Books that leave you thinking

So, I am one of those weird creatures who doesn’t like self help books. Not that I have hated all but I can safely say I have hated most that I have read, especially the ones with a very prescriptive approach. But I am all for good memoirs and autobiographies where you get to know more about someone’s real life, their experiences, struggle, pain, joy and much more. It’s quite interesting to find some stories that you can totally relate to or some journeys that inspire you like nothing else. Last eight months were been extremely tough for me in multiple ways but one of the best things about this phase of life has been the time that I got to spend with myself – something that was a rarity in my otherwise super hectic life. Apart from spending time with my family, I have started back painting more regularly and got to read many good books – some that have been on my wishlist for long and some gifted to me by those awesome friends who wanted to ease out my on-bed phase of life. A big thanks to all of them who were thoughtful enough to send me such literary gems.

Out of all the books that I read recently, I quite liked two fiction and three non-fiction books. Sharing the names of those non fiction books here that left an impact on me – all these three books are about amazing journeys of some amazing people that make you believe in the power of hope and inspire you to appreciate this thing called life. In case you are going through some trying times and would like to find solace in words, you may give these books a try:

  1. Man’s Search For Meaning: Viktor E. Frankl

One of the best books that I would have read in recent times by the holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It’s a book that makes your realize that there are many others whose life is much more painful than yours and yet they have found a purpose in that pain. The description of those concentration camps and condition of people living in that era … I can’t even begin to imagine the plight of children who were gassed! Whatever struggle you are going through today, this is one of those books that will make you count your blessings and be thankful for all that you have. While the book is filled with many profound observations but if I have to highlight only one, it will be the following:

“Those who have a “why” to live, can bear with almost any “how” ”- Viktor E. Frankl

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Fiction or Non Fiction? Just be yourself and read!

Fiction vs Non-fiction

Speaking of books or reading, one question that I often get asked is — do you still read fiction? On replying yes, the next question generally would be — how do you find time to read fiction or why do you read fiction? The answer is pretty simple — I read fiction because I like it. I read fiction because there is nothing more enriching than a good story. I read fiction because:

Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures — Ralph Waldo EmersonRead More

Bringing old ways of reading back to life

From being a voracious reader to a reading enthusiast — that’s how my reading habit got changed when I started working and entered into other phases of personal life. For last two years, despite all my sincere intent to read more, at best I could manage to read only 12–14 books an year. This was lot less than what I used to read earlier. So, when I ended up reading 19 books in last one month, I was quite pleasantly surprised with myself. At least there is something good out of this hospitalization and being-on-bed phase of life, I am getting time to read and paint more. See, I am trying to look at the positive side of any situation :). No, I mean it in all seriousness; first month on bed was too painful with surgery, stitches, fractures and what-nots. To add to that, weird thoughts kept on floating in my mind throughout. So, after few weeks when my hands got freed from stitches, the first thing I did was, picked up a book. One book after another and soon enough I was engrossed in reading like earlier. It only added to the reading charm that not only I was getting to read the books that I wanted to read but I also got some amazing books as gifts from friends.

But I am all free these days, so what’s the big deal about reading 19 or any number of books? Well, it’s not the number or the titles of the books but the way I am reading that makes me think more on my current reading habits. You know the kind of reading that we used to do earlier, engrossed in words, lost amidst the pages, the kind of reading that brings you calm and cognitive stimulation, the kind of reading that you do mindfully. My recent readings have been all of that.

So, what did change this time?Read More

Before we visit the Goodess – Book


There are books and then there books you wish would never end
Before We Visit The Goddess is one such book. The kind of book that makes you sad once it ends, you know that feeling of emptiness when a good book ends, yes exactly that one! You wish the story could continue forever, you’re so engrossed in the plot and so absorbed in the characters that you literally find them to be real and part of your daily life. Sabitri, Bela & Tara – how real were they! Hats off to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for giving us such gems one after another.
I have been a great admirer of her writing ever since I read Sister Of My Heart and Oleander Girl few years back. I have read almost all of her books now and each book of hers is a masterpiece in itself. Varied plots with intricate story lines, but what I like most about her books is the protagonists. They are someone with whom you can relate to, someone real. Before We Visit The Goddess is also yet another literary treasure by the author that tells us the story of a family over three generations. It’s a must read for those who love to read good story around human relationships and emotions.
Here’s my quick take on the book:
  • Poignant story line that touches your heart somewhere deep within.
  • Genuine plot that highlights the imperfect yet connected family ties. No unnecessary fictitious perfect-happy-family kind of drama at all.
  • Brilliant characterization, you can almost imagine a Sabitri or Tara living around you, inside you.
  • Powerful writing that actually presents the complexity of human emotions in a very beautiful way.
  • Captivating read, not even once I actually lost interest anywhere in the book. A story spread across three generations and two continents but towards the end, it was like all pieces of a scattered puzzle finally put together.

