Reading Plans for 2018 – THE FRAMEWORK!

Reading Plans for 2018 – THE FRAMEWORK!

I think I’m in trouble.

Because every passing day, the intensity of the “pull” from books I’m pining to read escalates. So much so, that the other important things I’m supposed to be doing in a day (like work!!) are now seeming like an annoying distraction. The only motivation to carry on working is so I can make enough of a living to feed this feverish and frenzied but oh so fulfilling habit.

Like I cannot wait for the weekend to get here, because the annual book fair is finally happening and I’ve already got my backpack cleaned up and ready, to stuff with all the loot I don’t deserve but have to have to, oh have to have!

This really is getting out of hand, or…. is it too late to worry now?

But wait, isn’t 2018 supposed to be about celebrating books? Of course it is! Thank you very much for the reminder!

My target for the year is 50 books – and here is how I am going to make the most of it!

The idea is to keep it structured but also allow enough room for those impulsive choices that are inevitably going to be made. I’ve learnt this about myself and I’ve stopped fighting it – because in the end, the discipline really sucks away a lot of the FUN that books and reading are supposed to bring. (The #unreadshelfproject, which I am following via Instagram, is a fun way of bringing in that tiny bit of discipline though!).

So after browsing numerous reading challenges from all over the web, this framework is what I’ve come up with. Finishing 50 books is itself a challenge for me so I am not making the framework too schematic or overly defined. I’m happy with the direction its  taken, and also because it will serve as a reminder to not miss the kind of genres I generally overlook.

I’ve already identified a bunch of titles for these categories, but I think it would be wiser to add those after I’ve actually read them. Lets see where I get in 6 months time.

Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 6.02.24 PM

I’m so excited to begin and see how this goes!!

Are you also following a reading strategy this year? I’d love to hear  how you plan to do it.

Happy new year and happy reading!

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Eleanor Eleanor Eleanor, can I give you a hug and then a few more!

My reading luck seems to peak at the end of the year, every year, because the most enjoyable book somehow happens to be the last one I squeeze in before the year wraps up, usually after the obligatory reading target has been met.

I’d been waiting to get my hands on this book since July and when I finally did I was afraid of being left disappointed because of all the wanting and expectations I had built up over the months. Luckily though, I absolutely loved the book and Eleanor’s character and I loved the voice that the author created for her; she is so unusual and endearing. Also, the vocabulary in this book is enough to get you half way through your GRE preparations! But thats just Eleanor being Eleanor, you’ll see.

There were so many passages I highlighted and saved through the book. Some of them deadpan but hilarious, like this one where Eleanor talks about fast food,

I wondered why humans would willingly queue at a counter to request processed food, then carry it to a table which was not even set, and then eat it from the paper?

and others which were heart breaking but so well put, like the one where she describes ‘loneliness’

These days loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.

This is just a great debut novel and I’m gonna be watching out for Gail Honeyman’s next one. If you want to close the year on a meaningful, funny, easy to read and uplifting book, then I highly recommend this one.

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Reading Stats 2017!

Reading Stats 2017!

Its been a great 2017!

The best I’ve ever had reading-wise in fact, with a challenge of 40 books done and dusted! In a world of voracious readers, I know thats a drop in the ocean, but this year I’ve seen myself read more than ever and get geekier about, as Anne Bogel would say, “all things books and reading“, like never before!

I thought I was already beyond ‘borderline weirdo’ with the amount of time I spent updating my reading progress on Goodreads, adding books to my TBR shelf and only tweeting about books and book lists from my Feedly account; but who knew I had yet more manic bookwormy levels to cross! So now, in addition to being a book searcher, hoarder and review finder, I am also addicted to a bookish podcast called What Should I Read Next (WSIRN), which I listen to almost daily, and which has reassured me that I am not really as weird as I might imagine 😉

I have also started maintaining an over the top excel sheet on the books I read – a concept I also heard one of WSIRN’s guests talk about. Data visualisations  about what I am reading are now possible and that is so weirdly exciting! So without further ado, here’s what my reading stats and patterns looked like this year!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that 35% of my total reading this year was non-fiction. Thats 14 books in all – which is a big number for me considering I get super picky and moody about non-fiction, because I anticipate them to be boring, which, it turns out, is more often not the case. I  actually seemed to have had a much better time reading non-fiction compared to fiction – with over 70% rated 4+ stars – which is way better than my fiction experience at 62%.

I would never have realised this, but for this graph 😀 


I also managed to cover a pretty wide genre of books this year, more than I usually would or expected myself to. Again, strangely I read more memoirs and fantasy fiction than my favourite genre of thrillers, and even managed to read a number of classics, something I find very hard to pick up with interest – which is unexpected but also makes me happy because my conscious effort to diversify my book and genre choices really seems to have worked 🙂


And finally, before I bog you down with more psychedelic graphs, I’d like to share one more fun pattern I enjoyed seeing, which is where the stories in the books I was reading were taking place – and it is no surprise that the majority were set in America,  though in 2018 I would love to add more to the Indian, UK and Japanese contexts. To make sure I travel the world wider through books, I’m also trying to create a list of countries that I would like to visit and pick up books whose stories take place there. Maybe, if it works, I will do a post on that some time too.


So with that I conclude that 2017 has indeed been a very accomplished year book-wise, and on this happy note I look forward to an even more bookishly exciting 2018!

I will be sharing more about the books I loved in 2017 in the coming days!

Happy reading!!

Book Review – Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Book Review – Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted WorldDeep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book with a lot of expectation and interest. The point Cal Newport makes is very valid, but it is not a new point, and he doesn’t claim it to be.

