The fifth giveaway and a nagging doubt

by Ahalya on October 1, 2009

Am I the only one who reads more fiction than non-fiction? Am I a fictionist? What about you? How many fiction versus non-fiction reads (I am clubbing travel, business, self-improvement, science, technology, and even autobiographies in this category) do you pick up in a month? If you are not a fictionist, what kind of books do you pick up when it comes to non-fiction?

I admit I am lagging behind in my non-fiction reading. But, I am making amends. I found an interesting book called Mrs.P’s Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map and it is “the story of Phyllis Pearsall, the eccentric British artist who single-handedly mapped London’s A-Z and created a publishing phenomenon”. The book seems a little slow (I am only on page 37), but, this is my first non-fiction read in a long time and I hope this book is good.

Ok, now for the fifth giveaway. It’s a simple, harmless 🙂 question — Which book are you reading now? If it’s more than one book, that’s good too! If you can, then send in the first, or any line from the book, (Just one-two lines). Or, just write down what you think, so far, of the book you are reading. I am reading ‘Mrs. P…’, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, by John Le Carré and The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Sterling (which is set in 1859, London, and is about a bookbinder’s wife, but unfortunately, not about books. There’s a lesson in this about choosing a book based on just the blurb).

So, the rules are the same as before. A winner is randomly chosen everyday, all you have to do is answer the question. If you have any trouble posting the comment, mail it to me:

May you win 🙂

Also, I have re-opened the comments section on previous posts (the winners have already been chosen), so please do drop by and write in, if you haven’t done so yet!

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Divya October 1, 2009 at 9:03 am

I’m reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. A pleasant book with no gory details. The book is told to be a ‘feelgood comedy’. However, I’ve finished more than a quarter of the book and time and again, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the protagonist. It isn’t sad. It’s just that the Dr. Jones (the protagonist) is content with whatever little attention he gets and he hardly gets any. If anythgin, he is made to feel like the door-m,at, time and again by his (over?)ambitious wife (new one, I know) and a boss belonging to that category we all know – make you slog and take the credit for the final output. Not ‘unputdownable’ but you do want to know the end just so you are assured that the kind, middle-aged doctor is not made out to be a complete loser.

A tiny except from the book:

‘Dear Dr. Jones

We have been referred to yo by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office 9 Directorate for Middle East and North Africa). We act on behalf of a client… who has indicated his wish to sponsor a project to introduce salmon, and the sport of salmon fishing, into the Yemen.’


Hetal Hariya October 1, 2009 at 9:24 am

I have been a ‘fictionist’ for long, and only recently has the balance between fiction and non-fiction reads tipped. But not long ‘ere I went back to some good old English fiction.

Right now I’m reading ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome. A part of the preface to which – The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in its literary style, or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as in its simple truthfulness – sums it all up; so much for a piece of fiction!

Some truthfulness from the book – useful information nonetheless:

‘“If I am guilty”, said the Earl, “may this bread choke me when I eat it!”
Then he put the bread into his mouth and swallowed it, and it choked him, and he died.’

‘Such is life; and we are but as grass that is cut down, and put into the oven and baked.’


Vishal Devgon October 1, 2009 at 9:46 am

“No love is Love that subjugates the Lover.
No love is Love that feeds on flesh and blood.
No love is Love that draws a woman to a man only to breed
more women and men and thus perpetuate their bondage to the flesh”.
” Too vast is Man and too imponderable his nature. Too varied are his talents, and too inexhaustible his strenght. Beware of thos who attempt to set him bounderies. ”
Excerpts from – Book of Mirdad, Mikhail Naimy

The book thats on my table 24×7. The book I never want to end. In fact I’m afraid of finishing off this book, its so good. The author, I heard, never wrote much books but this one is a masterpiece. Its one of my priced possessions.

Another, “Resurrection” – Leo Tolstoy still waiting to be finished, but have thoroughly enjoyed reading.

