Q&A

From a friend’s blog. I just borrowed the meme, the answers are mine though :

1. Favorite childhood book?
Hardy Boys : Franklin W. Dixon

2. What are you reading right now?
The concise 48 laws of power : Robert Greene & Everything’s Eventual : Stephen King
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
The good man Jesus & the scoundrel Christ : Philip Pullman

4. Bad book habit?
Tend to veer off from a book at times to be just carried away by the forewords in other books.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Everything’s Eventual : Stephen King & Koko : Peter Straub

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Purely a matter of mood. Usually it’s a monogamous game.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Violin : Anne Rice

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Boy’s Life : Robert Mccammon.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Very often. I somehow never read two books by the same author consecutively.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Fantasy,Historical Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Not these days.

14. Favorite place to read?
My reading chair by the window.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Over my dead body.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No.

18. Not even with text books?
Yes.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English.

20. What makes you love a book?
Language, character study, plot lines. Occasionally interesting subjects catch my attention too.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Similar Tastes. One thing  I learned is never recommend books to anyone and everyone. You will probably end up having to listen to drivel about your favorite works.

22. Favorite genre?
Fantasy.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Literary Fiction. In simple English that means the classics.

24. Favorite biography?
None so far.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes. One of them finished off my interest in that genre.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Never tried it.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Wind in the Willows : Kenneth Grahame

28. Favorite reading snack?
The book is the best snack,lunch or dinner you will ever come across.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
The Alienist : Caleb Carr

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I could recollect only one case in the sixty books that I have read this year.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Never trash books until I feel sorry for the trees cut down for the books.  But sometimes, a spade needs to be called a spade.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Japanese.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
The years of rice & salt : Kim Stanley Robinson

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Lord of the rings

35. Favorite Poet?
None

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Three to Five.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Rarely if ever.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Dr.Susan Calvin : Isaac Asimov’s Robot Series

Gail Wynand : Ayn Rand : The Fountainhead

Yagharek the Garuda : China Mieville : Perdido Street Station

Death : Terry Pratchett : Discworld Series

Mr.Wednesday/Odin : American Gods

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Dr.Hannibal Lecter : Thomas Harris

The Leopard : Jim Corbett: The man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Whichever suits the mood the best.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
One week.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The name of the rose : Umberto Eco

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Work.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The Godfather.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The golden compass.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
2700 INR.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never done it.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Too much bullshit on the pages.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. But there are still many strewn around.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I keep them all. You never know when you feel like reading a paragraph.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
The Harry Potter series. It’s my target for 2011

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Holmes of the Raj recently.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Fatherland : Robert Harris.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The reluctant fundamentalist : Mohsin Hameed.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Terry Pratchett.

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This is not a coherent post….

I have an inimitable urge to go back to spy thrillers. This is something that virtually surprises me for as a reader, I had given up on this genre. It had all begun with Tom Clancy & his book Patriot Games. The one book that solely hooked me to this genre was The Bourne Identity and then I went through the good,the bad & the ugly of spy thrillers for months at a stretch.

I think it was Gerald Seymour’s book that finally proved to be the virtual last straw when i stopped it mid way through. No more spy thrillers !!! or so I thought. I feel like reading John Le Carre which I have not touched till now. Especially the name Tinker,Tailor,Solider, Spy is very much tempting to say the least.

Seasons

Office sometimes is fun, as in not pulling-your-team members legs kind of fun but genuine buzzing activity kind of fun. Cubicle bound entities that we are, once a year we get to decorate them, the dates of which coincides with the season’s celebrations. The theme to use this time around was seasons. We had this thought of equating it with the life time of an individual. I wrote a little script which had this analogy of life to seasons & once I was done, i thought of revising expanding and putting it up here. Here goes :

A season is a connotation to a union of climate & earth whereby the changes of the environment around us makes the earth react. The cycle which comprises of Spring,Summer, Autumn & Winter would form four petals of the flower we call nature. As we encompass the entire living world into these four seasons, so do we understand that human life is not beyond this. Each phase of us can be pinned up on a big white board and marked either of the four seasons.

