – Arthur Hailey
67. The Nine-Chambered Heart – Janice Pariat
68. Two – Gulzar
69. Spirits in a Spice Jar – Sarini Kamini
70. An Evening in Lucknow-Selected Stories – K. A. Abbas (edited by Suresh Kohli)
71. Beartown – Fredrik Backman
72. Us Against You – Fredrik Backman
73. The Boy Who Loved Trains – Deepak Sapra
74. The Girl in the Garden – Kamala Nair
75. Lessons in Forgetting – Anita Nair
76. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
77. Job Be Damned – Rishi Piparaiya
78. Out with Lanterns – Alisha ‘Priti’ Kirpalani
79. Seven Sixes are Forty Three – Kiran Nagarkar
80. Charlie Next Door – Debashish Irengbam
81. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume I – Edited by Khushwant Singh
82. Khushwant Singh Selects Best Indian Short Stories-Volume II – Edited by Khushwant Singh
83. Who Stole My Memories – Maitrayee Sanyal De
84. Pyjamas are Forgiving – Twinkle Khanna
85. Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan – Ruby Lal
86. Ishq Mein Shahar Hona – Ravish Kumar
87. Those Children – Shahbano Bilgrami
88. The Pilgrimage – Paulo Coelho
89. The Valkyries – Paulo Coelho
90. By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept – Paulo Coelho
91. Veronika Decides to Die – Paulo Coelho
92. The Devil & Miss Prym – Paulo Coelho
93. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges – Amy Cuddy
94. The Fifth Mountain – Paulo Coelho
95. Eleven Minutes – Paulo Coelho
96. The Zahir – Paulo Coelho
97. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho
98. Sirens – Joseph Knox
99. The Terminal List – Jack Carr
100. Skyjack – K.J. Howe
101. Reaper: Ghost Target – Nicholas Irving with A.J. Tata
102. The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz
103. Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes
104. Daughters of Legacy – Rinku Paul & Puja Singhal
105. After Anna – Lisa Scottoline
106. The Fallen – David Baldacci
107. Button Man – Andrew Gross
108. Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly

What do you think? Did any of these titles tempt you to pick them up? Or have you read any of these which you absolutely love and can’t stop raving about? I’d love to share notes with you. Do drop me a line and let me know.

Oh, and Happy 2019 to you and yours! 🙂

Daughters of Legacy by Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal | Book Review

There is a tremendous amount of history behind successful businesses which have continued for generations and time has shown how it has brought its share of challenges and perks in running them. Included in that history is the fact that these age-old legacies were handed down through the male line of succession – from father to son – who, born into privilege, automatically gained a position of power.

Today, however, there are increasing examples of daughters taking the reins in their hands and steering these businesses to newer and greater heights. They have had their share of struggles in navigating the challenges and scaling new peaks, the greatest of which is proving themselves as women in a man’s world.

Rihanna said: “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” The question remains – why are legacy businesses still considered a man’s world?

In Daughters of Legacy, authors Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal show how a new generation of women is redefining India Inc.

Screenshot_20181207-154826.png

The book features twelve women from illustrious families such as the Future Group, Kirloskar Systems, Emami Limited, Parle Agro, Nalli Group of Companies, and MBD, to name a few and have been chosen from a wide cross section in terms of scale of business, roles and hierarchy. These women have not only kept the legacies alive but have also gone on to carve a niche for themselves as individuals beyond their famous last names.

To know more about these path-breaking women and their inspiring stories, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Daughters of Legacy: How a New Generation of Women is Redefining India Inc
Author: Rinku Paul and Puja Singhal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-143-44158-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Authors: 
Rinku Paul is an internationally certified life coach and a proponent of women leadership and an inclusive work environment, and has brought together her love for entrepreneurship and writing in her published works. Her previous books – Dare to Be: Fourteen Women Who Gave Wings to Their Dreams and Millionaire Housewives: From Home Makers to Wealth Creators – were released to acclaim. Her passion project is ‘Dare to Be Conversations’-a podcast series and a platform for women to be a part of stirring stories and breakthrough ideas.
In her previous avatar, Rinku has had a corporate career spanning over sixteen years with the news channel Aaj Tak, a part of the India Today Group, till she decided to pursue her dream – impacting people’s lives.

Puja Singhal, having spent more than a decade living the corporate life, strategizing on how best to marry business and people as an HR specialist, decided to take a break to focus on her family and other love, writing. Having co-founded a writing studio, The Muse, and published two books, Dare to Be and Millionaire Housewives, along with Rinku Paul, she is now back to juggling corporate responsibilities along with family duties and, of course, writing. Puja holds an Honours degree in political science and an MBA in human resource management.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

 

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal | Book Review

A few years ago, Hillary Clinton, speaking to a women’s magazine, said: “Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.”

While she was spot-on in her observation in the wake of 21st century’s rising wave of feminism, I doubt she was aware of the dynamic woman who did all that and more at a time when it was absolutely unheard of. A woman who proved to be a feminist icon in the days of 17th century Mughal India – a time when the term Feminism had not yet been coined (it would take nearly two hundred years for the world to first hear what Feminism was). And yet, this astonishing woman accomplished what no other woman in the history of Mughal India, neither before or after her, would ever hope to.

