30-Day Challenge, Books, Fiction, Mystery/Detectives/Whodunit

Perry Mason: The Case Of The Dashing Lawyer/Detective

Perry Mason/ Erle Stanley Gardner/Bookended

Perry Mason: The Case Of The Dashing Lawyer/Detective

Perry Mason/ Erle Stanley Gardner/Bookended
Day 15 of the 30-day book photography challenge: Show some (book) spine

I spent the first decade of my life in India, most of the second in the Middle East where my Dad worked, and returned back to India for college before moving to the United States. Growing up, most of the books that I had access to were by Indian and British authors. The few exceptions were American mystery novels like the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W.Dixon and the novels of the lawyer and writer Erle Stanley Gardner, especially his series featuring the suave, dashing lawyer Perry Mason and his assistant, the efficient Della Street. Perry Mason, a defense lawyer who usually took on murder cases was, in the reader’s eyes, a superhero championing the underdog and never giving up in his pursuit of the truth. As a criminal defense lawyer, he fought against the DA, Hamilton Burger and often used last-minute courtroom shenanigans in his quest for justice for his clients. (*The Case of the Dogged Defense Lawyer) He was ably assisted in his cases by Della Street and a private detective, Paul Drake. As a teenager, I devoured the alliterative titles (e.g. The case of the duplicate daughter, The case of the negligent nymph etc.), the intricate plots, the certainty that all would end well, and a very American type of hero: a strong, laconic, tough guy whose broad shoulders could carry the weight of the world. My fondest dream was that Gardner would write a novel where Mason and Street got married and lived happily ever after (**The Case of the Match Made in Heaven). Earl Stanley Gardner himself was both a prolific writer and a lawyer who championed civil rights and worked to reverse wrongful imprisonment cases (More on his Wikipedia page).

(* and ** : Not actual books!)

30-Day Challenge, Books, Fiction, Judge A Book By Its Cover, The Book Life

Winner Of The National Book Award by Jincy Willett

winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett/Judge A Book By Its Cover/

Judge A Book By Its Cover, #3

First, the disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet. In this series, I’m judging the book by its cover.

You may have heard the idiom, don’t judge a book by its cover, an admonishment to not let surface appearances sway you. Take the time to read the book, delve beneath the surface, and find what message lies within its pages. Get to know a person instead of letting your preconceived notions quickly fix labels upon them.  Don’t judge a book by its cover, someone entreats us, wagging their finger for emphasis. This series does the opposite- I’m judging a book only on the basis of its cover!

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett/Judge A Book By Its Cover/

Today’s book selection is Winner Of The National Book Award by Jincy Willett. You already know why this book caught my eye at the local library book sale: look at all those accolades the book has garnered plus it’s apparently the Winner of the National Book Award! On slightly closer inspection, you learn that’s the book’s title. With such an eye-catching name and cover design, I hereby also pronounce it the Winner of the Judge A Book By Its Cover award! Here’s a link to the reviews of the book on the Goodreads page.

Tower of books for Day 12 of the 30-Day Book Photography Challenge

This book got me thinking about how ‘word of mouth’ and reviews influence us when choosing a book: some of us prefer to be guided by reviews, recommendations and book lists (Best of 2019 etc.) and some of us don’t. What type of reader are you?

Thanks for reading!

30-Day Challenge, Books, Cookbooks, Fiction, Nonfiction, The Book Life


Tsundoku/ Bookended

Tsundoku is a Japanese word that describes the act of buying a lot of books, accumulating them, but not reading them. So, there you are, surrounded by piles of books you haven’t read and yet you can’t seem to stop buying them. This is me. I usually don’t buy new books but if I’m at a library sale or a used book sale, there is no stopping me. That means my home is filled with books that I plan on reading as soon as I have a little time but until then, they take up space everywhere.

Tsundoku/ Bookended

The prompt for Day 9 of the 30 day photography challenge is to photograph a book or books that you’ve always meant to read but haven’t gotten round to doing so. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Trollope and have read the first 4 novels of his series Chronicles Of Barsetshire. The Small House At Allington (pictured above) is the 5th in the series and one of these days, I’m going to read it. I’d planned to start it a few months ago but somehow I forgot all the details of the first 4 novels and decided I would re-read all four before reading Book 5 and that kinda got away from me. I also plan to read Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls. I haven’t yet but it’s reassuring to know that the book is right here when I’m ready. Aspirational reading also falls under this category: the classics that everyone recommends, poetry especially Penguin Classics’ The Metaphysical Poets, the complete Shakespeare plays. The list goes on and on.

Tsundoku/ Bookended

Ask any book lover and they will tell you tsundoku isn’t a problem because being surrounded by books is as close to heaven as we can get on earth.

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

– Jorge Luis Borges

Of course, it’s one thing if one person in the household practices tsundoku (unclear if this is the right way to use it in a sentence) but imagine if your partner or spouse was similarly inclined!

If you’d like to follow along with the 30 day photography challenge, details are here. Thanks for reading!

