Books read in 2017

January 5, 2018

Last week, I hadn’t finished reading two books, which were nearing completion. Hence I  decided to delay the closure of the year by a few days. 2018 had to wait. And it is my New Year Day today. Here is my list of books read in 2017. I seem to have been playing with time throughout this year.

I have read many books in Tamil and English, short and long, important and not-so-important. My biggest complaint is that I didn’t get down to writing anything substantial about any of the books, except Dharampal. I have plans to write about atleast a few of them.

I read these books at Coimbatore, at our farm in the village, at hospitals, wedding halls, during travels, at bus stops and in various other situations. I read them in print, on kindle, laptop, ipad and phone – the same books were sometimes read on multiple devices. I finished Harsha’s Nagananda, after getting off the bus and sitting at a bus stand, before heading to my destination.  I thought a book was stolen on the bus (amongst other things) and included it in my police complaint. But it wasn’t lost. While drowned in another book,  I got off the bus carelessly, and was robbed off another wallet.

I read many books and stories along with my wife and daughter. While my daughter was reading the abridged version of Gulliver’s Travels, I read the original to enthuse her. It was an interesting experience, which has kindled my interest to read all the classics that I had read in abridged versions during my childhood days.

 

  1. The Bellarosa Connection – Saul Bellow
  2. Happy Days – Samuel Beckett
  3. Henry IV Part 1 – William Shakespeare (மறுவாசிப்பு)
  4. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
  5. The Last Temptation – Nikos Kazantzakis
  6. The Blue Umbrella – Ruskin Bond
  7. Death in Venice and other stories – Thomas Mann
  8. The Forged Coupon and other Stories – Leo Tolstoy
  9. What Men Live by and other Stories – Leo Tolstoy
  10. Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
  11. Hocus Pocus – Kurt Vonnegut
  12. Across the Black Waters – Mulk Raj Anand
  13. Nagananda – Harsha
  14. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
  15. Poems of Love and War – A.K.Ramanujan
  16. Taking Issue and Allah’s Answer – Iqbal
  17. Four Centuries of American Poetry – Mohan Ramanan
  18. The Waste Land – T.S.Eliot (With great annotations from Norton’s Anthology of English Literature)
  19. The Ruined Cottage – William Wordsworth (From Norton’s)
  20. Don Juan (Canto 1) – Lord Byron (From Norton’s)
  21. C.N.Annadurai – P.C.Ganesan
  22. The Dragons of Eden – Carl Sagan
  23. Essential Writings of Dharampal – Gita Dharampal
  24. Zinky Boys – Svetlana Alexievich
  25. Deschooling Society – Ivan Illich
  26. Gandhi Patel: Letters and Speeches – Differences within Consensus – Neerja Patel
  27. The Charkha and the Rose – Publications Division
  28. My Life is my Message – Sadhana (Part 1) – Narayan Desai
  29. Ram Manohar Lohia – Indumati Kelkar (Translated by Desh Raj Goyal)
  30. Jeevani: Ayurveda for Women – Dr.P.L.T.Girija
  31. இன்று – அசோகமித்திரன்
  32. சீர்மை – அரவிந்த் க
  33. சின்னு முதல் சின்னு வரை – வண்ணதாசன்
  34. முத்துக்கள் பத்து (சிறுகதைகள்) – சா.கந்தசாமி
  35. 1945ல் இப்படியெல்லாம் இருந்தது – அசோகமித்திரன்
  36. குழந்தைப் பருவத்துக் கதைகள் – கி.ராஜநாராயணன்
  37. கடல்புரத்தில் – வண்ணநிலவன் (மறுவாசிப்பு)
  38. ஒரு நாள் – க.நா.சு.
  39. பறவை வேட்டை – அசோகமித்திரன்
  40. கண்டி வீரன் – ஷோபா சக்தி
  41. அன்புள்ள ஸ்நேகிதிக்கு – லா.ச.ராமாமிருதம்
  42. கொற்றவை – ஜெயமோகன்
  43. எழுதழல் – ஜெயமோகன்
  44. காடு- ஜெயமோகன்
  45. சிலப்பதிகாரம் – உ.வே.சா பதிப்பு, புலியூர் கேசிகன் உரை (மறுவாசிப்பு)
  46. தொல்காப்பியம்: பொருளதிகாரம்
  47. அம்பேத்கரின் கல்விக்கொள்கைகள் – ரவிகுமார்
  48. காந்தியக் கல்வியும் பிற கல்விமுறைகளும் – பங்கஜம்
  49. புகழ் பெற்றி நாவல்கள் – க.நா.சு.
  50. புதுமைப்பித்தன் வரலாறு – தெ.மொ.சி.ரகுநாதன்
  51. இலக்கியத்தின் ரஹசியம் (கட்டுரைகள்) – புதுமைப்பித்தன்
  52. தேவார இசையமைப்பாய்வு – இ.அங்கயற்கண்ணி
  53. சிலப்பதிகார இசைத்தமிழ் – S.ராமநாதன்
  54. நண்பர்கள் நினைவில் பாரதியார் – இலசை மணியன்
  55. உறவினர் நினைவில் பாரதி – இலசை மணியன்

