2015 reading challenge

I didn’t make it to my goal, just one short of my plan of 18, but I’m not beating myself up about it. I did read 17 books, and some really nice ones at that. I told you about some of them when I made it to my half-way mark of 9 books. A snapshot for the remaining ones follows…

  • Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates is a poignant tale of a young woman who unexpectedly has to learn to cope with her mother’s sudden & violent death. It made me think that never mind how tough one is, there are some things life can never prepare you for.
  • Untold Story by Monica Ali tells the story of a princess who, hounded by the public eye and fearing for her life, fakes her own death and recreates a life away from her past. The author takes Princess Diana’s death as a hypothetical start of her story. Makes one wonder, what if…? In fact, I read Brick Lane earlier this year, another book by Monica Ali. Must say, I enjoyed both of her works almost equally.
  • Balika Badhu (The Child Bride) by Monish Ranjan Chatterjee is a classic in Bengali literature. Sadly I am nearly illiterate in my own mother tongue, but I am glad that works of Bengali literature have been widely translated into English and I am making an attempt to read more of them.
  • Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won the Man Booker Prize in 1975. The story runs in parallel between past & present following the story of Olivia who struggles to survive societal bounds in Colonial India, and her step-granddaughter who travels to India 50 years later to uncover the mystery of the scandal that engulfed Olivia. A good read, though I did not quite enjoy the extreme coincidences between the lives of the two leading ladies.
  • Seven by Five by H.E.Bates, a collection of short stories, all of them a little too glum and grey for my taste. I didn’t even find the book on Goodreads, so that was proof enough for me that it wasn’t going to be a great book anyway. But I bought it last year at the Bokbordet, the same weekend that hosted the Stockholm Zombie Walk and the Midnattsloppet, so at least I have some happy memories of how it came to be mine 🙂
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is based in an imaginary scenario where they belong to a ‘species’ of clones borne & raised solely for the purpose of organ donations. However, human feeling is not something that can be engineered, and the book tracks a poignant trail of three friends whose lives are bound by love, friendship, jealousy, a shared past and a common fate. I watched the movie, too, but as mostly happens for me, I like the book better.
  • Lord of the Flies by Nobel prize-winning author William Golding is a hypothetical story of a bunch of schoolboys who are stranded on an island. The story tells of loss of innocence and acquisition of power among those boys, who are far from being men yet. It reveals how dangerously the human psyche may work around power & violence. I enjoyed the book, although it was  quite a horrific realization that this was very close to a possible reality.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is such a popular work that has been portrayed in plays and movies several times over. I can’t say it is one of my favorites, but I guess it depicts very accurately the decadence of American society in the 20’s. Still, happy to have another classic under my belt!

Here’s a peek at my 2014 Goodreads Reading challenge. Have you read any of the books from my lists? Did you enjoy them? I’d love to know, so please do share!

Summer traditions, Stockholm

There was so much fun stuff to do this weekend, it felt almost like vacation. It was time for three of Stockholm’s annual traditions. Each had a different flavor and I would have a hard time if I had to compare one with the other 🙂

First-up on Saturday, there was the Stockholm Zombie Walk 2015, an annual cosplay event where you can register to walk as a zombie. For those who do not want to be smeared with ketchup or other fake blood replacements, you can always track their route and get a good look at the creative make up. There is some gory imagery to be seen, some of the work is so impressive, it must take them a while to get the whole costume ready. Some make it a family outing, with kiddy zombies in tow; they are simply adorable! Photographers, both professional & amatuers, have a field day. I got some great shots from last year’s zombie walk, and was able to top it up with more ‘killer’ shots this time.

In the evening, there was another annual Stockholm tradition – the Midnattsloppet, or Midnight Run, a 10km run which hosted nearly 38,000 runners this year. That’s massive, no?! Mr.A made me super proud by being one of them 😉 Before you ask, no, I’m not much of a runner myself, so I was one of the bystanders, cheering for those who did the real job! The atmosphere was carnival-like – different bands played at every kilometer milestone, onlookers cheered along the full circuit, there wwas even a masquerade team that ran in costumes. The night reminded me of a college festival where the air would be charged with energy. It was also very heartening to see the spirit of the runners, as they encouraged one another to keep going, some even slowing down their own pace and hold hands to spur a friend or partner.

