Libraries at London

I still remember the longing days when I was so obsessed with libraries and literally found none near to my home. We were the residents of Northern most part of Chennai where if you enquire about libraries, people would give you this scornful look. Library is something totally unheard of. In these parts, people have the notion that one would go to library if he were jobless. Moore market is the most we could have if we are so desperate for books. This is not exactly a library, but a place where you can get some precious books at cheaper price.

If I get so fanatical about book then I would travel to Purashavakkam in the scorching sun to visit Easwari Lending library, which was a saviour those days. So a visit to a library would cost me half of the day and I always feel so tired after coming back. Nevertheless, that library still holds special place in my heart. Then I bought the ebook reader after which my visit to that library gradually reduced.

After coming to London, the most tempting thing it offered was the numerous local libraries. Believe me, each local library here is 3-4 times bigger than the Easwari Lending library there at Chennai. And they have brilliant collection of books. This includes Tamil book as well. All the books are free. I can take up to 4 books and keep them for 3 weeks. I felt so overwhelmed. To top it all, this local library is just 5 min walk from my home.

People here just love reading. Just like Iphone, Kindle keeps everyone busy here. I am so surprised about this and I always wondered how everyone got into this habit.

Last week I took my daughter to the library just to give her the taste of the place. The library has very good collection of baby books. I took a book for my baby. While checking it out, the librarian said, I need to get separate card for kids. And using that kids could take up to ten books each time. I said Wow! And soon enrolled my daughter for it.

While my dear played with the kid’s books, I fetched four more books for her and went to the librarian again. The polite lady, on seeing my enthusiasm said – You know, we encourage kids here to read a lot. Whenever you return the baby books, we will track the number of books she reads and upon reaching certain limits we will give her a certificate to motivate her to read more books. There she said it beautifully!!!

Now I understood, how here reading has become an inbuilt habit. How much I long for these things to happen at Chennai. Sigh!

Entertainment and not enlightenment !

For me, a bad book is a huge turn off compared to bad movie. A bad movie could cost only few hours, whereas a bad book for me could cost days and sometimes even weeks. It brings the worst inside me when I wander past 200 pages in a snail paced book only to find out there is no hope to reach the ending and abandon it altogether.

 Last year I made lots of wrong choice in selecting books that impacted my reading. In fact there could be at least 20 or such books, which I simply read for 50 – 200 pages and threw them off in frustration.  I could recollect reading Obama’s biography – which was suppose to be very inspiring as per the book review- and wondered what’s the problem with this chap? Can’t he tell his life history short and sweet?

 I reckon, my taste got changed over the period of years. Once I love books of any sort. I mean I even loved those depressive Russian levels and always wondered what has made them so pessimistic in life. I remember the days when I devoured ‘Crime and punishment’; ‘Brothers Karamazov’, ‘ Anna Karenina’ and other puzzling novels just to get the taste of it. I guess, I must have possessed the epitome of patience then.  I am still amazed on how I did those. Now give me a tome like Anna Karenina, I would kiss my reading habit to death and be blissful with my household work.

 Hence this year, I have been extremely careful in choosing books.  I stick only to those super fast thrillers, page turning fantasies and mushy romantic novels and that too after I read lots of reviews and reader’s recommendation. I simply refuse to budge for the biographies and other life changing non-fictions. Thus this year reading is for sheer entertainment and not for enlightenment.

‘The Leopard’ by Jo Nesbo

It was much of an accident that I came to know about Jo Nesbo and his latest novel “The Leopard”. A week back, while I was browsing my favorite blogs, I chanced to read this author’s name. Though the blog had other new authors and books mentioned, the name “Jo Nesbo” caught my attention mainly because his writing skills were compared to Stieg Larsson. I am not a big fan of Steig, however I enjoyed his “Millennium” trilogy, which made me to read for seven consecutive days. So I made a note to check this new author some time later and hoped for some interesting books.

