the wonderful world of veena.

10 July 2011

books, #11-15.

Apologies for not having a book update in a while.  Moving across the world apparently takes up more time than I had originally anticipated.  But without further ado:

11. In Spite of the Gods [Edward Luce].  This book came out about 4 or 5 years ago when there was a sudden influx of books about India flooding bookstores.  At one point we had at least 5 at any given time on the front display at B&N.  They explored India's rise as a superpower - the factors causing India to rise as well as the factors holding it back - and how the rest of the world depends on India's success or failure as a superpower.  All of these came out just after my first stint in Bangalore, when I was just beginning to discover and understand all the complexities of India, so I was curious each time a new title appeared.  This one, however, was the one that caught my interest the most.  I don't know why - maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the blurb on the back of the book, maybe it was just the mood I was in when it arrived in the store - but whatever the reason, I eventually picked it up and read through it.  While there were certainly parts I didn't fully understand [it's been a long time since I took Econ 101, and my grades weren't exactly stellar], it was definitely a book that kept me interested.  I learned a lot about the modern Indian political system - overly confusing at the best of times - that I did not previously know, and it answered a lot of questions about India's history as a nation for me.  I'm sure that each of those books about India have their own positive attributes, but I for one am glad that I decided to read this one.

12. The Glass Castle [Jeannette Walls].  This book remains one of the most interesting books I've read.  It is a memoir describing Walls' childhood growing up in the definition of a dysfunctional family, but one that never dwells on the bad parts of her childhood.  She and her siblings never realized that their childhoods were not normal and  somehow managed to come out of their upbringing unscathed and without a myriad of psychological problems.  One of the things I really liked about the book is that Walls never portrays herself as a victim - she does not expect sympathy for what she has to say, nor does she have any regrets for having grown up the way she did.  Instead, she just matter-of-factly portrays her household.  It's one of the most honest books I've read.

13. Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time [Rob Sheffield].  I liked this book for 2 main reasons: 1) it was well-written, humorous, heartbreaking, hopeful, and witty; and 2) it provided me with a whole heap of new songs to listen to.  Each chapter began with a playlist from a mix tape that Rob had made for his wife when they were dating / just married.  They were collections of classic songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s, some of which I knew but many of which were new to me.  I went on a bit of a downloading frenzy after I finished reading the book.  But even before I got to that point, I enjoyed the book, journeying with Rob through meeting his wife, wooing her, marrying her, and taking care of her through her illness that tragically cut short her life.  A great read.

14. Jesus Land [Julia Scheeres].  I briefly mentioned this book months ago at the end of a post about I-don't-even-know-what, but I decided it deserves its own special mention on this list.  It's a memoir about growing up in rural America in the 70s and 80s in a fundamentalist Christian family.  The author, Scheeres, has an adopted black brother who is the same age as she, and the book traces their journey together from a high school where her brother is the only black student to a Christian reform school in the Dominican Republic.  It's a fascinating read, at times hilarious and appalling.  I was unable to put it down, racing through it in about 3 days.  After reading this, you'll vow never to raise your children how Scheeres and her siblings were raised.

15. Me Talk Pretty One Day [David Sedaris].  Over the years I have read nearly all of David Sedaris' books.  I've enjoyed all of them in different ways, but this was the first one of his that I read, so this is therefore the one that I remember most fondly.  He was probably the first short-story writer who made me laugh out loud while reading his books, which definitely made for some funny looks while riding along on Bangalore buses.  He has kept me entertained for hours with his reminiscences of his crazy childhood, his eccentric family members, and the shenanigans he managed to get himself in to.  I always look forward to new releases of his, but I will always remember that this was the one that started my obsession.

So there you have it, this week's installment.  Hopefully now that I'm back I'll be able to update regularly again.


  1. Oh my goodness! Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of my top favorites. I remember reading it while I was working at the bank and I started laughing out loud... everyone thought I was nuts, but it was hysterical! I love David Sedaris.

    P.S. Hello & Miss you. :)

  2. Hello to you, too! I had no idea you were reading my ramblings! Hope you're well!

    p.s I love David Sedaris, too. Have you read When You are Engulfed in Flames? Hilarious.

  3. I just started reading your blog. I have not read that one, but I've read most of the others. I didn't like squirrel meets chipmunk.