Heartless Salesperson or Noble Philantrophist? — Hello, I’m Sindhu and I Have a Big Problem

When I told my friends for the first time that my mum asked me to select books that I don’t want and sell them to a second-hand store because I had run out of room for books, a lot of my friends looked at me sympathetically. Some of them looked physically sick at the idea. I felt horrible at the thought at first, but I did it. I did it a couple of times more after that and now I don’t mind at all. It’s true! And yes, I am ready for the brickbats now.

I realize now that my discomfort at the idea had more to do with the thought of sorting through my many books than with actually giving some of them away. Because I’m a lazy fuck who hates sorting and cleaning with the passion of a thousand burning suns. (10 Things I Hate About You? Anybody?) I wouldn’t admit that to myself initially, but I know it’s true.

Firstly, I don’t mind borrowing books from a friend. I haven’t ever had an obsessive need to “own” a book unless it’s one I truly adore and want to reread repeatedly.

But, you’ll discover very quickly, if you haven’t already, I’m obsessive in a number of other ways. I read with a determination bordering on obsession. I carry a book with me EVERYWHERE. I have offended friends by bringing a book to dinner dates with them. “How boring do you think we’re going to be?” But I can’t stop myself.

You can only imagine how obsessively I buy books. I have called it a distinct pleasure from actually reading books in the past.  My little 7X7 hostel room is cluttered with about a hundred books. “Why don’t you take some of them home?” people ask me. The answer is that I do take 10 or so books home each time I go home. But I also bring them back in large numbers. And I buy new books. A lot. I also have my parents carry books back each time they visit. But the process of bring-back-books-and-buy-even-more never stops.

I have a pretty sweet deal in a second-hand bookstore I’ve worked in before. I can go trade in books for new books. He gives me a twenty percent mark-up if I trade books and not ask for cash, and he gives me a twenty-five percent employee discount! This is the best thing, because, while I have to give away books, I get to come back with brand new ones (Well, some are second-hand, but you get the idea!) so I’m happy, and they’re always fewer in number than the ones I’ve sold so my mum is also happy. And as the owner of the store points out, such understandings ensure that the stock in his store is in circulation instead of stagnating. Stagnation is a very real problem of chain bookstores, I’ve noticed, because, a lot of the time, the only new books they get in are new releases. (Also, a lot of chain bookstores have begun to stock only popular and well-known books in addition to any number of absurd self-help and “management” books which make me want to throw up. But that’s a rant for another day.)

And now, I’m panicking. I’m in my fourth year and I’m in a five-year course. That means that the books need to start going and they need to stop coming in at some point before the start of the next academic year. –sob-

And I can’t carry them to my hometown, where the aforementioned bookstore is, because of the luggage weight limits on the damned planes. I’ve considered couriering them home and I will do that with my favourites, but at the beginning of the next academic year, I will have a book sale in my college and give my books away to my juniors for cold hard cash! The thought that I will have to part with so many books at once without even the immediate comfort of new ones is heartbreaking. But I will do it. I know I need to. And I will take comfort in the thought that my books will go into eager hands and result in many happy hours for yet another person.

In 1710, the Statute of Anne, the first copyright Act in the world was passed with the over-arching aim of the “encouragement of learning”. That phrase has been ringing in my ears ever since I heard it in my intellectual property law class because of its simplicity and effectiveness.(Unlike a lot of legal concepts which are lacking in both)  Wouldn’t selling my books be a way to encourage learning?

I love my books because each one of them has shaped me as a person, has helped me to develop and express my thoughts, and has, most importantly, made me very, very happy. There are some which I will reread repeatedly, when I am alone and need the comfort of an old friend, but I will spend most of my time reading new books and soaking up what they have to offer. Keeping all my books seems to me to be unnecessary hoarding, considering I own so many of them, mostly thanks to the generosity and understanding of my parents. My mum gave me a credit card for “emergencies and books”. Her logic was that books are always emergencies anyway. (<3) I know that not everyone is as fortunate as me. Second hand books and libraries are the best solutions for such people. One day, I will start a library. One day, I will write books and donate copies to libraries. One day, I will be a lawyer always, always on the side of fair use and public interest. Until then, my little book sale will hopefully contribute towards the “encouragement of learning”.

Besides, when one hasn’t a choice but to sleep with books on one’s BED, one’s only alternatives are divine intervention or a book sale!

Book Review — I Capture The Castle

Yes, a book review post at long last! Hurrah!

