Monday, 1 January 2018

On not being able to read as much.

This year, as I celebrated the end of another year gone by, my heart felt a little heavy. Heavy, at the thought that I didn't even make it halfway through my reading challenge on goodreads. The challenge number on goodreads is more than just a number in my life, its an obsession. Its what guides my reading choices, and pushes me forward. All that talk about not putting so much pressure on reading? Well, it applies everywhere, except this particular aspect.

So why was the number so low? I have no particular reason. I have excuses, and they are no different than anyone else's pre-occupations in life. I am not especially entitled with a busy life. I am entitled with specially bad time management skills though. I have been distracted, wasted my time and put reading on the back of my mind. I bought and bought books without carving out any time to read them.

Why do I write this self-deprecating post you may ask? Because, this year I plan on changing that. I plan on using my phone less, and reading more. I plan on trying new genres, taking more recommendations and having patience to see the end of books through. I plan on reading in whatever time i find, rather than waiting for 3 hours to magically fall in my lap. I plan on doing better on something that is of incredible significance to me. And, I write this here to hold myself accountable. And to the two people who might read this post, if you did not read as much this year, and it makes you feel some kind of way, its never too late to get back to it.

Happy new year! May all the books you read this year make it to your favorite list, and confuse the hell out of you when you try and choose.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Books - Ft. Marriage

For a while now, I have been a frequent indulger of the romance genre. I am a sucker for a good tale of pursuit of love. I light some candles, put on some music and read into the night. It is my favorite way to spend time. But, for the past four years, ever since I got married that is, I have been noticing something lacking from this genre. And that is the depiction of what happens after the happily ever after. While I totally understand that, that is not an aspect that they are obliged to show me, after having read so many of them, I was a little disappointed that being married in real life was nothing like that at all. In fact, at most times even the pursuit of your beloved is more practical than romantic.
Being a person that needs to find books for the situation of life she is in, or it is not really happening, I got to searching. And here are some books that helped me find books about or that featured marriage in a realistic way.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – The year this book came out it was everywhere on social media. What sealed the deal for me however was the fact that Obama named it as his favorite book of the year. I was sold. I listened to it on audio and loved it. It wasn’t the plot or the characters that I particularly loved, but the ridiculously real portrayal of what it’s like to be married. The secrets one often buries because they really are better off, the degree of co-dependency that persists without the involved people even realizing it, and the little delusions we put ourselves through to get by.

Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim – This was another favorite. Not just because it was set in a medieval castle in Italy (it was certainly a huge factor) but because of its depiction of how marital relations can often fizzle out against the back drop of life’s practicalities. I also loved the connotation that such a situation could be fixed by a trip to Italy. Not to invalidate the seriousness of the problem, but that little gestures can fix very huge problems. I highly recommend making your significant other read it.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – This was one of my favorite reads this year, and I think I recommended it to everyone I met. On the outside it looks like the fluffiest book there can be. On the inside it is the diametric opposite. It deals with the issues and ideas that people go through with changing stages in their relationship, and how it changes the amount of lies we tell ourselves to keep a marriage going. It perfectly captures the idea of security that marriage provides that often makes us blind to the emerging cracks, all set at a pace that leaves you breathless.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

See it Thru

My book club this month invited Richard Judy to our meeting, who is the author of 'Thru: An Appalachian Trail love story.' Always wary of being told what to read next, I approached this book with hesitation and general disinterest. Twice, I started, and abandoned it.

Then the day just before the meet, I decided to sit down and get into it and boy, was it fun.

Richard Judy starkly different from many books about the Trail, tells his story in a fictionalized form. His characters though based in reality, are a work of his imagination, and a great one for that.
The novel itself is told in a fascinating format; as journal entries by the hikers in the various locations that they stop at.

It tells the story of about six to seven people (it varies), who intend to thru-hike to the Northern top of the Appalachian trail (There's a map and everything, so do not let my lack of geography stop you). During this thru-hike, they have many adventures, and form many relationships, bound to last a lifetime. The book is full of ups and downs, and a refreshing change from the monotone that usually accompanies non-fiction books about the trail (Monotone isn't bad, but its nice to switch it up).
I absolutely would not be hiking,
but I got this at the absolute start of the Trail

Another fact that sets this book apart is its characters. In non-fiction works, a reader's imagination is involved to a certain extent. Non fiction is mostly (here's looking at you, James Frey) an account of what really happened. Whereas, fiction allows you to expand and limit your imagination according to your limits. Don't like someone? Just stop imagining them too much and you are good. And this book gives you the room to do just that. It also helps you do it, with each character narrative being entirely different and switching at just about the right moment.

I love the idea of hiking and the outdoors in theory, so my books are the way I make sure the idea stays away from manifesting into a real life struggle at staying alive. This book made me almost give it a shot.

Icing on the cake, the author is an amazing, nice person who has thru-hiked the Appalachian trail twice. He is also on the committee for the Appalachian Trail maintenance and they actually published this book. All the proceeds from the sale of this book go directly into maintaining the trail. As Captain Stupid (Ignatius Reilly's lost twin brother, I am certain) would have said, 'Yay.'

Monday, 29 August 2016

Embracing Sucking at Something

For the past three months, I have been trying to participate in read-a-thons. You can even scroll down my blog and read through my two attempts that I managed to document.

