The 35 books I read in 2016

 

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(This is a hurriedly put together post that I just wanted to somehow get in before the year was over, so apologies for grammar, spelling and other errors if any!)

2016 has been an extremely rewarding year reading-wise for me.

I hadn’t done any significant reading for about 4 years and I had begun to worry that the once treasured habit had faded away. But I guess the habit of reading is something like knowing how to ride a bike or swim.

I read a few books at the end of 2015 and then, to get back into the swing of things, I decided to set myself a reading challenge for 2016 – to read 15 books that I already owned (or from my parents’ vast collection) at the end of 2015 but had never read.

I am happy to report that not only did I complete my challenge with 16 books, but I also ended up reading a further 19 books, bringing my grand total for the year up to 35! I did surprise myself, as I had thought I would struggle to complete even 10.

Below is the entire list of books I read, with links to the ones I have reviewed.

BOOKS READ IN 2016:

  1. My Sainted Aunts by Bulbul Sharma
  2. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
  3. The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie
  4. The Mousewife by Rumer Godden
  5. Words of Freedom (Bhagat Singh)
  6. Women of the Raj by Margaret MacMillan
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  8. The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
  9. Hindu Gods – Priya Hemenway
  10. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  11. The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
  12. Golden Rules by Wayne Dosick
  13. The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
  14. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  15. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  16. The Kalahari Typing School for Men (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #4) by Alexander McCall Smith
  17. The Full Cupboard of Life (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #5) by Alexander McCall Smith
  18. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
  19. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  20. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
  21. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  22. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
  23. Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
  24. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  25. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  26. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
  27. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  28. Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden
  29. Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella
  30. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
  31. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gabraith
  32. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Nemesis (Miss Marple #12) by Agatha Christie
  35. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #6) by Alexander McCall Smith

And now a few trivia-style snippets:

A book I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did: The Bridges of Madison County and The Call of the Wild

A book I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would: The Girl on The Train

A book that made me want to travel to a new country: Burial Rites

A genre I discovered wasn’t for me: Magical realism

Most rewarding genre: non-fiction, including Women of the Raj, Golden Rules and The Power of Habit.

Favourite series: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

Favourite topic: The Raj, including Women of the Raj and Kingfishers Catch Fire and self-management, including Golden Rules, The Power of Habit and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (currently reading)

Favourite new genre (for me): – Crime/Detective/ Mystery, including Nemesis and The Cuckoo’s Calling

Most difficult book to get through: The Sound and The Fury

Books I admired for research, layout, writing, style and editing: Women of the Raj and Burial Rites

Favourite Classics: Villette and The Secret Garden

Christmas Read for 2016: Little Women

All round favourite read: How Green Was My Valley

That’s it for now. I shall return in the new year with the pending reviews.

Here’s to more reading in 2017! Happy New Year everyone!

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

On authors’ lives influencing their works

I enjoy reading about writers’ lives, especially when I come across a book I really like, for I feel that the circumstances they found themselves in must have contributed greatly to what and how they wrote.

There is no denying that a good imagination, a talent for story telling and writing, intelligence and having a way with words are all key elements for writing a great book. But what about circumstances?

Had Jack London not spent a year in the Yukon, would he ever have been able to write The Call of The Wild (read my review) in the manner he did? Had Hannah Kent not visited Iceland as a student, would the idea to write Burial Rites (read my review) ever have come to her? Did Sylvia Plath’s depression not find expression in some of her greatest works? What about Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Anne Frank?

Sometimes in fact, I feel a book is made even more enjoyable by learning about the author’s life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some books don’t make sense or lose their meaning, when we don’t know anything about the author’s life. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for example, which I read a long time ago, is, by itself, a great book. But when you learn about Jean Dominique Bauby and the circumstances under which he wrote the book, it becomes a truly remarkable achievement.

So, whenever I come across a good book, it is always interesting to me to know what made these writers who they were – what motivated them, from what perspective they looked at the world, what experiences helped them become better writers – I guess the list could be pretty long!

However, I usually don’t like to read about their lives before I’ve read their book/s. I like to enjoy a book unbiased. I like to enjoy it for what it is and once I have finished, only then do I like to understand what made the writer ‘tick’.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about a writer’s life before you embark on his/her books? Or after? Or do you just like to enjoy a good story and leave it at that?

Daily Prompt: Water

At first, pit-pat of tiny hand on water,

Accompanied by gurgle and coo.

Perfect, gentle harmony.

Later on, with splash and splosh,

Rubber duckies, bubbles and squirt toys.

I hear the laughter even now.

Next, first visit to the sea,

Big eyes even bigger at the sight.

The whoosh of crashing into waves with squeals of delight.

Now, muddy rain puddles; the big treat.

Squelch and splat,

Mischievous eyes and cheeky grin.

-Gitanjali Singh Cherian

In response to the Daily Prompt of 28th June 2016 – Water

Note: This is a work-in-progress and will be revised at some point in the future 🙂

Daily Prompt: Deprive

I often wonder, as I’m sure many parents do, whether I will be able to provide for my son all that he requires as he grows from a child to an adult, or whether circumstances may force me to deprive him of certain things. It’s so easy to worry about the future when you have a child, whether or not the present situation warrants it. For example, will he be deprived of:

  • a good education?
  • all the right opportunities in his life?
  • a room of his own?

My list goes on. There are major worries and there are small, silly worries. There justified worries and unwarranted ones, the latter merely a creation of my over-thinking mind.

The realisation has however dawned on me that one cannot know today what tomorrow will bring. So many times, as life has already shown me, we find ourselves victims of circumstances that have eluded our control.

Thus while I can of course do my best to ensure that my son is not deprived of the things I would like him to experience in his life, I have to recognise that in the future there will be some circumstances that will be beyond my control. I might not be able to do anything about them when they occur and I certainly cannot do anything about them right now. Hence worrying about these things, and getting stressed and upset is indeed a waste of ‘NOW’.

This thinking has led me to another realisation, which is that there are certain things that are in my control and that I need never deprive my son of: Continue reading