Penguin on Wheels

Penguin India Blog

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Tah dah! Your favorite book bird is coming to town

Penguin Books India & Walking BookFairs bring to your doorstep

Penguin on Wheels

Penguin Books India, in association with Walking BookFairs, presents Penguin on Wheels—a jaw-dropping, gorgeous mobile bookstore that will be doing rounds across the country to promote reading and make great writing more accessible.

This is the first campaign of its kind to be launched by a publishing house in India, wherein readers are offered choices on-the-go from a wide selection of titles across genres, including the revered Penguin classics. The collection will have books by celebrated authors, such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh, Devdutt Pattanaik, Salman Rushdie, Ravinder Singh, Twinkle Khanna, Hussain Zaidi, Khushwant Singh, Roald Dahl, Ruskin Bond and Emraan Hashmi among others.

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This eye-catching mobile bookstore will also run various engagement activities, such as giveaways and contests. There will be book readings and signings…

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On Reading Norwegian Wood

A few days ago, my friend and I were dawdling away a Sunday afternoon, discussing the paradoxical nature of English food and the merits of dry heat waves over stark sun-glares, when Murakami came up, like he inadvertently does in conversations like these. I was halfway through Norwegian Wood then, the book being my first by the author, while my friend is a bit of a connoisseur on the matter. She asked me whether I was enjoying it. I told her that while I found his writing to be immaculately beautiful and felt a special love for the book, I was still struggling to wrap my head around the plot. There was a little too much unexpected sex and suicide which I didn’t particularly take a liking to, and while Murakami makes even the gloomiest of subjects effortless, Norwegian Wood would never be a perfect book to me; quite appropriately, its brilliance is probably added to by this imperfection, and I am quite content with how I feel about the book. As we delved deeper into Murakami’s near-unfathomable style, my friend was reminded of a phrase she had seen used in an article singing the author’s praise, and as we sat pondering over the phrase, it struck us that it was the truest thing we had ever read about an author. It said:

”We all love Murakami, but we don’t know why.”

Marvelling over this sudden realization, we whiled away the rest of the afternoon trailing into a discussion about cats and tea.

Norwegian Wood

I finished reading Norwegian Wood last night. In one scene, the narrator reads a letter sent to him by the woman he loves. The first line of that letter says:

”You went back to Tokyo just about the time the autumn weather was deepening, so for a time I couldn’t tell whether the hole that opened up inside me was from missing you or from the change of the season.”

I had to put down the book for a moment, straighten my back, close my eyes, and take a deep breath – this is how strongly the sentence had hit me. The sheer gorgeousness of it had literally knocked the breath out of me. And it was then that I realized why we love Murakami so much. This is what Murakami has to offer us, sentence by sentence, page by page, book by book, and this is why reading him is like basking in a mellow sun while simultaneously freezing in a polar blizzard. This is why we love him.

Or probably not. In true Murakami fashion, I am still looking for an answer.

Werewolves in 17th century India, you ask? – The Devourers by Indra Das

THE-DEVOURERS-cover

It is not everyday that one comes across a delectable dish of a book which one eats up in a single go, impatient because it is so good, but sad at the same time because it would be over soon, and then can’t get over its taste for months to come. One goes around town, asking every eatery if they have that dish, with its richness of texture and the amazing burst of every single ingredient that one can taste with each bite, and one is offered many a things, but never exactly that. One then sits down to make a list of all which made that dish so very unearthly, in hopes of recreating that dish oneself, perhaps? One doesn’t know, and comes up with the most prominent of those tastes:
A handful of speculative fiction
A base made out of 17th century India jumping intermittently to present day India.
Three werewolves (or shape-shifters, as they prefer to be known), from three different European countries (France, Greece, and an unnamed Scandinavian nation).
A young girl carrying a supernatural child she’s not sure she wants.
A mysterious stranger with a centuries old story written on a scroll made out of human skin
A college history professor who agrees to transcribe these stories for the stranger;
And an age old tale of gods and myths, spanning centuries and continents, of what it is like to be human.
But there are still layers upon layers of these ingredients one misses, simply because they’re best off being merely felt, and one cannot put them on paper, try as one might. And then a time comes when the lingering taste makes a place for itself in the trove that one keeps ever so close to one’s heart and calls it nostalgia, and a long time passes before one finds oneself in a remote corner of the world sitting in a cafeteria and taking that first bite which would send one off on that incessant search once again.

