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Some of the Best Books I Have Read Part II July 26, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in able, Americans, atlas, best, Books, Carrie, Exodus, Globaliation, Inscrutable, kane, Middlesex, namesake, Papillion, Pi, shrugged.
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In continuation of my previous post on Some of the Best Books I have ever read, here is a list of another 10 must read books. Hope you like these ones as well 🙂

• Papillion- Henri Charrière; Genre – Autobiographical- This mind boggling, half true story of a wrongly convicted felon, and later a fugitive from justice, is the stuff real adventures are made of. Autobiographical in nature, it traces the adventure of one Henry Charrière across prisons, continents, and alliances. His adventures last well over 2 decades, during which he forges life time friendships with the like of Louis Dega, a financial scamster, falls in love with a tribal woman who bears him a child and so on. This book is replete with adventure. I warn you- don’t pick up this book if you want to just do some time pass. Once opened, it will not allow you to put it down. There is a movie of the same name starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman

• Inscrutable Americans – Anurag Mathur; Genre – Fiction – Probably the best book ever to have come out about the experiences of an Indian village boy in America. Gopal, the central character visits the US to further his education. The plot revolves around his experiences there off, as he tries to ‘fit in’ and understand the new culture, all the while balancing his own. This book is like a long well told joke, which never loses the punch even if told innumerable times.

• Globalization and Its Discontents- Joseph Stieglitz; Genre – Non – Fiction- Joseph Stieglitz is an American economist, who at one point of time was the Chief Economist of the World Bank, and at another, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during 1995-1997 in the Clinton administration. In this book, Stieglitz highlights the role of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the world Economy, and how these institutions are not doing what they were supposed to do. He bares all in a simple narrative, pointing out the glaring holes in the very fundamental functioning of the IMF and WB. If you want to know, why Botswana will always be debt ridden inspite of being rich in natural resources, or why African nations are riddled with poverty, this is the book to give you the answers, and get you thinking.

• Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides; Genre – Fiction- Middlesex is like a lot of novels in one big novel, with multiple stories and plots intertwining to make it gripping. Calling it slightly controversial would be an understatement. It is the story of a Greek family, and there movement into America of the 20th Century. What this book basically revolves around is the hermaphroditic nature of the protagonist- Callie. Raised as a girl, Callie discovers her maleness upon reaching puberty. The struggle within, seeps out of the book into the reader’s conscious. This book has elements of incest, gender confusion, anger and rage and finally freedom. Eugenides has created a Greek tragedy with this book. A little heavy on the senses, I would not recommend this book for anyone who does not like to venture into the unknown, for where, ignorance is bliss.

• Life of Pi – Yann Martel ; Genre – Fiction – This fantastic tale of adventure is sure to leave one smiling end to end. It is the story of an Indian boy, Pi Patel form Pondicherry. Pi’s dad owns a zoo. Pi follows three religions simultaneously- Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. But the book is not only about his beliefs. The book is about a shipwreck, which involves Pi and his family. Pi survives the shipwreck, along with a dying Zebra, a Hyena and a Royal Bengal Tiger, whom he calls Parker. Scared at first, Pi starts understanding the dynamics of these relationships. After a lot of eating around, there is only Pi and the Tiger left. The book picks up speed from here. A joy to read, and re-read, this book will captivate you every time you read it.

• Exodus – Leon Uris; Genre-Historical Fiction — Have you ever wondered why is Palestine always besieged with wars? Why can’t the Arabs let the West Bank be? What’s up with Gaza? What is the Palestine problem? If you have, this is THE book to answer your questions. It explains the struggle of the Jews to revive the nation of Palestine, and the founding of Israel. Leon Uris, the author, was a war correspondent who covered the Arab- Israeli fighting in 1956. Relentless in detail, the book has shed light on the intricate balance of power in the Middle East and the influences of England and France, in messing up the situation long beyond solution. Read it now, and thank me later 🙂

