Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books I read in April, May, and June

Damn, I'm almost two months late with this 'monthly' post. I haven't been reading as much lately, so this is more like one or max two months' worth of books. But there's more non-fiction here than I usually read.

A Passage to India by EM Forster
This was a rereading, and a surprisingly enjoyable one. I like Foster's Howard's End also, and in both novels I am impressed by his empathy toward people who are so different - women, Indian men - and whom other male white writers of the time had so much trouble treating as human.

The question I'm finding it difficult to answer is, is the novel misogynistic? It tries hard not to be, but I'm not sure it succeeds, just as it doesn't quite succeed at being anti-racist. But I give it points for trying very sincerely, and it's definitely a thought provoking read.

Hatred in the Belly by the Ambedkar Age Collective
I wrote about this here, but skip my review if you like and read Tejas'.

Annihilation of Caste by BR Ambedkar
I read the Navayana/Arundhati Roy version because I had bought it long ago, but the publication of that version is criticized so powerfully in the Hatred in the Belly that I can't recommend it. If you haven't read Ambedkar's powerful, never-delivered speech though, I highly recommend it. It critiques caste and Hinduism, and while apparently radical, then and now, it seems very logical to me.

Shakespearean Tragedy by AC Bradley
A classic, this set of essays on four of Shakespeare's plays - Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello -- was fascinating, especially was I was rereading Hamlet and had watched several versions of it in the last few years (Vishal Bharadwaj's Haider as well as screenings of two productions by the National Theatre, including the one starting Benedict Cumberbatch, which I loved and which really made the play come alive to me.)

New Casebooks - Hamlet
More on Hamlet. This was a collection of essays by different critics; I especially loved the ones on Gertrude and Ophelia, who remain cardboard cutouts but who I'm most curious about. (Who cares about the men.)

Stitches by David Small
This was brilliant and painful: a memoir about abuse in the form of a graphic novel. Highly recommend it (and if you want it and you're in India, email me your address.)

The Mysterious Benedict Society - books 1 and 2 - by Trenton Lee Stewart
I love this series. I started with the third book, which I happened to find at someone's house while I was on vacation, and shamelessly borrowed. Then I read the first two, which were almost as fun. They are for young children, but have enough of a story and interesting characters to keep adults (well, at least less-smart adults like me who're looking for something easy and entertaining) hooked.

Beanstalk and Echoes of a Giantkiller by E Jade Lomax
I love this author's writing (mostly fan fic and criticism) on her blog. Her books are available for free on her site. I didn't find them quite as amazing as the author's other writing had led me to expect, but they are still pretty fun. It's a fantasy universe with monsters from other worlds, and dragons, and of course, monster-hunters. It's also pretty feminist and LGBT friendly, though the main characters seem really nice to each other, not fighting nearly as much as a bunch of young people who spend all their time together might (or was it just me?).

Middlemarch by George Eliot
I reread this classic and was struck again by how much I identify with Dorothea Brooke. Her idealism and naivete were similar to what I felt in my early twenties. It's such a long book but I read it in two days (after work), it's still so fascinating that it's difficult to put down.

Sexual Politics by Kate Milett
This is a seminal feminist work, especially in terms of literary criticism. I also found parts of it really difficult to read, since she quotes at length from some really (sexually) violent episodes in books by famous (male, white) authors. Still, for a book dealing with difficult subjects, it is unexpectedly funny in places -- she not just eviscerates male gods, she mocks them. (Her observations on Freud I found particularly hilarious and interesting.)

Until the Lions : Echoes from the Mahabharataby Karthika Nair
A retelling of the Mahabharata in poetry, narrated by some of its usually overlooked characters. This was profound, beautiful; had everything I could wish for -- beautiful language, feminist criticism of religion and literature, interesting characters bringing new depth to a story that's been told a thousand times. Whole-heartedly recommend this. (Also the author, in spite of being so brilliant and erudite I'm in such awe of her, was really nice when I met her at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival and asked her to sign my copy.)
Alan's Big, Scary Teeth by Jarvis
I got this for a friend's two year old son. It's a fun little story with really bright, interesting graphics that young children should like.

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