Disclaimer: This is a young adult book, which might or might not be your cup of tea, so read the pot at your own discretion. It’ll make me happy if you read it though. :3

In one of my earlier posts, I lamented that I had to study Corporate Law instead of reading I Capture the Castle. Not easily deterred by the pile of work I have, however, I managed to procure the book and finished reading it. And I’m glad I did.

I first heard of this book in Jacqueline Wilson‘s My Secret Diary, which is an autobiography of her teenage years. I read it years ago, of course, but I still have vivid memories of her speaking of this book and wanting to read it. For some reason though, I assumed it’s out of print like Noel Streatfeild‘s books apparently are.

GUYS GUYS GUYS THIS IS FIVE MINUTES LATER AND I HAVE BEEN MINDBLOWN! There are paperback reprints of Noel Streatfeild’s books on flipkart.com and they’re affordable too! Wow, I never loved online book shopping more than I do at this moment! 

I found that out when I did a Google search to link you guys to her.

Yes, to get back to the point, I assumed that book was out of print, BUT IT WASN’T! Dun dun dush! And the rest is history! Well, not really. Not yet, anyway.

One thing I discovered as soon as I opened the book is that the author of this book, Dodie Smith also wrote 101 Dalmatians! My first thought: “Wow, that’s a book?” I know, I know, I’m awful, and have been living under a rock or something, but there it is.

Okay, let’s finally get to the book.

I am somewhat biased towards this book because I’m inclined to like books that are in a “diary” format for some reason. It started, of course, with Anne Frank, but it’s also true for L.M. Montgomery‘s less known Emily series, particularly Emily Climbs. My favourite Jacqueline Wilson book was also Secrets for this very reason. (Although Midnight was a close second)

Naturally, I loved it.

Aside from being somebody’s journal, it’s also beautifully written. The story is interesting and it’s set against the charming backdrop of a crumbling castle and it captures the innocence of childhood perfectly, even though, or perhaps because, it’s done through the eyes of a somewhat precocious teenager.

When I read stories of teenagers who are completely unaware of their charms, or who are completely unaware of the attention they are receiving, it irritates me. I think, “Really? It never once occurred to you?” I feel like it’s something that’s put on to seem modest or unassuming. I often wonder if I’m absurdly over-analytic or if everyone else is as good as I am as feigning ignorance of things they aren’t supposed to know. Good God, I’m digressing again.

My point is, (Yes, I had one) it’s refreshing to have the uncertainty and confusion that comes with being a teenager shown more than forced childishness.

I really adore Cassandra. We could have been friends.

I also felt like the ending was true to life, and achingly simple and beautiful.

More than anything else, I love the title. Being able to capture something in words is every writer’s dream and it’s a utopian ideal that I can’t stop aspiring towards, and it’s heartening to know that Cassandra can’t stop either. Hats off to the author though, for managing to do a great job of it.

Yes, most of my love of this book stems from the writing aspect, which forms a major part of this book, but the other parts about familial worries, love, jealousy, are all also themes which have been ingeniously depicted in this book.

It’s a multi-layered and beautiful YA book which every teenager and 20-something should read. It’s entirely charming and i definitely recommend it to everybody.

Just to make sure I wasn’t biased, I made a friend without literary ambitions read it. She affirms that it’s a lovely book. So there!

Do you guys have any books that you read far too late and still loved? Any beloved books of childhood that you rediscovered recently? Any young adult books that you think I absolutely must read? Let me know.

P.S: To clarify, this isn’t the only book I’ve read recently. To know what I’ve been reading, add me on Goodreads. I’ve begun to document my reading quite religiously on there. To know what I thought of the books I read… Well, that’s a bit more complicated. But I am trying hard to get back into the reviewing groove. Promise.

Cheers

 

Summer Reading Suggestions!

Well, my summer is officially over and I’m still struggling to stop reading and start studying. I’m trying. Promise.

But, for those of you lucky bugs who are on their summer break, or those of you who have taken the year off(*coughtanyacough*), here are some very interesting suggestions that i came across while “doing research” for a project. Ahem. Yes. Don’t look at me like that!

There are a few books on the list that I want to read. I hate my life. Why must I study Corporate law when I could be reading I Capture The Castle?

Anyway, here’s the image of the list. It’s extremely well-organized. 🙂 Enjoy. 🙂

Summer Reading List

The Absurdity of Having Guilty Pleasures

I recently became active on Goodreads. Those of you who don’t know what it is, check it out. It’s addictive. Just remember that I warned you.

