February Reading

I am following in Aishwarya’s footsteps and keeping a month-by-month record of everything I’ve read. Unlike her, I’m including only stuff I’ve read for the first time.

The February list is quite limited. This is because February was tiny, and also filled with lots of work and travel; and I couldn’t read a whole lot. So I’m cheating, and including a book started in January and completed in February; and one started in February and completed on the first of March. Here we go.

Millennium by Tom Holland: was decent-ish; but not as fun to read as some of the other popular histories I’d read in the recent past. I think I like single topic histories best – John Keay’s book on the Spice Route was awesome, and there was another one I can’t remember now about the California Gold Rush and its consequences. Millennium is about Europe and the spread of Christianity and nationalism between 800 and 1100 AD to Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, so the scope was too broad for my tastes. Also, I realised while reading it that I was far more interested in how Christianity took root in France and Germany (though that’s a subject for a different blogpost).

Ludmila’s Broken English by DBC Pierre: It’s a piss-and-vinegar story where DBC Pierre lays into his characters and yells ‘You are all bastards!’ at them all through, which is fun to read; but other books have done it much much better – A Crate of Exploding Mangoes (which I read in October), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which I read last January), and of course the gold standard – Vanity Fair.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: The problem with coming so late to a classic is that you already know the basic plot outline, and what’s going to happen. Even so, Ender’s Game was a mindfuck the way it lay the story out. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: I had a traumatic experience with Sense and Sensibility back in Class IX (or possibly Class X), and after reading fifteen pages gave up on Jane Austen. Finally I decided to give Pride and Prejudice a shot this year, thanks to the following reasons:

  • Persuasion (heh heh, see what I did there?) by darling girlfriend to read it
  • As a quizzer, it makes sense for me to go and read the original of something that has led to so much derivative work
  • Spunky agreed to buy it for me to make up for not getting chocolates from Singapore duty free

Anyway, it was much easier getting through Pride and Prejudice this year than it was getting through Sense and Sensibility back in 1997. The only problem I faced was Jane Austen’s legendary subtle wit – unfortunately it was so subtle that I was never quite sure when sarcasm was intended. So it goes.

I have also concluded that the book is all about Goldman Sachs. However that is again a subject for a separate blogpost.

The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering by Ramesh Menon: It was recommended to me by Skimpy, who (I vaguely recall) said that Beatzo recommended it to him. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to the recommendations. Ramesh Menon’s English was slightly overambitious in the first volume, and only the inherent awesomeness of the Mahabharata prevented me from giving up. Things got a little better in the second volume, where he switched the narrative to present tense, which was nicely suited to the grisly combat scenes. Tragically, I will now cherish the book not for the quality of Menon’s writing but for alerting me to the existence of KM Ganguli’s comprehensive translation (which is available online. Yay!)

2 Responses to February Reading

  1. Kunal says:

    Orson Scott Card is a much better writer of short fiction than he is of novels. Ender’s Game is his best novel precisely because it is an expansion of a short story (also called Ender’s Game). If you liked it you should read his short story anthologies and maybe Intergalactic Medicine Show but for the love of Joseph Smith do not get sucked into the rest of the Ender series.

  2. roswitha says:

    Sense and Sensibility is possibly Austen’s dodgiest novel – I think it’s deeply unpleasant, but I’m still not sure if its because it lacks the relative clarity of Austen’s purpose in her other work [only Mansfield Park is more ambiguous about its characters and it is a much more solid piece of writing] or if Austen really meant for it to be that misanthropic. Now I expect you don’t have a problem with misanthropy, but it’s not always on par with Austen’s more civilising instincts as a novelist imho.

    I hope you do read Mansfield Park at some point of time.

    [Also – surely you meant ‘case’ and not ‘crate’? Or is there another brilliant novel with ‘crate’ in its name?]

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