Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Attack of the Book Meme Virus

This tag sneaked up on me via Neel's blog. Had no idea this meme exists but now that we have been introduced, it sounds like such a great idea. So here goes...

Number of books I own: Never counted but in view of the fact that have been collecting since I was five (or lesser) maybe somewhere between 1500 to 2000 (not counting the collection of Chandamamas, Tinkles, Champaks (Champak!! what was i thinking?!!) and Gokulams). Most of my collection is at home in Bombay adding to my mom's chores. And back here in Singapore, I currently have around 30-40 of them. But then I also own a library card which affords me access to the National Library of Singapore with its numerous branches and their excellent collections.

Last Book I bought: Now how do you go to a bookshop and buy just 1 book... and this impossibility is compounded if you go to a book fair as I did last weekend.
Had to be dragged home by AG, but managed to bring along:
* Mrs Dalloway: Have read it but never owned a copy. And some books, you simply have to own copies of. When it comes to Woolf, all her books are eminently ownable. She is to prose what Plath is to poetry... sensitive, brilliant, stunning, vivid, revolutionary... her writing makes you gasp and wonder.

* The Ambassadors
* The Awkward Age
Both by Henry James. Have read Daisy Miller but that was a long time ago. The Ambassadors, he considered his best work. And I was persuaded (not that I needed any!) to buy it because of this extract I read in Azar Nafisi's 'Reading Lolita in Teheran' (which btw is a real masterpiece and compellingly must-read).

* Antarctica on a Plate (She came, She saw, She burnt the toast)
-- by Alexa Thomson
Alexa gave up a successful career in web designing to go to Antarctica and cook! This book is a memoir of her adventures in the coldest place on earth.

* The Ripening Sun
-- by Patricia Atkinson
This is the story of another brave woman who gave up a steady job and life to go and live off her vineyards in France, of which by the way, she knew nothing to start with!!

The last 2 buys are inspired by the delight I got out of reading 'Extra Virgin: Among the olive groves of Liguria' by Annie Hawes. Like a lot of people I dream of being able to give up my cushy living of a software consultant and go backpacking or adventure seeking in some exotic lands. The glamour of such a life beckons me and I am still short on the courage it takes to chuck it all up and follow. But at least I can live these lives vicariously through the stories of these fellow women who found the courage that I lack.

Last Book I read:
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. Was recommended to me by SM. Have always enjoyed Gladwell. His subjects are so original and his research so exhaustive. In addition he writes well. No gobbledygook which a layman (like me) would be hard put to understand. Blink is a book about the adaptive unconscious and what follows as a result of it... rapid cognition. It tries to explain those split second decisions that we make and how these decisions can be controlled and made more reliable. It debates against the school of thought which says that such snap decisions and judgements which are made, apparently without supporting information and data, are unreliable and can prove to be disastrous. Blink is thought provoking and forces one to sit up and take notice of those quick conclusions or decisions we make and then usually push aside since years of conditioning has taught us to 'Think twice before we leap'.

Also reading 'The Diamond as big as the Ritz' by F.Scott.Fitzgerald. It is a novelette which (quoting Fitzgerald)... 'was designed utterly for my own amusement'. It is a very sinister fairytale-ish story about a family who are have discovered the biggest mine of diamonds on earth and have kept the diamonds and themselves hidden from the world for 3 generations, at the same time enjoying a life of unimaginable luxury and riches. Definitely not in the league of 'The Great Gatsby'. But enjoyed the satirical, curled lip attitude adopted towards the obscenely rich with their decadent lifestyles and flexible ethics which can be bend to protect their cushioned lives and their money.

5 books that mean a lot to me:
Hmmm this is the difficult part and also unfair, can't think of just 5 books. Plus the list is always changing. Anyways here goes...

1) Little Women (by Louisa May Alcott): Have to name this book. In my childhood days I used to come home from school and read Little Women at whichever page I happen to turn to that day. Among other childhood favorites are Emily Bronte's stark and raw Wuthering Heights, the wholesome 'Anne of Green Gables' and its various sequels by L.M.Montgomery, Mark Twain's adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, R L Stevenson's 'Treasure Island', the hilarious 'Three Men in a boat' by Jerome K Jerome, the dark humor in the short stories of Saki, the collected works of O.Henry and of Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Gerald Durrell, Jean Webster, George Orwell, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie...

2) Atlas Shrugged (by Ayn Rand): This book had the single most powerful influence on my thinking and at the most impressionable of times in my life.

3) The Little Prince (by Antoine de Saint Exupery): I love this little story and the messages it conveys in its simple way. (Mind you, this book is originally in French and which of the many translated versions you read, makes a huge difference at times regarding your perception about this book)

4) The Prophet (by Kahlil Gibran): How can one have read the Prophet's take on Marriage, Love and Children and not be moved by its powerful truth.

5) Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert Pirsig): This is a book to be studied and not just read, or rather a book to be chewed and ruminated over endless times. Having read this book once, its voice and its contents will stay with you forever, surfacing at all those times when you are wondering or debating over the most intrinsic of all things and actions... their quality.

That brings us to the last section... of taking this meme forward. Most people I would like to tag are either not blogging or have discontinued. But here are a few names:
1) NCM
2) Chai
3) Tabs
4) Anupama Viswanathan
5) Rambling Librarian