I used the Barcode Scan option in the Goodreads app on my smartphone like a baws (I LOVE that little beep it makes! Do you love the beep? And I get excited every time it finds the correct book. It’s…it’s like magic!) and scanned one of my favourite books and gave it four stars even if it is –shudder- “chick-lit”. I then stared at my phone for a few minutes and added in the comments box: “A guilty pleasure.  :)”

I’m not very sure why I felt the need to clarify this to the world. Why did I feel the need to be guilty about enjoying this book?Yes, it’s extremely girly. Yes, it has a corny, happy ending of the kind that “serious” readers abhor. It’s just comforting, entertaining and enjoyable.

It’s true that I generally don’t enjoy this “chick-lit” genre of books, also known as popcorn fiction or beach-reads. I find the very name  derogatory to the “chicks” who may enjoy them, and I find that the stories themselves are  stereotypical and I think they degrade women despite the fact that their target audience is women. I also agree that they give people unrealistic expectations about romantic love. (Trust me ladies, being with a man who gives you butterflies in your stomach each time he looks at you will be very disconcerting and uncomfortable in the long run!)

The thing about me is, I’m constantly on the lookout with books with female protagonists who live normal, relatable lives, to read when I’m down or when I am not in the mood to read something new. Needless to say, this is an uphill task because most female characters in adult fiction are side-lined or entirely generic. And the ones in girly books are, well, way too girly. Or way too helpless. Or worse, way too focused on finding her “soul-mate”. I understand that finding romantic love has never been more important that now, with familial bonds weakening and friends being entirely too absorbed in their own careers, and I am in fact, a believer in romantic love. But what about your life? The one outside of your significant other? It infuriates me, especially when women themselves are the ones producing such tripe. This task was a lot easier when I was a teenager, it seems, and I could comfortably read and reread Jacqueline Wilson books till the books got tattered and the covers came off. I still give them a go sometimes when I’m down, though of course, the age difference is too great for the characters to be relatable now. It’s sad but I now find it easier to relate to a thirty-something protagonist than a teenage protagonist, despite only being in my early twenties. (Except Katniss Everdeen. She’s awesome.)

I must stop digressing.

After looking long and hard, I feel like people imagine that clever, unique teenagers will evolve into dull, man-obsessed young adults and therefore won’t enjoy books about clever, unique girls their age anymore.

Anyway, this book is an exception of sorts. The book was more sensibly written than most chick-lit and I’ve read it more times than I can count. And it’s made me feel fuzzy and happy each time. And this yet again begs the question: Why am I guilty about owning it and reading it and enjoying it? Does it make me less of a feminist to read a book that targets women exclusively? Does it reduce my intelligence in any way to have a comforting book that doesn’t hodge-podge-jelly-brainify me, when I’m having a bad day? (Blog title reference for the win!) Does it make me a fraud of some sort if I own a book that doesn’t make me think or add value to my life in some way, except to make me happy? I think about all these questions and the answer to all of them seems to be no. Doesn’t it?

Yet, this book will only ever be a guilty pleasure in my bookshelves, the one I won’t list as a favourite, even though it probably is. I feel like this makes me a fraud more than anything else. I’m afraid of being judged, as someone shallow, as someone silly, just like I judge people who read “chick-lit”, despite knowing a number of exceptions. I just start off by having this assumption and this makes me kind of snobbish and shallow.

Is there something wrong with reading “chick-lit” books or is there something wrong with the classification itself? Why aren’t there any dude-lit books?  Or is any book that isn’t chick-lit automatically dude-lit? (Excepting feminist literature, I mean) All of these questions confuse me greatly. I feel sad that some sort of patriarchy seems to have seeped into one’s choice of literature as well. When did I become so judgmental? I miss being a child where I devoured every book, including wildly age-inappropriate books without any thought as to whom it may be targeted at.

What is your opinion on so-called Chick-lit and the way people perceive it?

Why do people have guilty pleasure books, movies and shows?  It’s not like crisps, or nutella or alcohol, or something remotely addictive or unhealthy for one to feel guilty about it!

Do you judge people based on their choices in literature, movies or music? Do you subscribe to the theory, “It’s not what you’re like; it’s what you like”? (High Fidelity reference. Read it.)

Do you have any recommendations of books with strong female protagonists?

Do you know of any good books with bookworm protagonists? I miss those.

Tell me in the comments.

Note: the author enjoys nothing more than a good, well-reasoned debate.

Cheers.

Oh, if anyone is wondering, the book I’m speaking of is Bad Behaviour by Sheila O’ Flannagan. I’m cringing as I write this title. I need to do some more thinking about what can only be described as this bad attitude, of mine…

Being a Book Reviewer with Reviews Conspicuously Absent

I am astonished at myself. I created this blog to review books, nothing more and nothing less. Yet, over the past few weeks I’m surprisingly finding it increasingly difficult to review the books I read. There are two reasons for this.

