March 20, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 176 (14-March to 20-March)

1. Man Booker International prize longlist

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2. UK’s Book Industry Communication Criticizes Misuse of Metadata Fields for Marketing

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3. Mira Nair to direct Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy for the BBC

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4. Reni Eddo-Lodge wins Jhalak prize for British writers of color

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5. Joan Silber, Frances FitzGerald win Critics Circle awards

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March 19, 2018
by Neelima

Scale, the Gut and Travel @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 8)

Have you heard of the Super Commander Dhruv series? I hadn’t until I was at this BYOB Party!

Image result for scale amazon geoffrey westA non-fiction book that provoked some discussion was Scale by Geoffrey West. This transdisciplinary book is a must-read if you want to understand how systems and networks work. Beneath the complicated exterior of living systems from bodies and cities to businesses, there are simple home truths that can be measured and that are common to all.

Image result for gut endersAnother interesting non-fiction that was discussed was Gut by Giulia Enders. The book talks about how the most under-appreciated organ in the human body deserves much more recognition. Enders talks about variety of issues including digestive issues like acid reflux and lactose intolerance. She talks about how the gut deals with trillion microorganisms and how your gut feeling is a true indication of the link between metabolism and the mind. A good book to digest.

Image result for the art of travel alain de bottonAbhaya talked about The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. He picked up the book as he has been traveling more of late and the question often came up about why anyone would travel at all, considering the amount of resources and experiences available online. Discovery of nations is long done. Almost every culture has been explored. The book contains around eight essays each of which explores a different aspect of travel. On the whole, he found the experience of reading the book very satisfying and recommends it to everyone who has caught the wanderlust bug.  You might want to sample a bit of Alain de Botton by checking out his Youtube channel

As the BYOB Party at IISc had a special slant toward poetry, Jaya wrapped up the session with a poem by Gulzar. Listen to the poem here. The raffle prize for the reader who got a book on poetry went to Megha who spoke about Maithili Sharan Gupt’s classic work Saket.


On the whole, this BYOB Party had the highest attendance so far but there was one glitch. The cupcakes we got for the after-party disappeared. “May the bookworm bite the cupcake hoarders!” Abhaya said and with that, we wrap up the BYOB Party at IISc.

March 15, 2018
by Neelima

When Writers and Characters Exchange Roles @ Link Wanderlust

There are so many write-ups, op-eds, essays, poems, short stories, entire novels on the internet that sometimes I wonder if I will find anything that will touch me deeply, for nowadays most emotions are so transitory that you only experience the writer’s pain for a moment and you are not wounded.

When I read ‘I Will Never See the World Again.’, however, I was deeply wounded by the extent to which the machinery of administration and law can go to hush up a voice. The author who has been imprisoned and is unlikely to get parole speaks about how his life is no different from his protagonist’s. Do writers and their characters share lives or are writers prophetic beings who often end up foretelling their own futures? Read I Will Never See the World Again. by Ahmet Altan, terrifically sad revelations but essential reading.

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March 12, 2018
by Neelima

Politics, Children and the Time Machine @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 7)

Lalita talked about a Pulitzer Prize-winning political fiction that was published sometime in the 1930s.  Advise and Consent by Allen Drury is a great read to date as it tells the tale of an American president, a topic of increased relevance today. Lalita first picked up this book during the Emergency in India; she reread it many years later after finding it at a books-by-weight sale in Bangalore. The first time she read it, she got a clear picture of how the federal government worked in the US and when she reread it, she was amazed by how little political systems had changed and how much political decisions are often the product of petty jealousies, opportunism, smear campaigns and sometimes even principles, all of which Drury has managed to capture. “Although the political landscape is unlikely to change, there was a greater moral fiber in those times that makes this book read more like a fiction than fact,” Lalita said.

Awanish talked about Manu Josephs’s book Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous. Unlike Manu Joseph’s  other two books, this one is more plot-oriented, a thriller that examines the political and social system in India. A discussion ensued about Manu Joseph’s acerbic and satirical writing. Some readers find his work too scathing while others think that missing the humor goes against everything the author has been trying to achieve.

