Reading Challenge 2016: Book 14 – Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

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(My Rating: 4 /5)

I had skimmed through this book when my father bought it for me about 8-10 years ago, but now, inspired by my reading challenge for this year, I thought it deserved a thorough read.

Lynne Truss, an expert in English grammar and punctuation, is a journalist, broadcaster, author and novelist who has written this book in an attempt to educate people about the dreadful punctuation mistakes they commonly make, while blissfully being unwaware of the grammatical atrocities they are committing.

Each chapter is dedicated to a particular punctuation mark, listing out the rules (with examples) for using each. This is interspersed with her lamentations on the woeful situation of punctuation today, the history behind the various punctuation marks and the often hilarious examples of bad grammar and punctuation she has personally come across. Continue reading

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 13 – Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell

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(My Rating 4 / 5)

This was my first Durrell book and I don’t know why have I waited so long!

As part of the conservation efforts of Durrell’s wildlife trust, he made two trips to Mauritius in the 1970’s. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons is an account of those eventful trips.

The book is an entertaining read and I was laughing out loud for most of the novel! The parts about the Jak fruit, in particular, had me in splits.

In the process I also learnt a lot about the flora and fauna peculiar to Mauritius and how one goes about safely capturing endangered animals for breeding in captivity. How I wish I had read this book before I visited beautiful Mauritius many years ago, as a teenager. I am sure my appreciation for everything I saw would have been much greater! Continue reading

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 11 – A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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(My Rating 5/5)

Let me start by saying that at the time of writing this review I have not finished the entire book. I was in the mood to read non-fiction and something science-y and this has been on my To-Read list for some time, after my father bought it. But around 30% in, I was suddenly yearning for some fiction. I will return to it soon, especially since I think it is a very good book.

It is quite an ambitious undertaking, yet Bill Bryson has managed to pull it off rather well. I am left quite speechless when I consider the amount of research that must have gone into writing this – how many books, journals, interviews, discussions – it is all quite mind-boggling. (The Notes and Bibliography together are nearly 100 pages long!) And he isn’t even a scientist!

What Bryson has achieved with this book is to explain, in as simple terms as possible, all the significant discoveries that have ever been made regarding the very existence of human beings and the universe we inhabit – how it all came about.

From atoms, the universe and the size of the earth to the breakthroughs made by scientists like Einstein and Darwin, he covers it all. Continue reading

Reading Challenge 2016 – Book 7: Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick

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(My Rating: 5/5)

My father bought me Golden Rules: The Ten Ethical Values Parents Need to Teach Their Children, when I must have been somewhere in the age group of 19 – 21 years. A few weeks ago, when I decided to properly read the book as part of my Reading Challenge 2016, I smiled to myself as I read what my father, with his usual dry humor, had written in it:

“Gitanjali,

Just in case we forgot some.

Love, Dad.”

Dosick begins the book by stressing the important role parents have to play today (the book was published in 1996) even more than before in imparting sound ethical values to their children, the adults of tomorrow. He then devotes the next 10 chapters to one ethical value each. Continue reading

Reading Challenge 2016 – Book 5: Hindu Gods: The Spirit of The Divine by Priya Hemenway

(My Rating: 3 / 5)

At less than a hundred pages long, this small, beautifully illustrated hardbound book is a concise introduction to Hinduism and its main gods, thirteen of them to be precise, not counting the ten incarnations of Vishnu that Hemenway also covers. (The book states that by some accounts there are 330 millions gods in the Hindu pantheon!)

Hemenway explains how every aspect of life is represented through the many gods of Hinduism and she gives us examples of this with each of the gods she has written about in this book. Continue reading

Book Review – Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan

(My Rating: 5/5)

A fascinating subject, vividly brought to life in Margaret MacMillan’s extremely capable hands, Women of the Raj: The Mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India is one of the most captivating historical non-fiction books I have come across.

The book explores what life was like for the women who came to India during the British Raj either to support their men – husbands, fathers, brothers – or to find themselves a husband. It aims to uncover what they felt about everything from the harsh climate, unusual customs, mysterious country and its people, to the uncertainty, dangers and pain of being separated from their families and everything familiar; and how they coped and dealt with it all. Continue reading

Reading Challenge 2016 – Book 4: Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)

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(My rating: 3/5)

Published in 2010, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Indian Republic, Penguin’s series Words of Freedom – Ideas of a Nation, showcases the speeches and writings of 14 visionaries who most influenced India’s fight for Independence.

The series consists of 14 separate books, each dedicated to one visionary / freedom fighter: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Vallabhbhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, Rabindranath Tagore, Aruna Asif Ali, B.R. Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh, E.V. Ramasami Periyar, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Subhas Chandra Bose.

My father had picked up the Bhagat Singh book and passed it on to me after I had asked him to suggest a few books that would give me a better idea of India’s struggle for freedom.

I think reading someone’s actual words, rather than an account of what they did, gives one a much better understanding of the person in question.

Bhagat Singh’s words reveal a fearless person, one who is unafraid to disclose exactly what he is thinking, one who is committed to his beliefs and above all one who has clarity of thought. He comes across as a perceptive, far-sighted person who is very clear about what he wants for his nation and is not afraid to go after it, even while he is simultaneously aware of the realities and monumental obstacles that accompany the situation. What is even more shocking is that he was all this before he was 24 years old! (He was hanged by the British when he was 23) Continue reading