Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Of book-covers and book snobs

You know how sometimes you buy a book purely because of the cover? I mean, look at this gorgeous set. How can any book lover in their right mind pass it over? And even though I had a very faint idea of who Asimov was, I picked up these books without a second thought.

I think science fiction is awesome. Why am I saying this? Because there are many book snobs out there who raise eyebrows and shake their heads when this genre is discussed (there are some who display the same sort of behaviour when the fantasy genre is brought up) and frankly, I think it’s all hogwash and pretence and this oh-I’m-so-above-this-genre attitude. I know because I, too, was a member of this tribe many years back. Any mention of fantasy or science fiction by someone and immediately the judgement dial in my head would start blinking red. How I rid myself of this snobbery is a matter of another blog post but if truth be told, some ill effects still linger but I am open to suggestions and do try to embrace most, if not all. 

Anyways, coming back to the books. And science fiction in general. The entire point of good fiction is to make the reader believe in a make belief world. This is especially the case with both fantasy and science fiction. When I was eight years old Jules Verne made me believe that his characters had traversed the centre of the earth. Asimov did the same. He dragged me into the story immediately and after a few chapters I was hooked. Hari Seldon and his mathematical predictions were fascinating and how they played out in the entire trilogy made for excellent reading.

A lot of people might say the books are a bit repetitive and the first book might seem so. However, in the second book, Asimov takes us on a new journey and the story goes off on a different tangent when The Mule makes his appearance. Both the second and the third books have such a mind-blowing twist in the end that I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming loudly after I was done reading. I know it might sound a bit melodramatic but how many books do that anymore? I’ve read 30 so far and only five, which includes two of Asimov have made me go oh-my-god-i-don’t-believe-this-is-happening-shit!

Another book which recently had me all twisted and turning pages till 2am was Doctor Sleep, a novel by Stephen King. For the longest of time I didn’t read King because of the snob-effect but all that changed when I bought two of his novels from the book bazaar sale at T2F. I started reading Doctor Sleep at breakfast yesterday and it is such a page turner that I have to physically distance myself from the book to get anything else done. And of course, I am kind of kicking myself for all the years I turned a blind eye and an upturned nose to the works of Mr. King! 

Moral of the story? Never be a book snob. You have no idea of all the great writing you're depriving yourself of!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Straight from the book

'Other men slowly build up the sense of home by accumulation - a new picture, more and more books, an odd shaped paper-weight, the ash tray bought for a forgotten reason on a forgotten holiday; Scobie built his home by a process of reduction.'

(The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Book 4 U is back!

Some of you might know about my book donation drive which I started in 2014. If not, read about it here. Well, the book donation drive is back and you can receive a book in the mail wherever you are in Pakistan. Read through the list below and send me your preferred title along with your name, address and number at Please mention book donation or A Book for Me in the subject of your email. 

Here are the books: 

1. The Museum of Innocence - Orhan Pamuk
2. The Woman Destroyed - Simone de Beauvoir
3. Poet and Dancer - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
4. The Wandering Falcon - Jamil Ahmad
5. Cold Feet - Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
6. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma - Ratika Kapur
7. Point Omega - Don Delillo

Happy reading! 

Note: For an updated book donation list please click here.

My 100 book pact - an update

It was a crazy idea. Reading 100 books in one year. Seriously? But then again, why not? Why is the thought of reading such a large number of books daunting?  Especially to someone like me who a) loves reading, b) has ample time to read and c) is a fast reader. So I went ahead with this crazy idea and so far, things aren't looking very bright because I have only, and I repeat ONLY, managed to read 27 books. And it's already August! 

*deep breaths*

What made this task difficult was my resolve to read books which I've had for years, collecting dust on the shelves, waiting to be read. Some turned out to be pure delights and I kicked myself for not going through them earlier (The Book of Other People, The Pursuit of Love) while others were huge disappointments and I kicked myself for wasting precious time reading them! I ended up reading three novels by the same author (Greene) and had almost decided to finish all his novels in my collection. However, common sense prevailed and I switched to other authors. A large, uninterrupted dose of Greene can be lethal! 

Currently I'm reading the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I picked up these lovely editions from the old book bazaar at Frere Hall and couldn't resist diving into them immediately. I'm just wondering though, will the trilogy be counted as one or three books? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

book shots

Anita Desai is brilliant. This book was such a delight! It revolves around Nanda Kaul, an austere old woman who lives alone in Carignano, a secluded bungalow in Kasauli. Her solitary existence is disturbed by the arrival of her great-granddaughter, Raka. As Raka tries to adjust in her new surroundings, Nanda finds herself dwelling on the past & as the summer goes on, many of her old wounds seem to resurface. Especially when her old friend, Ila Das, discovers her in Kasauli and pays a visit.

Desai is at her best. The descriptions of the house and Kasauli are beautiful. They reminded me so much of Murree and Nathiagali. But the real beauty lies in how the author has disclosed the past of Nanda Kaul, layer by layer. It is beautiful prose and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

The pine cone in the picture is rather special. It has come all the way from Quetta with a dear friend and has found a place on my writing table. 

Beanbagtales is on Instagram and I'm posting pictures of books recently read with mini reviews or 'book shots'. For more clicks follow @beanbagtales on Instagram. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

What is your favourite building? in pictures

What is your favourite building?

It’s a strange question, isn’t it? One that we never really think about or actually ask people. Do you have one? Think about it. In Karachi? Or in the places you’ve visited over the past few years?

A lot of people might say Burj Khalifa because it’s the tallest building in the world and an engineering marvel. I don’t like it very much. It’s kind of scary. Whenever you look at it don't you wonder how it’s standing up? Aren't you afraid it might come crashing down on the dancing fountain? I do. 

Can the favourite buildings of a friend also become dear to you? I remember seeing the Chrysler building through the eyes of my dearest friend, Samiya. It was through the pictures of her first trip to NYC (maybe in 2002?) that I was introduced to the skyline and architecture of the city in-depth. It didn’t mean much to me then but all I thought of was her when I finally saw the Chrysler building two years back. Or the house of Frank Lloyd Wright, her favourite architect, in Arizona. 

What about buildings in other cities? Maybe the National Art Gallery? It was one of my favourite haunts in London. I loved going there again and again. Whenever I approached it I felt comfortable, as if I’ve come to a familiar place. There was this one time when I rounded the corner and came across it, completely unaware, and it brought a smile to my face. In many ways, that building was the focal point of my everyday exploration of London. 

After giving it some thought I’ll probably say one of my favourite buildings in Karachi is the Hindu Gymkhana which is now NAPA. That is where I hung out with my husband during our courtship period and it was such an important part of my life in the initial years of our marriage. 

I think Atif was right when he said that buildings by themselves don’t carry any meaning. It is only your experiences with that particular building which makes it important for you. We all admire buildings, or are disgusted by them, or just give them a passing glance as we walk or drive by them everyday. But if they are the place where we spent time with a lover, or where we saw our first Van Gogh and Monet - then they acquire a special place in our lives and I guess, become favourites. 

Note: This blogpost was inspired by a conversation with my friend Atif who told me that this is a question in the IELTS speaking test.