Friday, January 31, 2014

The Sunday Haul

After a few spectacular gambles at Abids paid off when the unknown titles I picked up turned out to be really great titles I realized that I have got better at finding good books without really knowing they were good ones. Last Sunday at Abids I picked up two books on a similar hunch, and later when I checked online I discovered that they were indeed good titles. The first title I saw was ‘The Tears of Autumn’ by Charles McCarry that I got for only ten rupees. The seller was a new person I hadn’t seen earlier. I saw that the book looked like something good and also the blurbs at the back were pretty impressive.
Another title that I picked up on the same hunch was ‘Cal’ by Bernard MacLaverty. It was a King Penguin edition and I have enough sense to know that anything by Penguin is worth picking up without a second thought. Apart from that I also read on the cover that the book had been made into a movie starring Helen Mirren which was another reason to read it. So I picked it up. I got it for only forty rupees and after I got home and checked online I was rather thrilled to find that it was a good title.
The third and last find of Sunday was ‘India’s Unending Journey’ by Mark Tully which I did not want to miss reading. I have lined up a few such books that deal with India and its problems, like books by Sunil Khilnani, Shashi Tharoor, Pavan K Verma, Amartya Sen, MJ Akbar that I want to read one after the other and maybe try and understand their perspectives about the country’s problems. Also, I immensely impressed by Mark Tully’s writing and hence I bought the book that I got for fifty rupees.

A Pleasant Surprise
Sometime in November I had come across a copy of ‘Dakshin- Vegetarian Cuisine from South India’ by Chandra Padmanabhan. I have been harbouring dreams of learning to cook and got into the habit of picking up almost every recipe book I saw at Abids. So when I saw ‘Dakshin’ I picked it up not that I planned to cook something from it but because the cover was good and it looked like a book to have on the shelf. In the Monday’s (27-01-2014) issue of Metro Plus I was pleasantly surprised to find this book mentioned in an article on cook book writers and their books by Shonali Muthalaly. There was a picture of the author of the book- Chandra Padmanabhan who looked like she was capable of cooking any vegetarian dish under the sun. It was interesting to read how this book got published. The article is here:

On Bookshops:

Here’s something Dirk Bogarde wrote about bookshops in his article ‘My Favourite Bookshop’ that is in his book ‘For the Time Being’ which is a collection of his numerous articles, book reviews and other pieces he has written for various publication. It is a wonderful book and I am glad I had the sense to buy it when I came across it.

‘A bookshop should be a familiar place, somewhere one goes for the sheer love of books, for the smell and the feel of them, for the companionship of others who share the joy of touching, holding, reading and learning. In the supermarket booksellers with their dizzying displays, their pyramids of bestsellers, one is intimidated, constantly lost in the wealth of glittering titles, bemused by a request answered by a computer which indicates the number of copies held of the title one has asked for, the price, position on the shelf, shelf position in the shop. Tills ring, green lights flash, and buying a book becomes as simple and as uninvolving as buying a packet of envelopes.’

Every word is true.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Another glorious Sunday. Another wonderful half hour in a cafe at Abids chatting with friends about books, writing, movies and about the latest gossip. Later I found two books. The first find was in a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees. It is quite an experience digging into a heap scattered haphazardly and coming with up a gem of a book. This Sunday I found Vivian Gornick's 'Fierce Attachments' that is a memoir. I like to read autobiographies and memoirs and did not miss the chance to pick up this book.
The second find was Kyle Onstott's 'Mandingo' that is difficult to find. I have a copy that I found sometime last year and I did not want to let go of this copy since I was getting it for only forty rupees. It is the edition that I had found. It tells of the horrors of slavery and one scene in which a slave is killed by boiling him alive and spearing him to death is too horrific, and something very difficult to get out of the mind. One should read it to realize how the slaves were treated in America.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Somerset Maugham is one writer I read and reread all the time to remind myself that writing isn’t easy and that not everyone can be a writer. I cannot get enough of his writing since there is much to learn from it. I try to buy everything by Maugham and I have almost all his titles except a few. Of all his titles ‘Summing Up’ remains my favourite and I try to buy as many copies I find to give them away to people who harbour illusions of becoming writers. ‘Summing Up’ tells what it really takes to be a writer.
The other day I was at the Best Books store at Lakdi-ka-pul feeling restless for some reason. I found an old copy of ‘The Summing Up’ that had a different cover page with Maugham’s portrait on it. It looked like one of the first editions so I picked it up. I found another book on writing as well, Eudora Welty’s ‘One Writer’s Beginning,’ that I took though I have a good copy with me.