And recently started with “Why do good people do bad things” – James Hollis, started on recommendation from a friend for understanding darker side of us. Can’t comment on it right now.

If anyone has read these books please share your experience with them. The above two books I’ld certainly like to recommend to a friend or foe any time. These are the kind of books that are legends and their meaning holds true in any phase of our life.


~`aditi`~ October 1, 2009 at 9:47 am

Fiction, fiction, all-the-way. It´s not so much fiction as say, literature that matters. I have been known to read non-fiction every now and then but I only get through when the writing is good. A non-fiction book I ejoyed in recent times was In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce. He is such a quirky writer, I liked the end product. Always interesting to read of your country from a foreigner´s point of view. Oh oh and Freakonomics! I know that sounds cliché but there is such an interesting perspective ways of looking at everyday things. Plus Dr. Levitt is SO CUTE! (I stalked his blog online for quite a while after reading the book.) Right now ´m reading a book called The Elusive Quest for Growth by William Easterly. Interesting economic history lesson.

Coming down to what I enjoy reading 😀
Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson. I blindly pick up any book written by Winterson. She´s a genius, even if she says so herself. Art & Lies is one of my all-time favourite books.

Another book that ´m reading right now (have the last 1/1oth remaining) is Shantaram. Sigh! Such an irksomel book. I am only reading it because a friend lent it to me saying I must read it. I am only glad I didn´t waste money on this self-indulgent fantasy trip.


~`aditi`~ October 1, 2009 at 10:05 am

To answer your previous question:
I often DO go through and read the book, even knowing it´s bleak. It´s like being sucked into the vortex of a whirlpool. There´s only so much I can do to fight it. I have abandoned some books on occasion, if they got nauseating. Like Henry Miller´s Sexus. Yes yes, I know the Rosy Crucifixion is supposed to be a masterpiece and all that, but come on, how many sentences can you form with crude words for the male and female genitalia? And how much do you expect a reader to enjoy them? There should be a distinction between realism and plain and crude rambling.

No, I haven´t read about Mma Ramotswe. I will look her up.


Nithya Ravi October 1, 2009 at 10:51 am

Always found fiction easier to get through and therefore, ended up reading more of it. Got into non fiction when I was doing my undergrad in Journalism. Still read a decent amount of it especially when I have long hours of free time over a weekend.

But my first love remains stories (I don’t like the word fiction much) of any kind and that includes historicals, biographies, mysteries, thrillers, romance, musings… anything. My favourites of all time: 1984, Anthem and towards zero. At times I like to think of the first two as one story (and many will blasphem given the contrary convictions of the authors George Orwell and Ayn Rand). But to my mind they flow like a single story with a time gap. I can imagine Orwell’s world transform into the society described in the beginning of Anthem over a period of a century as doublespeak transforms into absolute collectivism. And I must admit, Anthem also makes for a more hopeful ending (I like optimistic if not happy endings).

Am currently reading Gods of War by Ashok Banker. I find it an interesting combination of religion, mythology and science fiction. Only one line that I want to quote (from the author’s note):

“Peace should not be a promise we whisper to our children. It should be the natural way of the world into which they are born.”


Meenu Aggarwal October 1, 2009 at 11:35 am

Greed To Have, Greed To Be Seen, Greed To Prevail, Even Greed To Kill, If You Think It Is For A Good Cause – Like Love, For Example.
That’s a quote from the book which I am reading these days – “The Winner Stands Alone” by “Paulo Coelho” – A Masterpiece. It’s based on the theme of Fashion, Fame and Glamour, Broken Relationships, Realizing Dreams and Yeah, it actually takes u to the Cannes Film Festival… 🙂 It talks about the values we once lost, try hard to get them back but never found again. Igor, a Russian millionaire, the main character of this book, strongly believes in killing for love. He Destroys multiple worlds in the name of love to get Ewa (His wife who leaves him), to understand that he is willing to do anything to get her back. But that’s quite questionable, to kill to get a loved one back is utter madness.
Hey, I have been thro’ just 1/3rd of the book so there is a lot more to go. As if now I am curious, just like u, to know how things will work. Happy Reading to all… 🙂


