Reading has been very scattered the past two weeks. Too much else happening that’s been taking up too much time, and there have been days when I just haven’t had the energy to read late into the night.
So here’s a quick list of what I have managed to get through:
First 160-odd pages (or ‘Part 1’) of Shantaram. As compelling as I’d expected, and a fast read, but so much energy goes in just holding the thing that I haven’t yet managed more than 35-40 pages a night.
Quite a lot of non-fiction, which is unusual for me, but it’s an area I need to brush up on. Finished Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat (often overweeningly silly, blinkered and patchily written but not without its points of interest). Also Bernard-Henri Levy’s Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, which was especially fascinating for its portrait of the monstrous Omar Sheikh, who masterminded the Pearl kidnapping and murder. Levy’s intense, claustrophobia-inducing book took me back to those dark days in early 2002 when I was working on graveyard shifts for TheNewspaperToday.com and we were all waiting with a mixture of fascination and revulsion for the videos of the killing to be released to the press. The six months post-9/11...what a time that was for a journalist working overnight on a 24-hour website while a new story was breaking in the US every half-hour or so.
Still reading Steven Pinker’s excellent The Blank Slate, about the nature-nurture debate, given to me by Amit Varma a couple of months ago. Riveting though this book is, it requires such concentrated reading that I haven’t been able to get through it once and for all, what with the reviewing obligations that crop up intermittently.
Have started on Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul; am a big fan of the man’s fiction, especially Snow, and am keen to see what he does with this memoir. Love the early passages about his memories of a childhood spent in his familys’s five-storey house with its unused pianos and untouched Chinese porcelain figures.
A Bunch of Old Letters - a new print of a selection of letters edited by Jawaharlal Nehru, most written by or to him. I’ve been opening this book at random, reading whatever catches my fancy but I did go through the complete correspondence between Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose between October 1938 and April 1939, when the decisive parting of ways between the two men occurred. A very interesting look at a clash of ideologies that still casts a shadow over the country. Isn’t it such fun when great men scrap (even when they continue signing off their letters “Yours affectionately” until the very end).