 

 

I had read considerable portions of some books, but am yet to complete them:

  1. Capital: Volume 1 – Karl Marx
  2. Capital in 21st Century – Thomas Piketty
  3. Sakuntala: Texts, Readings, Histories – Romila Thappar
  4. Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
  5. Open Letter on Famine to Lord Curzon – RC Dutt
  6. White Mughuls – William Dalrymple
  7. Iliad – Homer (Translated by Alexander Pope)
  8. Norton’s Anthology of English Literature, The Major Authors
  9. புறநானூறு
  10. ஊரும் பேரும் – ரா.பி.சேதுப்பிள்ளை
  11. இசைத்தமிழ் வரலாறு இரண்டாம் பகுதி — து.ஆ.தனபாண்டியன்
  12. அ.முத்துலிங்கம் கதைகள்
  13. டோட்டோ-சான்: ஜன்னலில் ஒரு சிறுமி – டெட்ககோ குரோயாநாகி

 

 

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Books read in 2013

January 8, 2014

I had published on my Tamil blog, a list of books that I had read in 2013. Reproducing that list here.

The books I chose to read are possibly a reflection of the nature of my search, and  many of these books have influenced my thinking and the course of my life in a big way.

In English:

  1. The One-straw revolution – Masanobu Fukuoka
  2. The Story of Nai Talim, Fifty years of education at Sevagram – Marjorie Sykes
  3. Unto This Last – John Ruskin
  4. On the Duty of Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau
  5. Gandhian Economic Thought – J.C.Kumarappa
  6. Trusteeship -Gandhi
  7. Mr.Gandhi : The Man – Millie Graham Polak
  8. Bapu – My Mother – Manubehn Gandhi
  9. A school under trees- Raghu Babu
  10. Village Swaraj – Gandhi
  11. The Miracle of Calcutta – Manubehn Gandhi
  12. Subash Chandra Bose, The Spring Tiger – Hugh Toye (Jaico)
  13. K.Kamaraj : A Study – V.K.Narasimhan
  14. Without Fear : The Life & Trial of Bhagat Singh – Kuldeep Nayar
  15. Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  16. Blindness – Jose Saramago
  17. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky

In Tamil:

  1. 18வது அட்சக்கோடு – அசோகமித்திரன்
  2. குறத்தி முடுக்கு – ஜி.நாகராஜன்
  3. நாளை மற்றுமொரு நாளே – ஜி.நாகராஜன்
  4. புலிநகக் கொன்றை – பி.ஏ.கிருஷ்ணன்
  5. பிறகு – பூமணி
  6. வெக்கை – பூமணி
  7. செம்மீன் – தகழி சிவசங்கரப் பிள்ளை; தமிழில் – சுந்தர ராமசாமி
  8. சாருலதா – ரவீந்திரநாத் தாகூர்; தமிழில் – த.நா.குமாரசுவாமி
  9. தமிழ்நாட்டில் காந்தி – தி.சே.சௌ.ராஜன்
  10. எனது வாழ்வும் போராட்டமும் – கான் அப்துல் கஃபார் கான்; தமிழில் – க.விஜயகுமார் (தமிழோசை பதிப்பகம்)
  11. என் குருநாதர் பாரதியார் – கனகலிங்கம்

There were many books that remain partially read; most of them for no fault of the book. Since I do not know how many of these books I will complete, I am also recording, for my own sake, a list of some of the important works.

