Monday, April 02, 2018

B : Books that I read in March'18 #AtoZchallenge

I have taken a goal of reading at least 24 books this year - at least 2 each month. I am happy to report that I am doing good so far. I was aware that in April due to the daily blogging challenge, I would be hard pressed for time, as my reading hours will be taken over by writing. So I finished reading my 8th book for the year, in March itself. I read an eclectic mix of books last month. That helped me cut through the monotony. I normally read during my travel time and for sometime before sleeping. In March, I spent my weekends reading voraciously, so that I don't fall back. 

The three books I read in March and my views on the same follow. March's reading amazed me because I realized that I haven't explored many genres of books so far.

Book 1 : Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

This was the toughest book I read in March, due to multiple reasons. 

One, this is the first book of Murakami, I have ever read. Understanding the syntax of a new author always takes time and as I understand now, this is one of his less accessible books, which can have multiple interpretations.  

Second, this is the first time I read a book which explores magical realism and I dare say pop-philosophy. As I read through its chapters, it became increasingly difficult to differentiate real and surreal. 

Third, the book is an English translation from Japanese. That was another first for me. There are chances, that few things got lost in translation. Also the Japanese context was new for me. So on a positive note, I am more aware and I think that is the idea of reading about 'others.' 

Lastly, this book was really thick and long and for a large part of March, this book was with me always.

The book works on two levels - On one hand, it is a fast paced and gripping thriller, (gripping, if you fill holes or open ends with few convenient assumptions of your own) and thus a page turner. On other hand, the underlying themes the book explores, it forces you to read again the pages you read minutes ago, thus slowing you down. The book deserves a second reading. I don't think I am going to do that soon. 

While the lead characters in the book are Kafka and Nakata, but I identified with Hoshino - the truck driver the most. His point of view reflects the agony and then the acceptance of a reader like me, who is clueless most of the time. His is the glass through which I understood the narrative of the book. 

Book 2: Byculla to Bangkok by S. Hussain Zaidi

This book is touted as the sequel to Zaidi's previous book Dongri to Dubai, which chronicled the rise and escape of India's most dreaded gangster, Dawood Ibrahim. But truly speaking, Byculla to Bangkok is not really a sequel. It just focuses on a different set of gangs and gangsters (Hindus / Maharashtrian) with overlapping timelines from Dongri to Dubai

At level of each chapter, the book is engaging and interesting. It is insightful, how crime world operates and how human frailties, ultimately bring down some of the most ferocious killers.  Also, unlike Dongri to Dubai, the author here doesn't glorify crime. That was my biggest complaint about his earlier book. At the same time, unlike Dongri to Dubai, this book has structural issues in its overall narrative. With no particular gang or gangster in focus, there is a lack of continuity. The author jumps from one gang / gangster to another, with too many similar sounding names of henchmen being thrown at the reader at a rapid pace. As a reader, it didn't give me satisfaction of grasping the whole, while I understood the parts.

Despite the above flaw, there is one particular storyline - Neeta Naik / Ashwin Naik from Naik brothers' gang - that was most complete and a strong one at that. Their lives had the essential drama - the rise, the fall, the betrayal, the revenge and the redemption - to sustain my interest. Their story amazed me for its sheer humanity and lack of it as well.

While glorification of crime is missing, thankfully; the vilification of police and security forces is complete. I believe the view point of policemen is completely missing. 

Book 3: The Everything Store : Jeff Bezos and the age of Amazon by Brad Stone

It is neither a complete work on Amazon story nor a definitive bio of Jeff Bezos. But it still gives you a ring side view of the key happenings in Amazon growth story. Though if you search hard on internet, most of these stories are in public domain. 

While reading it, I was constantly doing a mental comparison between this book and the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson. And sadly, The Everything Store, pales in comparison.  While you get to know key milestones of Amazon, Bezos personal story is missing. You don't get much sense of Bezos as a person. Yes, some indicators are there about his leadership style and related aspects. But it stops short of really fleshing him out. 

Also in terms of tonality it is different than Steve Jobs bio. In Steve Jobs bio, there was no effort made or counter-views presented to deify Jobs. On the contrary, The Everything Store, constantly tries to perform a balancing act and tends towards justifying Bezos' actions that may be considered strong-arm otherwise. 

There is an interesting side story of Bezos and his biological father Ted Jorgensen. It is amazing that for large part of his life Ted didn't know about his famous son. As I finished this book, I was left with the sadness I felt for the things that remained unsaid between them.  

My last year's challenge post from letter B was about my journey with books, right from my childhood. Read it here.
My theme for this year's #AtoZchallenge is all about writing stories, anecdotes and observations from my life in form of easy to read listicles. You can read the theme reveal post here.


Unknown said...

Pop interesting description I heard for Kafka.

Interesting and informative blog sir . I am inspired to buy Dongri to Dubai..
But you seem to not liking murakami much?
Just survive his one more book and he will be your favorite ..... I Recommend Norwegian Wood.

Charan Deep Singh said...

Well Avinash I had expected someone to say this. Here's my response
1. I never said I didn't like murakami, I said I don't think I have fully grasped it. In fact I have bought his shirt stories collection men without women to read next. Rather I would have expected you to share your interpretation of KOTS.
2.Pop Philosophy reference is made with trepidation knowing murakami has a huge following because real philosophy would have helped me be closer to truth. May be if I ever read it again,may be I will realize the truth. Like Ayn Rand really delved deep into capitalism through her fictional accounts, I didn't get the same high here.
3. You realised the usefulness of my blog pretty late. Hope you read all posts. ;-)

Charan Deep Singh said...

*short stories

avinash jain said...

no no , I sort of agree with the pop philosophy reference. I find the word interestingly define his genre. I am not good with articulating interpretations but to me murakami creates a whole new world in his each book....!
I read many of your blog posts but books are the topic close to my heart :)