Screenshot_20181019-121102.png

Ruby Lal, in this remarkable biography titled Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan, traces the rise of Mihr un-Nisa, born to a Persian noble and widow of a subversive official, who became the twentieth and most cherished wife of Emperor Jahangir, and later co-sovereign and ruler of Mughal India.

To know more about this phenomenal woman with a fascinating history, read my detailed review published as a Featured Post on Women’s Web, here.

Title: Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan
Author: Ruby Lal
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0-670-09062-4
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 328
Source: Women’s Web
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Ruby Lal is an acclaimed historian of Mughal India. Her previous books are Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World and Coming of Age in Nineteenth Century India: The Girl-Child and the Art of Playfulness. She teaches at Emory University and divides her time between Atlanta and Delhi.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

Mothering A Muslim by Nazia Erum | Book Review

A quote credited as Anonymous says: ‘Every child is a different kind of flower, and all together, they make this world a beautiful garden.’ I couldn’t agree more, but at the same time I can’t help wonder, how does it speak for our society when these very flowers, beautiful and fragile as they are, start discriminating against each other on religious grounds – a subject they aren’t even equipped to comprehend?

If a mother has to start thinking whether the name she chooses for her child should establish their religious identity or not, it becomes a cause of great concern. Surely, every parent has a right to name their child without having to mentally run through its religious repercussions?

Unfortunately, in a country claiming to be secular, we as a nation are becoming increasingly divided over religion. While there is the strong political angle to it, Nazia Erum, the author of Mothering A Muslim, discovered the shocking reality of the religious segregation that has slowly, steadily, crept into the classrooms and playgrounds of India’s elite schools.

As she reached out to 145 families across twelve cities, over a period of one year, she realised naming her child was the least of her concerns.

Screenshot_20180216-104622.png

Erum has researched extensively on the subject of this book. To begin with, she consciously chose to speak with Muslim women living in mixed localities rather than those from all-Muslim neighbourhoods. She documented personal experiences of urban, educated Muslim women and their families. In the course of her interviews she also met many ‘authentic Muslim women’ who seem to be missing from our society but are more than just a symbol. As she found out, this authentic Muslim woman could be your neighbour, your doctor, or your child’s school teacher. She is everywhere, in all her hijabi feisty-ness, as long as you care enough to pay attention, and she too is struggling to prove her identity in a community that is constantly judging her for how she practices Islam.

All these women made a varied collection of subjects, each with their own stories that had one thread connecting them. They were all fearful for their children who had been targets of Islamophobia and nationalism in school.

The author has presented a subject considered taboo in our society with a brilliant sensitivity. She highlights how conversations from our drawing rooms are growing roots into the minds of children as young as six years old, which in turn are becoming the cause of trauma and rampant bullying in school yards and classrooms.

It may be a harmless seeming remark when a student decides to call his Muslim classmate ‘Paki’ or ‘Terrorist’. But as the author discovered, it has raised alarming questions in the mind of the child labelled so, regarding his identity. It was disturbing to read how a parent did not reprimand their child for one such insensitivity and instead replied that it was in response to being called ‘fat’. What more can one say? And this was only of the many stories revealed in this book.

The experiences narrated are horrifying and heartbreaking, to say the least. Yet, many parents let it slip by, choosing not to report them to the school authorities, because it is something that happens and one has to learn to live with. The statistics presented at the end of the book clearly speak for themselves – not enough is being done. However, as the author points out, schools need to create a policy and parents need to sit up and take notice.

Mothering A Muslim is not an argument over religion. It is a conversation on the values with which children are being raised today. Children perceive actions more than words and unknowingly imbibe the sentiments of the elders around them. This book is a call to parents and teachers on the role they have as nurturers and educationists. For they are the ones who must rise to fight for what is right in the hopes of creating a better future for all of us.

Title: Mothering A Muslim
Author: Nazia Erum
Publisher: Juggernaut Books
ISBN: 978-93-8622-853-6
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 248
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author:  Nazia Erum runs a fashion start-up called The Luxury Label. She lives in Noida.
She is active on Twitter and Instagram.

Note: This blogpost is a top post on Indiblogger.in and has appeared on their homepage.Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com


Marital Advice to my Grandson, Joel by Peter Davidson | Book Review

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, hearts, roses, and teddy bears have already hijacked our social media timelines. While those with a special someone in their lives can’t get enough of the season of love, there are others, like me, who once again struggle to resist rolling their eyes at those big red hearts. It is only apt then that I chose to read this book in the month of February. To understand why, read on.

Being a 30-something single woman, when I see the way romantic relationships, especially those committed in marriages, function today, I can’t help but agree with British writer Rosamunde Pilcher, OBE, who said: ‘People today expect too much from marriage. Getting married is really like taking on a big new job.’

I believe it was Leonardo da Vinci though, who described it best, saying: ‘Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.’ As off-putting as that may sound, I do think it captures the true essence of the institution.