The Devourers is that book, a brilliantly and eloquently written tale of how these lives collide in a cosmic-level explosion, and where humanity and gender and sexuality and animalism are ever transient. Indra Das deftly handles his readers with gorgeous prose and incredibly vivid imagery, transporting them to Mumtazabad and Calcutta and the Sunderbans one after the other, giving them a tour de force of a debut novel and cementing a place for himself as one India’s biggest speculative fiction authors, if not the world’s.
Das’ research into the myth of werewolves and their origins across cultures brings out a level of academic depth which would enable enthusiasts to pursue these highly intriguing supernatural creatures even more thoroughly, while the book as a whole is a gentle yet forceful paradoxical tale which seems set to be read by generations to come.

Best Books I Read In 2014!

My GoodReads tells me that I read 71 books in the year 2014, but I know that’s not true. I read 73 books, and why GoodReads has it wrong is because two of these books have been repeatedly read by me in the past few years. (Yes, GoodReads, you need to up your book-recording game) Anywho, since those two books have been read by me a gazillion times and, hence, are obviously favourites, I will not include them in my list of the best books I read in 2014, the year of the horse. So here goes, in no particular order:

The Screaming Staircase and The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Lockwood & Co.Three teenage operatives – sassy, smart, intelligent, and learning – bumble, fumble, and survive their way through ghost-hunting in an alternative, almost present-day London, combined with Stroud’s incredible and delightful writing which I have learnt to always rely on. What else can one ask for?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

The tale of four sisters and how they make their way in their lives, with highly endearing supporting characters – this book is called a classic for a reason.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods Gaiman takes us around an America where the old gods still exist, alongside the new – the new gods of media, internet, and credit cards. Shadow, an ex-convict and now the man in employment of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, must see to it that his employer wins the war between the old and the new gods. Shoot, Mr. Gaiman, this book took my breath away, left me boggled and, somehow, with more faith.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds

Gorgeous, gorgeous art, and a beautiful little story with elements of fantasy that will keep you reading till the very end of this somewhat chunky standalone graphic novel. I don’t see anything much wrong with this book.

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

The Ring of Solomon

You would see a pattern forming here, a pattern which shouts out that Stroud is a favourite author of mine. He is. And Bartimaeus, djinni extraordinaire and the sassy protagonist of this book is one of my top 5 favourite fictional characters of all time.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman is a magician, and this middle-grade-trailing-into-teen outing of his is a work of brilliant writing and such necessary characters, my heart was warmed for days after I finished reading this book.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling) The Silkworm

I love me a good murder mystery, and Galbraith’s one-legged, ex-soldier Cormoran Strike is as good a private eye as they come. Along with his ever faithful assistant and sleuth-in-training, Robin Ellacott, Strike had formed a firm place in my heart ever since he first appeared in The Cuckoo’s Calling. He is ever more fascinating in this second adventure of his, when characters become deeper and the mystery gets more boggling!

The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Covers

There aren’t many words that can be used to express the plot of the Sandman comics, or the emotions the reader is awash with once he is done reading them. The Sandman is one of the most epic comic book series of all time, and definitely my favourite – I don’t think I can stress enough how much I revere Gaiman’s imagination, and this series surpasses anything else he has ever done, its scale is that large. Filled with mind-blowing art and characters and settings that drive people to get tattoos of them, the Sandman is a cultural statement and a celebration in itself.

