That Gurjot

Witness the normal

2013 - A Year In Book Review

01 Jan 2014

Note: All reviews below are my own thoughts and ideas. Do not base your view about a book based on what I think. I have vague memory of most books so I could be wrong in the storyline, do correct me if you find any errors.

Year: 2013
List: Books

  1. Slaughter House Five, Kurt Vonnegut : This was my introduction to Vonnegut’s unique style of writing. Actually, I had read one of his short stories, 2BR02B (read as ‘to be or not to be’) a few years ago but had no memory of it until a few months after I had read Slaughter House Five. SHF has three parallel stories. One has the lead talking to a lady discussing the philosophy of war. His friend and he then discuss about their time in Dresden, Germany during the WWII. Spewed across the entirety of the book is the case of a man abducted by an alien species called the _Tralfamadorians _and taken to their home planet to be put in a zoo. This part of the book is my favorite as it has deep philosophical proceedings hidden behind a veil of utterly random with a hint of sci-fi.
    Absolutely recommend this one!

  2. Kane and Abel, Jeffrey Archer: I have read Archer’s long novels before and his As The Crow Flies has been my favorite for a long time. This is one of Archer’s most famous works I believe and definitely one of his best too. The story runs in parallel with two young bright kids, William Kane - son of a banker, educated at the best schools in America, goes on to follow his father’s footsteps, and Abel - adopted by a Duke, had to live through the European turmoil, somehow with his wit and knowledge makes it to America. The book follows their lives and like every other Archer novel there are lots of twists and interlinks that you couldn’t have thought of.
    If you want a light and engrossing read, this one should keep you busy for a few days.

  3. The Complete Brigadier Gerard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Who knew Sir Doyle wrote such entertaining light reads as well? The book is actually an amalgamation of two separate books, The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard and The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard. Brigadier Gerard is a dutiful army man who serves his Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. The book is a memoir of Gerard who recalls his adventurous exploits in his subtle immodesty. I found the book rather entertaining much like the works of P. G. Wodehouse.
    If you’ve read or seen Jeeves and Wooster, and want to learn about the things happening across the English Channel, pick up this one.

  4. Tell-all, Chuck Palahnuik: Palahnuik is famous for authoring the super-hit and Quoran-favorite movie, Fight Club. I picked this one up because it was a short novel. The story as it turned out was very, very odd. It was about a past-her-fame actress who keeps engaging in flings with young men. Or as Chuck describes, “Each romance, the type of self-destructive gesture Hedda Hopper would call “marry-kiri.” Instead of plunging a sword into one’s stomach, you repeatedly throw yourself on the most inappropriate erect penis.” This book is plain weird. It took me quite some time to get used to the writing style and even when I did I could make only vague sense of it. Nonetheless, grueling as it was, it was fun.
    You can live without reading this book. Though there are some really good quotes like the one I shared above.

  5. Skipping Christmas, John Grisham: B-grade, family comedy, Hollywood script. That’s what it is. I could tell it from the cover. It had Tim Allen on it for life’s sake! Also, well, it said ‘Now a major motion picture’ at the top. Anywhoooo, coming to the point. The story is dull and predictable, there is no fancy writing, and well there is nothing.
    If you are looking for something for a 10 year old, give this.

  6. Out of The Sun, Robert Goddard: Mathematician dies, father tries to find killer. The son was a part of an international top secret, super technology thing. Father confronts the son’s boss, breaks into his office in broad daylight and ends up finding out about his son’s wife-cum-colleague. But in the end, oh in the end, the story takes a complete higher-dimension sci-fi turn which was totally unexpected to the least.
    Routine drama fiction, this. Not exactly recommended unless you are in school and have just begun reading fiction.

  7. Touch The Devil, Jack Higgins: Secret agent gets thrown into a Guantanamo Bay-like place. His brethren try to get him back. The story is very interesting and you would probably read it off in a single sitting. I loved this one.
    Totally recommend it if you haven’t read any adventurous fiction lately.

  8. The Cocktail Party, T. S. Eliot: One of the few plays that I read this year, and honestly, I don’t remember the storyline much. It was about a man who was about to divorce his wife, or maybe she had already left him, something of that sort. And there were some other characters with their own eccentricities randomly popping into the said man’s house. I read the book sporadically without paying much attention (as is evident from my description) and if there’s anything that I remember clearly, it’s that the ending was not at all entertaining; the story went on and on and then suddenly ended.
    Read it if you have to.

