It’s time to upload another blog post for the Blogaberry Dazzle challenge, and today I’ve decided to share my short book reviews from Goodreads with you, just in case they appeal to you.
I have been an avid reader all my life and I love keeping a record of things I do (hence the blog!). The Goodreads Reading Challenge has been a fixture in my life since 2014. After many years of experimenting with the number of books I set for myself to read in a year, I’ve arrived at the happy median of 30 books per year. This year, I’ve already achieved 40% of that amount, having read 12 books so far. Some of these are children’s books (which I read to my son every night), some are book club picks, some are review copies, some I read as part of my ongoing Project Poirot (reading Agatha Christie’s Poirots in the order they were written), and some simply caught my fancy for one reason or another. It’s quite an eclectic list, but that’s also what keeps it interesting for me. The exposure to different genres of books further enriches my writing. For the purpose of this post, however, I’m not mentioning the children’s books. I plan to do another post on those later.
So, here are mini reviews of the last five books I’ve read:
SCOFF: A HISTORY OF FOOD AND CLASS IN BRITAIN BY PEN VOGLER
Book Description on Goodreads:
“Avocado or beans on toast? Gin or claret? Nut roast or game pie? Milk in first or milk in last? And do you have tea, dinner or supper in the evening?
In this fascinating social history of food in Britain, Pen Vogler examines the origins of our eating habits and reveals how they are loaded with centuries of class prejudice. Covering such topics as fish and chips, roast beef, avocados, tripe, fish knives and the surprising origins of breakfast, Scoff reveals how in Britain we have become experts at using eating habits to make judgements about social background.
Bringing together evidence from cookbooks, literature, artworks and social records from 1066 to the present, Vogler traces the changing fortunes of the food we encounter today, and unpicks the aspirations and prejudices of the people who have shaped our cuisine for better or worse.”
My Review: 4/5 Stars
Though I’m an ardent fan of fiction books, I like to pepper in non-fiction into my reading lists from time to time. This gives me insight into non-fiction professional writing and provides a study of the profiles of different kinds of people, both of which are important skills that enhance my own writing. This book was gifted to me by my aunt who lives in London, and I’m glad she did, because I would have never come across it otherwise.
As an independent features journalist, I approached this book as a study in the writing of food and food history. Pen Vogler does an admirable job of sifting through tons of research to highlight the foods that are popular in Britain today and / or have been popular in the past. I particularly liked that she began each chapter with a personal anecdote that made the subject interesting. But she did digress into boring technical details and I found my mind wandering often.
Nevertheless, for someone interested in the subject, it’s a good read and a well-researched, well-crafted book. The old recipes were particularly interesting. I just wish there had been more of them – maybe one for every chapter.
DISASTERPIECE BY MEETALI KUTTY
Book Description on Goodreads:
“A collection of poetry to soothe, energise, empathise, dramatise, embrace, deny everything inside of us… because We are Humans, We are Disasters, We are Humans, We are Masterpieces.
Ranging from experiences of being too little, to being too much, dealing with the pain of trauma, finding the beauty in the ordinary, using words as therapy and just sharing a feeling that someone else may feel- the poems in this collection aim to be just that.”
My Review: 4/5 Stars
Just as with non-fiction, I’m not very keen on poetry either but I’m always down to support a friend. It is no mean feat to be a published poet. This medium requires you to put so much of yourself out there, leaving you very vulnerable.
Poetry is a personal experience, yet it can also resonate with many people from differing perspectives. Meetali Kutty’s collection of poems titled Disasterpiece – her first published work – is a great example of this. Through a wide range of poems, she unapologetically lays her emotions bare. There is a change in tonality between the first ten poems and the ones that come after. I preferred the latter as they felt more nuanced, deeper and raw. However, it could also be that the later ones spoke to my own life experiences more than the earlier ones did.
Overall, it’s an intense pot pourri of poetry that one can read through in a single sitting, or savour over time (or return to, depending on the mood of the day). I read 2-3 poems a day as they are quite wide-ranging in theme. Some are thought-provoking, some sad, and some sweet. I recommend it to poetry lovers for its creative handling of a variety of subjects. My favourite pieces were: ‘Necessity’, ‘Paranoia’ and ‘Closer to Heaven’.
LESS IS LOST BY ANDREW SEAN GREER
Book Description on Goodreads:
“In the follow-up to the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning Less, the awkward and lovable Arthur Less returns in an unforgettable road trip across America.