When American author Peter Davidson’s grandson, Joel, got engaged, he decided to jot down a few words of marital wisdom for him, based on his own experiences as a husband. Then he thought, why share this wisdom with only one person when he could share it with the whole world. So, he started a blog, listing new marital advice every week. As the popularity of the blog grew, people suggested that the material be turned into a book, and, well, he did turn it into one! A book that explained to the reader – How to be a husband your wife won’t throw out of the window in the middle of the night.

Screenshot_20180211-143543.png

We’ve all heard of marital advice being passed down generations. Every family has their own treasure trove of wisdom that they swear by. This grandad is no different. But you can be sure he knows exactly what he is talking about. Let me share an example or two.

The first piece of advice he received when he himself was getting married was that ‘It takes a lot of effort to make a marriage work.’ Sure, everyone knows that. Okay, almost everyone. But no one told you exactly how much effort you should expect to put in. Davidson, on the other hand, gets it spot on when he explains that this advice is like giving you a rowboat somewhere off the coast of California, pointing out into the ocean and saying, “If you paddle in that direction you’ll eventually reach Hawaii”.

Another well-meaning gentleman advised him: “Measure twice and saw once.” The purveyor of this fabulous wisdom was a carpenter, he says, but in marital terms it probably means you should think twice before you open your mouth. I think most people, married or not, would stand to gain by following this.

The author starts his book on marital advice from the very beginning. As soon as the ring finds its place on the finger, it already seems too late in getting started with wedding preparations. He explains exactly what the man’s role is in his own wedding – right from deciding the date (sports lovers: you might want to pay attention to what he has to share here) to planning every little detail that goes into putting together a wedding.

Once that is done, there is more valuable advice on settling into married life, understanding your wife and other myths about marriage, being the exemplary husband she wants you to be, and last but not the least, how to make sure you’re in it for the long haul. All of his advice has simple tips, easy to understand and follow, that are explained by way of examples.

However, the one particular piece of wisdom that made me laugh like none other was his observation on the measure of being a good husband. As he points out in his book, there are few things married woman enjoy more than getting together with their friends, mothers, and other wives, and having a full-blown bitching session about what a bunch of low-down, miserable, worthless, lazy, sloppy, gross, crude, barbaric idiots their husbands are.

There is one thing though, that they like even better. It centres around the magic word B.R.A.G.. As long as wives can brag about all the wonderful ways in which their husbands help around the house, the husbands can be sure they have hit the jackpot in their marriage. Rest assured, his advice includes steps, with examples, to win that elusive jackpot.

I wouldn’t deny that much of his advice is off-the-charts wacky. Nonetheless, it is a hilarious look at marriage. Davidson’s nuggets of wisdom are as entertaining as they are insightful which makes this book a priceless find. These are things you won’t find in a book on marital relations written by a psychiatrist, nor will you learn them in a session with a marriage counsellor. This is real advice, for real people, that just needs to be followed everyday.

Whether you are married, engaged, or single, this is one book you can all relate to. Women will have a good laugh while at the same time appreciate the message because, let’s face it, we are far more attentive to detail and all we need is for the men in our lives to understand that. This book might help in using some of the ideas to our own advantage.

Most importantly, this may be the one book that helps you decide how important marriage is to you. In the author’s words, it might convince some of you to take the plunge, or perhaps confirm your belief that being single is a blessing. If you’re still stuck deciding, I strongly recommend you pick this up. It is a quick read that is sure to brighten up your day, one way or the other.

Author: Peter Davidson
Publisher: Sweet Memories Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-692-99815-1
Edition/Year: First Edition 2018
Format: Kindle Edition
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 152
Source: Author
Rating: 4 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Peter Davidson is the author or co-author of twenty-nine books including fiction, non-fiction, college textbooks, and children’s picture books. His works have been published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, Perigee/Putnam Publishers, Sweet Memories Publishing, Haworth Press, and others.
Davidson is also a songwriter and one of his songs was used in a television series in the Netherlands. For more than two decades, Davidson was one of America’s most active writer’s seminar presenters, having presented over 625 one-day seminars. Davidson has been a professional recording studio owner, college professor, and retail store owner. Peter and his wife live in the Lake Okoboji resort area of Iowa in the summer and in their Arizona home in the winter.
Follow Peter on Twitter and Facebook to connect with him. You can also read his blog at www.maritaladvicetomygrandsonjoel.com, where the idea for this book began.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

The Perils of Being Moderately Famous by Soha Ali Khan | Book Review

What is it like to be known as Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi’s daughter?
Or to have a mother as famous as Sharmila Tagore?
Or to be recognized as Saif Ali Khan’s sister?
Or as Kareena Kapoor’s sister-in-law?
And where does one stand among them?

Actor Soha Ali Khan’s debut book is at heart a brilliant collection of personal essays where she recounts with self-deprecating humour what it was like growing up in one of the most illustrious families of the country. With never before published photos from her family’s archives, The Perils of Being Moderately Famous takes us through some of the most poignant moments of Soha’s life – from growing up as a modern-day princess and her days at Balliol College, to life as a celebrity in the times of social media culture, and finding love in the most unlikely of places – all with refreshing candour and wit.

