Mental Health and Milk Teeth @ BYOB Party in May 2019 (Part 2)

Shruti talked about two books – Everything here is Beautiful by Mira. T. Lee and Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale.

Image result for everything here is beautiful amazonEvery Here is Beautiful is a stunning debut,” Shruti said. The story is about two sisters, Miranda, the older sister, and Lucia who is schizophrenic. In spite of her precarious mental health, Lucia lives a life of no compromise and it is Miranda who tries to help her sister in time of need. The novel, which featured as a Top 10 debut, talks about a variety of issues from love, mental health, marriage to immigration and displacement.

“It seems autobiographical,” Shruti said. “The experiences outlined in the book are so real that it can not be otherwise.” Mira T. Lee is familiar with mental health issues in her family. She’s also invested heavily in research.

“This is one of the better books on mental health, I have been told. The book particularly interested me as the author talks about schizophrenia impacting young mothers. It’s amazing that many of us can wake up in the morning without feeling depressed and be able to spend time with our children with a sense of joy. You just feel blessed,” Shruti said.

Theater is an excellent medium when it comes to educating the public about mental health disorders. For those of you in Bangalore on June 14, you may want to catch a play called Broken Images starring the talent Shabana Azmi, written by Girish Karnad and directed by Alyque Padamsee. The theme of the play centers on schizophrenia.

Image result for milk teeth amazonAnother book Shruti found fabulous was Milk Teeth by Amrita Mahale. The story hosts a number of parallel plots. Tenants, landlords and developers each have their own agenda at a time when the landscape of Bombay was changing drastically.  The book does share the theme of real estate in Mumbai with Adiga’s Last Man in Tower but there the similarity ends.

The conversation moved onto the delight of children’s books these days and the beauty of native stories brilliantly translated by writers like A. K. Ramajunan and Arunava Sinha. It was debatable whether the English language could provide the range of experience that native languages were able to.

More books in Part 3.

Sieges and Whales @ BYOB Party in May 2019 (Part 1)

Image result for Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City amazonThe best thing about the BYOB Party is that you discover new writers. “What better way to escape from reality than by reading sci-fi and fantasy?” Sudharsan said as he kicked off the discussion talking about Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by  K. J. Parker (incidentally that is a pseudonym. The author’s real name is Tom Holt, a secret he managed to keep for 17 years), a cult fantasy author. What makes Parker’s books so unique is that he goes into the period in question with mind-boggling precision and he avoids magic (he does use magic in his short stories though), the usual staple of fantasy writing. You only have to read his account on sieges to glean the depth of his research. Some of the prominent themes in his works are the use and misuse of power and technology.

In this book, a siege is approaching and the city is ill-prepared. Sieges were a way of life in the Middle Ages and civilization was built in the making of fortresses and the breaking of them. It is up to dishonest Orhan to save his people from slaughter. “I really enjoyed this work,” Sudharsan said. “It is just so different from conventional fantasy reads.”

You can listen to the author speak about his writing journey here.

Image result for billion dollar whale amazonAnother book that Sudharsan picked up was totally unrelated to fantasy —Billion Dollar Whale by Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. This book hailed as the story of a modern Gatsby was a huge success. It was named Best Book of 2018 by the Financial Times and Fortune. The book chronicles the 1MDB scam with its roots in Malaysia, spreading out its tentacles to turn into a white-collar crime on a global scale.

,Jho Low, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, took the help of Goldman Sachs and others to siphon money out of an investment fund. Low was a flamboyant character and didn’t hide the money he made- he threw humongous parties and financed Hollywood movies like The Wolf of Wall Street. In spite of facing criminal charges, Jho Low remains a fugitive. If you are a fan of the biggest heist story of this century, you may want to read this book.

“It’s interesting to read about how power and money work,” Sudharsan said. Watch the writer dissect this plot here.

The question came up whether the book was banned. Not in India anyway though India does have a tradition of banning specific books. Take The Polyester Prince:  The Rise of Dhirubhai Ambani by Hamish McDonald, The Descent of Air India by Jitender Bhargava and Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. More banned books mentioned here.

More books in Part 2.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on May 18, 2019 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

RSVP on Meetup  OR Register on Eventbrite

BYOB Party is back and this time, Worth A Read will be hosting the party at the Pothi.com office on May 18,2019.

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 18, 2019 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 swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue:  Pothi.com office

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

Is the event free?

Yes, it is free to attend.

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 Register on Eventbrite.

Reader Interview of Ayan (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019

We caught up with Ayan about his reading experiences.

Tell us about your book journey.

