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!

On Reading..

Of many things that I missed lately, reading catches the top spot. It is so heart wrenching to see my precious reading habit degrading rapidly. My Shelfari account says I have read only 9 books this year, which was a horrendous figure, compared to the last year count of 77 books. It is asking me to plan properly and reset this year goal, as if that would help. It’s all so painful.

Besides the EBook reader which I bought last year, successfully stopped me from buying any books outside. That almost shattered my dream of owning a small library sometime soon. Though Ebook readers are good to hunt and read rare books, it has become a nuisance in its own way. Each time when I stumble across a book, I will say to myself that I will read the ebook first before I invest on hard copy. Most apparently it never happened.

Also, I stopped visiting library and the Moore market (near central railway station). A year back, these two spots were shrine for me. Now it became history.

Desperate to get back my reading back, I have been forcing myself to read books in spite of me yawning for every 5 minutes. To my surprise I completed 3 books in past three weeks. One of which is “The Calcutta Chromosome” by Amitav Ghosh. This is a sort of book that you read on for hours only to find yourself in utter chaos. The story was more confusing than the movie ‘Inception’ I watched last year. If someone had read this book, kindly explain me the story please …. Nevertheless I would say I enjoyed the book. Mr.Ghosh has superior talent in writing. It is just that I am too average to read his books!

‘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

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.

Romance in thrillers

Have been reading lots of thriller/crime fictions lately.  The recent of it being “Triple” by Ken Follet. And I noticed something sinister.

The first 200 pages were great.  Gripping.

I found myself biting the nails. As usual, the hero was attempting the impossible, in this case, it is  to steal 200 tons of uranium- for a nuclear weapon – which apparently is not an easy stuff to lay hands on. The hero, being the genius, devices a skillful plan to rob it. So far, so good. Then that happened. Our master mind hero falls in love and the story strayed. I stopped there. Yet to find what happens at the end and I doubt I would do it.

Romance in thriller, is like dropping a pinch of salt in a cup of ice cream. They just don’t get along well together. Some how, many authors mixes them miserably. A heinous thing a thriller author can do to his protagonist is to make him run behind a love affair, rather than allowing him to concentrate on whatever mission he vowed to do in the beginning.

Besides romance will ruin the plot. In 90% of the case, after hero fallen in love with a lady, the plot is quite simple and predictable. The villain, at one point or another, will make sure to kidnap the heroine and the story will end with the male lead liberating the women he loves and there by acquire a everlasting love of her. See, romance has the tendency to convert a thriller to a cheap commercial masala book.

I have no aversion to love. But, it has its place. Probably in Nicholas spark or Stephenie Meyer book, even it means love between Vampire and Werewolves.  However, not in thrillers.

Imagine, Sherlock Holmes talking to Dr. Watson on how he romanced. It would have promptly put off Watson from telling us Holmes master mind and his adventures in resolving the mysteries.

The success of Sherlock Holmes is solely because of  lack of love interest showed in his life by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  And that’s how we got an brilliant fictional character.

Chennai Book fair 2010

A steeled silence lingered at my home when I hinted about the Chennai book fair 2010. Nobody really wanted to escort me. When I threatened, I will go and stare at those 600+ stalls endlessly with out returning home, my amma agreed to accompany. I think she agreed, because, to curb me from buying any books. I guess it is quite natural in her position to do so, because only last week, on the account of New Year, I migrated bunch of books from Landmark to my book shelf, So, she is not naturally inclined in me, spending all my money – according to her- on useless books, which otherwise would be safeguarded in the bank locker for matrimony. I digress…Anyway, That’s how I started to Chennai Book fair 2010 at St. George Anglo Indian Hr. Secondary School.

This is my second visit to book fair. The event was well organized. There were around 600+ stalls covering wide range of Tamil historic literatures, Contemporary Novels, Biographies, periodicals, poems, spiritual guides, encyclopedias, dictionaries and many many other writings. Like last time, most of the stalls predominately displayed Tamil works. The legendary Kalki’s work, still, welcomes from each stall’s front shelf. The works of other popular Tamil writers like Sujatha, Jayaganthan,Ramanai chandran, Kannadasan, Vairamuthu and so & so were also displayed at most of the stalls. The prices were pretty okay. But I have very limited knowledge on Tamil authors, so I just passed over them. The problem in buying Tamil novels is that you need to know which publisher publishes the books you are looking for. There are simply too many stalls, and after a point, if you don’t know what you want, you will not get anything except for the headache.

As far as other languages are concerned, I am disappointed. Yes, a decent number of stalls had English novels but nothing extraordinary about the collection. Jane austen, Shakespeare, HG Wells ,Jeffery archer, Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, Robin cook, Nicholas spark, Meg cabot, Stephenie Meyer, Dan brown, Bill Bryson and few more popular authors books, Biographies of Politicians & Business honchos were available in most of the stalls that offered English works. I have seen all these books in Landmark itself. Even the prices were bit higher than landmark. I searched for the book “On Writing by Stephen king” but no luck. “Book World from Bangalore” and “Book point” stalls had quite impressive collection of English novels.

I seriously wish, at least next time, more celebrated Tamil works should be translated to English and available readily for book lovers. It is sad that even Kalki’s already translated works were not widely put up for sale. Similarly, the great works in other languages should be translated to Tamil.

Now coming to what I bought, I was thwarted. I managed to get only two books 1) “Please ! Intha Puthagatha Vaangatheenga” by Vijay TV Gopinath 2) Autobiography of Agatha Christie.

My amma bought some cookery books which I looked at with pristine loath. Seriously one cannot get good number of books, if one’s mother hovers around with Vigil eyes and has her mind setup sharply on Matrimony and culinary. Let the sadness rest inside me and don’t bother the readers. Any way, the sight of thousands of books and the book lovers made my day!