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Oscar & Lucinda

Of late, I haven’t been entirely sure of long, heavily prose-d, covering entire generations novels, but this one had been on my list for so long, I thought I would take it with me to the Greece and Germany trip that I took with my parents in September, 2014 (from what I could ascertain from the blurb, it had a sea voyage! Yayie!). Boy, did I love it, and boy did it break my heart. (I won’t give out spoilers). Peter Carey’s writing is very close to magical, and this book has made its place into my favourite books of all time. That’s saying something, eh?

A Delicate Truth by John le Carré

A Delicate Truth

Espionage fiction – spy fic – is my favourite genre, alongside crime fiction, and John le Carré is the master of all that is covert, clandestine, secret agent-y, and anti-Bond-y. His latest, published in 2013, is about a covert operation gone wrong, and whistleblowing. What’s there to stop one from grabbing it right off the shelf and devouring it in one go!?

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film

This book is a paranormal mystery, and it managed to scare me real good! I talk about it in my post about how I need horror in my life. The author uses real web pages and photographs to show how the detective in the book – a defamed journalist – goes about with his investigation, which is freaking’ awesome, specially for a book with 500+ pages. And the person being investigated is a mysterious and reclusive, Stanley Kubrick-y filmmaker! Woot woot!

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants

Tina Fey is a goddess, my spirit animal, and one of the funniest women on the planet right now. Surely her memoir would be hilarious? Nope, it’s funnier. Fey talks about her life, from early childhood to her time at SNL and 30 Rock, and she accompanies these with hilarious photographs and quirky anecdotes. This is one book everyone should read who has struggled even minimally in their life, or just wants a good, long laugh.

A very, very special mention should go to the five Flavia de Luce novels by Alan Bradley I read in the year (I read the first one a few years ago – I have no idea why I waited for so long to pick the rest of them up) – it is hard to contain the love that comes out of me for this very special character who is so severely underrated, it should be deemed a literary crime.

Flavia de Luce books

Flavia is a an 11 year old chemist and a crime solver who lives with her quiet, almost-reclusive father and her two older sisters whose main occupations seem to be to cause Flavia as much trouble as is possible – only Flavia doesn’t hesitate in paying them back. Ever present wherever there is a dead body or two, with her ears always open for all kinds of information that flows through her tiny, 1950s English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia de Luce is one of the most precocious, lovable, and memorable characters of all time.

So, there you have it, the best books I read in 2014. They were all adventures in themselves, and I can’t be more thankful for books of such incredible quality. 2015 has begun with a few brilliant books already, and I hope the rest of my year is full of awesomeness as well! Happy reading, y’all!

Little Women, finally. (Author: Louisa May Alcott)

Little Women

[Oh how I love Jo and Laurie!]

Jo & Laurie

I find some classics quite cumbersome to get into. Little Women, though easy to read, failed to grasp my immediate interest as I began it for nothing better than lack of excitement in the plot. Now, before the haters begin to hate, let me just make myself clear here: after the lull of the first few pages, I WAS INTO IT, AND HOW!
I thoroughly enjoyed Little Women, despite the fact that [SPOILERS FROM HERE ON] Laurie and Jo do not end up together. People seem to have an enormous issue with this decision, but I quite liked that Louisa May Alcott did not make the obvious couple a couple. I love Laurie and Jo’s friendship, and they probably wouldn’t have lasted (at least happily) had they gotten together anyway.
I also DO NOT hate Amy, people. What exactly did she do to you? Whatever it was, just deal with it.

I was also pretty comfortable with the decision of killing Beth off; it was a refreshing change of pace from JUST EVERYONE GETTING MARRIED. I mean, OTHER THINGS CAN HAPPEN TO PEOPLE IN LIFE AS WELL, FOLKS!

While the writing I found slightly off in the beginning (which kind of disconcerted me – I mean, this was Little Women!), I soon came to see it as quite hilarious! The Pickwick Club and its paper were a delight! Each character had their fair share of page space, and I ended up hating none of them. Again, a refreshing change of pace!

An absolute recommendation to one and all.