  1. Indira, the Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi – Katherine Frank
  2. The Indian Struggle – Subash Chandra Bose
  3. Colporul, A History of Tamil Dictionaries – Gregory James (Cre-A)
  4. Early Tamil Epigraphy, From the Earliest times to the sixth century AD – Iravatham Mahadevan (Cre-A, Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, 2003)
  5. Gandhi, His Life and thought – J.B.Kripalani
  6. Seven Months with Mahatma Gandhi – Being an inside view of the Non-cooperation movement 1921-22 – Krishna Das (S.Ganesan Publisher, Triplicane, Madras, 1928)
  7. The First Phase – Pyarelal
  8. The Guilty Men of Partition – Ram Manohar Lohia

Killing him again and again

January 13, 2013

First, the re-edition of ‘Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’ was messed up under the BJP Government, undoing the many decades of remarkable work by Prof.K.Swaminathan and many others. The Congress Government agreed to correct it, withdrew the wrong books, and, as usual, set-up a committee in 2005. I checked with the Publications Division at the Chennai Book fair today: the unrevised or restored edition is not published, yet. It is unbelievable that one of the most important historical commentaries [spanning 60+ years and 50000+ pages] of our times is out of print for so long.

We continue to invent different ways to kill Gandhi.

Related:

An account of the fiasco, in Gandhiserve.org site.


Joys of Joyce

September 24, 2010

When I tried reading Ulysses, 10 years ago, I was stunned by the grandiose language but couldn’t quite get  drawn into the book. It remains half-read to this day.

– Either, Joyce must be over-rated, thought I,  or my literary taste is still not evolved enough to appreciate Joyce.

By chance, I came across and started reading Dubliners (which was lying unread on my bookshelf) on www.polyglotproject.com. And wow, I love it. The language here, in this earlier work of Joyce, is also stunning but the contrast can’t be more striking – he stuns you with the simplicity: the simplicity of narrative style and the simplicity of the plots. The narrative seems to be so non-judgmental and so detached, yet got me totally involved.  The simplicity is also deceptive because it disguises the lyrical rhythm delectably. It is magical, particularly, The Dead, towards the end, living up to the hype of being rated one of the greatest short stories.

Sample these…many of these lines spring up at surprising spots, when they are least expected:

She said he just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and resigned. No one would think he’d make such a beautiful corpse. (The Sisters)

— Ah, poor James! said Eliza. He was no great trouble to us. You wouldn’t hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know he’s gone and all to that. (The Sisters)

Mrs. Mooney sat in the straw arm-chair and watched the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She made Mary collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make Tuesday’s bread- pudding.  (the sarcasm, hidden, without warning, somewhere in the middle of The Boarding House).

The half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth. ( A Little Cloud)

He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. (A Painful Case)

He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. ( Ivy Day In The Committee Room)

She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. (A Mother)

The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude. (Grace)

The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped. (The Dead)

Inspired by Dubliners, I am now onto A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and am loving it so far. Hmm…am I now grown up enough, to encounter and devour, Ulysses again, and who knows, even, Finnegans Wake?

When I tried reading Ulysses, 10 years ago, I was stunned by grandiose language but couldn’t quite get  drawn into the book. It remains half-read to this day. I thought either Joyce must be over-rated or my literary taste is still not evolved enough to appreciate Joyce.

