Reader Interview of Piya (The Regular) and Roheet (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in May 2018

Since we had a mother-son duo at the BYOB Party in May, we thought we would speak to both of them.

The Mother:

Tell us about your love story with books.

Piya: It started early right when I could read. I don’t remember the first book I read but I do know that I started very young. I would read anything- newspapers, periodicals, children’s magazines and books in Bengali and English, particularly my parent’s books which were not necessarily child-friendly. There was a lot of encouragement from home to read. At school, I was mostly in the library as sports was not my thing. I read Metamorphosis by Kafka in class 7.  Back then, I thought it was absurd and funny but every time I revisited the book, there was a new takeaway. I keep revisiting books I’ve read before.

I’ve been amazed by your picture-perfect memory of the plots of the many books you have talked about. How do you remember all the books that you’ve read?

It’s not that I have a photographic memory but there are two things that I remember from every book that I’ve read – one is the basic storyline and the second most important is the emotion it left with me and how I connected with the book.

Of late, I’ve been indiscreet about the books I’ve been choosing. So now I do my homework before I start a book so that I don’t invest my time in books I will not enjoy. This is what I enjoy about book clubs and this BYOB Party in particular. I get to find books that are good reads in genres I usually would not pick on my own. Book clubs expand your horizons or you get bogged down by one kind of genre. The BYOB Party is a great place to meet all kinds of readers as well. I always wondered who would read self-help books but now since visiting BYOB parties like these, I realize that there is a huge market for this genre.

The Son:

Tell us about your book journey.

Roheet: I’m a humanities student, so when I want to understand more about something I go to books, particularly historical pieces so that I have a better understanding of that time frame. This has helped me piece together things that I would otherwise have found hard to understand. Now my reading has evolved from just historical novels to writers like Murakami, so different from what I am used to.

It’s my first time at the BYOB Party and I’ve already found so many books that are genuinely interesting, so I think I would really like to come for the next BYOB Party.

What is your take on the reading habits of the student community? Is it catching up or falling behind?

Roheet: There’s a huge divide in the college space, but I fall into the category of book lover.

Favorite books?

I liked Sylvia Plath’s confessional style in The Bell Jar and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

How has your mother influenced your reading choices?

Roheet: Initially, I used to read some of her books and I did not necessarily understand her complicated collection. When I reread the books, it made sense. She has a great taste in books.

Piya: In fact, most of our fights are about books. I don’t want him to take my books as I am very possessive about them. I don’t want a single dent in them.

So how do you arrange your books? Do you separate them on the book rack or is it on the same shelf?

Piya: Unfortunately, it is, so every time he takes my books he has to take permission.

Roheet: Even if there is a slight mark on a page, she does not take it too well. Her books are like her children; she has such a strong connect with them. So I try not to borrow her books to avoid the pain.

Piya: Fortunately, now we have a Kindle each, so that has lessened these arguments. I resisted Kindle for the longest time but then it worked for me when I was traveling; particularly when I wanted to read two or three books simultaneously, the Kindle was a good choice. And then there is the added bonus of not having to repeatedly worry about spoiling the book. Plus it good for the environment.

Roheet: But there is something special about reading a hard copy.

Piya: I agree there. Sometimes the hard copy is convenient, particularly when you want to go back to what you have read before. It’s ideal for rereading. You have the option to bookmark in Kindle if you want to go back to a certain page but it’s too much of a hassle. And the worst part is that you lose reading time if you haven’t charged your Kindle. Hard copies don’t have batteries and that is a good thing.

I also vouch for audiobooks. I was initially skeptical about how one could concentrate while listening to a voice being streamed into your head but it has been an enjoyable experience in the instances I have tried it. I would like to explore that route a bit more.

Thanks, Piya and Roheet! Was a pleasure talking to you both.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on May 19, 2018 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

BYOB Party is back at Pothi.com’s office this time and on a Saturday.

Have you read a book that you are craving to chitchat about 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 on May 19 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 refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

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

FAQs

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 jayajha@instascribe.com.

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

Join our meetup groupRSVP, and come over!

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

Doors, Balconies and Guns @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 6)

Image result for exit west amazonKanchan was impressed by Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. This dystopian novel tackles the refugee crises and tells the tale of how love finds doors even when people are desensitized to strife. Kanchan remembered only Nadia and referred to Saeed as the other person. Kanchan observed how Nadia was no traditionalist but wore the burkha as she used those parts of the culture which kept her safe. Here’s a snippet that shows how Hamid uses beautiful prose to deal with such pressing issues.