To my surprise I got the copy of “The leopard” on the next day. Thanks to the Internet!!! Right away I dropped the other novel I was reading and plunged in to this new book.

Summary from the book cover:

Two young women are found dead, both drowned in their own blood. Then a female politician is found brutally murdered in a city park. The crime scenes offer no clues, the media is reaching fever pitch, and the police are running out of options. There is only one man who can help them solve the case, but Inspector Harry Hole doesn’t want to be found…

What I liked most about this novel is the way the suspense has been carried through out the end. Nesbo has superior talent in crafting a gut wrenching thriller. There were many moments in the story that took me by surprise. The story makes the reader keep guessing the murderer, and later only to realize that all that were suspected is utterly wrong. Nesbo’s writing and Don Barlett’s translation was simple and pristine. I don’t have to concentrate hard on the sentences and phrases. The word flew before my eyes just like the story. Surely, ‘The Leopard’ would be the best thriller I have read recently. And of course, ‘Harry Hole’ is an interesting – though not superhuman- character to watch out.

Having said all these, the book had its pitfalls too. Foremost being that, the overall length of the novel, which I found to be the biggest setback for the book. Especially even after realizing who the murderer was, the story drags on to another hundreds of pages which was really a killer. If the ending of the story had been edited, the novel would have been much crispier and gripping. Secondly the book mentions many times about ‘Snowman’. That was Nesbo’s earlier novel. Though it didn’t affect the flow, it left me intrigued sometimes.

I became a fan of Nesbo’s writing. I heard his earlier novels are far more interesting compared to this. I am going to read every one of them!

Rating: 4.5/5

Sony PRS 600 E Book reader

It is not a review, but just the thoughts which made me to buy this beautiful invention.

For the past six months, I have been toying the idea to buy an e-book reader. Mainly because…

• In order to borrow a book from the local library, I must travel for 3 – 4 hours (to and fro) from my home. Being a book freak, this literally vanished my weekends. I regretted for not having a good library nearby.

• Sometimes it is impossible to find some best books, in the libraries and even in the book shops, that I wish to read. However, internet is a treasure. The problem is reading e-books is “LCD screen”. It is a sheer torture for eyes. It was those eBooks which blinded me.

At last to drench the reading thirst, I started to look for e-book readers. The obvious choice were “Amazon Kindle” or “Sony e-book reader”. I didn’t choose kindle mainly because it lacked some of the features that I was looking. I didn’t want to operate keys in the reader as I felt it would be a pain. Besides, the wireless access feature of Amazon has no use in India. So I didn’t want to pay for something from which I have no gain. That’s when my eyes went for Sony PRS 600 touch screen edition. Instead of wireless access, Sony offered some cool features like highlighting, notes..etc. The dictionary in Sony is so easily accessible. All you have to do is tap the word twice and there the meaning will pop out. The only negative comment that I found about Sony was glare . It is because of the touch screen. But, I hoped it wont be that bad.

Then came the big question. How to buy it ?

Both the products are not available in India. It is sad that Sony or Amazon don’t find market here. I have to go for international shipping which increased the cost considerably. In addition to that, I was not willing to rely on international shopping. I have my cousin at London, but the cost of the product is too much in sterling. Hence I preferred to buy in dollars. Unfortunately I was not able to reach anyone who could buy me this precious from US.

After a point, I was so disappointed that I started to look if any ebook reader available in India. I came across Infibeam’s PI. But it lacked many features that Sony offered. Moreover, the cost is almost equal. Then I dropped this idea.

Last month, one of my friend helped me to get Sony reader from US. It cost me around 12,000/- rupees. I got the device on last Monday. I was happy.

The reader is nice. I have uploaded few books and read couple of them. The E-ink technology didn’t hurt the eyes. The zooming option is wonderful . As expected, the inbuilt dictionary and touch screen features are awesome. There are wide chances for me to improve my meager vocabulary. I didn’t find any problem with glare either. If there is any fault in Sony, I haven’t witnessed it yet.

Having said all these, like every book lover, I too miss the smell of the books.