The blurb (as above) is quite convincing; to the point that the reader is compelled to pick up the book. I, on the other hand, bought this on the recommendation of a total stranger at the bookstore who, when she overhead me asking the store-owner his opinion on the book (his recommendations are always spot on), jumped into the conversation and insisted that I give it a read. I confess, at the risk of sounding judgemental, that I did peek at the selection of books she was buying to make sure her advice was dependable. I wasn’t disappointed – either with her shopping list, or this book.

Screenshot_20180207-104342.png

Once you move past the book’s title, which raises some very interesting questions by itself, and begin to start reading, you realise that Khan writes her story with an effortless poise. Her language is simple, yet extremely entertaining; her expression fun, with a quirky sense of humour.

She makes it explicitly clear at the beginning that she is not out to create a controversy, or scandal, or reveal family secrets, as most celebrity memoirs, lately, tend to do. This is simply her story of being born a princess, raised like any other girl born to famous parents before the advent of social media, and experimenting with life’s challenges before finding her true calling.

She begins by introducing both sides of her illustrious family and their rich cultural heritage. She describes her early years growing up in Delhi and then in London. Her affinity to the performing arts, or lack thereof, in favour of a strong academic foundation to begin a career in the corporate world so as to pave her way to settle down in London, makes for quite a story.

Most people see celebrities and their lifestyles as aspirational than anything else. But underneath all the glamour and fame are some regular people living very real lives.

How that came to be for Soha Ali Khan, what changed and why, makes her seem more girl-next-door than a star, which, incidentally is also what her name translates to.

The Perils of Being Moderately Famous is exactly as the title suggests. Hilarious, honest, warm and wise. As long as you don’t expect it to be a Bollywood flavoured gossip column, you will chuckle at the author’s wit and marvel at her courage and charm with which she has written this self deprecating memoir.

Title: The Perils of Being Moderately Famous
Author: Soha Ali Khan
Publisher: Penguin Random House India
ISBN: 978-0143439967
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy

Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Soha Ali Khan is an Indian film actor who has appeared in movies such as Rang De BasantiTum Mile and Go Goa Gone. She studied modern history at Balliol College, Oxford, and earned a Masters’ Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the youngest daughter of actor Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the ninth nawab of Pataudi. Both her father and paternal grandfather, Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, were former captains of the Indian cricket team. Her older brother is Saif Ali Khan and she’s married to actor Kunal Kemmu.
She is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com

2017: One Year One Hundred (108) Books

As 2017 draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder at how amazing this year has been for me in terms of books. Despite a more than erratic reading schedule, which was pushed back time and again to accommodate other things, I did meet my reading target of 108 books. But that’s not all. In addition to all the wonderful books I discovered and read, there are three things that happened for me, specifically around books, that call for special mention this year.

The first is how, by a genius stroke of luck, I won the Stacy Alesi & ITW International Book Giveaway which delivered seven new International thriller releases (translation – not yet released in India), all signed by the authors, at my doorstep. To know more about what it is and how it happened, click here.

Screenshot_20170909-172933

The second was the joy I discovered in adult coloring this year and how I was able to pair it with books. It all started with a book in which blue roses featured almost as prominently as a character in the story and I was so fascinated that I had to colour them. And almost suddenly, I turned into, what I call, a colouring addict.

If you’ve been following me on this blog and/or on Instagram, you would have seen that most of my posts on books are paired with a colored sketch of something that matches the book’s theme. Now, I’ve read enough posts and articles on the internet on how adult coloring is lame and if at all one wants to do something creative, Bullet Journaling is the trend. I, however, beg to differ. As much as I enjoy the beauty of BuJo, I love the therapeutic calm of colouring. I have also paired books with some papercrafts, but colouring is what I enjoy best. Do drop by for a visit here and let me know what you think.

Screenshot_20171227-132236 PhotoGrid_1496393241174

The third and most recent reason of joy was my experience at a books-by-weight sale. A friend convinced me to accompany her to one, even though I wasn’t too keen. But I decided to check it out anyways. Long story short – I went and bought a truckload of books. Yes, a truckload. No exaggeration. (If you remember my Instagram post: that number listed there was accompanied by another bigger number that was added later and not disclosed on Instagram).

So, while I now have a roomful of books that would fulfill at least the next three years of my reading requirements, I have also, sadly, blown away my entire book budget for these next three years. All I can hope now, for buying new books (because I can’t stop myself from doing that, no matter what), is the mercy of book gifts and gift vouchers. If you don’t know, my birthday is in March,  but I accept gifts all year through 😀

IMG_20171129_173812_741

With all this bookish amazing-ness, I am now ready to reveal the books that made it to my list of favourites this year. But before I do that, I do ask for your patience because there is one important thing I need to get out of the way. Statistics.

Of the 108 books I read in 2017 – I have collated some reading statistics from my list of books. Why, you ask? Well, because I love doing this. Naturally, I had help getting some of these figures from Goodreads’ Year in Books.