“Go get lost somewhere, it always does you good.”
For Arthur Less, life is going surprisingly well: he is a moderately accomplished novelist in a steady relationship with his partner, Freddy Pelu. But nothing lasts: the death of an old lover and a sudden financial crisis has Less running away from his problems yet again as he accepts a series of literary gigs that send him on a zigzagging adventure across the US.
Less roves across the “Mild Mild West,” through the South and to his mid-Atlantic birthplace, with an ever-changing posse of writerly characters and his trusty duo – a human-like black pug, Dolly, and a rusty camper van nicknamed Rosina. He grows a handlebar mustache, ditches his signature gray suit, and disguises himself in the bolero-and-cowboy-hat costume of a true “Unitedstatesian”… with varying levels of success, as he continues to be mistaken for either a Dutchman, the wrong writer, or, worst of all, a “bad gay.”
We cannot, however, escape ourselves—even across deserts, bayous, and coastlines. From his estranged father and strained relationship with Freddy, to the reckoning he experiences in confronting his privilege, Arthur Less must eventually face his personal demons. With all of the irrepressible wit and musicality that made Less a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning, must-read breakout book, Less Is Lost is a profound and joyous novel about the enigma of life in America, the riddle of love, and the stories we tell along the way.”
My Review: 2.5/5 Stars
This was picked by my book club as they had already read the original prize-winning novel ‘Less’ when it first came out. I haven’t read its prequel so I’m not sure if my unfamiliarity with the subject was the reason for disliking the book, but I certainly did dislike it.
For a book billed as being funny, it was boring to the point of inducing sleep. The inertia of the plot made getting through it a difficult task.
But there is no doubt that Greer is a gifted writer. He carves innuendos into simple language in a beautiful way. The plot twist is very cleverly done but it’s not enough to make up for the tedium of reaching it!
THE MIDDLE: A STORY OF LOVE, LIFE & LAUGHTER BY NAYANA GORADIA
Book Description on Goodreads:
“The Middle, a short catchy piece, once earned notoriety for having seized the centre space on the hallowed editorial page of The Times of India. Nayana Goradia began her writing career in this column and though she graduated to other forms, she reverted to the old name The Middle, believing it invested her book with a sense of enigma it might have otherwise lacked. The pages here reflect upon an early childhood in a princely state in Kathiawar, to a snobbish school in idyllic Sri Lanka, which lay greater stress on young ladies learning to eat with a fork and knife than on mastering the mysteries of a Pythagoras theorem. Higher study in English literature was at Washington State University and Girton College, Cambridge. With marriage, came the move to a Calcutta basking in an imperial hangover. In the late sixties, it was still halcyon days for ‘company wives’ with a British label. A stylish flat in swish surroundings made up for the imposing bada memsahib with an outdated protocol. It was difficult in Calcutta to escape the controversial Viceroy, George Nathaniel Curzon, who partitioned Bengal in 1905 and became the harbinger of the larger partition of India in 1947. After seven years of research, two school-going daughters with unfinished homework and a husband who felt the viceroy was becoming the other man in his wife’s life, Nayana’s biography, Lord Curzon: The Last of the British Moghuls was published by Oxford University Press and reviewed widely both in India and overseas.”
My Review: 4/5 Stars
This book is written by a lady who is my neighbour, friend and fellow member of my women’s club. I was keen to read it because I personally knew the author but I’m so glad I did, because she writes beautifully.
This sweet little book is a collection of slice-of-life columns / funny personal essays published in prominent newspapers from the 1960s-1980s. They offer an insightful glimpse into the culture and life of that time, apart from being very well-written and a pleasure to read.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the accompanying images and overall magazine-like feel of the book.
AGAINST THE LOVELESS WORLD BY SUSAN ABULHAWA
Book Description on Goodreads:
“A sweeping and lyrical novel that follows a young Palestinian refugee as she slowly becomes radicalized while searching for a better life for her family throughout the Middle East. For readers of international literary bestsellers including Washington Black, My Sister, The Serial Killer, and Her Body and Other Parties.