“Perhaps they had decided they did not have it in them to do what would have needed to be done, to corral and bloody and where necessary slaughter the migrants, and had determined that some other way would have to be found. Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process, and too many native parents would not after have been able to look their children in the eye, to speak with head held high of what their generation had done.”

If the book interests you, you may find this interview of the author interesting.

Pratibha talked about an interesting story (a comedy-drama) called The Women’s Balcony set in Tel Aviv. The story begins at a Bar Mitzvah in a synagogue where the woman’s seating spot, which is the balcony, collapses. This leads to utter chaos and attempts to rebuild the space are thwarted. The story touches on sexuality, casual sexism, religion, radicalization, etc.

Image result for Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight amazonDhwani talked about a bestselling memoir called Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. The author reminisces on her unique childhood set in Africa (in Rhodesia, Malawi and Zambia) with a humorous and compelling voice. Her father was part of the white government while her mother immersed herself in the pulsating life around her. The story is about a family’s love for Africa and yet Fuller traces the reasons for this as partly being the idea of superiority that white people exercised in Africa at the time. Fuller puts her powerful observation skills into overdrive as she describes the way people lived there. Dhwani described how unsafe it was at the time and how children were advised never to wake their parents at night since they were armed (owing to the Rhodesian Bush War) and could shoot them by accident.

The cover interested the readers at the party and conversation veered around to how women are often shown without their heads, the focus zooming elsewhere. More on the Headless Woman Project @ Scroll.

And we that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in March 2018.

Statesmen, War and Illness @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 5)

Manjunath described himself as someone who never read books at all until he picked up Rich Dad, Poor Dad while he was on a trip. This book got him hooked to reading like nothing else. He talked about Chanakya: The Master Statesman by Roopa Pai.  Chanakya is still a talking point and this kingmaker set precedents for politics that are unmatched even today. What attracted Manjunath to the book was the political gamesmanship that happened even centuries ago.

Image result for humphrey hawksley dragon fore amazonAnshuman talked about book called Dragon Fire by former BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawksley. The story corresponds to the doom and gloom prophecies that we saw in some parts of the Party. Humankind is necessarily evil and one more world war can only confirm this further. Dragon Fire tells the story of nuclear war in the subcontinent and though the story is a fast-paced thriller, it almost seems to mirror political situations that exist in the world today. Hawksley catches on to the strengths and weaknesses of military systems across the world which makes the book an educative read.

Image result for when breath becomes air amazonRishabh got the famous book When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi which seems to be a favorite as we have seen the book popping up at several BYOB Parties. Rishabh enjoyed the way the dualities of life are presented in a beautiful, touching and heart-rending way. It’s only when life runs out that the meaning of success changes; Paul Kalanithi has everything a successful neurosurgeon in the US could dream of but his terminal illness twists the plot of his life and although death is the end of the story, his words carry the elixir of eternal life lessons.

More books in Part 6.

Reincarnation and Book Factories @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 4)

Image result for Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation amazonSudhi had planned to talk about a Dan Brown bestseller but then he changed his mind and picked something unique- a book called Many Mansions: The Edgar Cayce Story on Reincarnation by Gina Cerminara. Many times in life we wonder why things happen to us. Cerminara traces the story of how Edgar Cayce, the miracle man of Virginia Beach healed many using the theory of reincarnation as a crutch. An example Sudhi gave was of a woman who was partially paralyzed. Apparently, she was happy in a previous life when she witnessed a murder. The very thought resulted in her predicament (the karma argument) or so went the belief. “This book is good for those who like to read metaphysical psychic stuff,” Sudhi said.

Image result for where the wind blows patterson amazonSrikanth, a 10th grader, arrived to speak about a book by James Patterson called Where the Wind Blows.  The story starts with a young veterinarian whose husband has been murdered. Kit arrives to solve this case and another murder that cropped up. The search leads to a tale filled with biology gone haywire and children with wings. It’s an exciting read and easy to finish as the chapters are about a page or two long. There were a couple of James Patterson fans at the Party.