PS – I lost my camera, so couldn’t post any snaps. My mobile camera is so poor and a picture from it would convince you not to buy anything like this.

Something interesting

Even if you are least bit interested in reading, do check these links. It will entertain you.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Even though, now trains are not my regular mode of transport, once it was. I used to travel endlessly to reach other end of city those days. With not many tools – like a mobile or mp3 player or an ipod – to entertain me, I longed for something to vanquish all the lonely hours before I am starved out of boredom.

It was only in those long train journeys, I met a bunch of girls who were so fascinated by Shidney Sheldon, Dan brown and other authors whose books in general will have a tag line “ From #1 New york times best selling author” . I used to see them discussing and exchanging the books they read. I had often noticed a gleam of most peculiar nature emerge on their face, whenever they discuss books . I was puzzled – or rather troubled- by greed for not having something and someone to debate like this.

One day a thought hit me like a bullet and the same evening I was in the second hand book shop near Moore market purchasing a battered copy of a novel “The Salamander” by Morris west for 20rs/-. My first novel ever! I have still have that book with me.

Gradually books gripped me. I became one of those characters in this post.

Now coming to Chennai local train readers, I am disappointed. I am referring same trains which once had me interested on books. I often travel in ladies compartment and from what I see, the passion for reading has been deeply dipped ever since everyone is occupied with that little monster “Mobile”. People prefer to utilize their train journeys on managing family problems via cell phones. If they lack in family problems, they get happy and hear songs in FM that is played amidst scores of ads.

The last time I saw someone reading a book in train was months back. He read “One night at the call center” by Chetan Bhagat.

Recently, in my office food court, I saw an elderly American lady reading in Amazon Kindle. Amazed by it, I was tempted to grab, to have a good look at the device and the book she was reading. But then, my friend soothed and reminded me that grabbing others reading device may not be a moral thing to do. Hence I suppressed the urge.

Having vented out all these, I want to end the post with the books I am reading now. One is “Education of a wandering man” by Louis L’amour. I came to know about this book here. Next is “Wodehouse on Wodehouse” by PG Wodehouse. Both are sort of auto biography. I am having a great time reading them

Through the eyes of Bookworm

To a bookworm, the world, in general, is split up in to three species. The One who love books, the One who hate books, and lastly the One who want to love books.

The first types are the passionate ones. Can be widely seen in libraries, hiding half of their face beneath the huge spectacles, or, as a active member in the online book communities by frequently updating the forum with latest book they read. Their genuine craving for books will always make them stop, eye the book cover sharply to identify the book name, if they happen to cross someone reading a Novel . Such a devotee they are. The zealots of this class, would often go through the Hindu literary review section and try to lay hands on all the books that was reviewed. A bookworm always want to associate him/herself with these fellows for the sheer joy of finding out what the other is reading and to vent out all their real opinions on books.

The second types are the skeptics. This mass can easily be found out in the herd of people from the deep yawns they unleash with in the two minutes talk of Harry potter. These are the ones who casually remark – Why waste time reading huge books? wouldn’t you feel sleepy ? . A shocking and piercing question, indeed ,to the ears of a bookworm , but these guys are not harmful as they sound. In fact, only to these blokes, a bookworm will prefer to talk about the things other than books.

The third types are unique, and in a way, a real threat to the bookworms. These guys always want to love the books without actually attempting to read them. This class of mass can be easily identified from the standard question, ‘Can you lend me your book ?’ and would instantly forget to return the borrowed books. This is the most prevailed acute problem with this class. If a bookworm ask these guys for the book he/she offered before a year or so, this mass would simply giggle and say ‘Oh ! that Five point someone book ? I really should check where I kept the book. I had absolutely no time to read, you know ?’, and at once will forget the book again, whose memory will be evoked only in the next reminder from the book lender in the successive years or so. It is a belief that, the books that finds the hands of these fellows will never return the shelf of owner. May be a superstition, nevertheless a booklover should be careful with these guys.