Category Archives: Books

What do books mean to you?

Gandhi_Mani_Bhavan_Mumbai

Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s residence in Mumbai

The pages are thin and its cheap printing may have smudged the ink in places, but my copy of Gandhi’s The Story of My Experiments with Truth falls squarely in that category of books whose value is greater than the words on their pages.

As with many objects, it’s the value added by the memories associated with them. In the case of Gandhi’s book, which I’m currently reading, the memory is of buying my 50 rupee copy from Mani Bhavan in Mumbai nearly five years ago.

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Beautiful prose

I was hugely looking forward to reading Tahmina Anam’s A Golden Age, which seems to have been on my ‘to read’ list for far too long, but I approached it with a sense of trepidation.

Given that it’s set in Bangladesh, in 1971, I worried it would offer a heart-breaking tale, and there were certainly elements of the story that make you catch your breath.

But where this book’s beautiful prose (held within beautiful covers) succeeds is in bringing a landscape of pain, suffering and hope down to a very personal level. It was  only with a short paragraph, which began, “throughout June, Tikka Khan’s soldiers made their way across the summer plains of Bangladesh”, that the author pulls back from the individual to encompass the scale of the horror the country endured during those months. Continue reading

Too much content, too little time

I’m listening to the new Dinosaur Jr album – up there with their best if you like that sort of thing – and wondering how I’ll ever keep up with all the, for want of a better word, ‘content’.

I bought my first Dinosaur Jr album (Green Mind – ok, but not the best one to start with) in a mall in Florida in 1992. Continue reading

Meeting a goal – books in 2015

From studying Bengali to blogging regularly, I struggled to find the time for many things I wanted to do more of last year.

But reading was one I did manage to keep up with, even meeting my annual Goodreads challenge to myself of finishing 35 books in the year.

Certainly there were some judicious choices made along the way to help keep the target within reach, but -for the first time since 2011 (during much of which I had a long train commute to work) – I did it. Continue reading

Must you hear this?

1001 Albums To Hear Before You DieThis year’s Father’s Day present was 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Handed over by Son1 with a knowing ‘well, you’d better get a move on then’, the door-step sized book goes from 1955 (Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours) to 2013 (The Next Day by David Bowie).

As suggested listening it struggles with anything post-2000, giving you the feeling that either millennial music has yet to coalesce into a, more or less, canonical list, or that after 2000 the increasingly internet-driven music culture has diverged in so many different ways that consensus will be increasingly  hard to reach. Continue reading

Amazon’s UK 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime list

A Fine BalanceLists are generally worth about as much as surveys; the trick to divining their value invariably lays in finding out what questions where asked and who answered them.

Nevertheless I remain a sucker for lists, whatever their provenance, and that includes Amazon’s new UK version of its 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, a wide-ranging reading list that manages to include The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Trainspotting and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Although it’s somewhat opaque in its ‘compiled by the Amazon Book Editors’ descriptor, it arrives just as I’m trying to work out what to read next having made one too many unwise-in-retrospect second-hand book choices. (It’s also, as usual, a chance to cross off the ones I’ve read – but that’s what lists are for … right?) Continue reading

So as today, the rest of the year

Goodreads reading challenge 2013

So close. Again. For the second year in a row I’ve missed my Goodreads reading challenge, but at least 2013 saw me come within spitting distance of it, gaining ground in the last months of the year only to find it wasn’t enough. Continue reading

Grabbing moments where you can

Chicago skylineChicago flagsMillenium parkCloud Gate or The BeanRiver architectural tourRiver architectural tour
River architectural tourJazz record shop, ChicagoElevated viewRiver architectural tourThe tallest of the tallJohn Hancock Tower
John Hancock TowerRiver architectural tour

Some Chicago pictures, a set on Flickr.

I don’t travel often for work, but when I do I like to make the most of my time in whatever new location I find myself – even if it means mostly seeing the outside of a lot of buildings. Continue reading

Gruesome music comedy

In the evening we went to the cinema. The film was a gruesome music comedy set amongst almond blossom in Kashmir.

I’m enjoying reading Eric Newby’s Slowly Down The Ganges, an account of the 1,200 mile journey he and his wife made in the early 1960s, but the line quoted above did make me wonder how many Bollywood films would qualify as gruesome music comedies.

Feeling virtuous

Books behind the bed

How many books are too many? I ask because, for the first time in recent years, I’ve decided against going to our local, annual book fair.

Which is a shame. It’s held in a church and has been bursting at the seams, expanding out of the hall, into corridors and even the church itself.

For a confirmed second-hand-book-aholic (I’m sure that is a word) it’s the easiest place to while a way hours at a time, even if it does get a bit ‘elbows at dawn’. Continue reading