Then, on Sunday the first book I found was another Maugham title- ‘Ashenden’- that I do not have. I have come across copies of this book but none were in good condition so I passed them. The copy I found on Sunday with a seller in Chikkadpally was in good condition and since it was coming cheap I bought it.
The other finds were at Abids. At a seller we saw a new collection of books. One of them was Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’ that I bought immediately on spotting it. At last I managed to find a book by Donna Tartt who seems to be everywhere. The other book I picked up in the same manner at the same seller was yet another copy of ‘Freaky Deaky’ by Elmore Leonard. Both books were in very good condition and I got the two books for a total of sixty rupees.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Sunday Haul

The list of titles on travel and travelogues on my bookshelf is pretty impressive. Over the years I have managed to fill the bookshelf with some good titles that will cause envy in others who do not have these books. Some of the books I have are:

WG Sebald ( The Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz ), Wilfred Thesiger ( Arabian Sands )Ryszard Kapuscinski ( Another Day of Life, The Shadow of the Sun, Travels with Herodotus, Emperor, The Shah of Shahs ) Freya Stark ( The Southern Gates of Arabia ) Jan Morris ( Sydney, Travels ) Graham Greene ( Journey Without Maps ) Somerset Maugham ( On a Chinese Screen, The Gentleman in the Parlour ) George Orwell ( Burmese Days, Down and Out in Paris and London ) Ernest Hemingway (Green Hills of Africa, The Dangerous Summer ) Saul Bellow ( To Jerusalem and Back ) Edward Abbey ( Desert Solitaire ) Paul Theroux ( The Old Patagonian Express, Riding the Iron Rooster, The Happy Isles of Oceania, To the Ends of the Earth, The Great Railway Bazaar, Kingdom by the Sea ) Pico Iyer ( Video Nights in Kathmandu, Falling of the Map, Sun After Dark ) Bruce Chatwin ( Utz, The Viceroy of Ouidah, What am I Doing Here?, In Patagonia, Songlines ) Colin Thubron ( Behind the Wall ) Eric Newby ( A Short Walk in the Hindukush ) V.S. Naipaul ( Finding the Centre, The Middle Passage, The Overcrowded Barracoon ) Laurens van der Post ( Venture to the Interior )

My favourite writer, Dave Barry, too has a travel book- Dave Barry Does Japan that is absolutely hilarious. I have built this enviable collection over a long period after some painstaking searches that led to some happy finds in places like Bengaluru, Delhi but mostly at Abids in Hyderabad.

Of course, there are many titles that I am looking for desperately like Paul Theroux’s ‘Pillars of Hercules’ ‘Vertigo’ by WG Sebald and other impossible to find titles that are too many to list here. I had read about RL Stevenson’s ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and a couple of years ago had also come across a copy in a very bad condition with termite holes, and a broken spine that I did not buy.

Last Sunday at Abids, I came across another good copy of the book whose title is actually ‘Travels With My Donkey in the Evennes’ by RL Stevenson. Small in size and hardbound it looked like it was the earliest edition. From the looks of it inside it appeared to be a library copy that I got for only forty rupees. I want to read this travel classic sometime in the coming Sankranti holidays.
Earlier, I had found a nice copy of ‘The Middleman’ an English translation by Arunava Sinha of the book ‘Jana Aranya’ by the famous Bengali author Mani Sankar Mukherji. I had read about this book on Chandrahas Choudhury’s blog a long time back. I was happy to find this book for only fifty rupees. I read that Satyajit Ray had made an award winning film (Jana Aranya) out of this book. I have to make time to read this book sometime soon before it gets lost somewhere among the hundreds of books in my house.
However, the first find of the first Sunday of the New Year was Jerzy Kosinski’s collection of essays titled ‘Passing By’ that was a hard cover copy. I picked it up from a heap of books selling for twenty books, the same heaps that have in the past yielded several good titles. This is one place where we spend a long time searching for good titles picking up each and every book to look at the title properly before deciding whether to buy it or not. There’s a row of two or three large heaps, one or two heaps selling for twenty and another selling for thirty rupees. It is like a gold mine since sometimes I’ve found some incredible titles in these heaps.

Friday, January 03, 2014

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST: Post-2: The Sunday Haul

Last Sunday was the last Sunday of the year 2013. Though I had picked up almost 180 books I did not stop from buying more books. In fact the previous Sunday too I picked up two books that I had not written about on the blog. They were Somerset Maugham’s ‘Points of View’ that I found at Chikkadpally on the way home from Abids for only thirty rupees. It was not in such a good condition but then it is almost impossible to find some titles by Somerset Maugham so I picked it up.
Earlier at Abids I had found Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Vegetarian Cookery’ that I got for only thirty rupees. It was in a good condition. I had also picked up a November-December 2002 issue of National Geographic Traveler that I got for twenty rupees.
Last Sunday the first find at Abids was a book that I picked up from a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees after reading the title. It was a funny sounding title and I had a hunch that it could be a good book. The book was ‘The Fools in Town Are On Our Side’ by Ross Thomas. Honestly, I had never heard of Ross Thomas and I bought the book on a hunch. After I searched on the net for reviews of this book I got a pleasant surprise to discover that Ross Thomas has been compared to Raymond Chandler. I felt very pleased that I had laid my hands on a good book that I got for only twenty rupees.

