Wednesday, December 22, 2010

a mature response to the end of the year

While I gather up my courage for a 'Year in Reading' post, a Q&A meme in which I was tagged months ago by Aisha. All answers calibrated to reflect reading/re-reading between January-December this year.

1. Favourite childhood book?

Anne of Green Gables, by LM Montgomery.

2. What are you reading right now?

Freedarko's The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and Madhusree Mukherjee's Churchill's Secret War.

3. Bad book habit?

Refusing to revere books like a good Hindu, the cornerstone of childhood Dussehra observances and longstanding family fights about reading while otherwise occupied (in eating, or lying in bed, or grating coconut, for example; I was on the losing side of all these quarrels). Respecting books as wealth is one thing, but respecting them as wisdom is quite another.

4. Do you have an e-reader?

I will next year, if I can decide between impoverishment via Kindle, or impoverishment via subscriptions to expensive American magazines.

5. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?

One at a time, although it rarely works out that way.

6. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

This year, particularly so, thanks to Book Munch. I read much more seriously.

7. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)?

Sarita Mandanna's Tiger Hill.

8. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

In non-fiction, probably Gyan Prakash's Mumbai Fables (my Mint story on the book) and Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy. Mumbai Fables is an intriguing look at Bombay as a palimpsest of narratives; Demick's book is a reconstruction of social life in the city of Chongjin, North Korea, based on the testimonies of refugees.

My favourite fiction this year was not a new release but Khalid Hasan's gigantic book of Manto translations, Bitter Fruit. A great opportunity to rediscover many things.

9. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?


10. What is your reading comfort zone?


11. Can you read on the bus?


12. Favorite place to read?

The train.

13. What is your policy on book lending?

Be generous; have a good memory.

14. Do you ever dog-ear books?

Yes, this is useful practice when reviewing.

15. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

No; I usually read on the move.

16. Not even with text books?

That's what five-subject notebooks are for.

17. What is your favorite language to read in?


18. What makes you love a book?


19. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Delight. Ref. introducing Brian to The Count of Monte Cristo.

20. Favorite genre?


21. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Not a genre; graphic literature.

22. Favorite biography?

This year, it was Ram Guha's mostly-out-of-print biog of Verrier Elwin, Savaging the Civilised - a very fond and readable, but rigorous look at a key figure in independent India. I believe Guha is putting out a new edition soon, with an introduction that triangulates Elwin's studies with the political-economic crisis in tribal districts in Central India, which is exciting. The old one can still be found in a collection of Guha's early work called The Ramachandra Guha Omnibus, if anyone wants to read it.

23. Have you ever read a self-help book?


24. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Weirdly, I'd say Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah. The book clearly complicates the romantic notion of risking life and limb to get a story. It also complicates the relationship between narrative and reportage. But at a time when the only major alternative to the embedded journalist seems to be the foreign gonzo/undercover figure, Saviano manages to forward the question of how to write about being victimised, and being complicit, in a war in your own home. I don't think I've read a more high-stakes book this year.

In fiction, as always, Penelope Fitzgerald remains an idol.

25. Favorite reading snack?


26. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Not exactly hype; I was disappointed to discover that I just wasn't into Roberto Bolano. I feel like everyone else is reading The Quibbler and I'm stuck with The Daily Prophet.

7. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

Not often with US/UK critics about American/British books, a little more often with desi critics about desi ones.

28. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

More cavalier as a blogger than as a newspaper reviewer. Same goes for glowers, though.

29. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

I don't know, I like translations quite a lot. Probably Italian for the newspapers.

30. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

I don't think I've ever read an intimidating book in my life.

31. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

Very high degree of trepidation on being confronted with Mark Twain's Autobiography.

32. Favorite Poet?

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, as translated by Agha Shahid Ali.

33. Favorite fictional character?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

34. Favorite fictional villain?

I have a very good answer. It is Dmitri Belikov, the nice-guy-turned-bloodthirsty-vampire in Richelle Mead's glorious/atrocious Vampire Academy series. I just know you can change him, Rose!

35. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

Oh no, I did not have a vacation this year. Usually big fat ones.

36. The longest I’ve gone without reading

I've finished reading maybe four books this month, which is the year's low point.

37. Name a book that you could/would not finish?

I've been stuck on page 3 of Eshkol Nevo's Homesick for maybe six months now, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with this unexceptionable book.

38. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?


39. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

n/a for this year.

40. Most disappointing film adaptation?

also n/a. I didn't even see the new Harry Potter film.

41. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

Not even going there.

42. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

I skip to the end, but not otherwise.

43. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?


44. Do you like to keep your books organized?

I also like my football team to win all the time.

45. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

Do you give a chair away once you've sat in it?

46. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?


47. Name a book that made you angry

Oh god, Raffles. Also the early parts of John Stuart Mill's Autobiography which essentially describe what a gigantic creep James Mill was and it's all you can do to stop yourself from flailing through space-time to give poor lamb JS a hug.

48. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Leopard. Marvellous, moving, possibly timeless dead white male literature.

49. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. I mean, seriously? And in a lesser way, Naomi Novik's Tongues of Serpents, the newest in a series I've otherwise really liked.

50. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Jane Austen.


  1. 33 - :D
    45 - I know!!! the whole 'but you've finished reading it!' thing is *so* annoying!
    49 - uh oh! I guess I've been warned :|

  2. Since you enjoy reading books and being a Milanista myself I would suggest you reading "Carlo Ancelotti: The Beautiful Games of An Ordinary Genius" good for laughter ;)