So here we go:
Total number of books read = 108
Total number of pages = Approx. 30,606 pages. It shows a drop by about 1,800 pages from last year.
Shortest book = Tit for Tat by Archana Sarat (an ebook of flash fiction) at 36 pages
Longest book = Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham at 736 pages. Surprisingly, I read it in a few hours and it was amazing. An entire story told by way of emails only.
Most popular book = The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Number of Non-Fiction books = 16. Up 4% from last year.
Number of books by Indian/Indian Origin Authors = 48. Up 10% from last year. This is a conscious effort on my part to read more such books.
Number of books translated to English from other Indian or Foreign languages = 8. Down 1.8% from last year.
Number of books by debut authors (fiction novels) = 15. Of these, 4 feature in my list of favourites this year.
Number of books reviewed = 17 with detailed reviews on the blog. There were 19 others whose Instareviews were posted only on Instagram. But Goodreads carries short reviews of all 108 books.
Number of physical books read (paperback/hardcover) = 57
Most books read in a month = 18 in November. With only one month left, I was desperate to catch up.
Least books read in a month = 1 in February. I was too busy writing, I think.

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Landscape Resized

And now, once again, for the third year in a row, I pick my favourite books of the ones I read in 2017. Here is the list, categorised by Indian and International authors, in Fiction and Non-Fiction:

Indian Fiction (in random order)
1-In the Light of Darkness.jpg1. In the Light of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez
I loved how the author brought this heartening story of Susan and Meera to life . The struggles and sacrifices the characters endure should be a reminder to all women that they always have the strength inside them to fight their way towards a better life. That the struggle will only heal them and make them stronger.

28-Baaz - Anuja Chauhan

2. Baaz – Anuja Chauhan
She has been my favourite author ever since I read her first book and this time she wows with a story set during the ’71 war, starring a determined young woman, and a hero who, beside being deliciously swoon-worthy is an Indian Air Force pilot. Pulsating with love, laughter and courage, Baaz is Anuja Chauhan’s tribute to our men in uniform.

3. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan32-The Association of Small Bombs - Karan Mahajan.jpg
The book begins with a bomb blast in a South Delhi marketplace in the late 1990’s, and in it’s aftermath, folds within itself the lives of various characters.
The author’s prose is captivating, despite the grief and agony his characters experience. He presents a perspective that is evident and yet so easy to disregard. The book makes you introspect about why things happen and how they impact an individual’s decisions.

34-Cantilevered Tales - Jayant Kripalani4. Cantilevered Tales – Jayant Kripalani
The author says, he overheard a group of people talking about saving a water body from some unscrupulous builder and started keeping tabs on them. This is not a Builder v. Helpless Citizen epic. In fact that is the least important part of the book. This is about the quirks of ordinary citizens and their response to situations around them, which in turn makes them the people they become. This, is a literary masterpiece, laid out with generous servings of wit and humour, as evident from the writing style that spotlights the sociopolitical theme chosen.

40-Revelations of an Imperfect Life - Sankhya Samhita5. Revelations of an Imperfect Life – Sankhya Samhita
A young woman finds herself stuck in a perfunctory marriage and in an impulsive moment, decides to leave her indifferent husband. The characters are delightful, written with such perfection, despite each of their flaws, that after a point you can feel them being a part of your life. The prose reads like a song – every note mellifluous with picturesque descriptions. The expressions captivate you with the gorgeous play of words.

63-I Quit Now What - Zarreen Khan6. I Quit! Now What? – Zarreen Khan
This story of a young, single woman, going on a sabbatical, is a fun read, with the perfect mix of dreams, fantasy and practicality. In addition to her overt subtlety, the author writes with a definite flair for humour. It comes naturally to her and she infuses it at the right places, often coupled with eye-rolling sarcasm that makes you roll on the floor from laughing so much it hurts.

65-‎The Windfall - Diksha Basu7. The Windfall – Diksha Basu
Diksha Basu presents a hilarious tale of a middle-class Delhi family struggling to fit into the mould that comes with their new-found wealth. A tug of war between values and aspirations. If you’re looking for a better-than-good book that will spread warmth in your heart after reading it, I recommend this one.

97-When I Hit You - Meena Kandasamy8. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – Meena Kandasamy
When I Hit You is seething with rage. It is painful and devastating. It is also powerful, courageous and inspiring. It is a lesson. Of the signs that should be identified. Of hope. Of strength. Of being the woman not the world wants you to be, but what you want to become.

International Fiction (in random order)

Thrillers Square Resized.jpg1. Gregg Hurwitz, K. J. Howe, Brad Parks, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Ben Coes, Joseph Finder, Michael Connelly, Nelson DeMille, David Lagercrantz, Reed Farrel Coleman, Andrew Gross, David Ignatius, Matthew Dunn
This selection of thrillers writers has been my favourite this year, some of which I have been following closely and others that I discovered thanks to TheRealBookSpy. (For more, read all about my #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge here.)

66-Britt-Marie was Here - Fredrik Backman
2. Britt-Marie was Here – Fredrik Backman
This Swedish author who first wrote A Man Called Ove has been another favourite for the eccentric, yet endearing, characters he writes. His books are my sunny stories, for they warm my heart.

David Walliams Resized.jpg3. Grandpa’s Great Escape, The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny, Billionaire Boy – David Walliams
I came across this children’s author on Twitter and, out of curiosity, picked up Grandpa’s Great Escape. I loved it so much that I got seven more titles by him. But since I have to choose, these four are my favourite. And yes, I do occasionally read children’s fiction as well. We are, after all, only kids at heart.

