Risky Summits and Maps of Africa @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 2)

dead-mountainIt was Sumit’s first time to any book-related group and he made his entry with a non-fiction New York bestseller called Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. The story is set in 1959. Nine experienced hikers mysteriously die in the Ural mountains in Russia. Their story has been documented. So there are diary entries, photographs, government case files, and interviews. “Those nine people turned into nine distinct persons. I connected with the hikers and felt for them. I didn’t want them to die in the end,”  Sumit said. The mystery  of their death remains unsolved.

“Literature humanizes people beyond your circle of experience,” Jaya said. “This makes a good case for historical fiction as it gives history a different persepctive.”

In the context of stories being more poignant than statistics, Anurag spoke about A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. The story begins in 1976 before the Jamaican general election. Bob Marley and his family were wounded by assassins. James traces the lives of the murderers and tells the story of Jamaica simultaneously. He uses a large canvas and multiple points of view to paint a richer tale of the past.

the-poisonwood-bibleApurba is a fan of historical fiction too and spoke about her favorite books including Gone with the Wind and the Ibis trilogy by Amitav Ghosh. She was reluctant to start The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver but she is glad she read it as it is the kind of book that stays with the reader a long time after it is read.

The Poisonwood Bible is a story where the wife and four daughters of the Price family are the narrators, each chapter being alternately told by on of the five narrators. Nathan Price is a fierce, evangelical Baptist. When he moves with his family to the Belgian Congo in 1959, they are uprooted, shocked and transformed. Apurba speaks of an instance when the stubborn Price wishes to continue with baptisms but is faced by logistical problems like crocodiles in the river.

Conversation veered to the function of historical fiction in throwing light on ways of life and times entirely foreign to readers. For Apurba, Kingsolver provided a very different view of Africa as compared to the ideas of Africa narrated by writers like Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

History could be made richer by historical fiction. Do you agree or disagree? More books discussed in part 3.


Education and Nationalism @ BYOB Party in December 2016 (Part 1)

The BYOB Party in December kicked off in December with the question of education. Ralph has a penchant for online PDFs that deal with academic subjects. The last time he had got a book with 23 words sentences, as he called it– Philosophy of Intellectual Property by Peter Drahos.

the-educated-mindThis time he talked about The Educated Mind– by Kieran Egan. The book discusses the problems with education and provides alternatives by way of practical proposals.  Unfortunately the book is peppered with huge words and while it talks about simplifying education, it is  a difficult book to read. Ralph, however, recommends the book.

The book reminded Jaya of a book called Hindi Nationalism by-Alok Rai, Premchand’s (the famous Hindi writer) grandson. Topically the books are dissimilar but what the books have in common is a tendency toward obscurity. Though both books deserve to be read, the difficulty of prose and repeated use of hard words can be a setback for an earnest reader. Hindi Nationalism deals with ideas like the separation of Hindi and Urdu, the history of language in India and Hindi as a national language. Many people consider Urdu to be exclusively poetic though writers like Manto wrote Urdu in its prosaic form.

@ the BYOB Party

More books in Part 2.

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: Pothi.com, #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 jayajha@instascribe.com.

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.

Dressmakers and Doctors @ BYOB Party in Delhi in October 2016 (Part 2)

While history can not hide the truth, books can make the truth bearable.

51eV2VYLGfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)Nidhi spoke about The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. The story revolves around the life of Kamila Sidiqi, a woman who lives through the Taliban regime, faces the loss of the men in her life and is forced to find a way to make ends meet. This is a true story of entrepreneurship. “I like books that tell us about people who find a way. There is sadness in the world- that’s a given, but how do people live through it? In this book the protagonist is bombarded with restrictions and yet there is only so much that oppression can do to the human spirit,” Nidhi said.

This reminded Eklavya of a book called In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed. This is another book that talks about how life thrives in spite of restrictions. The author is a Western trained doctor who in a strange twist of fate is offered a job in Saudi Arabia. Her observations are delightful and reveal much about this much misunderstood kingdom.


Aadit, a youngster, talked about the book Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Aahan, a ten year old, spoke affectionately about his favorite illustrator, Quentin Blake. The book he mentioned was The Boy in a Dress by David Williams. He is also busy creating a Pani Hotter (the transposition of alphabets is intentional) series. He spoke at great length about how his collaborative effort includes a bit of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, an array of Greek Gods and a Chinese dragon. You can read more of what this youngster writes here: https://aahansinha.wordpress.com/.

With this, we come to the end of our Delhi chapter this 2016.

Ashoka and Ashokamitran @ BYOB Party in Delhi in October 2016 (Part 1)

There was one more BYOB Party in Delhi while Jaya was there. This was co-hosted by Anu Singh Choudhary.