In my opinion, the deep work approach is most applicable to “thinking work” – such as research, academics, writing, etc. The point is simple – work in larger chunks of time un-distracted and uninterrupted, to see your productivity and creativity soar. Make it a routine ordered by rules.
The book tries to offer these set of rules as a path to set yourself up for deep work.

One of its major points is – stay as away as possible from social media – which I tend to agree with to an extent, as it can really take over your life and time, once you’re hooked – and when you really come to think of it, it adds very little value to anything of depth. Its basically a superficial time guzzler that we need to be more mindfully careful of.

While I enjoyed reading the first half of the book, after the 60% mark I lost interest completely. It became a long winding narrative that I felt was repetitive with nothing new to share. I mostly skimmed through the rest of it.

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Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante

Book Review: The Story of the Lost Child – Elena Ferrante

Whoopie! This review was listed on the official Elena Ferrante website! Check it out:

4 STARS ****

And so, finally I come to the end of this saga.Reading the #NeapolitanBooks has been like a journey almost – of which, sometimes I was a part, and sometimes I was  a removed observer. Ferrante writes very well, her range is remarkable, her expansive web of characters, feelings, emotions and personalities is captivating. Her writing comes from a depth that makes you feel certain that this is her story or a major part of it is a ‘fictionalised’ autobiography – – – and somewhere, possibly the very personal nature of the story compels her to protect her own identity as well as of those who may be easily identifiable from the book.

Ferrante’s story interweaves conflicting feelings like affection, anger, concern, desire, despair, empathy, malice, grief,  happiness, love, pride, rage, remorse, shame almost simultaneously. The essence of all 4 books in the series is that they present a narrative that is transparent – laying bare each personality’s flaws, failures and self centered narcissism at risk of judgment, and also revealing unexpected instances of benevolence and consideration – that you constantly remain in an  ambivalent state of mind and come away with possibly inconclusive emotions to fulfill that need to compartmentalize individuals as a result of their actions.

And yet I give The Story of the Lost Child less than a perfect score, possibly because the  tumultuous friendship of Elena and Lila has reached its most disturbing and unpredictable form. It became constantly more difficult to be okay with the suffocating, often controlling and spiteful co-dependency that Elena and Lila shared through their turbulent adult lives.

This quote sums it up perfectly:

Every intense relationship between human beings is full of traps, and if you want it to endure you have to learn to avoid them. I did so then, and finally it seemed that I had only come up against yet another proof of how splendid and shadowy our friendship was.

—— Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child

In the end, my month with the Neapolitan Books was extremely rewarding. I can now say that all the fuss and buzz around her is completely authentic and well-founded. Being nominated for the Man Booker is well deserved and if we take into account the entire series, I think she is a definite front runner. I wish her all the best!

Book Review : Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Book Review : Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

Those Who Leave and Those Who StayThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By the end of this one, I knew I had to take a break and not start the fourth book immediately. That is the effect these books have had on me and I’ve torn through the first three non-stop, as if they were one book and not three.

In this one we see Elena and Lila go through their 20s and 30s. Time passes quickly for Elena from being a young university student to unknowingly a somewhat acclaimed author and then the wife of a professor – all signs of having truly ‘arrived’ in life. Lila on the other hand is going through a disturbingly downward spiral in her life and there is an evident distance between the two friends during these years.

This one brought out the really raw emotions of both women and I wondered many times if their relationship could really be called a friendship anymore. There’s a constant love-hate equation that is frustrating and disturbing to witness. There is a demanded dependence, rough abdication. Jealousy abounds. Its almost claustrophobic – a claustrophobia of the mind.

And yet you keep reading, hoping to understand why, hoping they will relinquish the cold war, or break off completely rather than be mirrors of misery to each other.

Elena’s need for verification is almost tragic – Lila never ceases to be a benchmark, she can never shake her off.

“My becoming was a becoming in her wake.”

“my thoughts were cut off in the middle, absorbing and yet defective, with an urgent need for verification, for development, yet without conviction, without faith in themselves. Then the wish to telephone her returned, to tel her: Listen to what I’m thinking about, please lets talk about it together.”

And Lila, unapologetic and vengeful, violently expresses her independence and disengagement – which displays her need to coverup insecurities, setbacks and failures even more – which are unacceptable to her, and yet her reality.

The story traces how both women deal with their own circumstances and situations in life. Each reassuring herself of having the better one in comparison to the other, and each seemingly unhappy with it. They compete constantly. They are bolder, more reckless, more selfish and yet there are a few tender moments that confuse and conflict how you feel about them.

One cannot help but ‘feel’ – for them and with them.

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Book Review : The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferrante

Book Review : The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferrante

The Story of a New NameThe Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I generally tend to devour books, but this one devoured me. Elena Ferrante’s writing captivates, engrosses, absorbs, consumes, devastates and satisfies. Not a single free minute has been spent on anything but reading this second volume in her Neapolitan Series these past 4 days.

While it was easier to take sides in the first book, in this one, I constantly aligned and realigned myself first with Lenu and then with Lila, reaching a point where both exasperated me and I wanted nothing to do with either. But just like Lenu is bound and drawn to Lila, I was so embroiled in their lives and it was impossible to abandon reading until I was finished.

Lila’s actions repeatedly evoke the ‘she brought this upon herself’ feeling – with little or no sympathy (yet). For Lenu, I feel like I want to shake her up, snap her out of her constant need to compare herself to her childhood friend, and always find a way to undermine her own achievements even when she’s done much better than her. At this point, it is difficult not to care, not to be involved.

I’ve put it much to simply to be fair to the expansive layers that come through from all that takes place in this young adult, extremely turbulent period of their lives, where they ought to have had a more sorted existence, and yet managed to create a tangle of complications in trying to create that ideal life that has been their sole aspiration since childhood.

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