October 30, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 205 (24-Oct to 30-Oct)

1. Anthea Bell, ‘magnificent’ translator of Asterix and Kafka, dies aged 82

2. Little Free Library creator Todd Bol dies

3. #MeToo: Litfest organisers, publishers are being pushed to respond to charges against writers in India

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4. Benyamin wins the inaugural JCB Prize for Literature

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5. Girl, Wash Your Face is the self-publishing phenomenon of 2018

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October 29, 2018
by Neelima

Going Organic and Mollusks Who Are Shy @ BYOB Party in Sep 2018 (Part 5)

Image result for silent spring amazonRalph initiated a dialogue on environmental pollution and the inevitability of human beings at the receiving end of their own pesticide practices. The book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is a seminal work about human folly. The book received a great deal of attention, provoking chemical lobbies to try banning it. “It’s a hard book to read,” Ralph said, “Almost like a horror story.”  Watch this. Carson predicted global warming and has been credited for bringing in the ecology back into the consciousness of the people. The discussion ensued about how paganism and worship of trees and rivers were actually strict ecological checks that we are better off following. Organic certification itself is a dicey issue; how much of what we eat is poisonous? Most of it, apparently. Since everyone is a stakeholder- individuals and the government- incentives to create healthier alternatives should be encouraged but the situation on the ground right now is very bleak.

Image result for the soul of an octopusamazonSanjana stuck to the natural theme and spoke about The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, a naturalist and writer.  The book deals with her experiences with her favorite mollusks, octopi in closure and ones in the wild.  She doesn’t anthropomorphize the octopus but the octopus and all animals play a pivotal role in her life- she sees them as creatures with souls and her friends. Her octopi have names like Athena and Emily Dickinson and distinct personalities, some are shy and probably extend a tentacle to you in greeting and then vanish while the more aggressive ones take you around their environment. Octopi have extremely complex nervous systems and unique reproductive destinies (death comes quickly after their eggs are laid), squirt ink playfully, change color and camouflage(mostly those who are in the wild are adept at this) and open locks. This is a unique book with an extraordinarily compassionate and curious writer. You can watch Sy Montgomery speak about her friendship with animals here. She just might change your mind about mollusks for good.

Not surprisingly both these avid environmentalists are women.

More books in Part 6.


October 25, 2018
by Neelima

Structure and Writing @ Link Wanderlust

The hardest part about writing a book is organizing the work into something definitive, says Louise Candlish. The structure of the book is based on so many aspects of writing like tense, time, point of view. A story narrated in the first person would be different from a story narrated by a husband and wife. Often a book does not work because the wrong POV that has been used. A bit of experimentation later, the writer can find the right voice. It doesn’t necessarily depend on inspiration; it’s trial and error.

“We’ve all seen images of authors’ writing rooms with a whole wall of post-it notes and visual references, exactly like in a police incident room. My method is more sedate. I have a file of cuttings on my desk and on my laptop I have a ‘live’ list of scenes. Fonts might be color-coded according to narrator or tense. The list changes constantly. I also have numerous timelines, one for each main character.”

All you writers, read Why Structure Matters When You Are Writing a Novel.

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October 23, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 204 (17-Oct to 23-Oct)

1. Anna Burns wins 50th Man Booker Prize with Milkman

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2. Alternative Nobel literature prize goes to Maryse Condé

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3. Rebecca Ley wins Not the Booker prize 2018 with Sweet Fruit, Sour Land

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4. FX Developing ‘Her Body And Other Parties’ Anthology Based On Book From Gina Welch & Imagine TV

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5. FutureBook Awards 2018 Shortlists Announced at Frankfurt

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October 22, 2018
by Neelima

The Checklist and Simple Rules @ BYOB Party in Sep 2018 (Part 4)

Image result for the checklist amazonAalok got two books, both by the same author- Atul Gawande, a renowned Indian origin American physician. We’ve talked about his books at the BYOB Party before. In spite of all the advances in medicine, there is still room for error and this can be easily avoided, says Gawande in his book The Checklist Manifesto. How? By following a simple tool like a checklist, a method used by people employed in industries as distant from medicine as construction. Many small cautionary steps could make the difference between life and death – hand washing, taking a tally of the instruments and something as simple as having the team members introduce themselves could improve productivity in hospitals. Hospital tales followed about how tiny omissions wreaked havoc post-surgery and skewed patient-doctor ratios led to the checklist implementation having failed in India.

