The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publisher: Ebury Publications
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9780091956448
Rating: ★★★★★
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When you pick a book from your ‘To-read’ list, every once in a while, you pick up a book and wonder why you wanted to read this boring/unusual/unheard-off book but still give it a chance and when you are done with it, you realize that you must never doubt your judgment. This book is one such.

The first page of the book reads,
“I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days. If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death. So yeah. I’m fucked.”

Sounds a little quirky, doesn’t it? This is precisely why you should not miss out on this book. Mark Watney, a smart and resourceful engineer, one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars, is now stranded in Mars. Separated by a sandstorm from his team and presumed dead, the team leaves for Earth leaving him behind. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first. Does he survive?

You remember that despair you felt for the main character while reading Robinson Crusoe or watching Cast Away? Well, that feeling comes to a nada when you read this book. At least they were all stranded in Earth! Andy Weir has done an excellent job with defining the character of Mark Watney. His super smartness, wit and snarkiness, never-give-up attitude and usage of humor and sarcasm as a coping mechanism when in distress presents a very different protagonist to the regular macho and super strong ones the readers usually encounter. With lines like “I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!” and “Turns out the “L” in “LCD” stands for “Liquid.” I guess it either froze or boiled off. Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”, you’ll see a novel blend of sci-fi, satire, and adventure-thriller. Andy Weir’s attention to detail stands out with his description of the different mechanisms in a simple language to his naïve readers. Though the story is filled with technical jargons, it still doesn’t evade the reader’s mind. The whole plot has not one single visible loophole which alleviates The Martian to join the most prestigious adventure-thriller books club where its peers are Jurassic Park, The Da Vinci Code, etc. I will not be surprised if this book is already on its way to a Hollywood adaptation.

With the USA today calling this book “a techno sci-fi at a level even Arthur Clarke never achieved”, this book is truly ingenious and one of the best sci-fi thrillers of recent times.

Read what the Wall Street Journal has to say about the book <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579351000913706472″ target=”_blank”>here

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malgudi map

RK Narayan, or Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Narayanaswami, is widely hailed as one of the greatest and most popular authors in Indian literature. His trademark pithy but elegant style had a lot to do with introducing this very genre to the rest of the world.

No ode to R. K. Narayan would be complete without at least a brief mention of Malgudi, the streets and alleys of which are as familiar to a Narayan fan as the secret passages of Hogwarts are to a Potterhead! Almost all of his works are set in this fictional town, which is supposed to be imagined along the lines of Bangalore (as deduced from one of his writings). Narayan was one of the most intelligent authors of his age; the Malgudi in his books is shown to be a dynamic entity – the town we read of in his debut novel (1935) is noticeably different from that in his last fictional work, The World of Nagaraj (1990).

R.K. Narayan passed away in 2001, at the age of 94. As with all great artists, his legacy lives on in his breathtakingly simple yet beautiful stories. We bring to you a roundup of Narayan’s top 10 works that are not to be missed!

Swami and Friends (1935 – debut)

Swami

The theme of this book seems deceptively simple – the everyday trials and tribulations of a young boy who attends the Albert Mission School in Malgudi. The genius of this writer lies in how he manages to make this, a fairly straightforward story told from a 10-year-old’s point of view, into one of the most beloved and highly acclaimed stories of our time. The appeal of this work lies in the minute details and descriptions that transport you back to a different place and time.

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The Bachelor of Arts (1937)View Bookish reviewBA

 
The second in a trilogy of autobiographical books, The Bachelor of Arts takes us to Malgudi from a college student’s perspective. It takes us through the journey of Chandran’s graduation, a love affair and the cost of its subsequent failure on an adolescent mind still not fully formed. This novel is definitely darker in tone than its predecessor, Swami and Friends, and gives the reader a glimpse of the Madras (Chennai) of a bygone era.
 

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The English Teacher (1945)

TheEnglishTeacher

Arguably the most tragic of all Narayan’s works, The English Teacher is also the most personal of his stories. This book is dedicated to his wife and the events that transpire are, in essence, Narayan’s own experiences of personal loss and survival. This is also my personal favorite of the Narayan collection; it has a certain raw edge and disarming honesty to it that distinguishes it from most of his other polished, nuanced works.
 

