Book-wise, November 2015 was the best month. It was incredibly kind to me that I ended up reading 21 books. I cannot believe it. I really cannot. 🙂 I read so much because it was raining cats and ‘Boos’ in Chennai, and I curled up with books, my Kindle, and Boo every weekend. Also like I mentioned in one of my blogs, I consider reading A Refreshing Escape.
Many readers across the world dedicate November to novellas. I didn’t choose to read only novellas, but I seemed to have read a lot of short books. A quick roundup here:
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
I am beginning to realise that I have a palate for atmospheric novels. Based on one of my favourite blogger’s suggestion, I read Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle for Halloween. (Thank you, Bina!) The psychological thriller was strongly atmospheric, and intricately detailed, moving on to the next book was daunting. I was stuck with the cuckoo of a trio, and found myself reality-challenged. It was eerie, had a dash of dark humour, and it was fun in its own way.
I See You by Aindrila Roy
This book was spooky. I didn’t quite enjoy the prose, but the story was gripping.
Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
This is one of the very few books I finished reading in a couple of hours. It was compelling, queer, intriguing in its own way. I found it more bizarre after I learned that the author had named the heroine after his wife. Interesting folks! 🙂 For some weird reason, I kept thinking of Philip Carey and Mildred of Of Human Bondage while reading this book. Perhaps, that was a toxic relationship too. I don’t see myself rereading this book, but I am glad I cleansed my palate after consuming quite a few spooky reads. Oh, did I mention how much I love the title of this book? Venus in Furs — what a fitting title!
The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo
The children’s book on the heartwarming friendship between a boy called Bertie and his white lion cub moved me. It moved me so much like Dogsbody, The Honest Truth, Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Art of Racing in the Rain. (…all the animal-books that I have read this year.) As soon as I finished reading The Butterfly Lion, I stalked Morpurgo on Goodreads, like a madwoman. Because, I fell in love with his work, and I wanted to know more about his other books. That level of stalking would have made him summon police in the real world. 🙂
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
Brave Enough — a collection of Cheryl Strayed’s favourite quotes from her writings — had a chinwag with my heart. There were many, many more quotes that I wanted to print and keep it at my work-station and in my bookshelf. There were many more that I wanted to share with my friends. There were a few more that I wanted to print on my tees. And there were some more that helped me unload my baggage.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
War Horse is for you if you love animals. It is for you if you like reading books on war. It’s still for you if you are okay to try something touching and marvellous. 🙂
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by TS Eliot
I loved quite a few things about Old Possum’s Books of Practical cats. First of all, I loved TS Eliot’s nom de plume — Old Possum. Adorable! Then, I liked the fact that the poems were inspired by the letters that he wrote to his godchildren. I adore people who write to children. The book is a delightful read for children, and children stuck in adults’ bodies. 😉
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This lovely, fairy-tale sort of a story features an intelligent gorilla, considerate elephant, and a snarky dog, who work towards rescuing a baby-elephant from the clutches of a circus man. It was a great read.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A Man Called Ove is a cute book that makes you laugh out loud, and shed a bucket of tears in quick successions. It’s generously peopled with curious characters — an Iranian pregnant woman who is incredibly kind and generous, a cat named Ernest (named after Hemingway), a three-year old girl who Ove calls ‘grammatically challenged natural disaster’, an obese young fellow who often uses the words ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’… I love all of them. They add colours to the book. Because Ove is all black and white. 🙂
The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
The Dalai Lama rescues a pedigree feline (a well-bred Himalayan one at that) from a group of boys in New Delhi. The cat, who is never given a proper name, is looked after by The Dalai Lama himself, his assistants, Mrs Trinci (an adorable, but ill-tempered cook), Franc (who owns a cafe), and many dignitaries who visit the Dalai Lama. She sits on the windowsill in the Dalai Lama’s room, and basks in the beauty of the snow-capped Himalayan mountains. She lounges on her ‘lotus cushion’, thoughtfully placed between a heap of Vanity Fair and Vogue at Franc’s cafe, and watches the patrons. Every now and then, she visits Mrs Patel, and wolfs down Indian delicacies carefully made by the loving woman. While her life seems perfect, just like every other living being, His Holiness’s Cat (HHC) AKA Rinpoche (The precious one), The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived, Snow Lion, is bogged down by many conundrums. To her advantage, she shares her roof with the Dalai Lama, so her perplexities and predicaments are removed by the spiritual leader’s wisdom. Because of which, Rinpoche (the name that I love) shares her experiences and learning, and makes a beautiful attempt to explain Buddhism in a subtle manner.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
While I try hard to refrain from revealing anything about the book, I think Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls was one of the best things that happened to me this year. It’s one of those books that’s light, but profound. (Sorry, I had to employ that oxymoron.) 🙂
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
This one demanded a lot of patience initially. Since, I once swore to myself, that I will not abandon books, I chose to endure quite a few pages which made no sense to me. When everything began to fall in place, I was glad that I decided to stay with this book, and didn’t waste my time. This was fun, and slightly moving. The seven-year-old Elsa, despite being too mature for her age, didn’t annoy me. I would have loved to hang out with such a kid. 🙂 And, the Granny’s badassery was epic. Here comes the ‘but’ part. But, if I have to choose between Backman’s stunning debut A Man Called Ove and this one, I would vote for the former.