Image result for being mortal amazonThe other book he talked about was Being Mortal which deals with how a doctor’s and caregiver’s role is not only to extend lives but provide a meaningful extension of life. Quality of life is often ignored in an attempt to save the patient and the soul is quashed. While making life decisions, the patient should be consulted as well if indeed it can be done. So while one patient may be emotionally ready to undergo a risky surgery that could leave him paraplegic, another patient may not feel the same way? So what is the next best option? We see this kind of discussion even in Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air when the husband and wife in the book discuss important choices. An inevitable death is no excuse to avoid dialogue. However painful, these conversations that the doctor has with the patient and the patient has with her caregivers can alter the final moments of a patient’s life.

Image result for simple rulesamazonA question arose about whether human error that could be countered with a checklist only meant that medicine was better off with more automation but Deepak countered this argument with the book Simple Rules by Kathy and Sull, Donald Eisenhardt. The environment that Gawande talked about had unstructured complexity, so in such a case manual feedback is essential and mere automation and algorithms will not do.  Deepak mentioned various real-time situations and talked about simulations of schools of fish to throw light on how to navigate complexities in the world by adhering to a few simple rules. Go to this link to understand more about Simple Rules.

More books in Part 5.


October 18, 2018
by Neelima

Misreading @ Link Wanderlust

Great thinkers are often misunderstood, says Julian Baggini, and this is normal as misreading is usually the case. The author of the essay mentions how Nietzche’s aphorisms have ‘never recovered from the fascist makeover’. You see what you want to believe and you read to corroborate what you already think you know.

His aphoristic style made this kind of misrepresentation easy. When you write memorable and striking lines like “A declaration of war on the masses by higher men is needed!” and “To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more”, you’re almost inviting people to take them out of context.

Nietzsche even had an aphorism for those who would abuse his aphorisms in that way. “The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole.”

You may want to check out Nietzche’s misunderstood aphorisms in How to Misread and gauge for yourself if this may have been the case.

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October 16, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 203 (10-Oct to 16-Oct)

1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie accepts PEN Pinter prize with call to speak out

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2. The 2018 National Book Award finalists

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3. The JCB Prize for Literature shortlist

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4. Penguin Random House to expand in Southeast Asia

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5. The number of self-published titles cracked 1 million in 2017

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October 15, 2018
by Neelima

Menstruation and Motherhood @ BYOB Party in Sep 2018 (Part 3)

Image result for Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body amazonMugdha started off an engaging discussion with the book Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body, a book by award-winning comedian Sara Pascoe. She got wind of this book while listening to one of the episodes of a quirky podcast called No Such Thing As a Fish. Women seem to be having their moment, what with skeletons tumbling out of closets and hashtags dedicated to the gender equality phenomenon, so a discussion on menstruation in a society that encourages a culture of menstrual silence or menstrual whispering is a welcome change.

The book talks about how society deals with women, tilting the scales toward scientific solutions vs cultural ones. The author of the book is a comedian and she doesn’t find women’s bodies funny. Neither does she understand why sexy women need to stare at you from billboards everywhere in the world. She doesn’t understand why menstruation is so big a deal and the fountainhead of so many bizarre rituals and why child-bearing is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s existence. One way to deal with cultural biases is to weigh the scientific feasibility of decisions- so if child marriage is acceptable in society, science clearly shows that pregnancy could put an underage girl’s life at risk. Feminism doesn’t apply here, only common sense. If you can’t vote and drive, then why get married?

Image result for my daughters mum amazonDeepti’s book followed the woman theme too. She enjoyed listening to the author Natasha Badhwar at a literary festival and picked up her book My Daughter’s Muma series of essays compiled from a popular column in Mint Lounge. The author talks about the conscious decisions she made to spend time with her family away from the madness of urban life. A media professional, she quit her job and focused on her children and the vagaries of being a mother. “It almost feels like the author is following her children with a notebook and a pen as she records the lightest moments and makes them meaningful!” Deepti said. She read out a passage where the author describes her daughter in such a heartwarming way; everyone listening immediately connected with it.

You might enjoy an interview with the author at the IVM podcast.

It’s not just writers, artists too share the ordinary life in endearing ways. Take Catana Comics.

Badhwar’s ability to turn the mundane into the endearing is a trait that many authors share. Abhaya talked about how Rohit David Brijnath, a veteran Indian sports journalist, bought along the same kind of flare when he wrote sport.

More books in Part 4.