Overall a book that I strongly recommend, totally worth the time and money. And as always, I will be eagerly waiting for the next book by this author, she is just terrific and brilliant and…. well, for her I think I will actually run short of adjectives :).

This book is available at both amazon and flipkart and I didn’t buy a kindle version of this book. I actually bought a hard copy as books like these are meant to be a part of your home library collection :). 

Life of Angela: Book

Just finished reading this book with a smile on my face. If your roots are from any small Indian town or you have lived in one during your growing up years, then this book is surely going to bring a smile on your face.
It was quite a pleasant surprise when my childhood friend Rakhi Anand pinged me about her debut novel – Life of Angela and when she mentioned it being based on school life, I was all the more keen to pick it up. And I am glad I grabbed a copy of it as the book reminded me of my growing years in many ways :). Here’s my quick take on the book:
  • It’s simple & real, no wannabe portrayal of cool, hip student life.
  • Presents the inner turmoil of a fatherless middle class teenager girl beautifully, the pressure on her to do well in academics, get a well paying job so that she can support her family, her struggle and challenges due to her introvert personality – all of these have been presented quite genuinely.
  • Has an important message for students who try to give up life due to academic pressure. Life is much more than just scores in board exams and if you believe in yourself, there is always a beautiful destination waiting for you ahead.
  • Engaging plot presented in a very crisp and easy language.

Overall it’s a book that’s definitely worth a read. And for a change, it’s an Indian fiction that’s not on romance at IIT / IIM campus 🙂 or about a girl who is dying to get married just because she has entered in her 30s!

Do give it a try, it’s available on Amazon as well as on Flipkart.
Rakhi: Kudos to you for your effort. Wish you good luck for your future books. 

9 books you may like to read to your kids this Dusshera break

9 different books on 9 different days! Can there be any better way to celebrate Navratri with kids :)? At least that’s how me and my little one are spending his Dusshera vacations. Of course there are lots and lots of unplanned masti, festival special cooking, some TV time and maybe some traveling too but then what’s a vacation without some new stories :)?

And stories definitely work for me when it comes to explaining something new to him, be it about our culture or festivals or general day to day things like values or habits. To add to that, with time we have reached a stage now where he himself asks us – which story will you tell me today? This makes my task of curating a list of books that we plan to read during vacations or travel all the more exciting and fun.

So here goes the list of 9 books that I am reading to him this Dusshera break. He loves to know more about Indian Gods and mythology (thanks to his fascination for action & adventure and animated television series like Bal Hanuman or movies like Oh My Friend Ganesha), he somehow is hooked on to them as much as Superheroes or Avengers.  I have already read these books myself,  from his initial excitement and curious eyes I think my four year old is going to enjoy it all. This list is not only specifically on Goddess Durga or Dusshera but also on other characters from Ramayans (after all little readers like variety, isn’t it :)?)

