That Gurjot

Witness the normal

2014 - A Year In Book Review

01 Jan 2015

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: 2014
List: Books

This year I tried exploring my favourite authors and indulge in some poetry and long pending non-fiction as well as tougher fiction. Have to say, it was worth it. I enjoyed every book that I read and though I couldn’t finish a few, I am glad I started at least. I planned on reading 30 books this year, just like the year past, sadly though, I could read only 25. I wanted to finish another book or two in the last few weeks of December but then my Kindle brokedown and Amazon hasn’t replaced it yet. Sigh. Next year then!

  1. The Lowland, Jhumpa Lehri: I started this one in the last week of 2013 and finished it in the first of 2014. Surely it was not different from Lehri’s traditional style of writing - depressing Bengali family drama. But I tend to enjoy such serious literature though the novel did indeed feel like a stretched out version of a classic Jhumpa Lehri short story. The plot was pretty interesting, I got to learn a thing or two about the communist movement of the 60s and 70s. It was just okay though, not something I would recommend everyone to read. Unless of course, you liked reading the The Namesake.
  2. God Bless You, Dr Kevorkian, Kurt Vonnegut : The first of the Vonnegutians that I read this year. This man never ceases to amaze me. In this book, Vonnegut dies multiple times and each time he goes to afterlife, he interviews famous people - Hitler, Shakespeare, and of course, the good old Kilgour Trout. The things he says and in such blunt words!
  3. Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut : This novel is crazy. There are only three main characters and the entire book leads to how they finally (or don’t, I don’t remember) meet. Vonnegut elaborates on Kilgour Trout’s eccentricities in this one. I think this is probably the only book where he talks about Trout as a person. I could be wrong though, since I have only read about half a dozen of his books.
  4. Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut : A semi-auto-biographical account; the number of profound things in this book is much more than any of the others that I have read. For example - “If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have nerve enough to be a homosexual, the least you can do is go into the arts”, and, “World War II - western civilization’s second unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide.” Crazy? Ting-a-ling, son of a bitch, ting-a-ling.
  5. Jailbird, Kurt Vonnegut : This one’s a novel. No Vonnegut, no Trout. It’s a good book nonetheless. Follows the same Vonnegutian wtf story structure.
  6. The White Tiger, Arvind Adiga : Man Booker winner - came out when I was still in class 9 or 10 - talked about a lot - finally read it. Loved it. Such farce, oh my god. Adiga may have gone overboard at some instances but most of his description was pretty darned accurate. Not everyone is pleased with it though, a dear friend of mine put her views in my diary in one succinct phrase - “Worst Book Ever.” And then she carried on to say, “Mr Adiga sitting in his comfortable home in the West feels he can describe the Indian situation the best. </sarcasm>” I liked it though! It was funny, exaggerated, but truthful and entertaining.
  7. Animal Farm, George Orwell : Oh, the classics. Not only did this wonderful little piece of literature add to what little I thought I knew about communism, it shot down all my faith in it as well. Humans, rather pigs, aren’t as simple as Marx thought them to be. So many analogies and metaphors! I am not surprised they never gave Orwell the Nobel Prize. A cliched statement it may be, but words cannot do justice to this masterpiece. Every single human on this planet must read this book.
  8. 1984, George Orwell : If Animal Farm and 1984 were combined into a movie, the former would be the comic relief and the latter would make you cringe and hope to die. This book played with my emotions, showed me the hideous side of communist dictatorship and made me glad that I read it now, when I have the brains to understand it. (Same goes for Animal Farm too).
  9. The Algebra of Infinite Justice, Arundhati Roy :
  10. An Ordinary Person’s Guide to the Empire, Arundhati Roy : Arundhati Roy has this style of sensationalizing things. Her writing style can really stir you up. When I first read The Algebra of Infinite Justice I really wanted to blow something up. The IMF, the World Bank, America, Russia, India - everyone is a bunch of thugs! Kill ‘em all! However, I read a bunch of letters exchanged between Ms Roy and Ramachandra Guha which gave me some perspective. Things are wrong, they need to be bettered, but really, chill out. Don’t get so excited.
  11. The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Fredric Engels : I already wrote my views about this classic on another post. Gist - I like how Marx thunk, but don’t agree so much with him.
  12. Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx : This one is a ~30-page classic apparently, and also a famous motion picture. I am not too sure if there was anything in the story at all. I don’t think there was supposed to be either. I mean, I got the interplay of homosexual sentiments, but that’s it. That’s it, really.
  13. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger : I expected more. It was a big, fat book and though it started with a wee bit of science fiction, it was thorough with melodrama. I felt cheated at times. There was so much scope. If Asimov wrote this one, it would have surely blown my mind.
  14. Dubliners, James Joyce : Joyce is a pioneer of the modernist movement. I don’t know what that means. The short stories were okay.
  15. The Journey to the East, Herman Hesse : Rich with metaphors. I don’t think I understood all of it. I did get some parts though, they were profound. Like -_Words don’t express thoughts very well; everything immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense another._
  16. Feynman, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick : I got this graphic novel as a christmas present last year. It was a semi-auto-biographical account of the genius man. Motivated me into continuing with physics. Absolutely loved it. It has become my go-to book for motivation.
  17. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard P. Feynman : Read it right after the previous one. It’s probably one of the most famous books by Feynman - even more than the Lectures on Physics series. It reminded me of Prof Walter Lewin’s book, For The Love of Physics.
  18. The Robots of Dawn, Isaac Asimov : Blew my mind. I pretty much figured the end out but still I had that moment of looking into the vast emptiness after turning the last page.
  19. Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh : Heart-wrenching. I was rife with emotion through some of the parts. This book is a page-turner. Very short, big message.
  20. The Vintage Sardar, Khushwant Singh : A compilation of the great man’s articles in various newspapers from the late 80s to late 90s. I was pleasantly surprised to see how my views on a lot of topics strongly correlate to his. Hehe.
  21. Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway :
  22. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway :
  23. The Garden of Eden, Ernest Hemingway : I don’t really understand Hemingway yet, I think. I will have to read more in order to form an opinion about him.
  24. The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in the Ikea Wardrobe, Romain Puertolas : Got this one as a present too. Very amusing, short read. The creatively chosen title is pretty much a gist of the entire 300-page novel.
  25. Ham On Rye, Charles Bukowski: Possibly one of the best books I read this year. Yet another semi-auto-biographical account, but one of the best, really. Bukowski.
  26. Quantum Mechanics, Dr. M. C. Jain : I am mentioning this one here just for the lulz. Also because this is the only textook that I have read from end to end this year. And, I absolutely love this book. For an Indian author, the book is remarkably robust and clear, the mathematics is sound and there were barely any typing errors. I believe this is the perfect introductory textbook to Quantum Mechanics for two reasons - one, it is written especially for DU students, just like H. K. Dass and R. Kumar, and two, I really like the way he has sorted the topics; makes no mention of the dirac notation till after the harmonic oscillator has been explained! I found it much more easier to understand the topics in that order.

Incomplete Books

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez : Really wanted to read it through but took way too many breaks to maintain continuity. The storyline wasn’t too engrossing, however, the traditional Marquez style could still be found.
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey : Crazy story. Really crazy. I had just seen The Clockwork Orange a few days before starting this book. Bad idea.
  3. The Portable Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman : Whitman’s poetry motivated me into writing some of my own. I don’t write too shabbily I realized. Will slowly read all of it and more.
  4. Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame, Charles Bukowski : I was told that my writing was similar to the blunt style of Bukowski. So I had to read his poetry too. I am glad I did.

Here’s to another 30 in 2015!