73-‎The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
I read this for a book club meeting and found it to be immensely hilarious and surprisingly relevant for today’s time, despite having been published in 1979. With a dry and subtle sense of humour, this books takes its time but eventually grows on you when you realise it is not a book but a way of life.

102-‎The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson.jpg5. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
I have come to realise, after reading all of Jonas Jonasson’s books (another new favourite Swedish writer on my list, that there is a world out there where things happen for a reason, or for no reason at all. His characters are charming and his plots are preposterous. But, you see, things are what they are, and whatever will be will be. And for that reason alone, I can’t help falling in love with his books. Do also check out The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All.

101-Holly's Inbox - Holly Denham6. Holly’s Inbox – Holly Denham
This is a one of a kind novel which I discovered in the non-fiction section of the books-by-weight sale I went to last month. It is a light hearted page turner with a narrative that is completely written by way of emails. It is an absolutely delightful read and I am now looking to get my hands on its sequel.

Indian Non-Fiction (in random order)
4-Kohinoor


1. Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand

An intensively researched account of the story of the world’s most infamous diamond which has been shrouded in a fog of history and mythology for centuries.

27-Bag it All - Nina Lekhi.jpg2. Bag it All – Nina Lekhi (as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli)
The journey of the woman behind Baggit, the famed eco-friendly handbag brand, who planted the seeds of a tiny project at the young age of 18 when she failed her First year of Commercial Art. What started in one half of the children’s bedroom in her parents’ house, only as a means to move forward from her failure and to prove herself, has today grown into a 100+ crore company.

52-Sonal Mansingh - Sujata Prasad
3. Sonal Mansingh: A Life Like No Other – Sujata Prasad
A mesmerising account of her passion to dance and to life, her worship and also her struggles, to achieve all that she has. Reading her biography makes you feel that hers is really a life like no other.

72-Kissing the Demon - Amrita Kumar
4. Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer’s Handbook – Amrita Kumar
With the repertoire of her experiences spanning four decades, the author lays out a simple and effective method to traverse the seemingly arduous path of pursuing Creative Writing, either professionally or as a hobby.

International Non-Fiction (in random order)

55-Why Won't You Apologize - Harriet Lerner1. Why Won’t You Apologize? – Harriet Lerner
It explains how a wholehearted apology means valuing your relationship and accepting your as well as the other person’s responsibility without any hint of evasion, excuse or blame. It teaches you to lead with your heart, have the courage to apologize and the wisdom to do it meaningfully.

61-Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter.jpg
2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
Using simple examples, the author explains the fundamentals in making money work for you, instead of you working for money.

76-‎The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love - Per J. Andersson3. The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love – Per J. Andersson
This is an inspiring account of PK’s journey through life, of overcoming obstacles that began with being born an untouchable in India, amidst hunger and poverty, to travel 7000 miles to find and marry a Swedish woman of noble descent whom he loved.

92-‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fck - Sarah Knight
4. ‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – Sarah Knight
In this book, the author helps identify things we don’t care about (Step 1) and shows how not to spend time, energy and/or money on them so that we can use those finite resources in what we really do care about. (Step 2). A simple concept to separate Annoy from Joy.

If you want to check out the complete list of books I read in 2017, you will find it here.

My review and rating for these books is available on my Goodreads account.

I also tweet about the books I read, in as much as 140-280 characters allow. You can always find me writing about the latest book to catch my fancy at https://twitter.com/AshieJayn.

For books with detailed reviews published on the blog, check out the links in the above mentioned list carrying all 108 names.

As for 2018 – I am all set for a brand new year of joy and have my bedside TBR all set to begin reading at the start of the new year. But another, more important target I have this year is to start setting up our family library. All these books I have read or am yet to read (from the truckload collection) do not deserve to be put in storage. They need a proper home and that is what I intend to do. Hopefully, 2018 will be the year for it.

If you like the selection of books listed above, do share with your reader friends and write to me, in the comments below, about your favourites. Let’s share some book love!

Here’s hoping you have all had an amazing 2017 and I wish you a Bookish 2018, full of love, joy and some great books. Remember, read for yourself. Not to conform to other’s expectations. Most importantly, read books that make you happy!

Note: This blogpost was a top post on Indiblogger.in and appeared on their homepage.Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

My 2017 Reading Challenge Part-1

Another year comes to an end and, though I struggled to keep up with my reading targets, I have successfully completed my challenge of reading over one hundred books for the third consecutive year.

I also reviewed some books on this blog during the course of reading, the links for which are in the list of titles below. Some of these reviews have been published on Writersmelon and Women’s Web as well.

So without further ado, here is a complete list of the 108 books I read as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge, which is an extension of the Brunch Book Challenge, run by the Hindustan Times’ Sunday Magazine HT Brunch from January to December, 2017.

To know more about the books that found a special place in my heart and made it to my top reads of the year – click here.

And. . . do checkout the second part of my 2017 reading challenge, here, which was all about thrillers!

