“I’m thinking clearly now, right?” Abhaya said on reading The Art of Thinking Clearly. It’s become a kind of company manual now, since everyone seems to have read it or talked about it at some point. “Every chapter is a summary of key points of a variety of books, say for example Thinking Fast and Slow. If you want to understand cognitive neuroscience, it would be good to read this. The problem is this is what most companies employ to nudge their customers.”
Abhaya was not keen on the caveman dynamics that figures in books such as these. Maybe it reminds him of the self-help genre.
Imagine reading the Harry Potter series in continuum. Well that’s how it must be read and it took a month for Abhaya to live the Harry Potter dream. “I’m finally over the thick book syndrome,” he said as he had tackled a series. “J.K.Rowling is fiercely intelligent. Even her twitter handle is magical.”
Breaking the Bow is a collection of stories inspired by the Ramayan. “A couple of stories were hard hitting but I wanted more. There was no mention of Shabari, Vibhishan, Sugreev, Bali, Nishadraj, Bharat, Kaushalya, Manthara. No Meghnad, Kumbhakaran. And despite all the reinterpretations, there was no Wicked Sita!” Which is probably why by Arni and Shikandi and other tales they don’t tell you by Devdutt Pattanaik worked for Abhaya. While Devdutt Pattanaik writes the myth and explains it with footnotes the way A.K.Ramanujam does in his folktales, Samhita Arni is a master of subversion and brings in clever contemporary insights into an old tale that is as multi-headed as its antagonist.
An interesting speculative fiction collaboration between Australian and Indian authors and illustrators is Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, some stories worked for Abhaya. “It’s interesting how collaboration between writers and illustrators from different countries could give, in this instance feminist fiction, a necessary lift.”
When we thought the list had ended, Abhaya mentioned that he had also managed to read and review Vandana Singh’s Young Uncle comes to town is all about the kind of uncle every uncle should aspire to be. He also read the Aditi Adventure series that he had got for his niece. “I like the way Suniti Namjoshi writes for children with characters as funny as the one-eyed monkey, an ant, an elephant(ant-elephant jokes are everyone’s favorite!) , a dragon and three female sages.” He also narrated a funny story about how one of characters tries hard but has no idea about how to get angry.
“I read the books I got my niece too,” Srishti said. She spoke about the good old Archie comics of yore, Calvin and Hobbes and the new X-Men issues. Who can resist Calvin and Hobbes? Strangely enough, Calvin and Hobbes works more for adults than kids. And the mutants have a democratic air to them—they seem more relevant than superheroes in a world where differences are often disrespected.
I indulged in a bit of weirdness with Carlos Castanada’s The Active Side of Infinity. If you haven’t heard of Castanada, his is an interesting story about an ordinary individual who discovers his esoteric side when he meets a sorcerer called Don Juan. I grew up listening to stories about him and so I expected a lot of magic when I picked up this book, but since this was one of his last in the series, he spoke about the ordinariness of his life and how he used memory as a tool to go to the other side. The earlier books explore weirdness in a more satisfactory manner.
Memory is a mystery and I constantly try to understand the origins of forgetfulness. That’s when I came across a series of lectures by Ouspensky. If you don’t understand the crux of the Fourth way (I don’t either), you won’t be able to fathom much of what this book is about, but I liked the way he tries to understand memory. It is impossible to pin it down- you can not remember, unless you consciously try, what you were doing at this time the previous day. Now you are reading a blog post, but yesterday at this time where were you, with whom and what did you feel at this moment? The very idea that we can not rely on day to day memory and must work hard to be aware of ourselves as often as we can if we are to remember anything at all is a life lesson that I do not want to forget.
I started reading G.R.R Martin’s A Game of Thrones to understand why the A Song of Ice and Fire series has gone cult.
The research is exquisite, the dialogues are riveting, the flow of the story prods you on, and there are dragons which I have realized lately are one of my favorite mythical creatures. A good story goes viral, as simple as that.
What have you been reading? Tell us what you think about the book.