My first memory of books is reading The Fountainhead when I was in the twelfth grade. Another book I secretly read during my exams was Catch 22 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve always enjoyed good mystery thrillers and comedies. Particularly loved The World According to Garp.

It’s only recently that I have started non-fiction. I don’t naturally take to these books but since it helps in team management and leadership it really helps. Books like How to Win Friends and Influence People are a good place to start. I like to keep myself on top of things as you can’t experiment with a team. It’s too risky.

When do you make time to read?

I set aside a specific time in the mornings to read or learn something new via an online course.  Right now, I’m reading The Pillars of Earth by Ken Follet.

Does bingeing on Netflix series affect your reading?

Definitely. If you watch a series for three-four hours, that’s the last straw. You’ll be too tired to read after that.

Kindle or print books?

I understand the benefits of Kindle but I read mostly online, on my phone or laptop. It’s much cheaper and far easier to find books online.

Was great talking to you, Ayan!

 

Audiobooks, Marathons and Natural History @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 7)

Image result for born a crimeSankharshan spoke about a stand-up comedian who faced the heat of controversy in India recently– Trevor Noah who wrote Born a Crime. Since Sankharshan has a long commute to work these days, he invests in audiobooks: “It works out fine if the narrator has a sense of humor and if he knows how to breathe when he talks.”

Trevor Noah has the perfect audio voice and his book arrived at a time when Sankharshan was trying to understand more about how geographies can determine the history of political action. The memoir of someone whose very birth was a crime tells you a lot about the geography in which he was born. Today Trevor Noah is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show and a popular stand-up comedian but the backstory of his radical candor was the hard reality having a Dutch father and a Xhosa mother during the Apartheid era in South Africa.

Image result for Let Your Mind Run: Thinking Your Way to VictoryApurba also talked about an audiobook, the first time at the BYOB Party that we had two audiobooks in a row. Let Your Mind Run: Thinking Your Way to Victory by Deena Kastor, Olympian runner, is a New York Times Best Seller. Kastor has faced her share of hardship. She was on the brink of burnout when she met her coach Joe Vigil who taught her the art of self-care as an essential component of securing long-distance running wins.

Says Apurba, “I loved listening to Deena Kastor talk about how she shifted from sprints to long-distance running. Although I hate self-help books, I could identify with Kastor’s positivity. She learned not to beat herself for not reaching a goal and empathized with herself as running is hard work and involves many sacrifices such as eating right and discipline.”

Apurba mentioned how she almost gave up on a marathon. When she congratulated herself on how far she had come, she was able to finish the marathon. “Many times, we all berate ourselves even when we all have come such a long way. We need to appreciate ourselves more and see how far we have come.”

It’s not the first time we have talked about running at the BYOB Party. Murakami and his marathons are a hot topic. Many writers are good runners. Besides Murakami, Erich Segal was another writer who ran the Boston Marathon every year.

Image result for Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian SubcontinentAbhaya talked about Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent, the first definitive natural history of the Indian subcontinent, by Pranay Lal.

Lal covers facts. Although he is a biochemist, his deep interest in the geological narrative of India helps create a compelling read. He talks about how the Ellora caves are hewn from igneous rock, Bengaluru’s relatively more pleasant climate (at least until recently) being the result of tectonic events that took place 88 million years ago and the Rajasaurus.

“The book has risen from curiosity and a sense of play. The timescale is much bigger than Harari’s Sapiens but the book doesn’t leave you with lingering larger than life questions, only the pure unadulterated joy of finding things out. So now when I visit Chitradurga or Lal Bagh, I look at the earth beneath my feet differently. A children’s version of the natural history and geography of India would also be interesting, Indica’s detailed bibliography and colorful layout make for such a fun read that I also hope for something like this for Indian philosophy,” Abhaya mused.

Watch this interview with Pranay Lal.

And with that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in February 2019.

Secrets, Poetry and Sci-fi @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 6)

Image result for Eloise: What secrets did she take to her grave? Shweta enjoyed reading Judy Finnigan’s Eloise: What secrets did she take to her grave? 

This haunting meditation on female friendship and motherhood is the debut work of Judy Finnigan, broadcaster, journalist and Book Club champion. The character Eloise has died and her friend Cathy, who suffers from depression, is devastated. She realizes that all is not well. Her husband who is a psychiatrist dismisses her concerns but Cathy probes deep and arrives at a secret. This light read was a Sunday Times Bestseller.

Arvind talked about a book of the collected works of Coleridge, which spurred much conversation. People are more familiar with Wordsworth’s Daffodils but Coleridge was well-known at the time for his poems The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan.

