“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality”

I don’t ever post my artwork here (except for some super old ones that I put up when I first switched over to WordPress), but today seems like one of those days when I should.

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When I think of why I love reading so much, these are a few names that pop into my head – Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Daphne duMaurier, Harper Lee (I dislike the damned lawyer that published that prequel). Right at the top of the list, is Lewis Carroll, the man who told you you could believe six impossible things before breakfast (it’s no coincidence that I also love the number 6). The man who told you that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. And most importantly, the man who told you that it doesn’t matter if you’re bonkers, because the best people usually are.

If you thought he writes “children’s books”, well, you just grew up too soon (and you don’t realize that writing a good children’s book is infinitely harder than writing any adult book ever. Children will tell you if your work is crap, adults lie and often don’t have the¬†imagination to know any better). If you thought he was high, you’re reality is just very different from mine. If you think that nonsense words do not “teach” right, then may the Jabberwock get you by those slithy toves.

I’ve always believed that one must never do something unless one is good at it, and this is someone who reminds me over and over that the bar for what I want to do is pretty darned high. Thank you Mr. Carroll, for setting such a high bar (and maybe someday I’ll make it somewhere close to it). Until then, thank you for also always, always reminding me to keep my muchness alive.

Book Review: Rebel Queen

This post also appears on my Goodreads blog

As a long time reader of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series, I’ve always wished that someone would write similar accounts of Indian history, and that’s how I chose to pick this book up. Overall, it’s a very good account of the Durga Dal and the mutiny at Jhansi. I especially liked the fact that it was narrated from the perspective of someone in the Durga Dal, and therefore also highlighted the great trade-off between Sita’s loyalty to the queen, and loyalty to her family. My biggest complaint with this book, though is that Rani Lakshmibai comes off seeming like someone who kept going with the flow, and not really the strong character we encounter in our history books.

I would love to read more non-fiction from the era to get a better sense of the Durga Dal, as well as the Rani’s motivations. And that push to getting the reader to want to know more about the era and it’s people is where Michelle Moran succeeds with this work.

Book Review: Becoming Nicole

This post also appears on my Goodreads blog

A beautiful book that clearly highlights the struggles of feeling like you don’t belong. I’d previously read Janet Mock’s account, but this story spoke to me more. Maybe it was the contrast between the twins, one who was comfortable in his skin and one who wasn’t. Maybe it was the way the author included data that just added to her storytelling. Maybe it was the story of the father-son relationship that never was, that transformed into the father-daughter relationship that was never expected. Maybe it was just Nicole herself, a fighter who always knew what she was supposed to be – the girl whose journey didn’t just transform her family, it transforms the reader as well.

Book Review: Billionaire’s Apprentice

“Buy Goldman Sachs. Buy Goldman Sachs.” A well researched look into the world of insider trading, interspersed with the rise of the South Asian American community. This is a tale of ambition and greed, where men who are multi-millionaires aspire to be billionaires.

While the author has spent a lot of time and effort into her research, I could not help but feel that she is quite sympathetic toward the cause of Rajat Gupta, who comes across as someone who did not quite know what he was getting into. I guess in a real life story with no real hero, there was a need for a perfect anti-hero and that’s what he is, in this version. It appears that there isn’t enough solid evidence to incriminate him completely, so it would be worth going deeper into the details of the case for those who are so inclined. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about the world of white collar crime

Book Review: Modern Romance

This post also appears on my Goodreads blog

I was expecting to like this book a lot more, but I was left with a strong sense of deja vu while I read it. I must however highlight the effort put into doing some solid research around the subject (the book acknowledges the work of many top researchers including danah boyd, Sherry Turkle). I especially loved Aziz’s take on Jonathan Haidt’s graphs from ‘The Happiness Project’. His distinctive style of humor also added to the way the topic was presented. Overall, maybe the PR (and binge watching ‘Master of None’) did too good a job, since I was left feeling like I’d already read half the book.

Book Review: Dance of Govinda

This post also appears on my Goodreads blog

Ashok Banker is one of the best when it comes to mythology, and he does not disappoint. While these stories are oft-repeated and well known, Banker always adds in little known details. For me, the revelation in this one was Puttana’s connection with Kamsa (one of those things that ACK and your grandfather wouldn’t tell you as a child). I liked how the book focused on Kamsa’s struggles. It was an interesting take to show how he became what he was, and shows a different side to his personality as well.

The updated foreword was also interesting, as I had no idea that the Krishna series was originally a part of the MBA series (I’m still waiting with bated breath for Book 3!).

I’m glad that this series is complete so I won’t have to wait to get my hands on the next book as I go along. Maybe that’s the best way to read his work, wait till the series is complete. From Ramayana to MBA, the wait for the next book has always been agonizing.

Of Goodreads and Listicles

I’m a HUGE fan of Goodreads. I have been using it for a few years now, and I was depressed when the new Kindle Fire came out with Goodreads integration and my old Paperwhite didn’t get it for almost a year later. I mark every book I read (mostly the paper kinds, and yes, I’m weird like that) and rate them, though I rarely write reviews. Today, I was looking at the recent deluge of Facebook Book lists and it got me wondering why these lists were a Facebook thing, when all my friends seem to be on Goodreads too. When I started making my own list, I had this vague plan to link the Goodreads pages to the list, but then frankly, for a status message in FB it was just too cumbersome. It’s weird though. Many of my friends have books on their list that I want to read, but now, I have to go discover these lists (or hope that Facebook surfaces the ones I’d really like) and then keep adding on Goodreads.

I wondered why in these times of Buzzfeed and crazed listicles, Goodreads doesn’t have lists. Except, it does. I checked. But here’s my issue – I’m a longtime user and it took a search for me to discover this. I realize that in the interest of simplicity, there is no point in having lists upfront on the login screen. But, in times like this, especially when a book tag is doing the rounds, shouldn’t Goodreads be pushing users to publish these lists on Goodreads? Especially since the FB ones are going to die down, and none of us will ever be able to locate them later. It also looks like Goodreads believes the lists should only be of the format ‘Best Robot Books’ not “Michael’s Favorite Books’ – I wonder why. I mean, I may be far more interested in discovering something from A’s favorite books, than a list of her favorite thrillers, for instance. Maybe I’m projecting way too much of my self into the shoes of a generic user on Goodreads. Maybe people would prefer Goodreads be the way it is. It would be interesting though, to see if Goodreads could maybe create these list driven FB posts as a social media marketing campaign, where they get people to tag books on Goodreads or some such. I feel like all the virality should benefit them!