Jaya spoke about John Keay’s India Discovered, a book she has mentioned before. The book is not about history, something we know little about. It’s about how history was pieced together. It all started with a Sultan in Delhi who found a pillar with inscriptions on it. He was unable to understand it and later on more and more people began stumbling on these inscriptions in other parts of India. It took the British to decipher the Brahmi script and a Sri Lankan text to piece together that the Piyadasi mentioned in the inscriptions found in different parts of the subcontinent actually referred to Ashoka.

Anu who blogs at http://mainghumantu.blogspot.in/2016/10/blog-post_8.html spoke about the books by Ashokamitran, a highly influential writer from Tamil Nadu who has written over two hundred short stories and two dozen novels. While Jaya started the session with history, Anu delved into how memoir revealed the social, historical and cultural aspects of an era.

The book she discussed was Fourteen years with Boss where the author spoke about his experience working at the legendary Gemini Studios of Madras with his boss S.S.Vasan. There is no linear structure in the book as it is a compilation of essays that he wrote for the Illustrated Weekly. It was a time when entertainment and the politburos of power intersected and it was Ashokamitran’s job to manage the PR aspect. In those days, stories were not fed to the media but writers tried to understand what existed. Ashokamitran’s memoirs capture with subtle humor minute details of how an institution like the Gemini Studios was built, and talk about the insecurities the entertainment industry nurtures. Nothing is missed by his steady gaze- no actor, director, producer, director or extra is let off that easily. Ashokamitran captures the 1950s with such immediacy that it does not feel dated. He is now in his eighties.

Another novel by Ashokamitran that Anu mentioned was Mole, an English translation of Otran, a comical look at an International Writing Program in the American Midwest that he had attended. His humors, sharp tone and acute observations bring the 1970s in America alive. “He kept me engaged in a chapter where the theme was a lost watch. It seems irrelevant today to even talk about a watch, but he kept me intrigued with an entire chapter,” Anu said.

Nostalgia works.

Hindi and Mythology @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 4)

rag-darbariProfessor Dheeraj talked about a Hindi book called Rag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla who won the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book: a satirical story of the loss of moral values post independence. He shows rural life in India as it was in the 60s and 70s.  It has also been adapted as a televised series starring Om Puri, but it doesn’t seem to have made its way to the ubiquitous Youtube yet. You can listen to the author speak here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ2SX0sQkDg

Most of the students were more familiar with the Hindi writer Munshi Premchand only. Reading Hindi does not seem to be very much in vogue at the student level.

sitas-sisterAlthough reading Hindi is not in vogue, mythology is. Khyati is a mythology buff and recommends books by Kavita Kane such as Sita’s Sister and Menaka’s Choice. Kavita Kane likes to study overlooked characters like Lakshman’s wife and the desirable apsara Menaka. If mythology interests you, you might want to check out A.K.Ramanujan’s work, a student advised. For more commercial spins of ancient times, Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is a good read, said another.

The famous retelling of Illiad by Madelline Miller called Song of Achilles was discussed. It’s a brilliant retelling of an age old epic in lyrical prose.

a-thousand-splendid-sunsAs it is with almost every BYOB gathering we’ve had so far, Khaled Hosseini was not forgotten and his beautiful and relevant prose was discussed. Both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are favorites.

Anand talked about Paper Towns by John Green. Anand liked the intellectual nature of the love story mystery. This book has won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

Some other books the students at IIIT Delhi talked about included Sherlock Holmes and there was even a diversion to the nature of Indian geography. All in all it was a session brimming with life and curiosity.

Graphic Novels and Pottermania @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 3)

green-lanternNot surprisingly some graphic novels and fantasy made an appearance at this BYOB Party. Siddharth got  Green Lantern/ New Gods Godhead by Robert Venditti. To understand Green Lantern, you need to know a lot of back story. For instance you need to know about Highfather who is the high priest of the DC universe.



Aniket talked about the bestselling manga series (over eighty books in the series) One Piece written and illustrated by Eiichiroone-piece Oda. The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a man who has the properties of rubber because of a fruit he ate. He teams up with a crew of pirates to find the world’s greatest treasure called One Piece. The manga series has been adapted in an animation, a card game, video games, etc.

wardstone-chroniclesArpit spoke about The Wardstone Chronicles, published as The Last Apprentice in the US. It’s a dark fantasy series by Joseph Delaney and the theme is about the seventh son of a seventh son apprenticed to John Gregory to become a figher of supernatural evil. In other words he becomes a Spook. What Arpit liked about the book was the way Delaney approached the topic in a highly original way with his knowledge of chemistry.