By chance, I started reading Dubliners (that was anyway lying unread in my bookshelf) on www.polyglotproject.com. And wow, I love it. The language here, in this earlier work of Joyce, is also stunning but the contrast can’t be more striking – he stuns you with the simplicity: the simplicity of narrative style and the simplicity of the plots. The narrative seems to be so non-judgmental and so detached, yet got me totally involved.  The simplicity is also deceptive because it disguises the lyrical rhythm delectably. It is magical.

Sample this…many of these lines spring up at surprising spots, when they are least expected:

She said he just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and resigned. No one would think he’d make such a beautiful corpse. (The Sisters)

— Ah, poor James! said Eliza. He was no great trouble to us. You wouldn’t hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know he’s gone and all to that. (The Sisters)

Mrs. Mooney sat in the straw arm-chair and watched the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She made Mary collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make Tuesday’s bread- pudding.  (the sarcasm, hidden, without warning, somewhere in the middle of The Boarding House).

The half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth. ( A Little Cloud)

He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. (A Painful Case)

He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. ( Ivy Day In The Committee Room)

She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. (A Mother)

The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude. (Grace)

The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped. (The Dead)

When I tried reading Ulysses, 10 years ago, I was stunned by grandiose language but couldn’t quite get  drawn into the book. It remains half-read to this day. I thought either Joyce must be over-rated or my literary taste is still not evolved enough to appreciate Joyce.

By chance, I started reading Dubliners on www.polyglotproject.com. And wow, I love it. The language here, in this earlier work of Joyce, is also stunning but the contrast can’t be more striking – he stuns you with the simplicity: the simplicity of narrative style and the simplicity of the plots. The narrative seems to be so non-judgmental and so detached, yet got me totally involved.  The simplicity is also deceptive because it disguises the lyrical rhythm delectably. It is magical.

Sample this…many of these lines spring up at surprising spots, when they are least expected:

She said he just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and resigned. No one would think he’d make such a beautiful corpse. (The Sisters)

— Ah, poor James! said Eliza. He was no great trouble to us. You wouldn’t hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know he’s gone and all to that. (The Sisters)

Mrs. Mooney sat in the straw arm-chair and watched the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She made Mary collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make Tuesday’s bread- pudding.  (the sarcasm, hidden, without warning, somewhere in the middle of The Boarding House).

The half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth. ( A Little Cloud)

He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. (A Painful Case)

He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. ( Ivy Day In The Committee Room)

She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. (A Mother)

The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude. (Grace)

The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped. (The Dead)

When I tried reading Ulysses, 10 years ago, I was stunned by grandiose language but couldn’t quite get  drawn into the book. It remains half-read to this day. I thought either Joyce must be over-rated or my literary taste is still not evolved enough to appreciate Joyce.

By chance, I started reading Dubliners on www.polyglotproject.com. And wow, I love it. The language here, in this earlier work of Joyce, is also stunning but the contrast can’t be more striking – he stuns you with the simplicity: the simplicity of narrative style and the simplicity of the plots. The narrative seems to be so non-judgmental and so detached, yet got me totally involved.  The simplicity is also deceptive because it disguises the lyrical rhythm delectably. It is magical.

Sample this…many of these lines spring up at surprising spots, when they are least expected:

She said he just looked as if he was asleep, he looked that peaceful and resigned. No one would think he’d make such a beautiful corpse. (The Sisters)

— Ah, poor James! said Eliza. He was no great trouble to us. You wouldn’t hear him in the house any more than now. Still, I know he’s gone and all to that. (The Sisters)

Mrs. Mooney sat in the straw arm-chair and watched the servant Mary remove the breakfast things. She made Mary collect the crusts and pieces of broken bread to help to make Tuesday’s bread- pudding.  (the sarcasm, hidden, without warning, somewhere in the middle of The Boarding House).

