I’m coming out of blogging oblivion* to tell you about the things I’ve been reading. I discovered the Kindle app for my smart-phone a couple of years ago and my life, and I do not say this lightly, has changed forever. I have read dozens of books in the last year or so only on my phone. Amazon Kindle has a long list of full-length novels in every genre, a lot of them free or for very little money. I’ve read a lot of contemporary fiction and historical romances, some of which are very very good and deserve to be on bookshelves everywhere. I read Jane Austen’s entire collection including a biography – all for free. Then there are the trashy freebies, of course, which are not challenging and you could read two of them in a day if you had to stand in many queues or wait for an egg or two to boil for breakfast.
That’s the beauty of reading on your phone. You carry it everywhere with you so you pick up the story when you can. Waiting for school to let out, in the supermarket queue, in the loo.
There have been paper books too, of course. Life would not be worth living without those and the silverfish they bring with them.
Out of the babble of words, these few books are worth mentioning.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a stunning saga of the Grimke sisters, heroines of the abolitionist movement in America. The story runs through the lives of the sisters, from their sheltered childhood, the horrors of slavery that they witness, to their attachments to their slaves, including Handful, the bravest of them all. At the end of the book, I was surprised to learn that the Grimke sisters were real and this story is loosely woven around their lives. What a fascinating (though troubled) life Sarah and Angelina had. I cannot even begin to imagine the barbarism that Handful and other blacks endured. I would love to read more of the author and highly recommend this book.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is one of the most elegant and beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. Other than something by Joan Didion, this might make it to my Desert Island list – it’s that good. The story is set in an unnamed South American country where a birthday party in honour of a CEO of a Japanese company is taking place at the Vice-President’s House. The star of the evening is opera singer Roxanne Coss. The evening goes downhill when terrorists break into the party and hold everybody hostage. The book is about the drama that ensues in the following weeks and the relationships that develop between captors and hostages. Spellbinding stuff. And very very beautiful.
There are some books you buy because of their title. Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton is one of them. I’ve been a diarist since I was eight and reading other people’s experiences of journaling and reading glimpses into their most private writing is compelling stuff indeed. I had not, to my shame, read Sarton before and I was delighted by this little volume describing her life in New Hampshire. It made me want to ‘notice’ things once again, so I could write about it like she did (as opposed to mere grumbling about my life). If you love journaling, gardening or reading about writers, you’ll enjoy the book.
I first read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott about eight years ago. I found it in the writing section of my local library in England. I checked it out then eager to read this classic but gave up midway. At that time, the book seemed like a how-to for fiction writers. It didn’t seem to be something for me, a newbie to freelancing. Now I’ve got my own copy and when I read it this time, I’m in awe. Because every word that Lamott says applies not only to fiction, but also to non-fiction, journalism and any other genre you can think of. The book is of course a classic and a game changer. No writer should be without a copy. This is a rare one that has pencil marks in it – I hate to scribble in books but besides making notes and noting down page numbers for future reference, I had to mark certain compelling words and passages.
Freelance Journalism by Kavitha Rao and Charukesi Ramadurai: This is the book that freelance writers in India have been looking for. Written by experienced Indian freelancers, the book walks you through everything you need to know about making writing a career. From pitching tips, market suggestions, how to find ideas and negotiating rates with editors, the book is filled with advice and information written from an Indian perspective. Kavitha and Charukesi are excellent examples of Indians freelancers who consistently write for international publications and make good money while doing it. If you dream of doing the same, get the book. (Disclaimer: I’m one of the freelancers quoted in the book, but you should get it nevertheless. :))
Have you read any of these? What are you reading today?