Spring to me symbolizes the innocence and joys of childhood. New life sprouts as the fragile little thing is brought out from the warm cradle of the womb & as the umbilical chord is cut, so begins the little one’s journey. As he/she flexes limbs and time moves on, we see the simple eyed wonderment on seeing a little insect crawl by or on seeing a flower in full bloom. I wish I could know what goes through a baby’s mind on their first sight of rains &  on feeling the glow of the golden rays of sun. In the process of growing up from fragility there is a phase of never ending curiosity & an unstoppable stream of questions “What is this? / How come it is so ? / What does this do ?”  it’s like a faucet that cannot be turned off. These lay down the bedrock from which the little one moves on to an institution where they begin a discipline of learning which never lets them go till the last breath they draw. I sometimes feel that the moment we cease observing & learning is the moment we are equal a vegetable.  With the years there is a gradual move from childhood to youth physically and a barely noticeable shrugging off of the innocence that so characterizes young ones.

The calendars and the worldly wise tell us the next season is Summer and with life it is a rip roaring interlude : Youth. An open secret is that even septuagenarians long for supple bodies & nimble minds. It is that ambrosia which flows thickly though the alleys of our minds. Little wonder then that one of the most sought after treasures is called the fountain of youth.  It is a time of  energy fueled days and nights & where one feels that the world is before them awaiting their treads of conquest. It is a time of  confidence which straps on booster rockets & feels that come hell or high water I will remain the last man standing. The keys to what moulds men & women later in life into distinct individuals are scattered here, for all that life does at a later stage is to put all of those keys together on a key ring.

The rebellious thoughts, the confusions, the highs & lows of that elusive blossom called love, the heartaches, the little victories, the angst & the rage, the locks of your hidden talents popping open : they are all here. Learning begins to gain new wings as thoughts take us along different lines of study, where one goes to study the mysteries of what makes & keeps us alive, others are fascinated by the arts & literature and yet others by what is slowly edging towards humanity: machines & intelligence of the artificial kind. As we reach the end of this phase, our individual is moving from a field of study and dependence to self sustainment & independence.

What defines a man or a woman most eloquently ? It is my belief that what you do is what defines you. You could be a teacher, a lawyer, a soldier or a grocery man but in the vastly decorated quilt of life you are a thread too. As the wheel of time turns and autumn comes ‘a-walkin my analogy tags it to the professional part of a person’s life. One of my superiors once trashed the word “Work-Life balance” which is a common lingo used by corporates all over the world. All that he said was ” You spend more than half your life in an office if you are employed, if this is not life then what is ? ” . It is one where the shackles of dependence fall away and self-sustenance as a word inches up in your dictionary. John Keats called Autumn a season of mellow fruitfulness and I think that sums up life itself at this stage.  At the first stages the young men & women are called “Freshers” or “Rookies” and they slowly begin the climb up their chosen field of work. With the first steps of self sustainment comes the inevitable spending, where they barely contain their interest in getting the latest gadgets or the trendiest in attire.  The go-getters & visionaries & young leaders all get separated from the chaff in these times.As the brittle fiery colored maple leaves fall out in autumn, so do a few fall by the wayside.

As they progress so do their thoughts mature into a much more solid mindset and a clarity that is refined each day in dealing with new people and situations. The stability extends to one’s life as well, with the passage of years Life slowly transcends from an unmoored boat carried forth by the currents of time into one that finally reaches welcoming shores. Here too is the place where an individual is finally welcomed into the warmth of a familial relation and where they finally settle down . In many ways, this symbolizes autumn where the harvests of one’s hard work are reaped slowly but with a surefootedness that might not have been achieved till then.

The circle comes around full in the last season of winter. A period that brings out the harsh & bleak truths of life  analogous with the plain whiteness of snow.  I have felt it to be a period of introspection where we look back at life and the courses it has taken. Here we come across a sense of complacency & calm which is what we have been striving for so far. After a lot many victories,compromises,failures we reach this point of contentment. A place where we marvel at the roads we have taken, the obstacles we overcame & the people who helped us become what we are today. The winter of one’s life is also one where many think ‘I should have taken my health more seriously’. With the silvery whiteness of winter we complete the cycle of seasons and like the Greek serpent which swallowed its own tail, the seasons continue their onward march.

This is my longest blog post to date at almost a good 1100 words. But I had to get this out of my system and here we are. There was a malayalam movie which had a tag line “Seasons change, do we ? ” My answer is ” Do we not ?”.

 

 

Gaiman again

I had thought of writing about a word I found  today :  “detached attachment”. The more words i keyed in, the more I found that it was treading into territory that I would put a signboard marked “Private”. So I abandoned it and took to aimless loitering on the internet.

Returned once again to the website of Neil Gaiman and read one of his works; Nicholas Was from  the short story collection Smoke & Mirrors. Quite a haunting piece especially with the Christmas season on full swing.