Image result for lord of the flies amazonAnother book that was discussed was Lord of the Flies by Nobel Prize-winning author, William Golding. The story revolves around a group of British boys who are stranded on an island after a plane crash. In the beginning, the boys relish their freedom from adults but gradually they begin to take on roles and end up being murderous and savage. What would have happened if there were girls in this group? There was a conversation about a film that would change the way the story ended, had the crash survivors been girls.


Rahman talked about a sci-fi book called The Time Machine by H. G. Wells which tells the story of a time traveler and his machine, now the stuff of legend. Authors of sci-fi like Wells, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury display prophetic technique, some readers said before we went on to talk about more books, which will be featured in Part 8.



March 9, 2018
by Neelima

Visual Friday: Books About the Brain

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March 8, 2018
by Neelima

Condolences on Social Media @ Link Wanderlust

Claire Wilmort writes about a very personal agony- the loss of her sister. It is not the grief that she feels that she talks about but the idea of online condolences.

“The way people mourn online has been the subject of much cultural comment recently, particularly in the wake of mass tragedies and high-profile celebrity deaths, such as those of David Bowie and Prince. Some argue that the likes of Facebook and Twitter have opened up public space for displays of grief that had been restricted to private spheres of secular culture. But rather than reconstructing an outlet for public grief, social media often reproduces the worst cultural failings surrounding death, namely platitudes that help those on the periphery of a tragedy rationalize what has happened, but obscure the uncomfortable, messy reality of loss.”

Death is never understood by the living and grief can never be shared, which is a problem in a culture that over-shares. Wilmort does not think that a tribute on twitter to one lost means anything. There are arguments that social media is giving bereavement a new lease of life but that’s just the problem. Bereavement needs no lease of life. It is a void, an empty space in a person’s life and can not be compensated by any kind of vocabulary. Read this beautifully written piece: The Space between Mourning and Grief.

March 6, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 174 (28-Feb to 6-March)

1. Dolly Parton’s literacy program donates its 100 millionth book to Library of Congress

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2. Poet Ko Un erased from Korean textbooks after sexual harassment claims

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3. Report Shows Diversity in Romance Publishing Is Getting Worse

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4. Project Gutenberg Blocks German Users from Downloading eBooks

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5. Madrid names street after female inventor of mechanical ‘ebook’

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March 5, 2018
by Neelima

Wonder, Queerness and the Mind @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 6)

Pratibha discovered a book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio(based on a true story), much before it became the famous book that inspired the Choose Kind movement and a movie starring Julia Roberts. The story is moving, about a ten-year-old boy called August who has a facial difference. When he joins a new school, he has no friends but he is used to being ignored and gradually things change. The message in the story is given the choice of being right or kind, choose kindness. Although the story is about August, the perspective also shifts to other characters around him and on the whole, a great deal of empathy makes this book work.  Pratibha wished that she had read this book when she was much younger as children’s experiences are very different and they can be extremely cruel, yet they can also easily forget.

Abhaya mentioned the Pickle Yolk Imprint, a children’s books imprint, which deals with difficult issues that children face like death, loss, being transgender, and being embarrassed. Children’s literature is thriving in India as never before.

Priya is a biologist and since she studies about the diversity of genders and transgender animals, she was intrigued by a book by Devdutt Pattanaik called Shikhandi: And Other ‘Queer’ Tales They Don’t Tell You,  a collection of short stories from Indian mythology, particularly the Mahabharat, that represent a queer perspective. She observed that the book did not have explicitly gay or lesbian stories but dealt with the fluidity of gender in general. She particularly found the footnotes at the end of each story valuable as there the author explored the queer angle of the story in much detail. She read to us the story of Aravan, Arjuna’s son who married none other than Krishna who had taken on the appearance of Mohini. Once he was sacrificed for the greater good, it is said that no widow ever wept for her husband as she.

Nandini spoke about a book called Mind without Measure by J Krishnamurti. The book deals with very important ideas like how the mind, though important, creates problems on which it thrives. A simple example that Nandini mentioned was how we see polarities in everything, rather than seeing things as they are. This book does not seem to be in stock right now, at least in India, but you can read some of his teachings here.

More books in Part 7.