Then on Sunday came the Bokbordet, proclaimed as the World’s Longest Book Stall. All along Stockhom’s busy Drottninggatan street,  booksellers line up tables and vend books of any genre under the sun. Still better, most of the books are really cheap, starting from 10 Sek, that’s €1.06 or $1.18 by today’s rate. Now, find me someone that doesn’t think that’s awesome! Although most of the books are second hand, I never complain since they are always in good condition. English or other foreign language books might be rarer than those in Swedish, but I have managed to find a handful of interesting titles every time. It’s been a tradition for Mr.A & me to check out the book stalls every year, ever since we arrived in Stockholm, so that’s four years in a row for us. The book fest does own a special corner somewhere in my heart ❤

That was my fun weekend, how was yours?

Goodreads challenge : You’re halfway there!

A few months ago I showed my readers the books I read last year. Keeping up my reading tradition, I set myself a new reading challenge this year. I raised the goal to 18 books this year, which means I upped it by 20% for good measure. 😉 It’s mid-July, I have met the halfway mark and I am well into my 10th read. Feels great to be on track, right?

Here’s what I have been up to the past few months, in the order that I picked them up (hmm, I notice those thumbnails appear in the reverse order, but doesn’t really matter):

  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, first published in 1953, talks about an imaginary, desolate future world. Part sci-fi, part prophetic, it is an interesting read.

  • Monical Ali’s Brick Lane follows the story of a pair of sisters from Bangladesh and the different paths either of them takes through life.
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, is a sinister tale of four unlikely people that come together to explore the nature of a so-called haunted house. Not as scary as I had hope it would be.
  • The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is an amusing set of short stories from the world of newspaper journalism. What I especially liked was the way the tales were intertwined together to make it more of a novella than disjointed stories.

  • P.G. Wodehouse’s Piccadilly Jim was one of my favorite reads this year. Superbly funny and witty, a comedy of errors and mistaken identities. You can take a look at my review of the book, posted a few weeks ago.
  • From Heaven Lake is a non-fictional work by Vikram Seth, a travelogue of his hitch-hiking journey from Heaven Lake in Xinjiang, north-west China to Delhi, via Tibet and Nepal. A beautiful account of the geography, people & cultures that he encounters along the way.
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s mystery revolving around story of a man & his wife who goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary; and how their marriage has changed them over the course of those five years years. Quite dark and a very compelling read. I watched the movie afterward, but in my opinion it didn’t do justice to the text.
  • The Bone Vault is written by Linda Fairstein, who served as head of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for more than 25 years. However, I did not much prefer her work as an author. Too hollywood-style for my taste.

Have you read any of these titles? I’d love to know what you thought about them. What other  books have been keeping you busy?

For the love of a good read

You like books? I like you already! Reading is one of my passions. I have been an avid reader for as long as I remember. Books take me away on a journey through time & distance, into unknown situations, exploring possibilities, identifying with characters… Over the years I have realized I like fiction better than all other forms of literature. Although I can speak at least 3 languages fluently, unfortunately, I can comprehend reading only 2, and enjoy mostly reading books in just the 1 – English. But the world of English fiction itself is so vast and varied that it’s almost overwhelming! Also, work & keeping house & lalala doesn’t make it easy to catch up on the book lying on the bedside table. Enter: Goodreads to the rescue! For the past four years I have been taking up the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Beginning of every year this lets you set a goal on the number of books you’d like to read in the next 12 months. For me it’s a personal goal, like a new year’s resolution & one that I actually want to achieve. You could of course, also share your challenge with friends & check up on them from time to time. Take a look at their stats, you’ll see that the challenge has caught on quite a bit.

So there’s still some of December left & I have happily lapped up my goal of 15 books this year. I know some people can make it to much more & I seriously envy them, but at the same time I feel great with my progress. And who knows, with the holiday season coming up, I might just squeeze in another beloved book till the year is up! Here’s what I have been up to this year. Do you find any of your favorites in there?