If you are interested in how Patterson Inc. works, you must read this article in the NY Times. Here’s a snippet:

“The way it usually works, Patterson will write a detailed outline — sometimes as long as 50 pages, triple-spaced — and one of his co-authors will draft the chapters for him to read, revise and, when necessary, rewrite. When he’s first starting to work with a new collaborator, a book will typically require numerous drafts. Over time, the process invariably becomes more efficient. Patterson pays his co-authors out of his own pocket. On the adult side, his collaborators work directly and exclusively with Patterson. On the Y.A. side, they sometimes work with Patterson’s young-adult editor, who decides when pages are ready to be passed along to Patterson.”

Many other series were discussed including those of Agatha Christie and the obvious Harry Potter. If you want to know how to write a series, you can check out a series we have written about it, quite a long one- with four parts- 1, 2, 3, and 4. We’ve also made a Visual Friday infographic on series that are faves; you might want to have a look at it if you are a series buff.

 

Translations and Collaborators @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 3)

Image result for Six Acres and a ThirdAmruta loves translations and she often mentions how difficult it is to get a good translation. There are several translations available but most of the books have a transliterative approach. “A good translation is the second original,” she said. The BYOB Party at IISc had heated debates about the effectiveness of translation. Fakir Mohan Senapati’s classic Oriya novel Six Acres and a Third is a brilliant translation. This relevantly unknown author changed the course of Odiya literature. To understand the scope of his writing, Amruta offered a comparison that every Indian could identify with – Fakir Mohan Senapati is to Odiya literature what Tagore is to Bengali literature. The plot of the story is layered and revolves around an evil landlord Ramachandra Mangarag. What makes Senapati’s novel ‘s style close to that of magical realism, although it is a realist novel, is the alternating perspectives he uses, including that of the horse, the villager and the foot-soldier. He uses the second person to bring the reader into the conversation; so reading this classic becomes exciting and far from the tedious experience that many people described reading classics engendered. His satirical verve makes the story a joy to read. The book talks about British colonialism; the naivety of the general public; the problem of power, wealth and ownership; linguistic relevance and Oriya cultural presence.

It was also interesting to read about this unknown literary genius and the reason behind his name is a story in itself. If you wonder how Senapati became Fakir, read this review in The Hindu.

Apurba was greatly saddened while reading The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed. This autobiographical account of Kashmir in the 1990s tells the tale of a Gujjar village, the relevant absence of religious fundamentalism until much later and how jingoism is irrelevant to ordinary people. In fact, everyone is merely trying to lead a simple life. The army man too is trying to do his job. Even militancy grows like a tumor; the way it changes one’s mind is a cumulation of various causes and effects. The discussion veered to the presence of violence and the people who really suffer, ordinary people who do not want to lose their families to futile violence. Here’s a brilliant review of this book by Kamila Shamsie.

You can read an interview with the author here.

More books in Part 4.

Nuclear War and the Periodic Table @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 2)

There was a bit of doom and gloom in the BYOB Party.

Image result for Has Man a Future?amazonArchit got the famous book Sapiens by Yuval Harari. We’ve talked about the book many times. It made sense that the book he bought with it was Has Man a Future? by Bertrand Russell, one of the world’s most eminent philosophers of the twentieth century. The book was written during the Cold War when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. What struck Archit as scary was that book is relevant even today.  Even today, disarmament hasn’t turned into a collective objective with guns entering classrooms and nuclear warheads raising their heads in political banter. The possibility of a nuclear war is not exaggerated.

Image result for sapiensamazonAlthough Sapiens means Wise, the term is at best ironic. In the book, Sapiens, Harari explains how man evolved and hasn’t become wiser. He seemed to have been better off in the pre-agricultural era when he was a hunter-gatherer.  This was the only time in recorded history that he was aware of the food that he ate and the true nature of his surroundings. An argument grew around this- can anyone know everything? Doesn’t the very reason for stratification and division of labor stem from the fact that knowledge is shared property? Since there is a discrepancy in the time required for evolution to occur and the lightning speed of the human brain, inequality is the norm. Human beings have always tipped the scale and so this whole idea of an equal society in pursuit of happiness is silly. Sapiens is an important book simply because of the arguments it encourages. Part 2 of the book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is equally horrific in the way it lays bare mankind’s stupidity.

Amrutha talked about a six-part sci-fi story set in a dystopian world where only Korea remains, the rest having being destroyed by nuclear war,  and mentioned how human beings are reborn as their prehistoric ancestors. Can anyone tell me which book this is? All my google searching didn’t help.

