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The 2012 Reading List Part-I January 8, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics, Fantasy Fiction, Mumbo Jumbo, Sci-Fi.
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2012 is in. It is a unique year; heralded by doomsday predictions and bucket-list resolutions.

Well, I am not the usual new-year-resolutions maker. But a one week vacation from office on New Years Eve gave me a lot of free time to dabble with. And, I managed to scribble my TO-DO list for this year.

The resolution topping the list was; Read… Read.. READ!

So, I’ve prepared my reading list for this Quarter ( In line with another resolution of mine! ). No specific preferences, but a mishmash of genres which I had been hoping to experiment with, but had never really got down to.

I have chosen the series form of books because it has always impressed me. IMO, this is one of the most challenging forms of writing. Being able to capture the attention of a reader through thousand and thousands of book pages, and a delicate web of entwined plots is a commendable (and tough) job!

A Disclaimer:

I haven’t read all these books yet, so don’t blame me if you don’t like them. But they have this quality of beckoning you, like some sort of literary seduction, making you want to read them. I am not sure how they will turn out to be, but here is my list.

So without wasting any more time, lets go..

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the definitive “Reading List Q1 2012.”!!

The Millennium Trilogy:

There are some books that catch your imagination – simply by an intriguing name or the imagery of a character which flashes before your eyes. When I first heard of the name – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, my first reaction was – “What?”

The trilogy is a series of the books with the most riveting names -“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl who kicked a Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl who played with Fire”. It is written by Stieg Larsson, a journalist who came from nowhere and attained iconic status in the crime fiction world with this series of books.

I have not read much of Crime fiction earlier. The most I had read were the Agatha Christie novels, and the occasional classics like “The God Father” . And of late, had been bit too preoccupied with Wizards and Vampires.

So this is my first detour into crime fiction in a long long time.

I have just orders a Box set of the trilogy from Flipkart, and the books seem to be pretty long (600+ pages each ). Yet, every review I have read has called these books a page turner, so it is No 1 on my reading list.

And the biggest motivation of course is the character of Lisbeth Salander. Weird, enigmatic, brilliant, dangerous security specialist; she simply cannot be missed!.

The Shiva Trilogy:

This is a series of books by an Indian author Amish Tripathi. The first 2 books – “The Immortals of Meluha” and “The Secret of the Nagas” are bestsellers. The third book of the series has not been released yet.

It is an unusual genre – Mythology, and I don’t remember having read any books of that genre yet.

OK, you may count Lord of the Rings as Mythology, but Indian mythology is unique – it is such a dense and spiritual subject. And taking a culturally sensitive subject like mythology and converting it to believable fiction is an awesome feat !.

I have spent most of my childhood reading books by great English authors. The characters in my mind, the novel settings.. Everything is foreign. The last great book that I read set in Indian settings was the “White tiger” by Arvind Adiga. So I am really looking forward to how the author has pulled it off.

Another thing that attracted me to this book is this haunting quote from “The Secret of the Nagas” – “The opposite of love is not hate, its apathy”.

Well..Age old thoughts spun into a tale relevant in the modern context. This is a must-read book!.

The Hitch hiker’s guide to the Galaxy Series:

The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy is a crazy book.

It tickles you out of your senses. Gives the absurdist, stupidest, most bizarre ideas in the most matter of fact way, expecting it to be funny and it actually is!!

This is the first in a series of 5 books by Douglas Adams. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” , “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, “Life, the Universe and Everything” ,”So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish “, “Mostly Harmless” and “And Another Thing…”. The last book was written by 2 other authors after Doulas Adams’ death.

The author’s line of thinking, the way the arguments are constructed, the anecdotes will make you ROFL, BWL, LMFAO.. ( OK, I am running out of expressions now! )

Wickedly funny and geeky, it is an absolute must read for any SF or Humor enthusiast. Douglas Adams actually has a cult status among Science Fiction enthusiasts – Just Google “Meaning of life 42”

Taking the most ordinary mundane daily happenings, and spinning it into the weirdest anecdotes, this book has intellectual gems thrown in the most the most unassuming way!..

Want a peek? Well, this is one of my favorite passages (out of the countless others) in the first book.

“People of Earth, your attention, please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system. And regrettably, your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

I don’t know, apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all.

