The week in reading – 49/14

As a start to this venture I have added a list of books I am currently reading to the side bar of this blog. This will, I hope, push me to finish some books that I have started and then seem to have put into slumber mode. First of all, let me try and familiarize you with my method (if there is one) of selecting books to read. I read fiction and non-fiction, both in paper and e-format. I found the iPad a tad too heavy, and Kindle books in dollars were more expensive than local paperback version. And also, there was the strong sense of loyalty to the physical book!!

So although I have had a basic Kindle for a long time, I activated it only after Amazon started selling in Rupees – and with the Kindle I gradually shed my bias against the e-format. So now I am reading an e-book while commuting back and forth from work and a paper book at home. I am an avid reader of reviews, follow some blogs and nominations for various book wards. When I feel strongly for a book, I order it immediately as an e-book. Every once in a while I browse through a book shop –  usually Bahri at Khan Market, Tekson at Galleria, Midland at Aurobindo Place, various outlets of Om Books –  and pick up books I know about and are on my list of “to read” or just impulse buys based on interesting blurbs or even an interesting cover design!! And of course, there is the British Council Library, which has been a great source.

My non-fiction preference is history, biography, science and travel – travel being a big favorite. And I am usually reading one of these along with the fiction, the pace depending on how involved I get in the story of the concurrent fiction that I am reading. So, of the “Currently reading” list  ‘The children’s book’ has made little progress in the last few weeks, probably because of a slow start. Its a book I picked up for Rs 100/ at the Darya Ganj Sunday Book market – and I am sure I will get around it in time.

This week has been slow – have been busy with house guests, leaving me with little time for reading. I am reading Oscar and Lucinda (hard copy) and The snow leopard (ebook) – and should have finished the former as it is due at the library tomorrow. The two books are as different as possible, but interestingly have a feature forming a link.

‘The snow leopard’ is a much acclaimed work by Peter Mathiessen, the well known American writer who died earlier this year. It is difficult to slot this book into a genre, as it is not just a travelogue documenting a search for the animal in the Eastern Nepal Himalayas but is also an account of his quest for Zen awareness following his wife’s death from cancer. Oscar and Lucinda is the 1988 Booker winner, by the Australian writer Peter Carey, and was also on the short list for the Best of the Booker. It is the story of Oscar Hopkins, the  son of a  minister who becomes an  Anglican priest and Lucinda Leplastrier, a young Australian heiress who buys a glass factory.  They meet on the ship over to Australia, and the first half of the book develops the characters of both these people, each an aberrant upstart in their own society, to the point of their meeting.  It dwells at length on faith and divinity and  issues related to the questioning by Oscar of his father’s Christian faith! They are as disparate in background as is possible, but have a common weakness – gambling, and as they get to know each other it is clear that while one obsessive the other compulsive about it.

The fluent language of Mathiessen is a delight to read. His descriptions of the stark countryside of the upper Himalayas, the local flora, the people and their ways are wonderful. It is particularly enjoyable for me as the description of these parts, takes me back to my own experience in walking in the upper Himalayas two years ago, when I did the Kailash Mansarovar yatra. (I wrote a series of blogs in sep-nov 2012) Also, his thinking and soliloquies while walking though the great silence, struck a resonant chord. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book in the coming week.

Peter Carey has not lived up to my expectations – well written, but slow in pace, I have not been able to feel for the protagonists or want to follow their life. I am not sure how the last 100 pages will pan out – I am waiting for the book to surprise me yet!

But it was interesting that two such unrelated books should both deal with faith and the need to come to terms with it for each person.




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