Brunch Book Challenge 2017 Portrait Resized

1. In the Light of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez
2. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper – Phaedra Patrick
3. Lanka’s Princess – Kavita Kané
4. Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – William Dalrymple and Anita Anand
5. When Love Finds You – Yashodhara Lal
6. Finding Juliet – Toffee
7. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad – Twinkle Khanna
8. White Collar Blackmail – Peter Ralph
9. The Nowhere Man – Gregg Hurwitz
10. An Unsuitable Boy – Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena
11. Cabbing All the Way – Jatin Kuberkar
12. Power Down – Ben Coes
13. Coup D’Etat – Ben Coes
14. The Last Refuge – Ben Coes
15. Eye for an Eye – Ben Coes
16. Independence Day – Ben Coes
17. Unns-The Captivation – Sapan Saxena
18. That’s News to Me – Manjula Lal
19. Chronicles of Urban Nomads (Anthology) – Edited by Sutapa Basu
20. Turtle Dove – Divya Dubey
21. First Strike – Ben Coes
22. Mock, Stalk & Quarrel: A Collection of Satirical Tales (Anthology) – Edited by Indrani Ganguly
23. The Freedom Broker – K. J. Howe
24. A Thousand Unspoken Words – Paulami DuttaGupta
25. The Dove’s Lament – Kirthi Jayakumar
26. Mission Overseas: Daring Operations by the Indian Military – Sushant Singh
27. Bag it All – Nina Lekhi (as told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli)
28. Baaz – Anuja Chauhan
29. Defiant Dreams: Tales of Everyday Divas – Edited by Rhiti Bose and Lopamudra Banerjee
30. Kunti’s Confessions and Other Short Stories – Compiled by Women’s Web (This is an anthology that includes a story I wrote)
31. Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous – Sunetra Choudhury
32. The Association of Small Bombs – Karan Mahajan
33. Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored – Rishi Kapoor with Meena Iyer
34. Cantilevered Tales – Jayant Kripalani
35. Write India Stories – Edited by Vinita Dawra Nangia
36. The Tree with A Thousand Apples – Sanchit Gupta
37. Crossed & Knotted – Edited by Sutapa Basu
38. Confessions on an Island – Ayan Pal
39. In a Dark Dark Wood – Ruth Ware
40. Revelations of an Imperfect Life – Sankhya Samhita
41. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
42. Say Nothing – Brad Parks
43. The Fix – David Baldacci
44. One Perfect Lie – Lisa Scottoline
45. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
46. Trap the Devil – Ben Coes
47. The Switch – Joseph Finder
48. New Market Tales – Jayant Kripalani
49. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – Marie Kondo
50. Em and The Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto
51. The Sellout – Paul Beatty
52. Sonal Mansingh: A Life Like No Other – Sujata Prasad
53. Shadow in the Mirror – Deepti Menon
54. Rain: A Survivor’s Tale – Sriram Subramanian
55. Why Won’t You Apologize? – Harriet Lerner
56. The Late Show – Michael Connelly
57. A Strange and Sublime Address – Amit Chaudhuri
58. Onaatah of the Earth – Paulami DuttaGupta
59. The Last One – Alexandra Oliva
60. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
61. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
62. The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks
63. I Quit! Now What? – Zarreen Khan
64. ‎Jukebox (Anthology) – Edited by Priyanka Roy Banerjee
65. ‎The Windfall – Diksha Basu
66. ‎Britt-Marie was Here – Fredrik Backman
67. ‎The Alphabet Killer – Prachi Sharma
68. ‎The Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson
69. ‎Tit for Tat: A Collection of Thriller Shorts – Archana Sarat
70. ‎Dark Entries – Ian Rankin
71. ‎Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan
72. ‎Kissing the Demon: The Creative Writer’s Handbook – Amrita Kumar
73. ‎The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
74. ‎Museum of Memories – Amrita Mukherjee
75. ‎When They Spoke: Tales by Inanimates – Edited by Arpita Banerjee
76. ‎The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love – Per J. Andersson
77. ‎The Colours of Passion – Sourabh Mukherjee
78. ‎A Window To Her Dreams – Harshali Singh
79. ‎Grandpa’s Great Escape – David Walliams
80. ‎The Boy in the Dress – David Walliams
81. ‎Awful Auntie – David Walliams
82. ‎The Excoms – Brett Battles
83. ‎Into the Firestorm – Kat Martin
84. ‎Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All – Jonas Jonasson
85. ‎The Cuban Affair – Nelson DeMille
86. ‎Demon Dentist – David Walliams
87. ‎Gangsta Granny – David Walliams
88. ‎The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
89. ‎Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
90. ‎So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish – Douglas Adams
91. ‎Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
92. ‎The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – Sarah Knight
93. ‎Leaving the Sea – Ben Marcus
94. ‎Billionaire Boy – David Walliams
95. ‎Mr. Stink – David Walliams
96. ‎Ratburger – David Walliams
97. When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife – Meena Kandasamy
98. ‎The Woman Who Saw the Future – Amit Sharma
99. ‎Dear Customer Services: Letters From the World’s Most Troublesome Shopper – Terry Ravenscroft
100. ‎Elixir – Sinjini Sengupta
101. ‎Holly’s Inbox – Holly Denham
102. ‎The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
103. ‎The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye – David Lagercrantz
104. ‎A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English – Shappi Khorsandi
105. ‎What You Break – Reed Farrel Coleman
106. The Saboteur – Andrew Gross
107. The Quantum Spy – David Ignatius
108. Act of Betrayal – Matthew Dunn

Have you read any of these books that you also loved? What books have you read this past year? I would love to hear about your favourites. Do share in the comments below so I can build my TBR for 2018 🙂 .

