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.

Scale, the Gut, Tissues and Travel @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 8)

Have you heard of the Super Commander Dhruv series? I hadn’t until I was at this BYOB Party!

Image result for scale amazon geoffrey westA non-fiction book that provoked some discussion was Scale by Geoffrey West. This transdisciplinary book is a must-read if you want to understand how systems and networks work. Beneath the complicated exterior of living systems from bodies and cities to businesses, there are simple home truths that can be measured and that are common to all.

Image result for gut endersAnother interesting non-fiction that was discussed was Gut by Giulia Enders. The book talks about how the most under-appreciated organ in the human body deserves much more recognition. Enders talks about variety of issues including digestive issues like acid reflux and lactose intolerance. She talks about how the gut deals with trillion microorganisms and how your gut feeling is a true indication of the link between metabolism and the mind. A good book to digest.

Image result for the art of travel alain de bottonAbhaya talked about The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton. He picked up the book as he has been traveling more of late and the question often came up about why anyone would travel at all, considering the amount of resources and experiences available online. Discovery of nations is long done. Almost every culture has been explored. The book contains around eight essays each of which explores a different aspect of travel. On the whole, he found the experience of reading the book very satisfying and recommends it to everyone who has caught the wanderlust bug.  You might want to sample a bit of Alain de Botton by checking out his Youtube channel.

 

Image result for a thousand splendid sunsBoth Rakesh and Sunny got the well-known book by Khalid Hosseini. Hosseini is quite a staple at the BYOB Parties. We’ve all talked about Kiterunner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. The latter is a historical fiction that tells the story of two women, Mariam and Laila,  who live through different realities imposed in Afghanistan. Khalid gets you at the pulse and this book is at par with The Kite Runner. A Hosseini fan at the BYOB Party recommended that Hosseini’s book be accompanied by a wad of tissues as tearing up was inevitable when you read his work. Sunny loved the way the story seemed to unfold before his eyes as he read. he warned us not to get too attached to the characters so that the book would remain light, Sunny style, and not be overly heavy with emotion. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:

“Women have always had it hard in this country, Laila, but they’re probably more free now, under the communists, and have more rights than they’ve ever had before, Babi said, always lowering his voice, aware of how intolerant Mammy was of even remotely positive talk of the communists. But it’s true, Babi said, it’s a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. And you can take advantage of that, Laila”

You can watch Hosseini’s interview here.

Abhaya spoke about a Bengali book called Kabulliwale ki Bengali Bao where the author Sushmita Banerjee narrates her own experience of marrying an Afghani businessman, only to realize that his family was regressive. Unable to handle the culture of purdah, she ran away. The story is unbelievable but true as real life can sometimes be. Sushmita Bannerjee was later abducted by the Taliban and shot when she returned to Afghanistan to get back her adopted child.

As the BYOB Party at IISc had a special slant toward poetry, Jaya wrapped up the session with a poem by Gulzar. Listen to the poem here. The raffle prize for the reader who got a book on poetry went to Megha who spoke about Maithili Sharan Gupt’s classic work Saket.

On the whole, this BYOB Party had the highest attendance so far but there was one glitch. The cupcakes we got for the after-party disappeared. “May the bookworm bite the cupcake hoarders!” Abhaya said and with that, we wrap up the BYOB Party at IISc.

Politics, Children and the Time Machine @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 7)

Lalita talked about a Pulitzer Prize-winning political fiction that was published sometime in the 1930s.  Advise and Consent by Allen Drury is a great read to date as it tells the tale of an American president, a topic of increased relevance today. Lalita first picked up this book during the Emergency in India; she reread it many years later after finding it at a books-by-weight sale in Bangalore. The first time she read it, she got a clear picture of how the federal government worked in the US and when she reread it, she was amazed by how little political systems had changed and how much political decisions are often the product of petty jealousies, opportunism, smear campaigns and sometimes even principles, all of which Drury has managed to capture. “Although the political landscape is unlikely to change, there was a greater moral fiber in those times that makes this book read more like a fiction than fact,” Lalita said.

Awanish talked about Manu Josephs’s book Miss Laila, Armed and Dangerous. Unlike Manu Joseph’s  other two books, this one is more plot-oriented, a thriller that examines the political and social system in India. A discussion ensued about Manu Joseph’s acerbic and satirical writing. Some readers find his work too scathing while others think that missing the humor goes against everything the author has been trying to achieve.

Image result for lord of the flies amazonAnother book that was discussed was Lord of the Flies by Nobel Prize-winning author, William Golding. The story revolves around a group of British boys who are stranded on an island after a plane crash. In the beginning, the boys relish their freedom from adults but gradually they begin to take on roles and end up being murderous and savage. What would have happened if there were girls in this group? There was a conversation about a film that would change the way the story ended, had the crash survivors been girls.