30-Day Challenge, Books, Fiction

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse: 3 Life-Changing Quotes

Siddhartha/ Bookended
Siddhartha/ Bookended

Hermann Hesse wrote the book Siddhartha in 1922 but the spiritual lessons that the book shares are more relevant than ever. Siddhartha is my entry for Day 5 (Favorite fiction) of the 30-day book photography challenge. This was one of those books I’d been meaning to read but didn’t get around to until last year. I’d somehow gotten the impression that it was the story of the Buddha who was also called Siddhartha when he was younger but on reading, realized this was another Siddhartha (who encounters the Buddha) who sets out to seek enlightenment. Siddhartha wants to find inner peace and he tries different paths on his journey of self-realization: the path of religion and rituals, path of self-denial, and of living a hedonistic, material lifestyle before finally realizing that none of them have gotten him any closer to finding the enlightenment he seeks. He returns to a river that he’d crossed years ago and the ferryman who takes people across it everyday. It is through the ferryman that Siddhartha finally finds what he is looking for. I enjoyed reading this book and there are some amazing words that are worth mulling over again and again. The first one is my absolute favorite because it is a reminder that many times we can get fixated on what’s missing and in the process lose sight of what is already here.

Siddhartha/ Bookended
Siddhartha/ Bookended

If you’d like more information about the 30-day photography challenge, details are here. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

30-Day Challenge, Books, Fiction

Book Photography Challenge

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho/ Day 2/ 30-day book photography challenge/ Bookended

Welcome to Day 2 of the book photography challenge! The theme for Day 2 was books and flowers.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho/ Day 2/ 30-day book photography challenge/ Bookended
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho/ Bookended

The flowers in this old Uzbeki suzani are paired with what I consider one of the most interesting books I’ve read, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, my entry for Day 2 of the book photography challenge. The Alchemist is one of those books that inspire strong emotions: people love it, they cherish the nuggets of wisdom it imparts, and feel like their lives were changed by it. And then there are those others (link to NY Times article.)

A Writer's Journey, Books, Fiction, Tea, The Book Life

The Book Life, August Edition

The Book Life, August Edition/ Bookended
The Book Life, August Edition/ Bookended

I hope you and your family are doing well. Welcome to The Book Life, a type of post that I’m hoping to be more regular with. It talks about how things are going but from a reader’s perspective. It’s August and I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all gotten used to a new way of living. I’m a biologist and to me, the shelter in place has felt like an incubation reaction: we’re forced to sit with our individual circumstances, to grow where we are, and hopefully, we will emerge with new tools for life. Again, there are so many individual circumstances and I want to steer away from generalizations, but it does seem like we’ve had to weather our personal storms, enjoy our triumphs in ways that may not have seemed possible or desirable prior to this year and grow, albeit in different ways. Have we always done this? Maybe. After all, we live individual lives, each with unique sets of circumstances- no two people have exactly the same lives. Maybe we have always lived like this but 2020 has brought it into focus.

The Book Life, August Edition/ Bookended

As a reader, I’ve noticed that my reading has diverged to include two distinct groups: 1) books I’m reading to learn something and to engage with life in a more informed way, (all kinds of non-fiction) and 2) books that have guaranteed happily-ever-after endings (e.g. romance novels).

There is a quote attributed to Nora Ephron: “Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.” The words brought home yet another beautiful contrast: reading as a way to escape the immediacy of our life, and reading to learn, so that we may be more present and more engaged with life. I have always thought of my reading as a happy escape into adventure or as a way to educate myself but in 2020, it’s apparent that it is also a coping mechanism, helping with anxiety about the uncertainty in the world today. There is immense comfort to be found in reading a novel where you know everything’s going to work out in the end but I have also found myself dipping in and out of Rilke’s Letters to a young poet and the translated Rumi because they assure me that others have navigated the up’s and down’s of life and found, in Frost’s words, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

What have you noticed about your reading habits in 2020? I would love to hear from you. Take care!

Books, Fiction

Book: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage/
An American Marriage/

Book notes and thoughts on An American Marriage by Tayari Jones:

1. Roy and Celestial are an African-American couple who have been married for about a year and a half. They are just at the beginning of their lives together: planning their careers, discussing if it’s time to have a baby, relating to the in-laws, all the things that a young, married couple has on their mind. But Roy is wrongfully accused of a crime and imprisoned for a 12-year term. An American Marriage is a story of racial injustice and wrongful imprisonment and the effect of incarceration on a person and how the effects ripple out and affect the lives of family members.

“The heart wants what it wants… -Emily Dickinson

2. It’s also a story of love and marriage. There is an Emily Dickinson quote that I was reminded of: “The heart wants what it wants – or else it does not care -” I believe this quote is from a letter* (link to the Emily Dickinson archives). The quote reminds us that there is no explaining and predicting what the heart wants, who it loves, and equally importantly, who it leaves behind.

3. Personal notes: I loved this book. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was a fantastic production. As with any book, I started out by taking sides. I sided with, and rooted for, Roy and Celestial throughout the book. The injustice was obvious, quick, done, and decided. Then I took Roy’s side, followed by Celestial’s side, and so on until the end of the book. The books is about race and class differences but without giving too much of the plot away, the book also brought home this fact: the nature of marriage is changing. We don’t have our parents marriages and that can be both good and bad. It also felt as if the author compared imprisonment and marriage (Remember all the “marriage is a life sentence” jokes?)

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