And if you haven’t read the book yet, grab one when you have the time. It’s worth the read !!!

The pages of the year that goes by

As the year began, I put down here some of the books I wanted to read. I could read very few of them, this was of course owing to my nature which went off in search of other books. There are hardly 11 more days left of 2010 and here is what I read in 2010 :

  1. Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
  2. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville
  3. The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane – Robert E Howard
  4. Lord of the Silver Bow – David Gemmel
  5. Immediate Action – Andy McNab
  6. Olympos – Dan Simmons
  7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  8. Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
  9. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
  10. Cemetary Dance  – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  11. Ji Mantriji Volumes 1&2 : Aloka Tomara & Monisha Shah
  12. Imperium – Robert Harris
  13. Reliquary – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
  14. Shadows of Death – H.P.Lovecraft
  15. Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
  16. The immortals of Meluha – Amish
  17. Percy Jackson & Sea of Monsters – Rick Riordan
  18. On Literature – Umberto Eco
  19. Fatherland – Robert Harris
  20. The Lions of Al-Rassan – Guy Gavriel Kay
  21. The Many Faces of Van Helsing  – Anthology (edited by Jeanne Cavelos)
  22. Matilda – Roald Dahl
  23. Violin – Anne Rice
  24. The Virtues of War – Steven Pressfield
  25. The girl with the dragon tattoo – Steig Larsson
  26. The Tao of Coaching – Max Landsberg
  27. The book of demons – Nandita Krishna
  28. A game of Thrones – Geroge R.R. Martin
  29. The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
  30. To Kill a Mochingbird – Harper Lee
  31. Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino
  32. The sad tale of the brothers grossbart – Jesse Bullington
  33. Terror on the Titanic – Samit Basu
  34. Narcissus & Goldmund – Herman Hesse
  35. The Ghost – Robert Harris
  36. Memnoch the Devil – Anne Rice
  37. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  38. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  39. More Twisted – Jeffrey Deaver
  40. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling
  41. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  42. Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh
  43. The Dante Club – Matthew Pearl
  44. The Mousetrap & other plays – Agatha Christie
  45. The mysterious flame of queen loanna – Umberto Eco
  46. Percy Jackson & the Titan’s Curse – Rick Riordan
  47. Something under the bed is drooling – Bill Waterson
  48. The complete robot – Isaac Asimov
  49. The Afghan Campaign – Steven Pressfield
  50. The Prestige – Christopher Priest
  51. Absolute Power – David Baldacci
  52. The years of rice and salt – Kim Stanley Robinson
  53. The Alienist – Caleb Carr
  54. Hannibal Rising – Thomas Harris
  55. On Writing – Stephen King
  56. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hameed
  57. The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
  58. Holmes of the Raj – Vithal Rajan
  59. Cathedral – Nelson Demille

On going through the list after I have done typing them out here, I do realize that I have stuck to comfort zones and that I have read more of some authors than others. Something that I really enjoyed in 2010 was the rediscovery of one of my favorite childhood authors : Stephen King. I remember a time when I was in bed with measles and the only book I had for company then Was King’s first novel ‘Carrie’. A fond memory !!

If you were to ask me how many people I befriended in 2010, the list I am sure will be much less populated. As they say, bibliophily is by all means a gentle madness.

 

Time

The year is drawing to a close in another two weeks. Time is a relative concept is something you get to understand more as the years pass. In school, a session used to last 40-45 mins and it was unbearable to see how slowly the minute hand of the watch worked. After a long hour of talk on Kinetic Energy or Algebra if you turn your arm a bit and look at the watch, it grinned wickedly back at you with just a minute or two that has passed. School went by and so did college and with those 16 years went away the concentrated and disciplined way of learning and the slow trot of time. I wander from my point,for it was recently that I started noticing how fast time goes by. Monday dawns and I picked myself up from the bed grumbling to myself  ‘It will be Friday soon my boy’ and presto ! you never know how quickly Friday approaches you.

I must confess that the only way which helps me track a month is when we get to know the paychecks are coming. Sounds funny, but it is weird to know that an entire month has passed you by without you even noticing. As for the multitudes out there, it has been a sine wave of crests and troughs for me as well during the year 2010. The finest points being that I have reinvigorated and cemented my companionship with the books. It’s a comforting thought as you return from work to think of where you had stopped the plot line the previous night. A little early but I bid adieu to 2010.

Closing verse from that master writer Douglas Adams : “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”