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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Twain’

Year End Review & Joy of Reading

Posted by Mrityunjay on December 31, 2018

9024 pages.

32 books.

12 months.

One hell of a reading year.

 

readThat’s what my Goodreads Page says about me. And I agree to that assessment. Had planned for 18 books and ended up with 32 by mid-Nov. Stopped after that as mind needed its own sweet time to absorb all that I had devoured. Thinking of it, ‘Reading Challenge’ by Goodreads is kind of a funny competition where you don’t get much as a reward for completing your challenge. All you vie for is some sort of gratification. Occasionally I felt pressured to complete the challenge and I thought once I finish, it will be much more soothing experience afterwards. Interestingly, once the target was done, my mind started making new targets- going beyond year 2017 first, then trying to attain my own personal best in a year then covering as many genres as possible and so on. It was weird knowing fully well what I was doing. But my reading flow was good and I was enjoying it. This ‘goal’ of reading more number of books just doesn’t help you achieve anything apart from appearing smart in front of some people. It’s a zero-sum game in the long run. More like data-devouring. My notes taking ability is still poor. Writing book review this year helped a bit but this is not sufficient. I need to have better mental models to make the reading process more fruitful in the future. Let’s say to take away from a book that has the potential to shape my thoughts in a better way. Reflection is important. I mean, by finishing first or targeting certain number of books is no fun if it’s not moulding your thought process. Reading is not a sprint and things like speed reading techniques are bullshit. As they say, the difference between being good enough and being exceptional comes down to your approach to learning skills.

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” —Ursula K. Le Guin. Amazing quote, aint it? But then a civilization is only as good as the stories it tells. By reading those words, those stories, those untold tales, we learn from the accomplishments and the faults of societies dead and gone. These stories shape us in myriad ways and that’s what makes reading such a soul-enriching experience. There is something magical about reading. I mean, no matter how hard I try, it still remains an indescribable feeling. In a twisted sort of way, reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. And not to forget, reading makes me smarter. It broadens my horizon which of course, gives reasonable dosage of raw materials to my brain to munch upon. I have low concentration issues but reading works as a medication during those attention-deficit phases. I must also admit that I have also used reading as an escape route to go away from occasional grim reality. It is bliss considering you get to interact with someone else’s imagination. Another factor that makes reading worthwhile is that minuscule degree of improvement that you experience on a daily basis which compounds exponentially in the long run. It’s a right thing to do and whatever you do right gives you a bit of edge against everyone else who doesn’t. And that edge is all that matters in the grand scheme of life. That edge is all that is. So why shouldn’t I strive to nourish a habit which I don’t just love to do but also which acts a glorious productivity hack?

Print is beautiful to me. That feel of page delights my innermost being. As an adult, it’s challenging to read rewith utmost level of absorption. You need to get your breathing to slow down to the pace of imaginative prose. And when you are fully immersed in reading, nothing distracts you. No one needs you anymore. It’s too late in the day for me to make any more mistakes, disappoint anyone, complete any uncompleted tasks. Best part, that time factor which kept you pressed all day like a sauna belt is no longer there. It can very well be termed as ‘Flow’as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book with same title. He defines Flow as- a state of concentrated attention in which ordinary worries are forgotten and ordinary intrusions fail to register. Reading makes us connect with something bigger than ourselves, and feel both enlarged and refreshed.

As for my top lists, I am just not good enough in choosing favourite things, whether it’s a movie, song, person or book. Sheer waste of time this favourite business. Every book feels dear to me. I tried as many different genres as possible. If on one hand I Sipped from classic authors like Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, at the same time I ventured deep into spiritualism with Siddhartha & Men’s search for Meaning. C.S.Lewis and Tolkien kindled my heart with Narnia and Lord of the Rings trilogy, whereas Hidden Life of Trees opened my eyes to a completely new fascinating world of tree-dom. Likes of Barking up the Wrong Tree, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, The 4-hour Workweek, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck etc gave me new insights into productivity hacks. Mastery was another great book with amazing stories. Seabiscuit is one of the finest animal stories depicting value of grit, determination and perseverance. Ted Talks is too good when it comes to learning the steps of public speaking. Grinding it Out, Open and Creativity Inc were gold standard in autobiography segment. So much to learn and imbibe from these achievers.  How I made $2000000 in the Stock Market & Extraordinary Popular Delusions and Madness of Crowds depicts the ages old phenomenon of greed and fear. Loved the writing style of Into the Wild and The Stranger. Treasure trove of wisdom seeping through these pages. All given on a platter for us. If we care for what we absorb through these pages, we can see the universe through the eyes of such accomplished writers and their creations.