The half-moons of his nails were perfect and when he smiled you caught a glimpse of a row of childish white teeth. ( A Little Cloud)

He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her. (A Painful Case)

He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. ( Ivy Day In The Committee Room)

She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. (A Mother)

The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude. (Grace)

The most vigorous clapping came from the four young men in the doorway who had gone away to the refreshment-room at the beginning of the piece but had come back when the piano had stopped. (The Dead)


The Kite Runner – review

January 10, 2008

How soon my views can be challenged? While reviewing Cuckold, I had argued in favour of a great story ahead of complex literary techniques. Many believe the The Kite Runner has a great story to tell and a moving story. Yes, the story is interesting and at times, moving. Yes, the book has enough to be a pageturner. But something is missing.

By no stretch of imagination can Kite Runner be classified as a great or even a good piece of literature. At best, it is an interesting story with impeccable timing of publishing, when the world, and Americans in particular, wanted to know more about Afghanistan. A few years earlier or a few years later, the Khaled Hosseini could have struggled to find a publisher and even if he did, the book would have got nowhere closer to the best sellers list.

The novel is written, clearly with the Western audience in mind. As a result, there is over-elaboration of events and words when not required and over-simplification of issues. If one wants to understand the thread of the Afghan society and the reasons for the rise of fundamentalist Taliban, this book doesn’t offer any answers. Super-imposing the school-bully-sociopath character of Aseef on Taliban is a shortcut the author should have avoided taking – this is straight out of mainstream cinema. Schindler’s List also had such a character but the depiction was with much more clarity – it came out quite certainly that a socio-path uses the cover of a fundamentalist racist regime to unleash his inner evil. But I think there is much more to religious fundamentalism than just the whims of a socio-path.

However most Americans might love such a depiction of Taliban – an organization consisting of cruel socio-paths and paedophiles, who supervise footballers running around in full trousers. This explains why the book was a major success. Nobody is interested to know why religious fundamentalism arose, how the common man, whithout whose support this cannot happen, is drawn towards the fundamentalist. Definitely the author is not interested into getting into deeper layers of the psyche of a fundamentalist society.

Kite Runner succeeds in exploring the impact and fallout of personal guilt. Otherwise, there are no pretensions of creating a piece of literature. Maybe, the book has been more than successful in achieving what it set out to achieve – it had just fallen into the hands of a wrong reader to elicit such scathing criticism.


Top 10 Books of the year – a farce

January 4, 2008

I wonder how people come up with Top 10 lists. Do so many people have so much time to spare that they are able to read all the good books of the year and then come out with the list of the best ones? I am extremely skeptical.

As far as I am concerned, the best books of the year are the ones that I get to read during that year – even if they are from ancient ages. An Othello, read in any year is the top book of the year for me. A good book is not like a newspaper – it is ageless.  When there is a ocean of literature left to be read, is it really important that I read the best of 2007? I would rather plump for an unranked unheralded gem from the previous year, which might possibly be better than the best book of the current year.


Cuckold review part II

January 2, 2008

Let me complete the review that I started. After having finished the book, I still stand by my previous post. Cuckold is a fascinating book. It is not a romantic historical from Scott that you can recommend to a teenager, because of the extremely high erotic content (not to say that it is an erotic book – to say so will be grossly misrepresenting the truth). But you will read this with the enthusiasm of a teenager.

You have to applaud the author for the sheer audacity of choosing such a plot, centering around historical characters but rarely retelling history as there is nothing much recorded in history about them. The authenticity of existence of the characters draw the reader deep into the book but sketchy historical facts available about them have given unlimited freedom to the author to tell his own story within the boundaries of history. Meera is mythical reality. Rana Sanga, Maharajkumar, Babur and Bahadur are historical entities. Apart from these, everything else is for the author to imagine and for us to be drawn mystically into this make-believe world, into the innermost terrains of the human mind that could belong to any century.

Unlike most other Indian authors writing in English, Kiran Nagarkar has not been excessively bothered about the Western audience. He didn’t need to. It is an Indian book, with a undeniable universal appeal. I dont think it was an astounding commercial success but it will live to see the 22nd century and probably beyond.

But Mr.Nagarkar, the trouble with writing such a book is that you have have not kindled any interest in me for reading anything else from you.  You have said so much here that I doubt you will have anything more left in you to tell. Hope you prove me wrong.