  • Tales of Durga by Amar Chitra Katha
When it comes to reading something on mythology, Amar Chitra Katha has to be our default choice, after all it’s the publication that fed our generation with lots of interesting content. While the visual taste or preferences of the new generation might have changed but I think when it comes to the vastness of content available with ACK, there is just no comparison. Tales of Durga is yet another interesting offering from ACK that tells the story of incarnation of Durga and her victory on Mahishasur in a crisp and simple way. My son is anyways fond of action stories a lot, so he loved all the fight sequence of Goddess Durga & Mahishasur and her final victory over the demon.
  • Amma, Tell me about Durga Puja by Bhakti Mathur
Just spotted this book on Amazon and somehow loved the cover and the title. Ordered it on impulse and I’m glad I ordered it. Quite a nice book on story of Goddess Durga presented through lively visuals. I especially loved the storytelling style of this book, it highlights the whole concept of Mahalaya to Viajaydashmi in a very interesting way. Look at one of the pictures from the inner pages, the illustrations are nothing less than visual treat for the little ones! 
We totally loved this book and I am planning to surely try more books in “Amma, Tell me about…” series.
  • Festivals of India by Om Books International
Amazing book! It covers the different festivals of India in a very comprehensive way. The descriptions are apt in length to hold the attention of younger kids along with colorful visuals. For Dusshera / Durga Puja, it has three separate chapters – one covering Navratri, second covers Durga Puja & third one is on Dusshera. the Dusshera chapter also interlinks the significance of Goddess Durga in Rama’s vitcory over evil. I just read all three of these to my little one 🙂
  • Rama by Amar Chitra Katha
Another content rich book by Amar Chitra Katha. Presents all aspects of Rama’s fourteen years exile, his fight with Ravana and his relationship with different other characters from Ramayana in the form of a visual story. As I said earlier, when it comes to mythology, there is no parallel of Amar Chitra Katha’s length and depth of content.
  • Chota Kumbhakarna by Arundhati Venkatesh
It’s actually a cute book. Yes cute is the word that will aptly define the visual and the story of Kumbhakarna narrated to the main character in this story Kukku by his father. Now, how can Kumbhakaran be cute! Don’t believe it? Check the visuals below. My son just loves this book, we have gone through the pages many times and he doesn’t seem to get bored of it. 
This book is available in English too but I picked up a Hindi version as it was the only book left at a book reading session by the author that me & my son had attended earlier this year. And I also consciously wanted to start reading him some Hindi books too.
  • Shiva by Om Books International
While the title reads Shiva but it’s actually more of a story around Goddess Shakti and her fight with demon brothers Chanda & Munda. 
This book comes in an interesting shape with rich visuals that easily attracts the attention of younger audience. To add to that, length of the book is such that even my four year old can easily recall the stories page by page.
  • Kumbhakarna by Amar Chitra Katha
Oh yes, another book on Kumbhakarna :). As I said my son loves this character for the luxury of long sleep that Kumbhakaran could afford :). Of course, he knows the connection with Ravan, Lanka etc. This book apart from the sleeping story of the character also focusses on the whole Lanka fight with Rama & his army. Action yet again and here we go, he loved to listen to it. I think the mommy in me thinks my son loves to read these mythology stories because of all these fights and actions scenes in them :).
  • Hanuman by Om Books
Another lovely book for bal hanuman fans like my son. He is fascinated with Hanuman since his toddler days. In fact there was a pahse when his favorite gift used to be only & only “gada”. So considering his craze for Hanuman, I knew this book would be totally loved by him. And I was just so right, he loved it. And to add to the charm of the character were those sweet pictures that told us the story from his birth to his part in Ramayana. 
  • Dusshera by Diamond Comics

Yet another book that focuses on victory of good over evil through Ramayana story, Rama’s vanvaas, the main fight in Lanka and then Vijayadashami. While the story remains the same but it’s amazing to observe kid’s excitement when it comes to varied visual representation.  Definitely works for me   when it comes to reinforcing same story in different ways to my son.

So, what are you or your little ones reading this festive season? Do share your recommendations with us in the comment section. And in case you liked this list and would like me to curate some more, drop me a comment or mail and I would love to share what I am reading my curious little reader :).

Wish you all a great Navratri / Durga Puja & Dusshera! May the Goddess bless you with health and happiness always.

Where to find good book recommendations?