  9. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri: I had heard of Lahiri’s The Namesake but had never read or seen it. This book, a compilation of short stories is an absolute delight. Almost all the stories are set in different locations and have very different storylines, but are still all linked together since each explores a different human relationship. Lahiri locks emotions into words so well that by the end of every story you feel sad for the central character(s), as if they were one of your own.
    I don’t know what the criteria for awarding a Pulitzer is, but regardless of this ornamentation, I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.

  10. Innocent Erendira and Other Stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez: This man is my new favorite author. I didn’t know he had won a Nobel until after I had begun writing this review, but after reading his work, I am not surprised. The first story, Innocent Erendira, is a novella about a little girl who lives with her cruel grandmother. She ends up burning her grandma’s house down and the evil old lady turns her into a whore and goes from town to town offering her to horny men, thereby extracting her burned property’s worth from the enslaved girl. The other stories are equally engaging and have all the same theme – death, my favorite topic of discussion and thought.
    Absolutely recommend this book to everyone who can bear the violence.

  11. The Black Cloud, Sir Fred Hoyle: This is one of the most mind opening sci-fi books I have read. I was talking to a friend about the storyline and he says it is pretty identical to that of Star Trek. Now I haven’t read Star Trek so I can’t say for sure. In any case, the story goes like this. A renowned astrophysicist, who the way he was described in the book totally reminded me of Sir Ben Kingsley, is at the center of the plot. Some grad student in America makes a really unusual sighting in the far traces of the solar system. His professor calls Prof “Kingsley” and thus the story unfolds. I won’t break the suspense for you but it is just brilliant. You’ll love it, whoever you are.
    Read this today!

  12. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri: After reading Interpreter of Maladies, I came across this one. I did not intend to, but it just happened to be on my mom’s desk one day. This book is almost as good as the previous compilation of short stories, if not better. The common theme that runs in it is that each story is set in a Bengali backdrop with something depressing going on. Like I said before, Lahiri has an uncanny ability to make you bond with her characters.
    An absolute delight to read. Recommended if you like short stories or are middle-aged.

  13. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling
  14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
  15. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling: I am not a fan of series novels, so quite naturally I hadn’t read any of the Potter books until May 2013 when I found a very convenient application for my phone which contained all the books. I read the first three during my second semester exams and needless to say, it was fun. I knew the plot overview beforehand, but I got to know all the other things they had missed in the movies. Fun as it was, it definitely couldn’t get me hitched. In fact, I found the “everything conveniently falls into place” and “Hermione always know it” thing very annoying. But who am I to judge?

  16. Mission To Venice, James Hadley Chase: High octane adventure, slightly overdone at places but an overall good short novel. All the central character needs is a husky voice and a cape and he’ll be Batman. He’s rich, knows martial arts and helps those in need.
    If you need something to read over a long trip, this could do.

  17. On The Road, Jack Karouac: Okay this one, read at your own risk, especially if you are slightly daft in the head like me. The book is all about a bunch of friends who quite literally live on the road. There is our struggling writer – the center piece, and his friend Dean, and Dean’s crazy bunch of friends. They keep road tripping across the United States and lots of interesting stuff happens on the way. They meet new people, get married, get divorced, talk philosophy, everything. A quintessential elucidation on the hippie culture of the 60s.
    A definite before-you-turn-20 read.
    Now why do I call it a dangerous book? Because in the hangover of this book I actually spent an entire night sleeping on the footpath with only 150 bucks, 2 books, and my ID on me. So, well yeah…

  18. Sidhu-Braran da Itihaas: Probably the only book I have read in Punjabi. I read it because I knew bits and pieces of my ancestry and wanted a complete detail. I have written out the detail in one of my other blog posts. (The History of Sidhus)

  19. Death in the Andes, Mario Vargas Llosa: Set in a South American mining town, this book shows the cruel side of communist uprising and illiterate superstitions. One particular chapter about a mentally challenged kid who was the sole guardian of a national reserve made me cry. The author has played with the reader’s emotions at quite a few places. The book is an enigma and you cannot predict anything. The central characters are a Ranger and his subordinate who have to live in the ghostly mining town where the mountain Gods keeps killing people. One of the most different pieces of literature I have read so far.
    Do give it a shot if you want to explore new literature.

