Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Remains of the Day

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro;
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary British Fiction);
Pages: 245;
Publisher: Vintage International;
My Rating: 4/5;
Challenges: Orbis Terrarum Challenge-2009, Country: Japan (Author's origin)

Since the time I've picked up reading all over again, I've had this thing to read all the Booker Prize Winners! Also wanted to read some of the works by a Japanese author as part of the Orbis Terrarum Challenge this year, hence picked up this book. About a year ago I had tried reading "Never let me go" by the same author but I couldn't progress beyond 10 pages...but this time I was determined to finish this to figure out why the author is appreciated so much...

'Remains of the Day' is supposed to be one of Ishiguro's best books that won him a Booker Prize and was adapted into an award winning movie (with the same title) as well. The novel with its plot based in post world war-II England is about an English butler Mr.Stevens who lives only to do his duty, to serve his master and humanity in the hope of preserving justice thru out the world. He embarks on a journey to Western Europe, on being insisted by his master and this actually becomes a journey of his past where he slowly learns that the world is a lot different than what he viewed it to be. Through Steven's story Ishiguro also explores the true meaning of professionalism & dignity and how much should someone sacrifice to remain true to one's personal ethics..

It's a very quiet novel which is very gentle yet powerful. I loved the plot but this was my first encounter with Ishiguro's writing and it didn't appeal to me at all. I found the pace to be extremely slow and boring at certain parts. It took me almost a month to finish the book; I could never read more than 15 pages at a stretch..I'm guessing that the booker prize was mainly for the story which was thoughtful and touching. But I've read loads of reviews on the web where people have loved every word of his writing, so I realize it's just not to my taste!

I am keen on watching the movie now. Probably it will help me appreciate the book better?! Have you read the book or seen the movie? Would love to know your views!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buddha Mind, Buddha Body

Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Pages: 150
Genre: Spiritualism/Philosophy
Publisher: Parallax Press
Rating: 5/5

Challenge: Orbis Terrarum Challenge, Country: Vietnam

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, poet, teacher, author and peace activist. I was just casually browsing through some articles on the web and found a reference to one of his books and his quotes. I was way too inspired by his quote and that's how I ended up buying this book...

I had never read anything about Buddhism or its philosophy and as I read this book I was completely impressed by it. In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh reveals the richness of "mindfulness"..an art of being totally aware of the present, in anything that you do - be it brushing your teeth, eating food, drinking tea or just sitting down. It's a way of keeping your mind focussed on your breathing, on the 'present' without any thoughts on past or future. Might sound very simple, but for the kind of lives we lead and how busy our mind is occupied with thoughts and worries, this is difficult to achieve without conscious practice. But just a few mins of practicing "mindfulness" helps clear your thoughts and calm your mind to a great extent!

He also has references to walking meditation throughout the book, something very different from the usual meditation techniques that I had read about. All of us take long, casual walks to relax and de-stress ourselves but through this technique he describes how this walking can be done more mindfully, to achieve that calmness and stability of mind. Totally worth trying it out...

There are a lot of other references on how to train our minds to create the best conditions for happiness. I loved these lines the best -

"How can we help our hearts to grow every day, to be able to embrace everything? The Buddha gave a very beautiful example. Suppose you have a bowl of water and someone put a handful of salt in the bowl of water; it would be too salty for you to drink. But suppose someone threw a handful of salt into a clear mountain river. The river is deep and wide enough that you can still drink the water without tasting the salt. When your heart is small, you suffer a lot. But when your heart becomes bigger, very big, then the same thing does not make you suffer anymore. So the secret is how to help your heart to grow. If your heart is small, you can't accept that person, you can't tolerate him or her with his or her shortcomings. But when your heart is big, you have a lot of understanding and compassion, and then there is no problem, you don't suffer, and you embrace him or her because your heart is so big.
"We suffer because our heart is small. And we demand that the other person should change in order to be accepted by us. But when our heart is large, we don't put forth any conditions, we accept them as they are, and they have a chance to transform. The secret is how to grow our hearts. The practice of understanding helps the energy of compassion to arise. When compassion is there, we don't suffer anymore......."

If your interest lies in this genre then I strongly recommend this book to you...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Its Monday! What are you reading?

J.Kaye from J.Kaye's Book Blog hosts this weekly event on her blog every Monday. I am a day late having been caught up with hell lot of deadlines at work but nevertheless wanted to make this post...

