Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Is and Was on my Nightstand

Since I just posted my Spring Reading Thing list, broken down by month, I thought I'd just do a quick recap and then review a couple of books from last month.

I'm so excited to see how April turns out. I'm doing a "month of nonfiction." Other than what I read with and to my kids, I'm only going to be reading nonfiction. I have some memoirs on there, a couple of parenting books, some humor, and some other straight nonfiction type of titles. I'm curious to see if I end up reading significantly less than usual because of it. I think that I may just be reading more books at one time to keep my interest up. You can see my full April list HERE, and while I might not read all of those books, it is my goal to cross each and every one of those nonfiction titles off my list by the end of June.

I've also been doing some binge fiction reading, trying to cross some of those titles off my list before April begins. There are two books that I'm reading for the South Asian Authors Challenge: Half Life (which I'm partway through now), and before the end of the month, I hope to read Secret Daughter.

The two books that I finished up last week that I'd like to review are from that challenge as well. I am keeping my original goals updated with my progress.

I listened to The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga on audiobook. I liked the audiobook version, but I didn't love the story. Actually, I think I liked the story, but didn't necessarily like the novel if that makes sense. It lacked whatever it is that classifies a book as "great" in my mind.

It's the story of Balram Halwi. He is telling his story (which is one thing that always makes an audiobook translation work well for me) in the form of a letter to a dignitary who will be visiting India. He wants him to know the story of the real India -- his India. Because of this, I'm glad that I read it for the purposes of the challenge, because it did a great job of portraying the current poverty, class struggle, and obstacles and opportunities presented to Indians today.

One review classified it as "darkly comic," and I would agree with that.

Another book that I read for the purposes of this challenge is Chef: A Novel by Jaspreet Singh. Combining food imagery with a South Asian setting drew me to this book. The food imagery came through. Kip spent most of his adult life as a chef to a high-ranking military official. Food is his skill, his gift, his way of connecting with the world. This part of this short novel gave me what I expected.

However, other parts fell short. The basic structure is fine, but I felt like I needed a glossary for some of the terms, and I have recently read some Indian literature, which helped, but other terms needed to be explained more thoroughly.

In addition, while the plotline that highlights the conflicts in India will interest some -- conflicts between India and Pakistan; Men and Women; Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh; meat-eaters and vegetarians; high caste and low -- they too felt muddled and as if they needed more explanation and context.

Find out what is or was on other Nightstands the 4th Tuesday of every month at 5 Minutes for Books. Peruse more lists now.


Lisa notes... said...

I feel like I've been spending lots of time making my lists lately instead of actually reading. ;-) But both are fun--I love lists and I love books. Hope your non-fiction reads go well!

Beth said...

I need to have a month of just reading non-fiction. I've done that in the past and I'm so surprised how much I read!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I do admire you doing an entire month of nonfiction. I need to break it up a little or I get burned out, I think. Though I know that memoirs serve as that "breaking up" for you.

Sorry about the two somewhat-duds that did not thrill you.

morninglight mama said...

A month of nonfiction only would make for a very short list for me, since they take me so much longer than novels. It's a cool challenge, though, and I can't wait to hear how you make out!

Jenny said...

I have alot of non-fiction on my nightstand this month, which is odd for me. I usually have one or at the most two, but I have 5 or 6 this time. I guess I'm having an unoffical month of non-fiction as well and I am actually looking forward to it.

Carrie said...

I like the cover art on the White Tiger book. It has a very fun feel to it, although I suspect I wouldn't wrap myself up in the story - the cover art catches the eye for sure!

Our out-of-town guests just took to the road so I'm catching up on Nightstand here. ;)

Booksnyc said...

I am doing the SAAC too and read White Tiger for it at the beginning of the year. It is a dark story but I think the honest portrayal of the dark underbelly of modern India struck me as refreshing as compared to the more lyrical stories of India.

I am sorry to hear "The Chef" was not better - I heard an interview with the author on NPR this week and added the book to my TBR for the SAAC. I look forward to seeing what else you read for the challenge!