Even though Coleridge’s poems have figured in the school curriculum and may readers are familiar with his works, he was primarily a prose writers. Arvind read out a lyrical passage:

“A man may look at glass, or through it, or both. That all earthly things be unto thee as glass to see heaven through! Religious ceremonies should be pure glass, not dyed in the gorgeous crimsons and purple blues and greens of the drapery of saints and saintesses.”

The discussion turned toward the rivalry between Wordsworth and Coleridge and poetry in general. Some readers found the entire exercise of reading poems like The Charge of the Light Brigade futile. Others felt that appreciation of poetry needs to be taught not for the sake of grading but for enjoyment; take the joy a poem like Lochinvar can give you, for instance. Abhaya mentioned how he preferred the rhythms of Hindi poetry, say the poetry of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. But so much about poetry appreciation depends on whether the language or context is relevant today. One good way of keeping abreast with poetry and also enjoying the newer rhythms of free verse is to listen to poetry podcasts like these: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/series/74641/poetrynow

Poetry and art are subjective experiences and the goal, if there is any, is to evoke a feeling. What do you make of this poem by Ezra Pound?

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Image result for alfred bester tiger tigerStephen is a big fan of cyberpunk and sci-fi. He spoke about Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester. The story is set in the twenty-fourth century begins with a man called Gulliver Foyle who marooned in space and how he takes revenge on Vorga. Bester’s settings are breathtaking and touch on sci-fi staples like teleporting and mega-corporations. The mega-corporation theme somehow led the conversation to the idea of naming characters after the companies where they work and even how in the US, slaves were often named after their owners. Ideas about how the World Wars led to all technological prowess and how companies play the role of conglomerates that dictate policy were discussed. Stephen mentioned that Bester did have a problem with female characters as well but this is not surprising as the book was published in the 1950s.

More books in Part 7.

Influence and Investment @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 5)

Image result for Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionAyan enjoyed reading the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. “I used to be a diehard fiction reader but lately management books have been a big help.”

Watch Robert Cialdini- The 6 Principles of Influence.

Ayan thinks that Cialdini who holds a Ph. D. in the field of psychology,  looks at the sales perspective through the eyes of the customer, aiming to make them aware of how they can safeguard themselves from falling into a trap. He examines the tools the compliance and marketing folk use to influence customers. Ideas like the Principle of Reciprocity and lavishing sincere compliments work in marriages as well as sales. Cialdini’s research spans thirty-five years of surveys, evidence, experiments and a three-year study of the behavior of people. The book is a seminal work when it comes to understanding the art of influence and persuasion in a scientific manner.

Image result for Investor Behavior: The Psychology of Financial Planning and InvestingRalph found the book Investor Behavior: The Psychology of Financial Planning and Investing by H. Kent Baker and Victor Ricciardi to be highly valuable for educational purposes and helpful when it comes to making rational investment decisions. The book was a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards.  This series of essays by academics and investors provides insights into investment research. The book delves into investor psychology,  risk perception and tolerance, evidence-based financial planning, and neurofinance.

 

Dystopia, Delusions and the Man @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 4)

Image result for the road cormac mccarthySreeraj talked about the profoundly moving book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This dystopian post-apocalyptic novel talks about the survival instincts of a father and a son. They walk through the barren landscape of an America that has been ravaged by fire and ash. It is cold and they do not know where they are heading to. All they have is a pistol for self-defense and a map that the man refers to. They go from uninhabited house to house, seeking food and shelter. The son keeps asking for reassurance as they see many gory sights on the way. Sreeraj was especially impressed by the kind of cli-fi words the author used dark, dead, grey, carbon fog, forest fire, ash, snow…The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was also adapted into a movie.

Most millennials relate to this kind of book as there are many post-apocalyptic series and movies these days. Take Bird Box and other zombie series where the primary themes revolve around people who are foraging and trying their best to survive. Post-apocalyptic situations are also rampant in video games like The Last of Us.

You can listen to Cormac McCarthy talk to Oprah about this lyrical book here.

Image result for y the last man amazonA book this reminded Poonam of was Y: The Last Man comic series by Brian K. Vaughan. The premise of this graphic novel is interesting. A sex-specific plague wipes out the 2.9 billion men on earth, including male animals — every creature with a Y chromosome. Except two.

While the idea of survival is a theme that sells, the reality may be quite boring and not as romantic as writers make it out to be, one of the readers mused. People would have to go back to agriculture and till the land. Another reader observed how human beings are built for survival, so much so that even if they are left to their own devices in a jungle, someone who is unfamiliar with forest terrain will try his best to live and adapt to the ways of the woods. Of course, they could also die in the process. Take the case of the Rapa Nui in Easter Island.