Books I completed this week are:
Dont lose your mind, lose your weight - By Rujuta Diwekar
Buddha Mind Buddha Body - By Thich Nhat Hanh

The books for this week are:
Princess - By Jean Sasson
Kafka On the Shore - By Haruki Murakami
The Energy of Prayer - By Thich Nhat Hanh

I am truly impressed with the philosophy of Buddhism and the writings by the Vietnam based Buddisht monk Thich Nhat Hanh...Looking forward to reading more of his books

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dont lose your mind, lose your weight

Author: Rujuta Diwekar
Pages: 280
Genre: Health/Fitness/Nutrition
My Rating: 4.5/5

I am not the kind of person who usually buys books on nutrition/health/fitness. Google has always been my source whenever I needed any information regarding this aspect. But this is one book which I was very curious to read, coz I had heard a lot about the author (Rujuta) and also how she helped Kareena Kapoor achieve the 'size zero' figure had made a big news. Rujuta was also Anil Ambani's personal trainer at one time...

Rujuta doesn't fall into the conventional league of fitness experts/dieticians/nutrionists. Her book is not just about crash diets to lose weight or how to cut down on certain kinds of food to lose those kilos. It's all about eating & eating more (yeah, u heard it right!) but eating right. Kareena Kapoor claims in her interview that after meeting Rujuta, she didnt go on a diet but she was made to eat more than usual!!

Rujuta practically explains how dieting is misunderstood. It's not about giving up food and going on a salad and lauki juice diet. It's not about just cutting down carbs and fat and junk food but a good diet is something that we need to follow through out our life. Like she writes -

There is no such thing as going 'on or 'off' your diet. Eating correctly is a lifelong commitment, and the diet should be a reflection of this."

"Eating right" should become a part of us which in turn will help us maintain the right body weight...So you can still indulge in your favorite food and not worry about your weight/health if you follow her 4 basic principles of eating right...

Her style of writing may be very local, simple & conversational but when you see the depth of knowledge and insights she has to offer, you'll just ignore everything else!! Enough said, pick the book today and find out for yourself...you'll definitely come back and thank me for recommending it :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What makes a good book review?

Whenever I want to pick up a new book the first thing I do is to search for multiple reviews by different people so that I get an idea about the general opinion, the plot, characters and whether it appealed to most of the people who read it. So I realize that it's important to write an honest and a good review (by good, I dont mean just 'positive') becoz it does influence a lot of potential readers...

According to me, reading is a very personal thing. I've picked up few books which had some really bad reviews but I've enjoyed reading them and there have also been books which had excellent reviews but disappointed me..So it all depends on your personal tastes, a review just helps you in making a choice.

I feel that a book review should be short and sweet, should give a glimpse of the story without giving away too many details, describe a bit of the characterization, author's style, structure and maybe a few quotes/lines from the book to give an idea of the narrative. "Did you like the book - why or why not?" should be the focus of the review...sharing how the book made YOU feel is more important becoz if I my likes are similar to yours then I'd most probably take your recommendation and add the book to my shelf ..

So...what in your opinion makes a good review?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bookish Quote of the Week: #2

Now, I am not a big fan of classics rather I've never read any classics so far (other than Lolita, if it can be classified under that category). I came across this quote on classics and it really intrigued me...

"When you read a classic you do not see in the book more than you did before. You see more in you than there was before."
--Clifton Fadiman

If you are a classics reader, do you think this quote above makes sense? I'd love to hear your views!

I've tried picking up classics like Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations etc but I haven't been able to go beyond 1 or 2 chapters. I really want to experiment reading few books in this genre but I have no idea what is a good one to start with, which can hold my interest and get me hooked to it...

So all you classics fans out there, if you have any suggestions on what is a good book to start off with, please drop in your suggestions!!! I am looking for something simple yet interesting..

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monthly Reading Roundup - May

My reading has definitely gone down off late, but even with the hectic work schedule that I had am glad I managed to finish 3 books this month...
  1. Keep off the grass, by Karan Bajaj - a light read fiction novel about a guy in wall street who quits his job to join IIM-B for his MBA, in quest of his identity.
  2. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, by Rashmi Bansal - a nonfiction book which is a collection of 25 successful stories on entrepreneurship
  3. Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Yet to be reviewed) - I picked this up as part of the Orbis Terrarum Challenge 2009

Currently Reading

  • Princess, by Jean Sassen