Image result for the periodic table primo levi amazonRitu was spurred to get a copy of a book she read long ago when she was young and later again when she was older. The book called The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is a series of short stories which tells the author’s own story- his experience being an Italian Jewish chemist during the World War era, a particularly unfortunate time to be Jewish.  Each story in the book is named after a particular element, which very cleverly becomes heavier and heavier towards the end of the book.  The book begins with so much promise but towards the end, the author must face the concentration camp. Although the ending is sad, it feels like dusk, Ritu says, beautiful and filled with color but with the heaviness of the ending day.

Amrutha read this book too and wondered how teachers could make a subject like chemistry so boring. “You need to include one of these chapters in the school curriculum,” she said. That’s a nice thought.

Reader Interview of Archit (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in March 2018

Tell us something about your book.

So, I knew about this book as it was a reference from a friend. They wanted me to read it so that I could gain a different perspective as I was completely into Scientific Positivity and only believed ‘Science is right’. It was only two weeks ago that I ordered this book. I wouldn’t say that it has changed my mind, I was aware of these concepts individually. However, I appreciate the effort of putting it into one perspective, kind of like a tube taking you on a journey of human history, different from how it is actually taught to us in school or university. In my head, these concepts were disconnected, wherein I could talk about these concepts individually but couldn’t really talk about them as a whole. The book gives a holistic approach to human history from one perspective. I would like to make a reference to Slavoj Žižek, who is very well known in the Philosophy world. He presented a movie called The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. I want to cite a scene where there are these glasses and when you put them on, you see the world for what it truly is, for example, you see a dictatorship in democracy. Reading this book gave me the same lens from which I could view human history about how we have screwed ourselves.

How did you hear about us?

When I moved back to Bangalore from Mumbai, it was a cultural shock for me. I was suddenly wondering what to do with my time so I downloaded this app called Meetup and found this Party.

How do you choose your books?

My introduction to reading was quite recent, during my Post-Graduation. It was here that I befriended some voracious readers who made me feel inferior to them. They introduced me to books. One thing I have realized is that I am not a fan of fiction and this seems to get me into tough spots, especially when there are literature students around. It’s scary. I started reading non-fiction, mostly science and then zeroed in on Philosophy. This was greatly due to my college professor’s influence. I like Russian literature – it’s written in a context, easy to read, and gets to the point quickly. But there are some author’s that I just couldn’t read like Arundhati Roy. I love her lectures and admire her as a person but I just could not get through more than 50 pages of God of Small Things.

If you had to recommend some books…

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, Musicophillia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and quite a few academic books.

 

The Roaring Twenties and the Swinging Sixties @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 1)

Image result for the great gatsby book amazonPratyush is usually into philosophy but this time he came to the BYOB Party with a classic, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book unanimously voted by the group as an easier read even though it has the classic tag attached to it.  The book as most of you must know is set in the Jazz Age in the US, the 1920s, and deals with love and luxury. Fitzgerald portrays wealth by using lushness in his descriptions as well; for instance in the book there is a passage about Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce describing its ‘rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns.’

The question arose about the fact that the classics were written keeping a certain generation of people in mind. Today when the world is your oyster or the world is in your cellphone, do you really to know what a particular historical monument looks like when you can google a picture and much information about it? Apurba believes that this age perhaps does not require descriptive writing as much. She spoke about another book by Fitzgerald that she particularly admired – This Side of Paradise which tells the story of Amory Blaine from prep school to Princeton; the description of Princeton and the students’ perspective was enlightening.

Stephen spoke about how he read books on Wodehouse on weekdays and a Dick Francis omnibus on weekends. He spoke at great length about the relatable crime thrillers set in the 1960s. He was a unique figure, a champion steeplechase jockey and bestselling author of 42 crime novels (An unauthorized biography of the author by Graham Lord claimed that Francis’s wife, Mary, wrote most of his books but refused to reveal this as the books would sell more if  ‘authored’ by a man. This claim has been denied).

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on March 24, 2018 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

BYOB Party is back at Pothi.com’s office this time and on a Saturday.

Have you read a book that you are craving to chitchat about 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 on January 20th 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. This time, there is a raffle prize for those who talk about poetry books – the winner takes a book home!

There will be refreshment and swags courtesy Worth A Read.

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

FAQs

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 jayajha@instascribe.com.

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

Join our meetup groupRSVP, and come over!

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