To sum up, I can’t exactly say why I read but my best guess is- we read because we are trying to figure life out. I still don’t have much idea about great questions of life. I realize that I know nothing, really, in spite of my willingness to talk about just about anything. That’s one paradox of the life of the mind. I’ve read a lot since I was a child but I seem to know nothing. There isn’t really a book or series of books that explain everything but somehow most of these books find ways to explore the core questions of life and offer you plethora of possibilities and moments of stunning insight. It’s all about getting into that zone, fully immersed and letting go of all your preconceptions and prejudices.

On that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year. May you all have great stories to share. And do read. A Lot. Cheers.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Book 28 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on October 20, 2018

Its fun getting back to childhood books, especially when you haven’t read too many of them and now trying to catch up with all that you missed. Also the fact that, childhood literature consisted of Hindi giants like Premchand, Shivani, Renu, Nirala et al, western literature feels more like acquired taste but somehow more connectable. I have been reading witty quotes of Mark Twain since as long as I can remember, but his book is something else. Mark Twain always struck me as an open-minded gentleman with a strong sense of humor and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a fine demonstration of that. Tom Sawyer is one of the classic childhood adventure books, telling the story of Tom (a naughty youngster from the South of the US in the 19th century) and his many mischiefs.

Reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as an adult is still lots of fun. Mark Twain has a wonderful tomwriting style which keeps this book very interesting and flowing. The book also contains a good deal of social commentary which the author manages to convey with “boyish” way of thinking. It’s a quick read which keeps throwing you back to your childhood, recalling similar thoughts, wishes and behaviour. According to Mr. Twain, the book is “a history of a boy.” He further claims that the characters and plot are based on real people and events in his own boyhood. The resulting tale is as lively as you could imagine.

The main protagonist Tom Sawyer is full of mischief and constantly in search of new adventures, new tricks to play, or new ways to break the rules without getting into trouble. Throughout the book, there is a strong undercurrent of moral, psychological and intellectual development of Tom. It combines the past with the present in a way that the reader will personally identify with. You will also get to witness life in the Mississippi River town where Twain himself spent his youth. For children reading the book, the adventures are quite exciting. Although this book is believed to be for young adults and adults, I remember reading the “whitewashing of the fence” in middle school in an English text book which also gives us a good clue about Tom’s nature. It’s about how Tom was ordered by Aunt Polly to whitewash the fence as a punishment resulting from one of his mischiefs. But being smart ass that he is, Tom manipulates other boys into completing the job for him and by the time fence is all whitewashed, Tom is also a wealthy boy with the treasures (marbles, bits of glass, firecrackers etc) of other kids. He actually played it so smart that other kids bought their turn at the fence. It’s a pretty famous scene with one underlying message- “that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

Similarly, Tom is also used to enacting age-old scheme of playing sick in order to get out of school. As is with kids, Tom loves to use melodrama to get his way. Though, it backfires on him every now and then. Then there is first brush of romance and subsequent heartbreak. It was fun reading Tom’s lovesick musings. Furthermore, heartbreak leads to disenchantment and decision of becoming a pirate with two friends, Joe and Huck in tow. In addition to all the pranks and rascally ways, Tom has a sentimental side to him. Tom also demonstrates a heroic side. After witnessing a murder, Tom decides to testify in court. He later saves the widow Douglas from attack and finds Injun Joe’s buried treasure–thereby becoming wealthy and famous. He gets into trouble on numerous occasions but it’s also a fact that, Tom is pretty honest and commands a certain degree of goodness and courage.

First published in 1876, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer offers you dollops of humor, innocence of childhood, slavery, nostalgia, revenge, murder and several little reminders of what was and what should have been. Being an adult, you can also sense typical Twain satire that runs through the story criticizing the eccentricities and hypocrisies of human nature. Classics like these are hard to come by!

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

 

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