As Nahr sits, locked away in solitary confinement, she spends her days reflecting on the dramatic events that landed her in prison in a country she barely knows. Born in Kuwait in the 70s to Palestinian refugees, she dreamed of falling in love with the perfect man, raising children, and possibly opening her own beauty salon. Instead, the man she thinks she loves jilts her after a brief marriage, her family teeters on the brink of poverty, she’s forced to prostitute herself, and the US invasion of Iraq makes her a refugee, as her parents had been. After trekking through another temporary home in Jordan, she lands in Palestine, where she finally makes a home, falls in love, and her destiny unfolds under Israeli occupation.”
My Review: 4.5/5 Stars
This was also picked by my Book Club. It was my first introduction to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis from a Palestinian viewpoint.
It is a raw, real and painful book but that’s what I loved about it. Beautifully written and very informative about a part of the world I don’t know much about.
The only gripe I had with it was that it got a bit draggy towards the end, especially because it seemed like the protagonist’s misery would never end. Overly negative books can sometimes veer away from being poignant, becoming tedious instead – it’s important for the writer to maintain a balance to keep the reader hooked.
Have you read any of these yet? Do any of them intrigue you enough to pick them up? Let me know in the comments below!
This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla in collaboration with Mads’ Cookhouse.
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I also have an ongoing Agatha Christie (50 stories)… I want to check out the book by Meetali…
I haven’t read any of these books. But I .like the idea of doing thematic reading, going to try it with some mystery books this year.
I have to be honest n say that I haven’t read any 😛… but I would love to read Meetali’s Disasterpiece and your last recommendation as I watch some episodes of Fauda when my hubby is watching so I am sure I will be able to relate to it well… the background that the two are set on is the same.
Glad u have reached 40 pcnt of ur target, thanks for the review. I can imagine if a book is supposed to be funny and it turn out to be boring. I like books that keep me hooked and some of the suggestions here are just too good.
All the books are amazing and promising a different genre and experience ! I would personally love to start with A history of food and class in Britain. Thanks for the review and list.
How do you get the time to read, Noor. I am in awe of you. The books also are so diverse. from Scoff to Less is Most and Disasterpiece. Your reviews are crisp and to the point.
Thanks Harjeet, reading is important to me so I make time for it. Every night before bed (even if just 2 pages), while travelling, in waiting rooms, at the beauty parlour, etc. etc. 🙂
I can make an idea about the books from your post and trust your opinion about each of them. Unfortunately I read none of the books but the first one SCOFF I believe I will love to pick first and read but will read all one by one. Thank you for the recommendations as it will help me to decide my next reads of the year.
I always love checking out your reviews. I was quite intrigued by Scoff when you reviewed it on Insta. Will be picking it up first. Adding it to my TBR.
Kudos to you Noor! After everything you do on a daily basis, how can you manage to read so much? I would really love to read Scoff. Thanks for sharing the reviews.
Thank you! I love reading so I make time for it 🙂
I haven’t read any of this book. Intact I read the last one is Chava – Shahaji Maharaj book- during my pregnancy. Till date I am not able to read. Hope this year I can start reading. Would like to go by your theme. 🤞🏻
I haven’t read any on the books you reviewed Noor. But I would love to know more on Project Poirot….I have read most of his books but would love to have a reason to revisit.
I’m just re-reading them in the order they were published to analyse how the character grew / changed over time. I’m 8 books in and it’s been an interesting journey so far!
Would love to check out the poetry book because they are relatable and few in words but sometimes have profound meaning.
Thank you for the reviews, Noor. And your ratings now help us choose books for the TBR. 🙂
It’s great to see that your reading list is diverse, ranging from book club picks to personal interests such as Project Poirot. Your dedication to reading is also evident in your commitment to reading children’s books to your son every night. Well, this post is an excellent example of how reading can enrich one’s life and broaden one’s horizons, and it’s inspiring to see you are so passionate about it—saving this post to check again when deciding which one to buy.
Against the Loveless World has been on my TBR for a long time, and your review is enticing me to start it ASAP. Meetali Kutty’s poem book was another book from your review that I’d like to get my hands on. Thanks for recco.
Appreciate you sharing with us your honest reviews! I’d say really honest as you’ve mentioned on one book as boring and could even induce sleep which other book review gals won’t dare to say. This listing helped me choose which ones I can add to my “to read books”.
I am quite curious about Scoff the way you have reviewed it. I don’t usually read non-fiction but it sure sounds interesting. Thank you for sharing about it.
Aw thanks so much for writing about my poetry book! The other books look great but I def want to borrow/ buy Pen Vogler’s book that seems completely up my alley!