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
The Guest Cat is profound, brilliantly subtle, and its prose is lyrical. I took a while to dive in, but I lost myself in it, when the narrator began explaining the beauty of their garden, the insects, and the cat — none of it belonged to him, the heart-rending irony of all.
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed’s books always do this to me — they sound personal as though she wrote those books just for me. It’s saying something. I know. Really. But, the profound connect I develop with her books is inexplicable. I loved Wild and Brave Enough. However, I was slightly skeptical before beginning to read this book, because I thought the questions would be all too scandalous and made-up, and the answers would be preachy. But, it’s Strayed’s forte to surprise her readers with her astounding ability to be raw, honest, and even radical. The questions were scandalous. Maybe, even made-up. Her answers though, weren’t preachy. They were riveting, enlightening, and pertinent. The questions could have been sent by different sorts of folks, but Strayed’s answers were for me. She really had this little personal, deep chat with me, as she batted every question. After having finished her third book, I am beginning to love her more. She does ‘write like a motherfucker’.
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
Spill Simmer Falther Wither — named after the seasons — can be interpreted in many a way. This is not an awww-inducing doggie book. It’s a book on a lonely, compassionate man, who basks in the transient companionship of a dog who is as battered as himself. It’s a book on a man, who makes peace with his murky past, by launching into boundless soliloquies, only to be shackled to the ghosts again. It’s a book on a man, who cannot fit into a society, and who chooses to flee from it, only to return to clean up after himself. And, it’s a book on a man, who ruminates on the not-so-good side of life, and takes the reader along on his memorable, adventurous, fateful journey.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
A couple of years before turning 80, The Queen discovers the pleasure of reading. She falls in love with it so much that she begins detesting her royal duties. Her corgis are ignored. She doesn’t care about her appearance. (She repeats her dress twice in a fortnight. What a cardinal sin!) Instead of waving at the folks gathered at parades, she buries her nose into a book, much to the chagrin of the Duke. Alan Bennett, in his charming way, makes one understand the benefits of reading. The Queen becomes more patient and empathetic. She pays attention to others’ expressions. Above all, Bennett kindly highlights how much she has missed despite having the biggest share of the world. Reading does that to us, doesn’t it? It make us content and greedy; all at the same time.
The Blue Umbrella by Ruskin Bond
This was the shortest book I read in November. 83 pages. It was a feel-good book about a girl, who falls in love with a blue umbrella. It was heartwarming. And, I shouldn’t be surprised for it was Bond after all. 🙂
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I think I was the last one on the planet to read this book. I haven’t read a lot of YA, but I liked this one. However, unlike other readers, who couldn’t stop sobbing after reading this, I didn’t shed a single tear. Does that make me weird? 😉
Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto
The book’s poignant, beautiful, and highly recommended. Em — the young narrator’s mother — slips into Postpartum Depression, and to the family’s dismay, she never climbs out of the abyss. Em and The Big Hoom accurately paints the picture of the illness, and its dark, deep impact on the family.
The Peculiar Life of Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
I loved so many things about The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman. The translation was simple, yet lyrical. Theriault’s love for Zen philosophy, and the significance of Enso were the spine of the story. Just like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whom Theriault adores, the book held an element of magical-realism. I would have loved it more if Theriault had left it that way. But, the marvellous experience that the element offered was diluted a wee bit by Bilodo’s rumination on the strange occurrence. That is not a complaint all right. When I read the Haiku and Tanka, and when I read about the transformed life of Bilodo, which became a ‘cosmic trap’, a surreal feeling enveloped me; the book was a gem. I did not expect it to be this beautiful.
Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita
Our Moon Has Blood Clots was powerful and heartrending. It was even like a reality check to me, and a loud reminder to be thankful for all the nice things in my life.