Just finished yet another book by an Indian author and I am wondering what it was actually! Calling it a book or story would be such a slur as it was nothing but nonsense after nonsense printed  in black & white. And I also wonder why do I even waste my time in completing such shit pieces of work, damn this very irritating habit of mine that doesn’t let me leave things half way. But what’s worse is to realize that this book came highly recommended in most of the reading sites and I wonder how? Well, book marketing has surely picked up in India, isn’t it? Incentivize few reviewers, spend some marketing money and voila you have words after words spread across media in favor of some crap piece of work. Being a marketer as well as blogger, I am also aware of the dynamics of how it works. There is no harm in marketing any good product, anything new needs a bit of push but unfortunately I think in case of something as precious as books, going this far is really irking me a lot now.
My words might be sounding rude but I am actually quite disappointed with my last 5 reads. If you all remember, I have been a big supporter of Indian fiction and have always proudly mentioned my preferences for Indian stories and authors but I think it’s time for me to change my preferences now. Whether you believe it or not, last few of my reads have all been centered around either of the two themes – a 30 something career oriented girl desperately trying to get hooked on to a man, takes all possible measures to woo any / all kind of men and finally settles down with the one who has money and all. In the last book that I read, the main character slept with 7 men in a period of 6 months, lost her job, but is perfectly fine to lose her job as long as she finds a good catch (read man). Now in which city / culture in India, unmarried women date & sleep with 7 men in 6 months? After few pages, I was feeling sick of reading that book and being a woman felt pathetic to realize that the book was written by a woman only! All of it look such desperate, forced projection of so called “modern”, “new-generation” Indian women. And the second theme, wait… do I need to tell you about the second theme? It’s the same – a boy at IIT meets a girl and it’s love at first sight, blah blah & some more blah. Uffff, I know I am picking up wrong books but then all these have been picked after recommendations on Twitter, Goodreads etc. I definitely was looking for some light reads or romantic fiction but in the name of comedy or romance, all I could get my hands on was racy sex, almost porn content and comedies which were disgusting to the core.
What happened to the good writers and stories? What happened to healthy comedies? And what happened to pleasant love stories? With a heavy heart I think I have decided to not read any Indian author book for next few months except the mythology ones. I agree, mythological stories these days are quite well written and engaging for sure. But for other genre, I am going to stick to non-Indian writers for now . I am also thinking of trying my luck with Hindi Classics. I have really not read much of Hindi literature and I think it’s time for me to delve into some old gems.
If I find something really good, I will get back to you with my review of the same. Until then, if you have any recommendation for good  fiction, do let me know of the same. By the way, which site do you refer to for book recommendations these days? Any pointers please? Any site which is not heavily influenced by paid media yet? Look forward to your suggestions please 🙂

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

After reading “Chanakya’s Chant” by Ashiwn Sanghi earlier, I was quite looking forward to his new book “The Krishna Key”. To add to that, the video ad of the book made me all the more excited about it. So, was it a delight or a dud for me? Actually neither! At times, the book was too gripping whereas at others I lost interest due to too many details. When I say ‘too many’, it was actually ‘too many’. But I have to give credit to the author for the kind of research he has done to write this book. Absolutely brilliant! It’s simply amazing and praiseworthy to note that in this age of shortcuts or quick-lits, someone has actually put in this kind of effort to write a book like this. Kudos to Mr. Sanghi for the same!

Now coming down to the book, its yet another intriguing thriller fiction that interweaves mythology and reality. Five thousand years ago, there came to earth a magical being called Krishna, who brought about innumerable miracles for the good of mankind. Humanity despaired of its fate if the Blue God were to die but was reassured that he would return in a fresh avatar when needed in the eventual Dark Age, the Kaliyug. In modern times, a poor little rich boy grows up believing that he is that final avatar. Only, he is a serial killer. In this heart-stopping tale, the arrival of a murderer who executes his gruesome and brilliantly thought-out schemes in the name of God is the first clue to a sinister conspiracy to expose an ancient secret, Krishna’s priceless legacy to mankind. ‘The Krishna Key’ tries to provide a logical alternative explanation of the Vedic Age that could be relished by conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts alike.
Well-researched, Fascinating but Overloaded! These are the three words that come to my mind if I have to describe this book crisply. The start of the book was quite good; first day when I had picked it up, it seemed to be one of those unputdownable ones. But as the story unfolds, it isn’t. If the blogosphere said that it’s like an Indian Da Vinci Code, it actually is! And I didn’t mind reading one, as personally speaking I have come across very few Indian fiction that has presented thriller in a captivating way. This book definitely manages to do that to an extent. Except that I feel that at places, over stretching could have been avoided to keep the interest intact. If you try to relate to fact with fiction, or go into the mode of relating current with history then trust me it will leave you super confused. So, just read it as it is. Language was good and flow smooth but the length of the book with 464 pages of storytelling was something that I think could have been definitely relooked at. 
Overall a good read but start reading it with moderate expectations. If you get into comparative mode with the author’s first two books, then you might have higher expectations leading to disappointment. If not for anything else, read it for the kind of information that this books provides on mythology and history.
So, have you read this book? What has been your view on it? Do share the same in the comments section.