Firstly, I’ve been increasingly reading books of a genre that escapes description due to its sheer complexity. It’s like, when someone asks me what the book is about, I say, “It’s about this man, and he does things, I guess…” I feel like it isn’t what the book is about that makes it so fantastic, but the way it’s been narrated and put together. Take High Fidelity, for example;  it’s about a 35-year-old record store owner who splits up with his long-term girlfriend. I told my friend this and she asked me why I’m reading such depressing books! But the book isn’t  depressing at all, it’s funny and clever and gripping with such simple yet wonderful insights that one can’t help loving it. It’s just so…real. And the music! I want to listen to every single song mentioned in this book. And it made me feel like signing up for singing lessons despite having sub-zero musical talent. I don ‘t know why. I was just so excited about music and everything to do with it after reading it.  How would I review it, though? I don’t know! Is it about relationships? Is it about music? Does it teach any valuable life lessons? The answer is both yes and no to all these questions. It just tells a story, and does it well. The rest is up to the reader.

Also, I am against spoilers.  I can’t do a review if it gives the plot away. So I usually make up for it by simply describing how a book made me feel, and this works pretty well for me.  Except, most of the books I’ve been reading have given me the same feeling of excitement and exhilaration; a feeling of something having changed within me after reading the book and a deep desire to keep writing myself. This is great for me, of course, but it’s absurd for my reviews because people would think I’ve gone nuts if I wrote this in every review I write. It would also become a tad repetitive. I don’t know the reason for this. It might have to do with the authors I’m reading or it might have to do with the fact that I’ve begun to read again after nearly a year and I’m particularly thrilled by this. The book review part of my blog (the supposed main part) is suffering greatly as a result.

On the other hand, I’ve been itching to write and I’ve been going around confessing personal things on my blog, which is completely uncharacteristic of me. Surprisingly, people have found this interesting and I’ve gotten a lot of appreciative comments from friends, family and family of friends, as well as strangers. I’ve also gotten a number of followers which is immensely surprising to me, because I was convinced, and still am  a little, that blogging is the equivalent of setting letters in a bottle into the ocean.  I’m immensely grateful to all my followers and the little orange plus on the right of the webpage, which sends a little shiver of glee through me every time. I’m not sure but I think that’s what inspiration feels like. 🙂

Keep reading and writing everyone, it makes being alive feel like a worthy endeavour. 🙂 Cheers.

Woes of a College Student aka Why I Need to Make Use of the Kindle My Dad Gifted Me

I live in a hostel room that is, for real, 7feet by 7feet in area. I’ve seen closets that are bigger. And it is filthy. Now, I by no means am trying to shift blame because I truly am one of nature’s messy persons. It is ridiculous that people like me haven’t died out ages ago from living in squalor and getting diseases. It’s one of the failures of evolution, I suppose.

Nonetheless, here I am, alive, kicking and a voracious reader to boot. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is, (and future college-goers everywhere need to remember this lesson) it’s a terrible idea to try and fit close to a hundred books (not including my academic books) into such a tiny space!

My home, with my big room is itself currently overflowing with books, with me literally having to keep some books on the floor, and on my bed, and on a chair, etc. There are books on a little makeshift shelf in the bathroom.

In fact, I’m almost thankful to those imbeciles who borrow and don’t return my books because the vacuum left by those books gets filled up in no time.

In other words, I am Sindhu Rao and I have a problem.

Much like the Earth, and – dare I say it – on what is likely a larger scale, I am facing an over-population problem. Especially in my aforementioned tiny room. I seriously considered throwing out some of my clothes to make space for my books. I also considered throwing away my bed, but that’s stupid because then, there wouldn’t be any space for the books under my bed.

Therefore, the time has come. I resisted it greatly but I must cave. The kindle my dad gave me a year ago is all of 7 inches long and it is slim and lightweight.

I began to warm up to the idea of using it when I was able to read The Goblet of Fire in an atrociously dull class without being observed. It was easy. Instead of a bulky paperback, I was reading it on a tiny Kindle. It was magical.

Well, I have finally decided to take the leap. I will dust off the poor neglected Kindle once I get home today and connect it to my WiFi and then – we will see. Will it be the beginning of a long-overdue love affair or will my resolve fizzle out? Only time will tell. (Dramatics aside though, I haven’t much choice if I want to keep reading.) I take solace in Stephen Fry’s words of wisdom: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.”