Reader Interview of Bindu (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in October 2019

We got to speak to Bindu who had been quite disappointed by Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book.

Tell us about your book journey. 

It was academics that led me to read so widely. I did my graduation, post-graduation, M.Phil and Ph.D. in English literature, so I read all the time, be it the classics or contemporary fiction. The ecosystem in which I studied involved books and more books and even batchmate’s book recommendations. It was like falling into a rabbit hole filled with books.

Fiction or non-fiction?

Since I ended up being an academic writer, I continue reading heavy doses of fiction and subject-wise non-fiction.

Do you read multiple books on the same subject?

No, my choices are more random and recommendations matter a lot to me. I work with subject experts so they keep me updated not just on books on a subject but meta-books as well. That’s how I came across an author like Robert Sapolsky, someone I wouldn’t have discovered if it wasn’t for suggestions from others.

Do you read vernacular books?

Not really. No one has recommended any book so strongly. I did read Tamil magazines and stories while in college but the English literature that I was exposed to seemed so far ahead at the time.

What kind of literature do you prefer?

Well, I have been exposed to a variety of subjects including European, American and World Literature. I particularly enjoy the magical realism of writers like Marquez and Rushdie.

Favorite books?

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

Do you read poetry?

Poetry is very cryptic and takes more effort though I must say that I was wonderstruck by Vikram Seth’s poetry in The Golden Gate while it was impossible to finish his magnum opus A Suitable Boy.

Audiobooks or eBooks?

Audiobooks, no doubt. The last book I read or listened to, rather, was Lincoln in the Bardo. It was amazing. There are around 183 characters in the story and what’s available on Audible is the performed version. The main character is narrated by the author himself. I love the audiobook experience as it is completely hands-free and I find an excuse to do the mundane just so that I can get at least an hour’s worth dedicated listening. I’m into the listening culture as I grew up listening to discourses.

How much do you read or listen on average?

I’d say 1-1 ½ hrs every day.

Thank you for sharing your bookish experiences, Bindu!

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.