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“366 words” series by FUNOKPLEASE

Few days back I had written about Toto Series by this new age Indian publisher FunOkPlease. I got to read yet another gem by them – “366 words in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi & Kolkata” and once again I am compelled to write my feedback about them. These guys definitely deserve a big shout out for their effort! Absolutely laudable and worth a mention! Undoubtedly their content is different and when I say different it’s actually different. Practical, innovative and engaging to the core! I can’t tell you how impressed I’m by this 366 words series.
 ‘366 words’ showcases the vibrant cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi & Kolkata to its readers in a very creative and interesting way. Each book revolves around one city and presents the history, culture, food, festivals and important landmarks through beautiful illustrations. This book is meant for kids of any age group. For younger kids (< 5 years), it can be used as picture talk book to learn one new word each day. For bit older kids (6-8 years), it can be used to help them learn and identify places and interesting facts about their city. For older kids (> 8 years), it can be used as an informative and comprehensive guide of their city and surroundings.

Loaded with information, presented in style, these books have enough activities to keep your little ones engaged – be it the ones like ‘find-the-objects-in-each-picture’ or ‘identify-the-images’ at the end of  books, each page has been designed keeping kids of different age groups in mind.
A sample page from “366 words in Bengaluru”
Though the book does not mention it but I must say that this book is not only meant for kids rather even grown ups can benefit from it easily. The first two pages on history and background of city are so informative. Things like “how did Bengaluru get its name” or “how payasa combines all flavors of life in one single recipe” from ‘366 words in Bengaluru’ are some of the knowledge nuggets which I definitely loved to read.

In nutshell, this series is a must if you’re looking to enrich your kid’s knowledge about your city. In fact as per me, it would be interesting if schools in their curriculums can include such books. I read all four in their series and I think I can safely say that I have not come across any similar Indian book that presents such important insights in such a fun way. Loved it and strongly recommend it to parents in my network. It’s one of those must-have books for your junior’s library.

Do check out more about their new collection here.

The Immortals of Meluha: Book Review

Don’t remember when was the last time I got so hooked on to any book that I took all-nighter efforts to finish a fiction series. Shiva Trilogy is indeed one of those which got glued me to it like crazy. And thank God, I did not read these two books separately. I had missed to read the first one when it was released. So, when there was buzz about ‘The Secrets of the Nagas’ getting released, that’s when I actually picked up ‘The Immortals of Meluha’. Otherwise had I read these two titles separately, can’t imagine the restlessness that I had to go through about ‘what happened to Sati’.
Set in 1900 BC, ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ is the first book of Shiva Trilogy series written by Amish Tripathi. What we modern Indians call the Indus Valley Civilization, the inhabitants of that period called it the land of Meluha a near perfect empire created many centuries earlier by Lord Ram, one of the greatest monarchs that ever lived. This once proud empire and its Suryavanshi rulers face severe perils as its primary river, the revered Saraswati, is slowly drying to extinction. They also face devastating terrorist attacks from the east, the land of the Chandravanshis. To make matters worse, the Chandravanshis appear to have allied with the Nagas, an ostracized and sinister race of deformed humans with astonishing martial skills! Amidst all this chaos, here appears a Tibetian immigrant who as per legends will be their savior, their God – the Neelkanth. But is this immigrant ‘SHIVA’ a normal human being prepared to handle the same? This book is the story of SHIVA, an ordinary man whose karma actually made him MAHADEV – God of Gods.
What I liked about the book:
  • The Presentation. It’s actually a mythological story but presented as fiction with its own share of thriller, romance and action. I mean the way author has presented this story is absolutely commendable!
  • The characterizations – from Shiva to Parvati to Brihaspati everybody has been sketched out in a unique way. Though we are aware of these characters but this book gives lots of interesting information about them that actually personifies them as real flesh and blood human beings.
  • The details, I absolutely loved the knowledge it provides on our old civilizations and ancient India. Not everything is fiction, lots actually hold true as per our history and mythology.
  • The theme, which makes you believe that one can become God only by actions and nothing else. The whole concept of “Har Har Mahadev” which reinforces that there is a God in everyone.
  • Last but the most important one – the plot! It’s racy, engaging, page-turner, fascinating and totally gripping till the end.
What I didn’t like about the book:
  • Actually nothing strongly negative about this book except the language that too only at some places. Maybe at places I found Shiva’s language to be too casual but then you know it might be because of the fact that somewhere in our brain Shiva is ingrained as God, so called Bhagwaan Shivji and that’s why his casual approach in some situations like his initial encounters with Sati might seem bit odd . It’s more to do with perception I think 🙂
Overall, a very interesting and must-must-must read book. It’s not in news unnecessarily; it deserves to be a bestseller. I will be back with my views on second book of this series in my next post. Till then, tell me did you read the book and did you like it?