The second find was an autobiography that sounded interesting. It was Sheila Cassidy’s ‘Audacity to Believe’ that is an account of the time the author spent in Chile including a stint in jail imprisoned by Pinochet and his gang. With these two books the total number of books I bought in 2013 shot up. This wasn’t the only haul since I found another title which was a childrens book. It was ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak. This is the second copy of this title that I have. The first copy too I had bought at Abids and at almost the same price- twenty rupees.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST: Post-1: 2013 Reading List

Happy New Year to you!

In 2013 I read a total of 68 books that is a slight improvement over the previous year when I read something like sixty books only. Most of the books I read in 2013 were all very good except for a few books that I shouldn’t have even begun. The books I read were a mix of fiction, crime, short stories, non-fiction, autobiography and even self-help. The books I really loved I’ve marked with an asterisk in the list below.

1. ‘Scenes from a Writer’s Life’ by Ruskin Bond
2. ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ by Daniyal Mueenuddin
3. ‘Imaginary Homelands’ by Salman Rushdie*
4. ‘Doctor Brodie’s Report’ by Jorge Luis Borges*
5. ‘Love, Chocolate and Medicine’ by Dr Ravi Sekhar Krishna
6. ‘Writing the Short Story’ by Jack M. Bickham
7. ‘The Rings of Saturn’ by WG Sebald*
8. ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler*
9. ‘Flying Visits’ by Clive James
10. ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers*

11. ‘A Most Truthful Picture’ by Ashokamitran
12. ‘The Lost Salt Gift of Blood’ by Alistair MacLeod**
13. ‘Problems’ by John Updike
14. ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by Scott M Peck
15. ‘Conundrum’ by Jan Morris
16. ‘The Foreigner’ by Arun Joshi**
17. ‘The New Journalism’ by Tom Wolfe
18. ‘How to Read Slowly’ by James W Sire
19. ‘Finding the Centre’ by VS Naipaul*
20. ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ by Arun Joshi**

21. ‘Early Autumn’ by Robert B. Parker
22. ‘The Southern Gates of Arabia’ by Freya Stark**
23. ‘Four Graves and Other Stories’ by Manohar Malgonkar
24. ‘The Last Labyrinth’ by Arun Joshi**
25. ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys’*
26. ‘The Red Harvest’ by Dashiell Hammett**
27. ‘The English Assassin’ by Daniel Silva
28. ‘This Boy’s Life’ by Tobias Wolff
29. ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott
30. ‘Felicia’s Journey’ by William Trevor**

31. ‘Experience’ by Martin Amis
32. ‘Between Clay and Dust’ by Musharraf Ali Farooqui
33. ‘Arabia’ Jonathan Raban
34. ‘Fiction Writer’s Handbook’ by Hallie and Whit Burnett
35. ‘Sister of My Heart’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
36. ‘Cat Chaser’ by Elmore Leonard
37. ‘Shadow of the Sun’ by Ryszard Kapuscinski***
38. ‘Writing from the Inside Out’ by Dennis Palumbo
39. ‘Edgar Cayce’s On Secrets of the Universe’ by Lin Cochran
40. ‘1Q84’ by Haruki Murakami***

41. ‘Fearless Jones’ by Walter Mosley
42. ‘Aspects of the Novel’ by EM Foster
43. ‘Xerxes Invades Greece’ by Herodotus
44. ‘Notes from an Unsettled Life’ by Kamini Karlekar
45. ‘Dead and Gone’ by Andrew Vachss
46. ‘Behind the Silicon Mask’ by Eshwar Sundaresan
47. ‘Casino Moon’ by Peter Blauner**
48. ‘Winter Journal’ by Paul Auster
49. ‘The Art of Fiction’ by John Gardner
50. ‘The Apprentice’ by Arun Joshi***

51. ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf**
52. ‘Tigers are Better Looking’ by Jean Rhys**
53. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque**
54. ‘The Vagrant Mood’ by Somerset Maugham***
55. ‘Write Away ‘ by Elizabeth George
56. ‘Bad Things Happen’ by Harry Dolan
57. ‘Jump Cut’ by Krishna Sastry Devulapally
58. ‘My Kailash Yatra’ by Kiran Shankar Reddy
59. ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl**
60. ‘Dave Barry’s Money Secrets’ by Dave Barry***

61. ‘Sleepers’ by Lorenzo Carcaterra**
62. ‘All the Way Home and All the Night Through’ by Ted Lewis*
63. ‘Fast Lanes’ by Jayne Anne Philips**
64. ‘Journey Without Maps’ by Graham Greene***
65. ‘Tumbleweed’ by Janwillem van de Wetering
66. ‘Quiet Days in Clichy’ by Henry Miller
67. ‘It Rained All Night’ by Buddhadeva Bose**
68. ‘The Italian Girl’ by Iris Murdoch***