Deepika Mital October 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Most of the time it is fiction all the way, but am also interested in the recent history of India as a nation, that is after 1947 – once all the Freedom Struggle was over. For this I have been reading (intermittently, I have to admit) Ramachandra Guha’s India after Independence. Highly recommended reading for all thinking Indians – It is all about the things and events that they never taught us in school history lessons. Ever thought about why Indian historical textbooks seem to end with the Independence struggle? What about the 60+ years after that? Also have read and would recommend reading auto/biographies of Indira Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and even more marginal players of this time. Amazing the number of insights you can get into what shaped our nation!

Right now the book/s in my hand are – principally Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land, sorry cant quote from it as it isn’t with me right now – but it richly deserves to be quoted from …….what liquid prose the man has. It is a gift to be able to fashion commonplace words with such meaning and layers!! Go read him – any of his books will do.
I am also reading “Girls Out Late” from my daughters bookshelf – good fun, and all my favourite blogs 😉

@aditi – I have to stand up and say that I loved Shantaram, found it so different in the weaving of fantasy and fact – maybe all of it didnt really happen in the dramatic way it is narrated but still… have lived a life like that and then shout about it from the rooftops, AND spectacularly get away with it!!


kunal October 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

:):):)im just going to grin first :):):)


kunal October 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

i wish to say motivation running dry cause Noone is giving me a book 🙁 waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa


kunal October 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm

but that is not true[ as in about the motivation bit, the noone giving me a book bit remains…] wait, i think i willl…..waaaaaaaaaaa 🙂


kunal October 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

ok done now 🙂
i am reading im not sure how many books[ my bed is covered in them and i have to beg them a bit of space each night so that i may be allowed to rest besides them 🙂 ]
am reading simenon by simenon. over the last 2 months i have read 20 or simenons, i have always loved his books and the way he works his way through them and to my surprise i can never guess his books. which is a bit strange, casue fiction somehow is rather predictable to me.
simenon rules in this way [ as well]
i am also reading the blind watch maker by one of my favorite human beings[ who i dont know personally at least]
richard dawkins. i have seen him talk and find him a rather gentle and thoughtful person, both characteristics that i like extremely 🙂
i just finished for the second time a terry pratchett which i loveeee :0 – thief of time 🙂 wow . what a joy.
am also reading a book on yoga, not reading so much as researching somethings about fitness and trying to expand my understanding of suchthings.
lastly, i read little bits of a book called the long road turns to joy, by thich nhat hanh 🙂
so there u are 🙂


kunal October 1, 2009 at 2:49 pm

read fiction and the ‘real’ stuff in fairly exual measures i think. between 2004 and 2005,i read a great deal of science fiction, anything by asimov,sagan,clarke and some other books on space and time and such like got me going. think i may have read atleast 150 odd books on sci fi in that time.
but over all i read enough of both 🙂


Malay October 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK – The power of thinking without thinking. (Just figured that’s its hugely popular – apparently coz i think ppl have taken it as a self-help book). It talks about the often inexplicable processing our minds do in the two seconds of witnessing anything – from an artefact, person, movie or even an accident. I’m halfway through and am already impressed on knowing how the human mind’s judgements can be tweaked if ‘treated’ in particular ways. Haven’t read ‘The Tipping Point’, his earlier work, but my two-second intuition loves this writer already 🙂


Aditya October 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm

More fiction than non-fiction, but that’s still a lot of non-fiction. One unfortunate assumption is that non-fiction is boring, or meant for specialists. Even a great sci-fi book can fall short of inspiring the mind when compared to the realities of science when explained clearly. Usually pick up popular science non-fiction books, so will consume anything by Marcus Chown or Richard Dawkins. The Selfish Gene (Dawkins) and The Magic Furnace (Chown) are two books that have practically become a part of my bloodstream. Chown also writes science books for children.
End up reading books simultaneously, sometimes you come across something new, and you have to read it right away. Have been reading Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which is basically a story of the universe around us, our planet, and the science that we use to study it. Every word is inspiring, sometimes in more ways than one – it is both easy and difficult to pluck out a few lines from it, but here goes:

Clusters of galaxies fill the universe today. Some are insignificant, paltry collections of a few dozen galaxies. The affectionately titled “Local Group” contains only two large galaxies of any size, both spirals: the Milky Way and M31. Other clusters run to immense hoardes of thousands of galaxies in mutual gravitational embrace. There is some hint that the Virgo cluster contains tens of thousands of Galaxies.

These lines are dated, at least two decades old, and our understanding of the universe has improved – or at least changed considerably. The “Local Group” is now considered a part of the Virgo Supercluster, so there are even more galaxies in the cluster than previously thought. Most of these clusters appear as mere stars to the naked eye.


Neha October 1, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Reading Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

Don’t have it with me right now, so here’s the insightful first line.
“All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

All doubts are good, any sort of nagging is bad.


Puja October 1, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Fiction rules! Long Live the novelist! And, if at all i feel like taking a break from the world of make believe then i take recourse in Management, Business and Spiritual matter worded in a non technical, jargon free and story like manner…. though i guess when i say ‘story like manner’ it almost takes the non fiction element away:)

One of my favourite reads has been ‘Coke: The Real Story’…its a take on the Coca Cola- the product, the branding, the follies, the victories and of course its passionate relationship with Pepsi… another commendable read has been Rabbi Kushner’s ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People’… and he explains the title so well… he says its not about Why Bad Things happen to Good people… because they do… but about how you handle the Bad… so, When Bad Things and not Why..

Now, moving on to the question for the day…. I am reading the flavor of the month, the trend of the season, the book long awaited though have to still have to ascertain whether it deserves all the hoopla… The Lost Symbol… Robert Langdon is back after a hiatus….its time to run a race against time while deciphering symbols ,to save the world… you end the race with a lot of kudos and a slimmer you…. considering all the running you have done… tell you, i don’t mind being in Langdon’s shoes one bit…now if only somebody could give me personal commandoes for security… … I can start tmrw.. its a day off from work:)

I remember being fascinated by The Da Vinci Code cos it weaved quite a readable fiction out of the central premise of a non-fiction book I had read much before it came out… Holy Blood Holy Grail… a book the lures you into almost giving up your job and devoting your life to research…after all, the truth is out there:)

Glad i am a practical sure footed goat… still have my job and somebody else can find the truth out there… will just read about it…


Swapna October 1, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Dorothy Sayers: Her Life and Soul by Barbara Reynolds. So far it’s been an odd write, sounding less narrative and more like a record. I really cannot type 150 words about it yet, sorry.
I do tend to read a lot of non-fiction, especially travelogues, and the last one I read was Alexander Frater’s Beyond the Blue Horizon, about the author following the route of the flights from England to Australia as it used to be in the early days of commercial flights. One recent book I loved was The Spice Route by John Keay, which was eye-opening in a number of ways, plus I’m loving the books of Tim Mackintosh Smith, following in the footsteps of the medieval traveller Ibn Batuta.


admin October 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Freedom. Reading is an act of freedom. To be able to choose what to read, when to read it, when to stop reading it and to be able to form an opinion on it, and share it. That’s what I have realised over the last few days with you. Not to sound too somber, but I think (I am typing this as it comes to me), the best thing that a book gives you is choice. Whether to pick it up, to read it till the end, and to like it or not. This is an important thing no? This is when you are you. When you are reading, no one to tell you what and how to do it.

Phew, deep.

Malay: Thanks for writing in, appreciate it! I haven’t read Gladwell yet, but I did read one chapter of The Tipping Point, and I am amazed at his skill of looking at the bigger picture. Of being able to connect the dots and find the reasons, consequences, of several seemingly unconnected events! Definitely a good author!

