Monday, December 12, 2016

Reading Book list of 2016

I did get back to book reading last year, though I kept it limited, by making good choices. Now my philosophy is that, there are limited number of hours in a day and all books are not gifts of Saraswati that I should revere them and read every suggested list. I have no hangup about discarding some books, after trying the first few pages. This confidence also stems from the fact that I am not buying them. Well some of them. I depend on Library now. Library has enabled all us to wade through hundreds of children books, running books, potboiler novels, cookbooks, new releases & more. This year, I managed to read the below books, while I let go of many half-read.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.

Martian by Andy Weir

Got to know about it when the movie promos started playing on Youtube. I usually force everyone in the family to see trailers. I did it for Martian movie trailers as well. Later when I bought the book, my kid (who I thought is just a baby) goes, "Oh liked that movie". She remembered the trailer.

So after endless wait for Library copy, I went and bought the paperback. I wanted to read it before movie came out. The book is worth all the hype ! Totally humorous language. Not some desolate desperate despairing depressing tale of being left behind. But a story of taking one step at a time and problem-solving. And there is enough material to engage a Space Sci-fi lover. Loved it.

And then I saw the movie hoping it would be as good as the book. And yes it was. Matt Damon is good enough. Pissed that they excluded a few of the dialogues I loved. Glad they added the end sequence, not originally in book. And Youtube had more videos of ARES life on Hermes.

Rant alert: Why the .. change Venkat Kapoor to Vincent Kapoor ? I love Chiwetel, I did not otice the difference until the every end. But didn't they find any Indian actor for this role, if Andy can write it ? Scott teri toh ! I scanned lot of Reddit & Quora threads, but this one never picked the storm like other diversity issues of 2015. One story goes that Irfan Khan was not available. Yes he would have been a great choice. But there were so many to pick from - Asif Mandvi, KalPenn & many new faces I don't even know their names. They live closer to the casters. Sometimes recruitment folks just don't try again and it's a lost opportunity for a huge group.

Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis

I am a fan. Her tone is so pleasant, soothing. Personal account of trail hikes, through dense forest, camping, quite nights - I am a sucker for those. That is why I own Jim Corbett Omnibus and love Hunger Games Series. And Jen Pharr Davis is a record holder elite in this sport/field. There is way more to learn from my generation forester.

This book covers, in detail, her first few attempts at Appalachian Trail hike and then the final record breaking assisted through-hike. Various segments of the trail, different runners who ran with her for the diff sections, her husband, family & friends who assited her the whole way, her mentors and her resources in the planning. Finish writeup was thrilling, even though she conveyed that in real life, it was not movie-like thrill.

Got to know about JPD when Scott Jurek broke the record in July 2015. And Karl Meltzer broke Jurek's record this year September. Just because records are broken to frequently, it does not diminish the superhuman effort that is involved in this endeavor. JPD gave her blessing & data to Scott Jurek just like she was mentored by the previous record holder. And Scott assisted Karl in this attempt. So yes JPD is superhuman and I am glad I read her book.

Running: Emil Zapotek - by  Jean Echenoz

Sounds like a English translation from French. No numbers or facts as in no run-time or year details. No photographs. Very conversational like the writer had dictated the whole thing to a gathering or audience, speaking eloquently. Totally reminded of some of the Hindi or Marathi raconteurs recounting stories of major heroes. But did paint hazy but elaborate pictures of different phases of his and Czech lives.

Emil's wiki page is enough to impress about his achievements & capability. Interspersing them with his real life anecdotes and his age at each of those milestones, makes it all real. Just a glimpse into Czech life under Communist regime and the sports & political bureaucracy he had to face every single day.

Sometimes we need a read book about real-life heroes, which is not slickly produced or even engineered by a group of marketing types. Sometimes a real-life story needs to be documented, so it is relayed to others somewhere in a different timeline. This was that kind of book. I am glad I read it.

Miles to Run Before I Sleep by Sumedha Mahajan 

That brings me to this book. Again not a slickly produced or written book. But I am so glad I got a peep into the life of an Indian Female elite runner. It's a very personal account - covers her health limitations (asthma), family equations, new job and finally her run experiences. The 2nd half focus is on the 1500 km run in 30 days, from Delhi to Mumbai with star runner Milind Sonam and group. This part covers the uniqueness of a route in India. Every run route is such a new experience, and I don't have the India run exp. And some about run co-ordination politics, something given in any sporting world.

I am still waiting for a slickly produced biography of PT Usha. None that I know of, but for now her FB page will do. On FB, I can see what she is up to now.

Ready One Player by Ernest Cline

Throughout, I wondered how Steven Spielberg will fit in everything 80's in his movie of this book. Just imagining the cost of buying rights for those thousands of songs, music, movies & TV shows from the 80's, that populate the background and key parts of the story. I am familiar with some of the popular culture of the 80's of America and some obscure ones were new to me.

Storyline progression was entirely on parts which are as exciting as a video-game. They work.
Entire population being addicted enough to live in an alternate online world, is not hard to imagine, because we are nearly there - till internet crashes. What is not imaginable, is the entire world retrograding to a past decade, completely. Books justification are the despairingly destroyed world and the motivation to win the prize. But wont a section of population not care about the competition. Okay maybe, only the competitors define what trends are and speak on behalf of the rest. Then this book is believable.

Among other things, I loved the concept of "video newsfeed". That was 2010-2011. I don't know how effective or prevalent FB feed feature was, at that time. Newfeeds in FB world have undergone transformations & become influential, in today's world. This was at a point in the story, to show how normal life was and how everyone used it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

The tit-bits leaking out in social media were killing me while I waited for my Library copy to be available. I did get it finally and grabbed it with a celebration. At the start, that play format was killing. Definitely all the surrounding text and descriptions built up the scenery in all 7 HPs. I missed that here, for more than half of the book. 3 years of school went by in 5 pages. No sign of McGonagall. It was like watching a movie/trailer with no background music. I cribbed & cribbed about it in our cousins Whatsapp group.

Albus sounded like a waste fellow, till the end. Scorpius was much more adorable and sensible, grounded fellow; nothing like kid-Draco. After the first half, when story picked-up pace, I forgot everything else and managed to finish.

Am I happy I read this book ? As happy as reading the first 7 ? Maybe not. This was more of a continuation of all fan-fics I had read so far. To be able to create another blockbuster, using this same valuable set of characters, this endearing HP universe, it will definitely need some writing skills, of those followup writers. Otherwise, we have Wikipedia & Pottermore to know info about it all.

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins


Second Tuesday of Nov this year was erm unnervingly quite since morning. By night, my patience was on the edge. I just wanted to go to bed and not know what happened. I got up at dawn and stumbled in the dark to browse all Feeds on my phone. Being a neutral party, the only thing that rang in my ears, was a tweet I had read long back. "Let the Seventy Sixth Hunger Games begin !". So I had to escape into the Hunger Games Series. I ordered the copies from my Library and spent the next 2 months reading them in my warm cozy bed. It's a good thing that the glamorous movie version kept playing in my head, while I read the book which clearly depicted a lot of Eastern Europe 90's situation for poverty side.

Do share your this years reading list, recommendations & wishlist in the comments.

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