On the Hunt for the Next Audiobook | The Book Update

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Last two weeks were somewhat heavy on reading (heavy for me). I've started defaulting to reading whenever I get a few free minutes, rather than browsing through the interwebs or playing WordWhizzle on my phone. I'm hoping that this continues because I desperately want to read 10 other books right now and am just about trying to focus on a couple instead.

Finished reading


Over the past two weeks, I finished two wonderful books. God Help the Child was my first Toni Morrison that I read, plus it crosses off one author from my Summer Reading List. I loved the writing and the bold ideas that Morrison explores in this book but was somewhat underwhelmed by the plot. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer was more a mixed bag, compared to his other books. There were plenty of chapters that I found very fascinating with much of it making me angry and not very hopeful for humanity. It mainly explores the 1984 murder of Brenda and Erica Lafferty (the latter a 1.5 year old baby) at the hands of two fundamentalist Mormons, who believed God wanted them to commit the murders. Krakauer makes an excellent attempt to explain how these murders came to be while also exploring the Mormon history quite a bit.

Currently reading


I saw this beautiful copy of Notorious RBG sitting on my library shelf and had to borrow it. I have already started thumbing through it but I am not sure if I will be able to actually read it because a lot of my reading nowadays is of ebooks in the dark. However, Britt-Marie Was Here is thankfully an ebook and I'm already halfway through it. It's already becoming a favorite and I love it more than Backman's previous, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, and almost as much as A Man Called Ove.

What's Next?

I am currently looking for my next audiobook and have no idea what I want to pick. I think I am in the mood for something feminism-related but if not that, I'll probably go for my default favorite genre, which is narrative history, of the Jon Krakauer and Erik Larson variety. I also have a few medical-ish books that I want to read - When Breath Becomes Air, The Gene (by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies), and Being Mortal. The good thing is that I need to spend almost a year's worth of Audible credits because my Audible membership is up for renewal and I need to cancel it so that I can catch up on all the audiobooks that I have to purchase soon.

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

Thursday, June 23, 2016


Dead Mountain
"Siberia," historically, has been less a geographical designation than a state of mind, a looming threat—the frozen hell on earth to which czarist and Communist Russias sent their political undesirables.

In 1959, nine highly experienced hikers ventured to hike the Ural Mountains. All except one were students at the Ural Polytechnical Institute and were highly skilled mountain climbers. Part of the reason they were making this particular trip was due to their passion for this activity but the other reason was because they got credits at school for completing such treks. Despite being lauded as some of the most experienced hikers ever, none of them (except one) were going to return from this hiking trip. The lone survivor had turned back much earlier due to a severe back injury that only threatened to get worse.

When the rescue party came across their campsite weeks later, they were puzzled by what they saw. The contents of the camp looked undisturbed, as if the inhabitants had just stepped out and would return soon. Their initial relief soon turned into dismay however, when they came across the first body just a mile away from the camp.

I had not heard about the Dyatlov Pass incident but after reading this book, I felt haunted for a while. It was the most tragic and upsetting incident I had read in recent times. Not just because these kids died doing something they loved (hiking) or because they were very educated about it and still they died. Nor because their families never got closure because to this day, there is no investigation or document that definitely states how they died (instead it's attributed to "unknown compelling force"). All of those were horrid in themselves but I was mostly saddened because one of the possible causes of death (which the author believed in) was a relatively new phenomenon that hadn't even been studied much in the 1950s. Or even now. (I won't go much into it because it's spoilery for this book.)

In Dead Mountain, Donnie Eichar goes back and forth between the present, where he tries to interview relatives or friends of the hikers (among those still alive), and the past, where he tries to reconstruct their journey from journal entries, interviews, and any available public data. Over the years, there have been plenty of theories such as avalanche, government attack, murder by a nearby tribe, military tests, infrasonics, yeti. The circumstances of their deaths were very suspicious. It looked like the hikers tore their tents from the inside and stepped out into the cold dark night very inadequately dressed. What makes reading about this incident frustrating, is not really knowing for sure what could have caused the hikers to die.

