2016 Reading Challenge – Completed!

Dear Reader,

I am very happy to report that I have completed my 2016 Reading Challenge, which, for those of you who don’t know, was to read 15 books that I owned at the end of 2015 but had never read. Many of these I have had for 10 or even 15 years!

After my son was born, my habit of reading had waned for a couple of years, but joyfully, around this time last year, the reading bug seemed to have caught up with me again. I thought 15 books might be a stretch, given that I hadn’t read anything in so long, but guess what, I actually completed the challenge at the end of August, 4 months in advance!

Not only have I read 15 ‘old’ books, but I have also read a number of books that I acquired over this year. (I’ll give you a re-cap of those at the end of this calendar year.) I thought I would struggle to finish 15, so as you can imagine, I am feeling rather chuffed with myself! And with 4 months to go till 2017, perhaps I’ll even be able to surpass the challenge by a book or two, who knows!

For now, here are links to the reviews I’ve written for the 15 books I read for my challenge:

  1. My Sainted Aunts by Bulbul Sharma
  2. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
  3. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  4. Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)
  5. Hindu Gods: The Spirit of The Divine by Priya Hemenway
  6. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  7. Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick
  8. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith
  9. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  10. The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith
  11. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  12. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  13. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
  14. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  15. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Happy reading to all you book lovers out there!

Reading Challenge 2016: Book 15 – Persuasion by Jane Austen

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(My Rating: 3/5)

I am disappointed that I am unable to give this a higher rating than 3 stars, because I thought I was really going to love this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood when I read it!

Anne Elliot, who was being courted by Captain Wentworth, was persuaded by a close family friend, Lady Russell, not to marry him, as she didn’t think it a suitable match, mainly because they came from different social backgrounds.

The book begins eight years later, when the two former lovers are brought into each other’s company once again. Now Captain Wentworth is courting someone else and Anne, wisened by the interim years, begins to examine the reasons that her relationship with him did not go any further. The reader now begins to wonder whether there is a chance that they will get back together again. Continue reading

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 12 – The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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(My Rating 5 / 5)

What a potent little book this is! With around twenty five percent of Charlotte Brontë’s Villette left to read, I needed a break from it and picked up The Call of the Wild from the windowsill in what used to be my bedroom at my parents’ home, where it has been sitting for many, many years!

Buck, a tame and rather large dog, of St. Bernard and shepherd dog lineage is dog-napped from his comfortable dwellings at a large home in the Santa Clara Valley and sold as a sled dog.

Thrust from a mundane and lazy life into a brutal world, the story revolves around how Buck fights to survive in a situation that is alien to him. He also finds himself irresistibly drawn to the wilderness – the life from which his ancestors descended.

London brilliantly brings out what it means to survive and how primitive instincts rise to the surface when faced with extreme situations.

Jack London obviously loves dogs and understands their nature very well, but while the book is about a dog and primitive, basic, animal survival instincts, I felt there is much in these revelations that can be applied to human beings as well. 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 10 – The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

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(My Rating: 4/5)

The fifth book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series is filled with delightful little observations on and insights into the differences between men and women and the nature of their relationships.

While most of these observations are humourous and described with wit, there are also subtle, meaningful messages regarding how people in a relationship should treat each other – for example, that in difficult situations it is best to be honest rather than skirt uncomfortable discussions.

There are also observations on human beings in general and the state of our society today. For example, Mma Ramotswe reflects: Continue reading