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The Guide (1958; Sahitya Akademi Award winner) TheGuide

 
The Guide was the most highly publicized of Narayan’s books – ask that generation of avid moviegoers about the Dev Anand- Waheeda Rehman starrer and watch their response! This is the story of a happy-go-lucky young man’s infatuation and overpowering obsession with a little-known dancer by the name of Rosie and how this obsession enables him to make her a national celebrity, Nalini. And what does he get at the end? A life of loneliness and (maybe?) spiritual renunciation.

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Waiting for the Mahatma (1955) – View Bookish review

WaitingForTheMahatma

This is one of the few books written in the post-Independence years that has the Mahatma himself as a character. This novel narrates the love story of Sriram and Bharati, as set against the nationalist movement during the struggle for Indian independence with all the political controversies, morchas and charkhas associated with Gandhi-ism. The pinnacle of this plot is undoubtedly its climax, which manages to give new sentiment to a now-famous historic event. Read this one for its unsentimental literary portrayal of Gandhi (a minor but important character in the novel), which might make you view the Mahatma in a different, more human light. Buy this book at the best price!

 

The Painter of Signs (1977)the-painter-of-signs

The Painter of Signs gives us a panoramic view of Malgudi through the medium of Raman, the signboard painter of the town. Raman lives with his elderly and devout aunt, and his world goes topsy-turvy when (of course) a young woman (Daisy) arrives in Malgudi on a mission of introducing the citizens of the town and all its surrounding villages to the then-unknown concept of birth control and family planning. The rest of the plot follows the somewhat hilarious-yet-ultimately-doomed relationship between Raman and Daisy, with yet another brilliant twist ending from Narayan. Buy this book at the best price!
 

Mr. Sampath (1948)

mr sampath

Mr. Sampath was the only Narayan novel to be made into a movie script with the direct collaboration of R.K.Narayan himself. This is a fairly simple storyline, set in a newly formed movie studio in Malgudi. (I told you Malgudi changes with the times!) The title character, Mr. Sampath, is a printer-turned-filmmaker who has the misfortune to fall in love with the lead actress of the in-production movie – while supporting a wife and numerous children! The characters of Sampath and Srinivas provide a wonderful contrast, and in true Narayan style, the devil is in the detail.

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The Dark Room (1938)DarkRoom

 
This novel is unusual in that it is the only one of Narayan’s books to show the world from a woman’s perspective. While making his readers smile with his acute observations of human foibles, petty insecurities and small joys, Narayan does not neglect the murkier aspects of life. Savitri, the inhabitant of the titular ‘dark room’, is a typical South Indian Brahmin wife and mother, who runs a well-managed and smooth household for the benefit of her husband Ramani and three children. The dark room (an unused room in the house) is her only refuge when contending with various problems in her marital life, courtesy her pompous, uncompromising husband. The plotline traces what happens when Ramani has an affair and Savitri undertakes her own personal journey of despair, emancipation and finally, resignation. Buy this book at the best price!

The Financial Expert (1952) financial expert

 

This is Narayan’s most popular novel and also his most critically acclaimed one, and is often included in the syllabus of literature students across the country. A typical rags-to-riches story, it centres on the journey of Margayya, who amasses riches and repute by means of his wiles alone. One thing leads to another, however, and he suddenly faces a sullen, disobedient and spoiled son along with the looming prospect of losing his hard-earned business.

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The Man Eater of Malgudi (1961)

TheManEaterOfMalgudi

It is said that many great stories begin with the entrance of a stranger to the town, and The Man Eater of Malgudi follows this pattern. Vasu, a taxidermist, is a stranger to Malgudi, who seems intent on creating havoc and discord wherever he walks and recognizes no laws except his own (like the mythical asuras). The peace-loving, non-confrontational Malgudians are at a loss as to how to deal with this loudmouthed bully. The means by which this threat to the the town is finally neutralised is a superb tribute, (tongue-in-cheek of course), to the best traditions of Indian mythological narratives. No reader should miss the section where Malgudi is shown in its full glory during the temple festival, which is also the scene for the thrilling climax of this novel. Buy this book at the best price!