  20. Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak: My top-5 book of the year. Elif Shafak is amazing. She writes so, so well that you will fall in love with her by mere reading. The story is set in Istanbul, Turkey and is about a huge crazy family of women and Sultan, the cat. Every character has its own eccentricities and the one who particularly stands out is the youngest daughter who defies all traditions by smoking, drinking and wearing figure-hugging clothing. And not surprisingly her daughter is the same. The story takes a turn when a cousin from America comes in and begins to explore her family history. Shafak has spewed lots of wise thoughts around the text. One that comes particularly to mind is,“There is nothing so overrated as a bad fuck and nothing so underrated as a good shit.”
    Please, please read this book. You will love it, whoever you are!

  21. And Thereby Hangs A Tale, Jeffrey Archer: A book of short stories, this one. I picked it up from a bookshop at random only to realize three stories down that I had read it before. In class ten. I finished it nonetheless. All the stories are very entertaining and unlike Jhumpa Lahiri’s works there is no underlying common theme.
    This book makes for a delightful read over a long trip. Also school kids would love it!

  22. Only Time Will Tell, Jeffrey Archer: Another quintessential Archer novel. If you’re wondering why I am smitten with him, it’s because he was one of the first authors I begun reading with. The story of this book follows a boy (like always) whose father dies under mysterious circumstances. The mother looks after the child, her parents and her drunkard brother-in-law. She works hard to get him good education and slowly the story keeps unfolding and the plot gets twisted, and just like it always has been, it all ends in a totally unexpected manner.
    Fun! Fun! Read if you are an Archer fan or if you have a low for mystery/drama novels.

  23. Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton: I read this as a part of the research I had to do for our annual street play production in the Dramsoc. If you think psychopaths are vigilante serial killers, read this book and learn about the flipside. Psychopaths and sociopaths are not necessarily bad people. Look at Dr. House, M.D., a high functioning sociopath as he calls himself. He saves people, not mercilessly slaughters them.

  24. 3 Men in A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome: I picked it up from my mom’s desk one day because I had read a few pages and found it funny. I couldn’t complete the book though, since it got too vague and confusing and I ended up leaving it in the middle. It’s about four men in a boat, yes, the title is misleading. I don’t remember the story much. It’s a part of the CBSE curriculum now I think.
    Don’t read it. It’s boring. But a vast majority of people seem to disagree with me.

  25. Catch-22,Joseph Heller: Do I have to write about it? Seriously? This is pure gold. One of the best pieces of fiction ever. I am still not done with it but that’s because I actually _enjoy _this book. I read a few chapters every time I sit down and it is so much fun! The story is set during the WWII, in an American Air force military camp somewhere in Europe. There are dozens of characters and everyone is crazy. One particular character I love is Milo Mindbender. He is sheer genius and would probably be the richest man on Earth if he was real. Everyone has funny names, like, Major Major Major Major (yes, that’s the name) and Doctor Daneeka, and of course Yossarian! The story is full of catch-22s and I have no idea how it is going to end. However it does, I love it!
    Read it if you haven’t already! For the love of literature!

  26. Boston Noir: “Noir is a genre of loss, of men and women unable to roll with the changing times, so the changing times roll over them.” Part of a series of noir books, I unwittingly picked up Boston Noir because the cover was really nice. The book was just as good. Some dozen established authors and journalists have jotted down a story each elucidating on the typical culture of Boston. That’s the only thing each story has in common.
    If you are from Boston, you will probably like it. If you are not, you’ll still like it.

  27. The Phantom of the Opera, I found this among my ebooks a few days ago and I started reading. It has an interesting storyline though I just can’t wrap my head around the description of the Opera building. I was almost exactly halfway through it, but then I got my new laptop and well…

  28. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri: I bought this one just three days ago. So far I have read some 50 pages and it is pretty interesting. After reading two of her short story compilations, I thought giving her novel a shot was a good thing to do. When I am done with this, I will read The Namesake as well.

And that’s that. I also read some scripts for some English plays, like The Black Comedy and The Dumb Waiter. But I don’t really want to write any more.