Rahman talked about a sci-fi book called The Time Machine by H. G. Wells which tells the story of a time traveler and his machine, now the stuff of legend. Authors of sci-fi like Wells, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury display prophetic technique, some readers said before we went on to talk about more books, which will be featured in Part 8.

Wonder, Queerness and the Mind @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 6)

Pratibha discovered a book called Wonder by R. J. Palacio(based on a true story), much before it became the famous book that inspired the Choose Kind movement and a movie starring Julia Roberts. The story is moving, about a ten-year-old boy called August who has a facial difference. When he joins a new school, he has no friends but he is used to being ignored and gradually things change. The message in the story is given the choice of being right or kind, choose kindness. Although the story is about August, the perspective also shifts to other characters around him and on the whole, a great deal of empathy makes this book work.  Pratibha wished that she had read this book when she was much younger as children’s experiences are very different and they can be extremely cruel, yet they can also easily forget.

Abhaya mentioned the Pickle Yolk Imprint, a children’s books imprint, which deals with difficult issues that children face like death, loss, being transgender, and being embarrassed. Children’s literature is thriving in India as never before.

Priya is a biologist and since she studies about the diversity of genders and transgender animals, she was intrigued by a book by Devdutt Pattanaik called Shikhandi: And Other ‘Queer’ Tales They Don’t Tell You,  a collection of short stories from Indian mythology, particularly the Mahabharat, that represent a queer perspective. She observed that the book did not have explicitly gay or lesbian stories but dealt with the fluidity of gender in general. She particularly found the footnotes at the end of each story valuable as there the author explored the queer angle of the story in much detail. She read to us the story of Aravan, Arjuna’s son who married none other than Krishna who had taken on the appearance of Mohini. Once he was sacrificed for the greater good, it is said that no widow ever wept for her husband as she.

Nandini spoke about a book called Mind without Measure by J Krishnamurti. The book deals with very important ideas like how the mind, though important, creates problems on which it thrives. A simple example that Nandini mentioned was how we see polarities in everything, rather than seeing things as they are. This book does not seem to be in stock right now, at least in India, but you can read some of his teachings here.

More books in Part 7.

XKCD, Ice9 and the Dust Bowl @ BYOB Party at IISc in January 2018 (Part 5)

Image result for What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions amazonAkshay Arora got a comic book in the last BYOB Party and he read it out. He did the same with  XKCD: What if? by Randall Munroe. He describes the XKCD series as nerdy but deep, particularly with the way the author handles disease with humor. Munroe’s also nerdy…take his revelations on Coding Quality and Bobby Tables.

Image result for cat's cradle book amazonLike Akshay, Aditi did not get a translation. She had a go at Kurt Vonnegut’s famous satire Cat’s Cradle. Unlike Kshitija’s book that lacked chapters, the slim 200-page book has 127 chapters, which makes it a fast read but Aditi finds that the chapters end too soon and serve no purpose. The book was written keeping in mind the Cuban Missile Crises and so the character is a kind of Oppenheimer but his name is Felix Hoenikker and he is the founder of Ice9, a dangerous chemical that can eliminate water. Since Aditi is an astrophysicist herself, she enjoyed the scientific pitch in the book and reflected on how science could go rogue. She loved the apocalyptic vision, the imaginary island dictatorship and the religion called Boskonism.  Anyone who wants to know about this ground-breaking novel that was written in indignant response to the irresponsibility that science made possible should check this link.

Image result for grapes of wrath amazonNomaan was impressed by John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer prize-winning book about the Great Depression: Grapes of Wrath. The story chronicles the migration of the Joad family from Oklahoma to California. Steinbeck chronicles the divide between the haves and have-nots, differences that still exist everywhere in the world.  Ma is the character he admired most, so he read out something she said, “We’re Joads. We don’t look up to nobody. Grampa’s grampa, he fit in the Revolution. We was farm people till the debt. And then—them people. They done somepin to us. Ever’ time they come seemed like they was a-whippin’ me—all of us. An’ in Needles, that police. He done somepin to me, made me feel mean. Made me feel ashamed. An’ now I ain’t ashamed. These folks is our folks—is our folks. An’ that manager, he come an’ set an’ drank coffee, an’ he says, ‘Mrs. Joad’ this, an’ ‘Mrs. Joad’ that—an’ ‘How you getting’ on, Mrs. Joad?’” She stopped and sighed. “Why, I feel like people again.”

More books in Part 6.