There was a terribly ghastly silence.
There was a terribly ghastly noise.
There was a terribly ghastly silence.”

The Bourne Trilogy:

Oh, I know. Don’t give me that pitiful look. I know this series is ancient. I should have read it like 10 years ago! But then, it’s better late than never. And what best way to start a New Year than make up for all the good things you missed in the past!. So, the Bourne series makes it to my list.

There are 9 books in the series; out of which the first 3 are “The Bourne Identity”, “the Bourne Ultimatum” and the “The Bourne Supremacy” written by Robert Ludlum. The rest 6 have been written by some other author. Don’t know how long the series will be able to hold my attention, but at least the first 3 are a must!

There is something very touching about a man who is constantly trying to understand who he is. And, when he is painfully deducting his past by analyzing his instant reactions to situations and things. It is sort of scary yet tragic in a very poignant way.

The book is an absolute edge of the seat thriller. I have read the first one halfway through and it is quite promising. Am determined to make the rest this Quarter.

Let’s see!

The Vampire Diaries:

What is life without any romance?. So here is my last entry – a dash of romance to the reading list. And what is the best form of romance other than Vampire love stories – it’s the hot flavor of the day!

I have read the first 2 books of the series – The Awakening, and The Struggle, and there are 7 more to read. Since the novels are only 100+ pages each, it isn’t much of a challenge really..

The books are not much of a literary genius (is sort of Mills and Boons sometimes), but the plot somehow got me hooked. It has all the elements which will make you want to read it more – romance, suspense, drama.

Actually the motivation for me to read this book came from the Vampire Diaries TV series. The series is awesome, with impossibly handsome vampires and equally ravishing vampire-victims stuck in a world with witches and werewolves. Gosh!

I don’t know, but there is something very enticing about these Vampire love stories . Perhaps it is the idea of an impossible romance – a relationship so volatile that it cannot exist naturally.. Hunter loves the hunted.. Guy thirsting for the blood of the woman he loves. The conflict between extreme emotions.. Lion falling in love with the lamb.

But then, writers are crazy people – the readers even more!

So, here is my list for Q1 of 2012.

Hope I’ll be able to keep up my New Year resolution and post my reviews as I read along!

See you later, Alligator! 😛

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The Stranger January 6, 2012

Posted by Afrozy Ara in Book Reviews, Classics, Mumbo Jumbo.
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For quite some time now, I have been pondering over The Ultimate Question.

What is the meaning of my life? What do we achieve by rushing round in the humdrum and mundane-ness of our daily chores? What do we have to gain from this melodrama?…

Is it something to do with our surroundings? Is it significant because of our experiences? Does this life have meaning in itself, or is it valuable only when lived amongst people we love?

In short, you can call it momentary pangs of self existential dilemma!..

Of course, I’m not the first one to ask these questions. For centuries, men have pondered over the same. So, it is an eerie coincidence that at a moment when I was stung by these questions, this book by Albert Camus seems to have “accidentally” strolled into my life.

“The Stranger” is a personification of the self existential dilemma. It is a queer book. Starting abruptly, you are introduced to a character who seems to be totally apathetic to his surroundings. He has this uncomfortable air of careless indifference which makes you wonder – What’s wrong with this guy? Is he a sociopath?

Meursault is a man out of touch with things on an emotional plane – who considers everything around him with an objective mindset. He gets along well with people, but they hardly touch an emotional chord in him.  He either finds people interesting or boring, and  usually agrees with them to avoid confrontation.

And then a freak incident happens when he accidentally kills another man and is sent to jail. The case is brought in court, and Meursault’s indifferent attitude towards the murdered man horrifies the judge. He is served a death sentence.

The last few chapters deal with how he deals with this sentence, contemplating on what really matters to him. Why should he look forward to living his life? Is it a relation with his girlfriend? Is it about experiences with the world outside the walls of the prison?.. Is it the pleasure of seeing the sky and watching the stars?.. Moments of freedom?

What is it that makes his life worthwhile?!

The book is a French translation. Seems to be very simple but holds a lot of symbolism – the concept of death brought in to contrast with the value of life. Not much of a leisure read, it would pass off more as dense stuff for an advanced literature class.  The book does not tell you much, but makes you think a lot.

So… What exactly is  the purpose of our lives??

A plausible solution to this questions came from an unlikely source.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist had said:

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming!.