• Carrie- Stephen King; Genre – Horror — Carrie is the story of a very ordinary, very shy and plain young girl who uses her telekinetic powers to seek revenge on those who tease her. Carrie’s mother is a religious fanatic who believes in the heavens and hells beyond the ‘gates of this life’. Sinister in design, and macabre in execution, Carrie is a benchmark in dark writings. Stephen King almost never wrote this book, but was goaded by his wife to finish what he started. Another classic example of why we should listen to our wives ;). This book has been banned across many libraries in the US and the movie based on the book has been banned in Finland. Enough reason to make it your next read?:)

• Kane and Able – Jeffrey Archer; Genre – Fiction– Kane and Abel is undoubtedly one of the best fictional works of all times. The intertwining lives of the two central characters, who are world apart, literally and figuratively, makes for read that is not soon to be forgotten. Kane is the rich boy, born into wealth, with intelligence and smarts that come from the best education, and lifestyle. Abel, on the other hand, is raised in a poorest of the poor families. But with a strong sensibilities. typical of Archer’s style, this book unravels fantastic cross connections, plots, schemes, mysteries, action, adventure and deceit. Again, one of those books which one opened, cannot be shut easily.

• Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand; Genre – Fiction – I am not even going to talk about the plot of this book, as many people have already devoted careers in doing so. Enough to say, after reading this book, you won’t look at things in the same manner again. Objectivism, the central theme of the book, is brought to life through the central character- Galt. Personally, I liked Atlas Shrugged more than The Fountainhead, as the former as some direction in a plot. Sometimes, the book feels like a long long rant, but have patience, there is a lot to be taken away from this masterpiece.

• The Namesake- Jhumpa Lahiri; Genre – Fiction– Such thought provoking stories to come out from such a young mind as Jhumpa’s is truly the wonder of our generation. The Namesake, has already been made into a super hit movie. Infact it is one of the very rare movies, which do justice to the original book. I, however, am biased towards the book, simply for the reason, that the feel of the character between your fingers cannot be matched by any screen. You become the character, and the character flows through you. I cannot forget the part of the plot where the leading lady (portrayed by Tabu in the movie) gets news of her husband’s demise. That twist had hit me so hard, that I was in no position to go on reading for the next few days, simply because Jhumpa had succeeded in making me believe in the reality of her characters.


Some of the Best Books I have Read – Part – I July 11, 2009

Posted by Chatore Diaries in Babudom, Books, Catch 22, Firm, Godfather, Matilda, Morrie, Netadom, Ramayana, Sybil, Trainspotting.

I am an avid reader…a bibliophile. For as long as I remember, I have had books around me, and I have been the happiest when I was involved with a captivating book. It all started with seeing the pile of books at home, some belonging to Dad, some to my aunty and uncle.But my own journey and fascination with books began when my Dad got me a copy of the Amar Chitra Katha. Boy!! Was I hooked or what! From then on, I was books and more books. From the Amar Chitra Katha, as I grew up, I graduated to more serious topics of law, medicine, Autobiographies, investigation, business, management, philosophy, religion, and everything in between. I sampled all sorts of fiction and non- fictional writing from multiple languages, translated into English or Hindi. I am no by no means the most well read person I know, or the one who remembers all the books he read. But here i present a list of some books I consider as masterpieces, and that I would recommend everyone to read. These are in no particular order.

1. Catch 22 – An all time classic. Considered as one of the best literary works of all time. This is the story of man named Yossarian in the Army, during WW 2. Most of all, this is a satire on the governmental ways of working, some processes and rules that defy common sense and logic. The beauty of this book is in the way that the plot has been presented. The story is presented from each characters angle. It is by no means a simple book to read, but the trouble is only the first few pages. Once you get the hang of the writing, it is fairly simple.

2. The Godfather – Whatever I say about the Godfather, is not going to do justice to it. It has been a favorite with bibliophiles for decades now. A lot has been said, and a lot will continue to be said about the Godfather. Elegant in its plot, and masterful in its presentation. This is Mario Puzo’s greatest gift to mankind.