So when the Bout of Books 17.0 finally finished this weekend, I did a little soul searching, to get to the bottom of my heathen habits.

Here are the list of reasons I came up with for sucking at read-a-thons;

1) I suck at keeping commitments I am not bound to keep.
This sounds bad, and it is. But usually, if there is not this insane amount of pressure on me to get something done, I will probably not do it. Same goes for read-a-thons. On most days, I don't feel like sitting hours and hours reading books, and when it is due to failure of commitment, the feeling of accomplishment that follows, is not a strong enough cue.

2) I get distracted easily.
I have a million hobbies. A million chores that need to be done daily. A million people I need to give time to before I can pick up a book. All these things are on most days, exhausting. And when push comes to shove and I have time to pick up a book, that pesky remote eyes me and I end up watching Netflix instead.

3) I like my bookish plans to be spontaneous.
I love making lists. I love making plans. And read-a-thons combine all that into one. But I think, my reading and my books are one thing I do not like planned. I like the fact that I pick up a book at random times of the day or on some days not at all. I like my varying patterns of reading 100 pages in one sitting, and somedays barely making through 5. This I think is the strongest reason why I do not do read-a-thons well.
When everything in life needs to be done at a certain time and by a certain time, its nice to know that there is something you can do as you please, when you please.

On Detaching Yourself

How does one detach themselves from a piece of fiction that they are reading? Does it even make sense to do that?

I am currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and while that book is beautifully written, it is intense. Blunt and glaring descriptions of slavery and violence, often times this book is hard to digest. But as I am reading it, I can feel that it is something important. That I should not shy away from it because this is not just fiction based in non-reality, but actual reality for people who were living at that time. I should not shy away from understanding what they went through, if only to appreciate how far along we have come as humans and how far along we still have to go.

So I am wondering now, should I even try to detach myself from the characters, or open myself to an experience like never before? Just raw and real emotions which will quite possible make me a changed person. For now, I am just going with the flow and dropping the book whenever it gets too intense, and reading something else. I highly recommend it to everyone though. It’s a work of art, and if it makes you check your privilege, then that is just an introspective experience you cannot miss.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

D is for Diverse

I have been an immigrant since the day I was born. When I was born my parents had already immigrated to UAE from Pakistan and when I got married I moved to USA. So, the concepts of nationhood and a place to call my own have usually revolved around the locations of my loved ones.
But when I entered into the world of books I realized that feelings of isolation in different cultures, the need to belong were real feelings which people around me were constantly aware of. That is the first time I decided to diversify my reading and read more authors belonging to similar cultures as that of mine. Maybe the feelings I was not feeling was maybe because I could not tap into them. That was the first time I read Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Arundathi Roy's God of Small Things.

Ever since then I have tried to read authors of different cultures, non-white to make it simple. Authors like Celeste Ng, Ruth Ozeki, order to grasp the void that everyone was feeling once they left their countries, their lands. I felt left out because somehow something in me was missing and I did not feel the need to find my own people, or to belong, I had been an alien ever since I was born and I was perfectly comfortable in it.

When I moved to the US, my reading preferences changed once again. Somehow unconsciously, the number of books on my shelves started to be by all white authors; male and female. The diversification that had been taking place in my reading before somehow was disappearing. I was avoiding authors that were non-white for the sheer reason that they could not communicate in English as well as the authors whose mother tongue was English (Despicable, I know).

Another reason why I often stayed away from such books was because I always felt that these books had exploitative depressing undertones. I had rarely read a book that was light or described a happy experience and that in my head was a good enough reason to not read them. But in my adventures as an adult  i have realized that you have got to take the sad with the glad. Over the past week  articles about the importance of reading diversely have surfaced, and I have made a decision once again. I removed all the books by non-white authors on my shelves and put them in front of me in my home office.

Over the remaining months my reading choices are going to involve authors that are not white. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that these authors should be given preference over white authors, who so clearly are brilliant at what they do as well and earn their fame and name. It is just that I as an individual want to give other authors a chance too. When I have a conversation with someone about books I don't just want to give them names of authors like Stephen King, Grisham, Austen, Wharton (All of who are absolutely brilliant, btw), but I would like to name authors from all over the world. You know, 'Celeste Ng? She wrote a brilliant book about inter-racial marriage and coming to terms with being an immigrant in a foreign land.' You know Ruth Ozeki? She wrote a great book about how you may leave your homeland, once you come back it is never quite the same as you thought it would be. These are the kinds of conversations I want to be having. I want to be more empathetic
as I grow. I want to stop and understand where someone is coming from rather than label them or blame their ethnicity for it. I want to be a better person, and I think books are the best way to help me do it.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A silent chronicle

Imagine a hot, arid desert. Imagine the feeling of hopelessness you feel as you run out of food, run out of water. This is the feeling that this book invoked in me. Chronicling the life of an un-named narrator from childhood to adulthood, the author captures the feeling of distance and aloofness that all of us often feel towards the events happening around us. The feeling and desire to do something, but somehow always falling short of it. 

With its lyrical prose you watch a young girl grow in Egypt and get to witness the Arab Spring through the eyes of a female. However, the female does not indulge much in the movement, nor does she have any ideas about it,  and that angle remains unexplored. 
I would recommend this book to those looking for a fast, yet also somewhat substantial read about a city that has lost its soul. Apart from that there is not much that this book promises.

You can find out more about the author and her other works and thoughts at;
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.