Fantasy is a favorite, with Riya talking about the Harry Potter series and how JK Rowling gets her formula right because she talks about the importance of love- be it between friends, teachers and their students, parents and their children, the crux of the world is based on this. There was mention about how Harry Potter was probably the most under-developed lead character of all time, as he hardly ever changed. Things always happened to him without agency on his part. Of course, this led to an overheated discussion about Harry Potter characteristics.

More books in Part 4.

Dystopia and Young Adult Fiction @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 2)

I had read an article recently about the secret appeal to teenagers that lies in George Orwell’s dystopia 1984 and sure enough Orwell was not excluded from this gathering. Animal Farm that describes the secret ministrations of hierarchy was mentioned. “It’s not just a parody of communism, but a parody of any system, even the corporate world.”

if-tomorrow-comesRamya, an ardent Sidney Sheldon fan, talked about If tomorrow comes, Tell me your dreams and Master of the game. What the students surmised from reading these books was that the books revolved around a central female and ideas about the inherent power struggle in a man’s world remains a relevant topic even today. Turns out adolescents like dark fiction. You can read more about this here: http://time.com/3697845/if-i-stay-gayle-forman-young-adult-i-was-here/

da-vinci-codeIf there is a Sidney Sheldon, then a discussion about Jeffrey Archer cannot be far behind. The all time favorite seemed to be Kane and Abel and The Prodigal Daughter. Dan Brown was another favorite, with students heatedly arguing over whether Inferno had the edge over Da Vinci Code. Incidentally, there is an illustrated version of Da Vinci Code as well.

Lectures and Love @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 1)

LitSoc, whose coordinators were Vrinda and Taneea, co-hosted the BYOB Party at IIIT-Delhi. It was Professor Dheeraj Sanghi who facilitated it. The party threw light on what twenty first century teenagers read in Indian cities these days. There is a strong feeling among youngsters today that reading books is an inevitable part of success and this is good news for publishers everywhere.

if-this-isnt-nice-what-isWisdom was a theme. The party kick started with a book that Vrinda got by Kurt Vonnegut called If this isn’t nice, what is? The book is a collection of self-deprecating funny commencement speeches that are inspiring for students. Not surprisingly,Vonnegut was a speaker much in demand in his time. He was one of those writers who achieved success later in life. Some of his humor can be lost on you if you don’t understand the milieu in which he wrote, but most of what he says can be understood and enjoyed.

You can listen to him here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9Toxp0OJNc


Katyayani spoke about The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. If you want to get teary eyed about a man who has six months to live and who comes up on the podium of Carnegie Mellon to speak, think again. His last lecture is filled with humor and practical wisdom about how to achieve your childhood dream.

Here’s a snippet of the poignant lecture:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”

Here’s the link to his lecture which is long and worth your time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo.

me-before-youTaneea read another book with life’s philosophy entrenched called Me Before You. It’s the story of how love can help you overcome something as devastating as paralysis and the joylessness that ensues from losing a part of you.

More books in Part 2.

Closed Doors and Serial Killers @ BYOB Party in September 2016 (Part 5)

Now for some non-fiction.

behind-closed-doorPujan got a non-fiction book called WWII Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees. For a war buff, this book is a treasure trove as the author delves into classified data with panache. The choices made by leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin are unraveled. While the war was being fought and soldiers world over sacrificed their lives, the political games leaders played catered to a very different reality. Roosevelt, for instance, was not overly fond of the idea of the British Empire and minced no words with Stalin about this. To understand more about those troubled times, check this out: http://documentaryheaven.com/world-war-ii-behind-closed-doors/

The conversation veered to the whole idea of empire and whether the British leaving India twenty years later, had Churchill stayed on, would have made any difference. The book Farthest Field  by Raghu Karnad was mentioned. The Indian army was the largest volunteer army that fought the World War and now their service is an embarrassing memory for both sides.

Sankharshan was immersed deep in the work in progress of a friend that revolves around the Indian constitution. He came across some interesting discoveries. It’s easier to get books about Ambedkar the man than writings by him. The conversation moved to politics in the US and the impressive political TV series Veep.

serial-killersSunny, the host of the party, got a book called World Famous Serial Killers by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson that delves into the psychology of serial killers. The book has been written by two police officers who present various case studies in an objective manner. Sunny spoke about many horrific cases of unsuspecting murderers, including a child murderer. The descriptions were scintillating for Criminal Minds fans but disturbing for others. A brilliant book Lolita was mentioned. The strange thing about the book is that the writer Nabokov’s first person narrative is so bewitching that the reader so easily slips on the shoes of the wrong doer and forgets the criminality of the protagonist.

On that dark note, the party came to an end.