I loved that the author focused a lot on the hikers, sharing tidbits about their personalities, despite it being more than 60 years when this book was published. However, it bothered me that the hikers sounded too naive and childish to me and I'm not sure if that's a sentiment I got because I listened to the audiobook or because the details that were shared about the hikers mostly showed their youthful sides or because it really was a case of poor portrayal. I also didn't quite enjoy how "suddenly" the author sprung his theory on us without any hint of the cause in all the preceding pages.  It felt sort of like reading a Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie book where the murderer is someone who never had any presence in the book until the time of reveal.

Ultimately, I enjoyed learning more about this incident - I googled the heck out of this incident and won't be forgetting any time soon. But I never really got attached to the book or the author's narration so much.


This audiobook is from my personal library.

Father's Day and Yummy Breakfasts | This Week's Five

Sunday, June 19, 2016

1. Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful dads out there. This is the husband's first as a father, of course, and Shreya I got him a Fitbit to replace the old Flex that has been giving him a lot of trouble lately. I love that the newer Fitbits show the step count (and more stats) right on the screen of the gadget itself.

2. The Storm

We had a big bad storm hit our area on Thursday night. The news had been warning about it all day but I confess not to have taken it seriously. We get thunderstorms often and sure, they do sound scary when they happen and also move our grill from one place to another in the back deck, but they have never done more damage than out the power for a while. However, this was the worst storm I had ever seen/heard. In retrospect, I realized that we should have headed straight to the basement but that thought didn't hit me then. I woke up in the morning to see a huge white rectangular something in our front yard. I figured it was some board that belonged to a neighbor but when I went to check the backyard, I saw a whole fence section ripped out.



We managed to put it back together later but it took a lot of work to align it perfectly.

3. Reading to the Babe

Shreya has finally been showing interest in books and this mom cannot be any happier. I love how she brings the book over to someone and snuggles close to sit on the person's lap and then watches the book with so much rapt attention that it's just adorable. Her favorite book right now is a farm animals book, with us making animal sounds and she grinning and laughing. She also loves Sandra Boynton's books, of which I am a big fan too!

4. This breakfast

Lately, I have been adding coconut milk to a lot of dishes. We do traditionally add it to many Indian dishes, but I recently discovered breakfast recipes that use this ingredient and I have been taking full advantage of that. This morning, I made this amazing too-good-to-be-real Chia pudding parfait.



Chia seeds in coconut milk is just heaven. Mm, I could eat it every day. But this parfait was even better - it has all my favorite foods - almond flour, apples, almond butter, coconut milk, nuts, and chia seeds.

5. Toni Morrison

I finally finished my first Toni Morrison book - God Help the Child. She is one of the authors I have been intimidated by her for a long time but now I can finally say that I have read one of her books and am looking forward to more. Although I was somewhat underwhelmed by the book itself, it is certainly ambitious in its ideas and I can see how she can be a challenging author to read.


Five Authors I need to read this Summer | Summer Reading List

Friday, June 17, 2016

I don't typically do any special reading over the summer. I love the idea of it but there is nothing that makes summer an extra special reading season for me. Nor is it a worse reading season, for that matter. So I wasn't going to make any special reading lists when it's hard enough to follow a list. Still, there's been one project I've been hoping to undertake for a while and whether it's the summer or not, I'd like to jump right into it.

I have a giant list of authors I wish I had already read by now. But their immense popularity among readers means that their name is now associated with a feeling of intimidation - what if I don't 'get' this author? Or what if I did, but didn't like the author's writing at all? Since I do really want to like this author's writing so much, I end up not reading any of the authors' books preferring instead to continue admiring this author without worrying about ruining that sentiment.

But I've decided I won't know what my reaction would be if I didn't actually read anything written by the authors. So here are five authors I want to read over the summer.

1. Margaret Atwood

I own five of her books. FIVE. That's how bad I feel about not reading her books already. Who owns so many books by the same author unless they were already a hardcore fan? What if I end up disliking one of her books? I know many of you are fans of her work, so which among the following would you recommend I start with?
  1. The Blind Assassin
  2. Oryx and Crake
  3. The Year of the Flood
  4. Alias Grace
  5. The Handmaid's Tale (I am leaning towards this one because I own the ebook and my reading medium has been overwhelmingly ebooks lately.)

2. Neil Gaiman

I've actually read two Neil Gaiman books - Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Both are however, more of the YA variety so I want to read his adult books and see what they are like. What I love about Gaiman's books is how imaginative they are. His stories are so intricately composed that I'm awed by what he writes. At the same time though, some of his elements could be so out there that it feels very unreal. That's what happened with Coraline. I couldn't enjoy it. But The Ocean at the End of the Lane was gorgeous.

