Monday, June 13, 2005

The reading experience (June 1-13)

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 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).


  1. An erstwhile reader5:21 PM, June 13, 2005


    You make me want to tell the boss to go take a hike so that I can go back home at 6.30 everyday and read books. So many books discussed in this space... many I haven't even heard of before.
    I seem to have used the easiest and stupidest excuse ever - lack of time, to stop doing somthing which had been my mainstay before I started working.
    Still, its never too late, I guess. Thanks.

  2. If you want toothsome non-fiction, by a legendary globe-trotting journo, coincidentally a great writer, read Ryszard Kapuscinski. Books: start with The Shadow of the Sun and The Soccer War. And if you think this is just my dubious pro-non-fiction op, you have seen the review of his Angola book in Imaginary Homelands.

  3. Let us know what you think of Istanbul...I just finished My Name is Red and plan to start Snow soon.

  4. From various extracts of Levi's book he comes across as the ultimate anti-islamist and anti-pak using plenty of lurid comments to support his beliefs. I plan to read it soon.