Tag: nonfiction

Book Review: Walden (Henry David Thoreau).

Walden

– Henry David Thoreau.


Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a non-fiction novel. The book is an account of Thoreau’s stay in isolation at a secluded cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The author chose to live alone away from society as an experiment. This book delves into many philosophical ideas yet somehow remains grounded in the world we know today.

I am not sure how to explain the story of this book; it is tricky. Thoreau chose to live near Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts for two years, writing this book. It was a social experiment that would help him explore nature and society from an objective point of view. Thoreau talks about how hard people work to fulfill their needs but they don’t need to work so hard if they choose a simpler life. The obsession of materials things, needing to have certain luxuries just for the sake of it ends up taking a toll on us. In the end, all of the materialistic or extra luxuries leave people drained and empty.

Thoreau works in the field himself to grow food produce, cooks it himself too; he builds a small cabin for himself. He lives a self-sustaining lifestyle at the cabin. He earns some money by working a bean field and maintains a record of finances diligently to show how little humans need to survive. He often has visitors but he specifically mentions a woodcutter who is rough around the edges but Thoreau enjoyed his company. When he finds himself isolated from people, he often went to the village where he was once arrested for not paying taxes.

The book talks a lot about existence, the choices we make, our needs and the part society plays in our life. The one idea that you come across in the book prominently from start to finish is Self- Reliance. This idea to trust oneself and your instincts completely to survive; to be yourself and not try to fit in with societal conformities. Thoreau enjoys his solitude; it gives him time to think and enjoy nature but communication with people is appealing too. Often he finds himself needing company and socialize with other people. We need solitude and space for ourselves but we also need other people so it is not an either-or kind of situation.

Thoreau was a transcendentalist writer. This is the reason Walden emphasizes self-reliance, independence, nature, and individuality An individual doesn’t need to conform to society; conforming leads to loss of individuality and society and its institutions have ruined the idea of an ‘individual’. The ideas of the books and the way it is written has a philosophical tone to it. Thoreau’s ideas and concepts make sense, it is interesting no doubt but at times it got too slow. The content of the book with its themes can become heavy to read, as there is much to absorb.

It took me time to get immersed in the book especially in the beginning. I read this book slowly because it’s difficult to read for a long time. The ideas in the book resound even in today’s society and it is still a relevant work of literature. After reading this book, I understand why it is considered to be one of the best works of American literature.

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Book Review: Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling).

Why Not Me?

–  Mindy Kaling.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling is a memoir which is a collection of essays about her life, career and experiences. This book has been on my shelf for years but I wasn’t really familiar with Mindy Kaling so I didn’t read it. Recently, I watched the series The Mindy Project and loved it. So, now that I was familiar with her work I thought I’ll read her memoir.

This collection of non-fiction essays about life is a clever and interesting way to write. The way it has been written, the format was new to me and in a way it makes the writing stand out even more. The essays are fun, witty and surprisingly relatable. It starts with awkward childhood stories than navigates through college life making it way towards career and personal life. Mindy Kaling’s experiences are relatable which I didn’t expect to be honest but it was a pleasant surprise.

She doesn’t care how she will be perceived by others, she mentions that in the book too which made the stories or essays authentic because there was no sugarcoating. The way she freely talked about drifting apart from people you thought would be a part of your life forever but it doesn’t happen or how she looked for friendships in wrong places and people and disappointments about her career. Her awkward behavior around people is amusing and funny especially around famous people as she says that she is socially anxious. As a person who doesn’t know how or what to say in social situations, I could completely relate to her.

Mindy Kaling doesn’t hold back about her insecurities or vulnerabilities throughout the book may it be about herself or her career. She candidly talks about the life in public eye and how celebrities are expected to carry themselves at all times. The constant comparison with others for example – articles like who were this better? She tries to subtly emphasize the point that all celebrities are regular people too and at times that is forgotten when they are held to different standard.

 The title of the book itself has a deeper meaning which didn’t even cross my mind as I was reading it. Why Not Me? The title of the book refers to the constant question she is asked that how come you are so confident? This question she felt implied that you have so little to be confident about then where does t come from?  Mindy Kaling explains how confidence is about entitlement, about believing what you deserve.

I don’t usually read non-fiction books especially memoirs or biographies but I am glad I read this one. It is honest, relatable and so witty. The way it is written, divided into different parts of her life and experiences makes it more interesting. The book is funny and it is deeper than one would expect it to be, it has a good message.  I enjoyed reading this book.

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Currently Reading (July ’20).

My reading list for this month.

  1. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.

I don’t usually read non-fiction books but this book was a gift. It is been sitting on my shelf for years. I recently watched The Mindy Project television series and I liked it so I decided that now I will read this book. It is kind of like a collection of humorous essays written by Mindy Kaling. I am only a couple of chapters in but it is a fun read. It is relatable, insightful, and witty.

2. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is inspired by a true story during World War II. Three women Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick, and Herta Oberheuser come from different worlds until World War II begins with the invasion of Poland and their paths cross with each other. I haven’t read beyond the first chapter but historical novels always intrigue me and this one was no different. I look forward to reading this book.

3. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst is a love story between Alexa and Nicholas. Alexa and Nicholas have known each other for years because Maggie is Alexa’s best friend and Nicholas’s sister. Alexa is in a tough financial situation so when Nicholas makes his proposal to her. They get married only in name for Nicholas to be able to inherit his father’s corporation. The story can be predictable in a way but the element of fantasy and unique characters is enough to hook you on the book.

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Book review: A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf).

A Room of One’s Own.

–    Virginia Woolf.

I came across this essay pretty randomly and seeing it was written by Virginia Woolf I started reading it. As a student of literary criticism I was immediately fascinated about the essay. I have been a fan of her work since I read Mrs. Dalloway. In the time that she wrote, it was brave of her to break away from the traditional molds of writing. Woolf’s works played an influential role in the reemergence of feminism in the 1970’s. Her characters, lectures, essays kept the women at the forefront.

A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay. This essay explores a fictional character and narrative; but it is rooted in reality. Woolf through this essay discusses the various disadvantages in education, society, and finance faced by women throughout the history. The fictional character of this essay is Mary, who visits the British Museum to find out everything that has been written about women so far. Through the character and narrative Woolf showcases how in society, literature and history are male constructs or male-centric while the women have been marginalized.

A Room of One’s Own is a daring essay especially considering the time it was written in. The essay discusses at length the problems women have faced in the past to now. It showcases the male-centric attitude of the society in literature and history. Woolf gives an example of Judith, Shakespeare’s sister in the essay to put forth her point. The point of the essay is to explain that there are no stories or characters which are trivial and which shouldn’t be told. Woolf also talks about gendered values of the society. The prevalence of masculine values in society shouldn’t stop one from creating stories or characters the way they want. Not giving into stereotypes is important.

A Room of One’s Own written by Virginia Woolf is a feminist text which talks about creating space for women in literature and figuratively in a traditionally patriarchal society. This is a very interesting read and it makes points which are relatable but it is something which has been expected as a norm.

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