Kunal, Kunal, Kunal, patience!!! 🙂 Ha, I am kidding, you will have some good news before long, especially since you’ve been so very sweetly regular! Once again you have introduced me to a author I find myself liking a lot. I just saw the titles of some of his books, seems very interesting! I didn’t finish reading Dawkins but he defintely had me hooked, even Matt Ridley the guy who wrote about genetics is very good. And Carl Sagan!!!! By the way, which Pratchett? 🙂

Deepika! Wow, I had no idea you were interested in post-independence history, I have a nice book, will share it with you. And won’t you recommend good books for me? I read Indira Gandhi’s biography once and was hooked! I need suggestions to further this interest! By the way have you read any (fiction) book that was a good reflection of post-independence history?

Meenu, the story sounds interesting, will definitely try to pick this one up! I am already wondering about how that book will end!

Nithya 🙂 Stories it is! Your comparison of Orwell and Rand is fascinating. I haven’t read Anthem, but I liked 1984 in a very cautious way. I must try to link the two! I like optimistic endings too! Ashok Banker is currently one of my many favourite authors. I picked up the Ramayana Series and was my jaw dropped open sometime after the third page of the first book. I love the way he brings in small details, about the food they ate, the trees they passed by, the jokes and the worries! Because of my name, I am always interested in the Ramayana. And his story of Ahalya is very well-written and its one of the few versions of the story I love reading over and over again.

Aditi!!! You haven’t met Mma Ramotswe yet?!!! Oh me, oh my! She is an angel!!! She is the owner of the No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana and she is a wonderful person. I often think about how Mma Ramotswe would have handled my problems. She is one character I would love to live with! The author Alexander McCall Smith has the rare skill of making the everyday sound inspiring. I love the way he can write about a woman, the way only a woman can! And I love his work. There is something splendidly reassuring about this universe, with all its ‘traditionally built ladies’ living quiet lives full of love and human weaknesses. You musssssst read him! I didn’t read Shantaram, didn’t want to go through that. Winterson has been added to my list and Henry Miller sounds like someone I wouldn’t like at all, so thanks for the heads up! Laughed my head off when I looked up Dr. Levitt online, he must be flattered with his very own stalker! Actually, he does look quite cute, I know I know, something Hugh Jackman-ish about him, when you tilt your head this way 😀

Vishal, I haven’t read the books you have mentioned but the quote you have shared sounds lovely! Where do you usually pick up your books from? Online? Bookstores?

Hetal, I love Three Men in a Boat and the dog Montgomery (right?). I had a bit of the book in my school textbook and I still remember reading it out loud in the class and laughing for ages till the teacher cleared her throat and asked someone else to read :/

AWWWWWWWWW. Divya, poor Dr. Jones. I am so praying for him now. Salmon fishing? Really? That poor man, does he have no brains? Oh, yes I forgot, the wife eh. Oh ho! Quickly read and tell us how it ends 🙂

I am moving to the next post, this week is going by too quickly I tell you!


admin October 2, 2009 at 1:45 am

Hey Aditya, thanks for stopping by! I agree with you — “One unfortunate assumption is that non-fiction is boring, or meant for specialists. ” I haven’t read Chown, but will. Carl Sagan is a very good writer, the book inspired me to join an astronomy group and stay awake through nights 🙂 Do keep writing!

Neha! Thanks, I always wanted to read ‘Anna’! The first line has me hooked, like the Pride and Prejudice line, don’t you think?

Puja, my dear sure-footed goat! Will be starting on the new Dan Brown tomorrow! He is a page-turner if nothing else! With a title like ‘When bad things happen to good people’ i am sure the other books is a bestseller.

Swapna: no problem! By the way, my wildlife photographer friend is giving away books on his blog, He has quite a few neat travel books to give away too! Frater is an amazing traveller! Haven’t heard of Tim Smith, will pick him up too!


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