The one unifying factor that binds together all of these diverse plots and narratives is the gift of Narayan’s storytelling – so vivid that his characters and universe become a part of you. A typical Narayan book will engage, amuse, gently pontificate and leave your soul just a bit richer for the reading!

Are you a fan of RK Narayan’s work? Which is your favourite book? Tell us!

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Review: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

July 18, 2014
Long Walk to Freedom

Author: Nelson Mandela
Publisher: Hachette India
Year: 1994
ISBN: ★★★★
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“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

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Nicholas Sparks

July 18, 2014
Nicholas Sparks

Born: December 31, 1965, Omaha, Nebraska
Genre: Romantic fiction, Romantic drama, Non-fiction
Nationality: American
Website: http://nicholassparks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicholasSparks

About him…

Nicholas Charles Sparks is an American novelist who has published seventeen novels and one non-fiction work. He has also ventured into screenwriting and production after the success of his novels. Eight of his novels have been adapted to film while two more are in talks for the same. He is one of those few authors who can convey emotions to his readers in the most unpretentious manner and yet make readers empathize for his characters. As Linda Rosencrance of The Boston Globe says, “Readers don’t turn to Sparks’s books because he writes great literature. He’s not Ernest Hemingway, after all. Sparks’s novels serve as a diversion. He can always be counted on to conjure up the twists and turns of a captivating story — formulaic or not — and wrap them up neatly with a surprise ending.

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Review: Crushed

July 17, 2014
Crushed

Author: Eliza Crewe Publisher: Penguin Publications Year: 2014 ISBN: 9780143332916 Rating: Click for latest prices   “You see, I’m a cold-hearted person. Not as in cruel and mean, but as in, someone who very seldom cries, who’s seldom moved by emotional scenes, and so on. The few things that make me reach such a state […]

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Ache Din Aa Rahe Hain! Unreal Elections?

July 16, 2014
Unreal Elections by C.S. Krishna & Karthik Laxman
Author: C.S. Krishna, Karthik Laxman
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9780143423119
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Unreal Elections is satirical delight on the elections. It is essentially meant to paint a facetious image of the elections. The sense of humour is vivid and writing style is lucid. Every politician has been distinctively covered, taking into account the preconceived notions that rest in the mind of the reading audience.

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Review: Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik

July 14, 2014
Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you
Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin India and Zubaan Books
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9789383074846
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Devdutt Pattanaik’s latest book, Shikhandi and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You is a collection of 30 stories about gender and sexual identity – Shikhandi, who was born a woman but raised as a man, Krishna, who became a woman for one day to become wife to a doomed man, Chudala who became a man so that her husband would accept her as a teacher, and more.

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Review: 12 Years A Slave

July 11, 2014
12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup
Author: Solomon Northup
Publisher: Pirates
Year: 2014
ISBN: 9788192681023
Rating: ★★★★☆
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12 Years A Slave started filling the bestseller line in almost all bookstores, having gained widespread acclaim due to the award winning success of its movie adaption. Movies based on books inadvertently bring out the need for comparison where, almost unfailingly, the books gain the upper hand. Amazingly enough, this time the movie topped the book!

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Review: Tigers of Taboo Valley

July 9, 2014
Tigers of Taboo Valley by Ranjit Lal

Author: Ranjit Lal Publisher: Rupa/Red Turtle Publications Year: 2014 ISBN: 9788129130044 Rating: Click for latest prices   In a simplistic story written about complex issues, Tigers of Taboo Valley by Ranjit Lal is simply one of his finest. A prolific writer, Lal has written for both adults and children in the past, interweaving issues of […]

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What’s the difference between Hollywood and Bollywood?

July 8, 2014

Going with the recent wave of adaptations, the year 2014 witnessed two bestseller love stories coming alive. While Bollywood adapted 2 States by Chetan Bhagat, Hollywood made The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Each book featured a young couple whose love was threatened by factors outside their control. The Indian couple suffered from the age-old problem facing Indian couples – parents who don’t ‘accept’ their love. The American couple faced a different, life-threatening challenge – cancer.

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