Short Book Review: First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung

SBR: First They Killed my Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers was another one of our Cambodia-trip picks. The description of life under Khmer Rouge and vivid and chilling. It feels almost insensitive to critique a book that details the personal experience of a horrifying genocide on its literary merit. But as a book reader, I can’t help it. The first-person account from the point of view of a little girl does not come across as authentic in the book. The thoughts are too complex and far-reaching (as if she could see a better future back then) under the circumstances. Those are definitely the author’s adult thoughts. And from some reviews I find online, the historical events, as well as her personal history, might have been changed slightly to fit into a narrative.

To read or not to read: Yes, even if only for its subject – life under Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Short Book Review: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

SBR: Q: Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf?
A: Me!
Holy cow! Orlando is supposed to be the most accessible work of Virginia Woolf. I guess I can’t read her. I suppose it was the fabled stream of consciousness writing that fried my brains. It’s not like I didn’t understand anything in the book. But getting through it was a torture. And I am fully aware that I am saying this of a celebrated writer and a celebrated book.

To read or not to read: I don’t know. I can’t judge or review this book. Listen to someone more qualified.

Short Book Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

SBR: I wanted to read a nice love story and since modern romance novels don’t seem to work for me, I ended up resorting to this 19th-century book at the recommendation of a friend. And North and South was a nice, entertaining read. What made it more interesting was that the love story meanders through the changes that industrial revolution was bringing about in the society. So you get a glimpse into the political and social effects of the changes. Although the descriptions and resolutions might be simplistic, that part of the book is valuable.

To read or not to read: Yes, if you like a feel-good love story.

Short Book Review: Watching Cambodia: Ten Paths to Enter the Cambodian Tangle by Serge Thion

SBR: This book was picked up, not surprisingly, during our trip to Cambodia last year and I read it soon after coming back. Don’t be fooled by the tourist friendly cleanliness and maintenance of Angkor Wat, modern Cambodia is a mess and how it became so is a sad and pathetic, almost unbelievable, story. If all you know about Cambodian politics is that Khmer Rouge were the bad guys, then you need to read more. This book, a collection of ten articles written over time, is a good way to get a peek into the how it came to be, what factors were at play, and how utterly incompetent everyone has been in fixing things. But it does need a basic understanding of the modern history of Indo-china and some of the pieces are very academic in nature because of which I had to give up on a couple of them.

To read or not to read: Not for the beginners. If you know something about the tumultuous modern History of Cambodia and are in a mood to go deeper, then you can pick up this book.

Short Book Review: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

SBR: The English Patient is another one of those award-winning books that didn’t work for me. The film of poetic, dreamy writing never allows you to penetrate into the characters. And since there was an Indian character in it, I could identify the non-authenticity of the skills and feelings ascribed to him. So I doubt that the author fared better with other characters. None of them have a distinct voice of their own. The reaction of the characters to the infamous world-war-concluding event, which brings about the climax of the book too, is so ex post facto. There was no way those characters could have realized so quickly what exactly had happened and what its aftermaths were.

To read or not to read: Not unless you are a lover of poetic writing for the heck of it, or you are on a mission to read all award-winning books.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on Dec 17, 2016 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

BYOB Invite

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

Have you read a book and are craving to chitchat about it with someone? Have a favorite book that you think everyone would love, if only they knew about it? Want to see what others are reading and have interesting conversations beyond weather, traffic, and real estate?

Then come to the BYOB party and talk away! Try to avoid a bestseller and if you have a copy, bring it along and read us a passage. All languages are welcome.

There will be refreshments and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue:, #634 (Ground Floor), 5th Main, Indiranagar 2nd Stage, Bangalore – 560038


So, what really happens at a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else.

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Join our meetup group, RSVP, and come over!

If you are not on meetup, you can also RSVP on Explara.

Short Book Review: The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road to the Deep NorthSBR: Man Booker Prize notwithstanding The Narrow Road to the Deep North is incredibly pointless in the first 200 pages. And it’s not like these pointless pages make more sense after the book does get interesting. Most of those pages should simply not have been there. They are devoted to stretching out a love story in a way that neither arouses sympathy, nor repulsion. It’s just pages after pages of boredom and heavy-handed writing trying to elevate mundane to mystic and failing. When the book comes to its actual subject, the treatment of prisoners of wars in the Japanese camps during WWII, it is quite riveting. You can have a vicarious experience of the horrors, the contradictions, and the futility of life and war through this book.
To read or not to read: It’s too long and if you are not a fast reader, it may not be the best use of your time. These subjects have been covered in other better-written books. But if you are fine spending with a lackluster attempt at romance to get to the point, this is a Man Booker Prize-winning book; so treat yourself to the intellectual indulgence.

Short Book Review: The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

The Twentieth WifeSBR: The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan is a well-written book, but it falters as historical fiction. I’m pretty sure that the court language by the time of Akbar and Jehangir was Persian and not Turkish, hot chai was not partaken in India at that time, and Mehrunnisa wouldn’t have been affectionately addressed as ‘beta’ by her parents. Salim’s character development doesn’t make sense and romantic situations between Salim and Mehrunnisa are created forcibly by arbitrarily playing with the norm of purdah. Although sufficient research seems to have gone into the life events of the characters, the settings and details are anachronistic.
To read or not to read: No need to go out of your way to get the book. It can be an entertaining read, but is not a must read.

Short Book Review: Hello Bastar by Rahul Pandita

Hello BastarSBR: Hello Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movement is a brave and important book. Whether you are a supporter or Maoists or a criticizer, whether you are ambivalent or opinionated, it is important to know things before taking a stand. This book can help you do that.
The only issue with the book was its haphazard narration, which kept going back and forth for no obvious reasons. It read like a collection of journalistic pieces instead one coherent book. That made the stories difficult to follow, and characters difficult to keep track of.
To read or not to read: Yes. It is on an important issue.

Short Book Review: The Light of His Clan by Chetan Raj Shrestha

the light of his clanSBR: Chetan Raj Shrestha continued to shine as a writer in his second book The Light of His Clan. This is another Sikkim novel, affectionate but unsparing with its subjects, which brings a smile to your lips even when the characters act like complete losers. Even at their absurd best, they are always relatable. Despite the pervasive Sikkim-setting, the protagonist, Kuldeep Chandanth, could have been an aging patriarch anywhere in India who is clinging to what he sees as the past glories of his own self as well as his clan, while the world is passing him by.
The writing in the book is also delightful. The novel is a worthy successor of author’s debut book The King’s Harvest, which is one of the recommended book on Worth a Read.
To read or not to read: Yes, it is a delightful read.