3. Tuesdays with Morrie – This short, but very very deep and touching narrative by Mitch Albom, has forced me to think time and again about people who have helped me, been with me through thick and thin, and shaped my life. This true story revolves around a teacher and his relationship with his students, in particular, one student, the author Mitch Albom. The teacher is dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease (a form of muscular dystrophy), and Mitch gets to know about it. Mitch hasn’t been in touch with his old sociologist professor for over a decade and a half, because of professional priorities, or whatever. This story is about what happens when Mitch meets his old dying professor, and the lessons he learns thereafter.

4. The Firm – One of John Grisham’s best ever. The story of a fresh and highly ambitious law graduate and the sudden surprises life throws at him after graduation. He joins one of the most sought after and prestigious law firms, and then gets drawn into their secret. For the movie buffs, there is a very well adapted movie by the same name, starring Tom Cruise.
5. Sybil- Sybil is a dark and haunting true story of a girl called Shirley Ardell Mason (aka Sybil), who is suffering from multiple personality syndrome (MPD). She has 16 personalities. Flora Rheta Schreiber is the author and has done a good job in retaining the essence of the interaction between the patient and the doctor. It is not an easy to digest read. So be prepared for going through some heavy emotional roller coaster.

6. Ramayana by Ashok Banker (In Parts I-VII)– This is the Ramayana re-told for the new generation. Simple in narrative, and extensive in detail, it attempts to give a logical reason for every mantra and tantra. Mr. Banker has done a wonderful job of essaying the entire Ramayana, in a manner that in coherent with the millennia old version, and reads like a dream.

7. Matilda – Matilda by Roald Dahl is the story of an exceptionally bright young girl child, who is born in an imbalanced household. Her parents are involved in a lot of shady business, her only elder brother treats her like muck. In all this mess, no one pays attention to the extremely talented Matilda, who ultimately finds solace in books. She can read at the age of 2, and by the age of 6, is a regular at the city library. When she joins school, after much pleading with her parents, she meets a teacher who actually recognizes the bundle of surprises that is Matilda. It is a book written for children, simple, and straight forward, but adults will enjoy it as much as the next 10 year old. 🙂

8. Journeys Through Babudom And Netaland:governance In India – TSR Subramanian – This is a indepth analyses and narration of the Indian Bureaucratic system. The narration comes from an ex-IAS officer, from the batch of 1968. It traverses the many streets and alleys that is our system. It covers the ups and down, the good and the bad, the ways of survival, and numerous examples of failed logic in the ‘system’. This book has been an eye opener

9. The horse that Flew by Chidananda Rajghatta -Chidanand is the foreign editor and the U.S Correspondent for the Times of India. In this masterpiece, he has travelled down the annals of history and shed light on some of the greatest Indian or started by Indians, enterprises. He covers the likes of Infosys, Juniper, SUN amongst others. Some of the facts highlighted are simply awesome, like the fact the NR Murthy had to spend three nights in a prison in Bulgaria because of running down communism, in the then Communist ruled Bulgaria. These are some other interesting snippets are spread across the book, making it very difficult to put down once taken.

10. Trainspotting – Drugs, more Drugs is the only theme of this piece of fiction. A group of 4 friends, all addicts, and their constant search for the ‘next fix’ makes for an interesting read. The constant ideation that brings with it the money for the next dose of death, the constant fixation with the next high, and the dark and scary underground world of dealers, abusers and money lenders. How the families of the addicts cope. How the death of a near one can straighten one person completely. The highs, the lows and the complete ruins of an addict. Beware, this book is not for the light hearted. Not easy to read since it is written in a very Irish English style, with pronunciations intoned in the language. There is a movie of the same name starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller based on the book.

So these are some of the books I liked, and this may not necessarily apply to all. I have purposely kept the descriptions short, since there would be much better and detailed reviews available. My intent is just to highlight. There are millions of other books that need to be mentioned here, but have not been. Some other books of interest are The Animal Farm, 1984, Riots, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park,
Do let me know how you liked this post, and if there are any books you would like me to speak about. If I have read them, I would be more than happy to share my thoughts and review, else I will go and read it :)Till then happy reading.