Image result for the god delusionAfter dystopian disillusionment, Aniket brought our attention to The God Delusion, a sensational book of 2006. Richard Dawkins’s theories must be understood in the context of a world where polarities like secularism and fundamentalism draw swords.  The idea of Darwinism is a heavily disputed idea even today. Dawkins views God as an excuse that human beings use to wage war and indulge in abuse. In spite of his infamous twitterfeed, Dawkins book is a seminal work and would interest seekers of knowledge. Watch Dawkins here. Aniket also mentioned having read the book Why am I a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor.

Image result for sapiensMani talked about the popular book of our BYOB Parties – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. He is still reading the book and is impressed by the author’s multidisciplinary approach. The book seems to be the talking point of all book gatherings today.

More books in Part 5.

Evolution and the Neocortex @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 3)

Image result for why evolution is true

Samarth talked about a book that he had read a long time ago since he is hard-pressed for reading time these days. Why evolution is true by Jerry A. Coyne, an American biologist, is an important book in times like these, especially when the debate about creationism is commonplace. “What’s the need for such a book?” Samarth asked. “We don’t have a book on germ theory as it seems pretty self-evident except in some strange cases- like the Fox host who refused to wash his hands for ten years as he couldn’t see the germs or the terrorist organization that refutes the idea of evaporation since it is a western concept. But evolution is not like that. It has to be understood.”

Statistics show that evolution is not accepted by a large majority in the US. Many think that evolution should be bunched up with other alternate theories. Darwin wasn’t the first to postulate the theory but his research provided the evidence needed to firm up the theory of natural selection.

Abhaya rationalized that though many of the readers in the room believed in Darwinism, their views were not always backed by understanding. The debate turned completely scientific and we landed on many subjects from Lamarck’s behaviorism and Darwin’s Natural Selection to biomimicry and the God particle.

Incidentally, the name God particle has been much criticized for referring to the very idea of God that the scientific community has been trying to disprove.

Image result for straw dogs bookHarshit spoke about a book called Straw Dogs by the philosopher John Gray. Gray questions Western philosophy from Plato to Marx and argues against the superiority complex embedded in human DNA. What makes humans think they are any better than animals? You might find this interview with Gray interesting.

The conversation mutated and evolved into varying subtexts – the fundamental difference between humans and other species- the neocortex. Listen to what a neuroscientist has to say about the brain systems –reptilian, limbic and neocortex. Then the discussion veered to IQ ratios, the decline of motor skills, how digital devices influence memory, loss of handwriting and how the brain declutters by default.

One book that could lead to a better understanding about how the internet is rewiring the brain is The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

More books and eye-opening discussions in Part 4.

 

 

Witness and Wasps @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 2)

Image result for the witness nora robertsThe Witness is not her best but it’s an unputdownable read,” Prerna said about Nora Roberts’ book. The adult romance thriller tells the story of Elizabeth Fitch, a sixteen-year-old, whose life is run on a schedule. When she rebels for the first time in her life, gets a fake ID and dyes her hair a different color just to break free from her cold, controlling mother’s grip, she ends up as the witness of a crime. That single event forces her to lead a life in hiding in the small dark town of Ozarks. Brooks Gleason, the local police chief, decides to help her.

Nora Roberts is a prolific author and she also writes under the non-de plume of J. D Roberts.

Listen to the first chapter of The Witness here.

Image result for eating wasps anita nairPoonam picked up a copy of Anita Nair’s Eating Wasps. “The book title made me curious,” she said, “I thought I would get to the bottom of it and then go back to reading other titles but it was so engrossing that I read the book in a single sitting.” The story uses the mis en abyme approach of the Kathasaritsagar, an eleventh-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales, to weave one story in the other and tell the tales of ten women. Their stories are open-ended and Anita Nair covers relevant issues like stalking and body-shaming. The book is a nod to the Keralite writer,  Rajalakshmi, a lecturer in physics who doubled as a writer of several controversial works and was also christened as the Jane Austen of Indian literature. She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960 for her work Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum (A Path and a Few Shadows) at the age of thirty-four. Unfortunately, her wizardry with words ended abruptly when she committed suicide in 1965. Strangely enough, there are no translations of her work as yet.

The topic of translation is a favorite at the BYOB Parties. Some languages are more easily translated than others; some translations hardly do justice to the work. Apurba mentioned how Monica Ali’s Brick Lane was filled with Bengali idioms, the transliterations of which gave the book its dose of creativity.

More books in Part 3.