The Amazing Story of the Man who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J Andersson | Book Review

The title screams it is a love story. Of one man fighting against all odds to travel seven thousand miles over land and be with the woman he loved.

In reality though, this book is far more.

This is the story of a man, Jagat Ananda Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, born in a remote village on the edge of a jungle in Orissa, who experienced crushing hardships during his childhood as an untouchable in the early years of Independance. Forced to sit outside the classroom, he would watch his classmates wash themselves if they came in contact with him. He was pelted with stones when he approached the village temple, for the priests said he dirtied everything pure and holy. But as PK later realised, his life would have turned out very differently had he not been an untouchable.

PK, as he was fondly addressed by his friends, was inclined towards the Arts, while his father wanted him to become an engineer – a career that promised bright prospects for his future. However, after a disastrous term struggling with Maths, Physics and Chemistry, PK applied to art school and was later accepted on a scholarship to continue studying in New Delhi.

It was here that he met Lotta, a young European woman of noble descent who had driven from Sweden, in a beat up VW bus, with a couple of friends. He had a chance encounter with her on a cold December evening, amidst a queue of people waiting for PK to sketch their portraits for a paltry sum of ten rupees, which was to change their lives irrevocably.

Screenshot_20171026-114325

Since this is a true story, it wouldn’t be fair to assess and review the author’s work as is done with most fiction and non-fiction writing. I rather see it as the passion in his endeavour to bring PK’s story out into the world in a way that is endearing, inspirational, and, most of all, authentic.

The story begins when PK was born and the village astrologer made the prophecy that he would “… marry a girl from far, far away, from outside the village, the district, the province, the state, and even the country”. He had looked straight into PK’s eyes and  whispered to him that he wouldn’t have to go looking for her, she would come to him. The prophecy, as scratched on a palm leaf with a sharpened stick continued that she would be musical, own a jungle and be born under the sign of Taurus. PK grew up believing his fate was written in the stars, as for all newborn children, and he carried these stories in his heart.

What follows is PK’s struggle to survive amidst poverty and hunger, without a roof over his head. It was when he decided to become a commercial artist and set up shop by the fountain in Connaught Place Park that his fortune began to take a turn for the better.

Andersson has written a memoir on PK’s life which shows how his experiences shaped him into the man he was to become. It was these experiences that would be his strength on the long journey he was to eventually take across continents and cultures.

About a third of the book describes the actual journey from India to Sweden, via Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Austria, Germany and Denmark.

PK had decided he would take a month to travel on a bicycle from India to Sweden, but it took him four months. He ran out of money for food and shelter fairly quickly and would earn his way by painting portraits. His charming personality ensured he made many friends on the way. He carried with him an address book of travellers on the hippie trail he had met in New Delhi and would look them up on the way. He soon realised this was the warmest community of people.

When he finally arrived in Sweden, he wasn’t sure if Lotta would still want him. Another man was already vying for her affections and one evening he came to Lotta’s home, upset that she was living with PK.

PK realised this man was the perfect match for Lotta and he was wasting his time here if there was no love. He needed a home, security, a place to build his life. He decided he would cycle back to New Delhi.

The following night, Lotta cried when PK refused to budge on his decision. She said to him, “…I don’t want you to buy a bicycle and leave. … I want to be with you, together in one big mess. For life.”

PK took a four month course in Swedish for immigrants and worked hard to fit into his new home country. He started teaching art at the local high school. Exactly two years after they were reunited in Sweden, PK and Lotta were married. The children, Emilie and Karl-Siddhartha arrived a few years later.

PK has since travelled back to his birth-place with his family and built a house between the mountains and the river where he grew up. From here he co-ordinates his charitable work – the water-wells, the school and the activity centre for women.

PK’s story is not about the pursuit of love. It is about his journey through life that unravels the psychological layers of the man who decided to rise by getting past the obstacles that lay on his path. It is a testament that nothing is impossible and that despite the flaws, there is love and beauty all around us. It is this narrative that makes his story truly amazing.

Title: The Amazing Story of the Man who Cycled from India to Europe for Love
Author: Per J Andersson
Publisher: One World Publications
ISBN: 978-1-78607-207-8
Edition/Year: First Edition 2017
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction / Travel-Memoir
Pages: 304
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Available on Amazon.

About the Author: Per J Andersson is a writer and journalist. He is the co-founder of Sweden’s most well-known traveller’s magazine Vagabond, and has been visiting India for the last 30 years. He lives in Stockholm.

About the Translator: Anna Holmwood translates literature from Swedish and Chinese to English.

About PK and Lotta: PK and Lotta have been happily married since 1979. They have two children and live in Borås, Sweden. PK is an Art and Culture Adviser for the Swedish Government, and also the Oriya Cultural Ambassador to Sweden.

 Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com