3. Helen Oyeyemi

I'm not sure I am the right audience for her books as I have often struggled with magical realism. But Oyeyemi has such a huge fan following even among readers who have confessed that magical realism is not for them. Besides, I've always wanted to read a book or two that are based in fairy tales and Oyeyemi seems to be the queen of that craft.

4. Zadie Smith

Another author who already adorns my shelves, this time with two titles. It's embarrassing to see how many books I have of the same authors. (See, I do have good intentions, I just never get to honoring them.) I have both NW and White Teeth and after glancing through a few pages of one of her books, I wonder if it's necessary to settle down somewhere without distractions to enjoy her books.

5. Toni Morrison

Technically, I am cheating with this option because I am already halfway through one of her books. But I feel compelled to add her to the list because she is yet another author I have wanted to read for a long time. I had picked up her A Mercy two months ago but it was not going well (in the sense that I wanted to spend some time alone with the book and that wasn't happening). But, I recently started reading God Help the Child and this one is going wonderfully


If you have read any of these authors, are you a fan? which book did you love the most?

Did you ever read an author with high expectations, only to become a "non-fan"?



The Happy Marriage by Tahar Ben Jelloun

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Happy Marriage
Whenever you’re struck by misfortune, either through an illness or an accident, the people around you suddenly change. There are those who scurry off the sinking ship, like rats, those who wait to see how the situation develops before making their next move, and finally those who remain loyal to their feelings and whose behavior doesn’t change.

The Happy Marriage is, as most books with such titles go, the story of a marriage that is anything but happy. Our protagonist is a very successful and well-known painter who had just suffered a stroke and is now reminiscing on his marriage as he recuperates. His marriage started off being ideal and bliss but over time, cracks had started appearing in it. According to him, his wife was manipulative, cunning, and not supportive of him or his career. She sometimes deliberately made life difficult for him - by firing his agent or his chauffeur or his nurse. Throughout his complaining, he never faults himself or the fact that he sleeps with other women even though he is married. After about 70% of listening to his insufferable complaints, the narrative shifts to his wife.

We know where this is going right? The wife should now be denying any wrongdoing and instead blame the husband. Except, that's not what happens. She actually agrees with everything he said. She did deliberately commit deeds that hurt him, she even adds that she has a very poisonous attitude. But she justifies her actions by saying that she is simply responding to his mistreatment of her. He doesn't love her anymore and was spending most nights at his studio where he invariably received women visitors with whom he slept. He was stingy when it came to spending money on her or her family but he was lavish with his friends and other women.

This was such an infuriating book to read. There was no love lost between this couple. The husband believes that they being from different financial and cultural backgrounds has something to do with it. He does not feel that mixed marriages work long term even if the couple was insanely in love at the beginning.

But that's not what made this an infuriating read. It's the anti-husband and anti-wife attitudes that soaked this book. Almost all the men in this book had only complaints to air about their wives (chief among them being that their wives were controlling) while the chief concern that the women had was that they had to go to any lengths available to make sure that their husbands stayed faithful to them. That was pretty much the entirety of the book.

This book took me a while to read but I don't remember it as being slow or boring. Definitely antagonizing at times and maybe that was what made it a page-turner. As I read more of the book, I began to hope for the sake of humanity that the picture of marriage that the author was painting was more fictional than real. And yet, I don't know. The Happy Marriage is set at a time in Morocco when women have just been granted more rights following a divorce. Until then, the women got very little out of a divorce. Therefore, this book is filled with men who believe that women shouldn't have freedom since that made them spout bad behavior and women who believe men have to be seduced by their own wives to keep them truthful. It's a sad picture but likely dominated only by those couples who didn't believe in equality between men and women, which unfortunately could be a lot of people.

Both protagonists were painful to listen to, which was made more frustrating by the fact that the husband spends 70% of the book ranting against his wife. Not that the wife is any more pleasant to listen to but I was desperate to hear her story. Her prose is mostly venomous and indignant and a sort of tit-for-tat response to his accusations. In some ways, this book was entertaining but it was also like listening to that one person in your life who complains all the time but does not believe himself or herself to be at fault.


I received this book from the publisher for free for review.