Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What am I reading?

So you asked, and I'm obliging.

Last week I went to a gala with my husband - an impressive array of important Indian and American politicos converging in DC for some great, important meeting that is way beyond me.

It could have been an incredible bore, but instead, the key-note speaker was Vikas Swarup, the writer of the book Q&A, the book that the movie Slumdog Millionaire was based on.

He was an amazing speaker! I laughed so hard, because he talked more about being a writer than about Indian/American cooperation.

Here is my favorite part of his speech:

"They asked me if I could have ever imagined my book as a movie, and I said, 'I could never have imagined my book as a book!' "

And he told this joke:

"A writer dies and is met by an angel who tells him he gets to choose between going to heaven and hell. He asks to take a tour of each before deciding. They first go to hell, where people are bound by chains to desks, where, in incredible heat, they sweat and slave over writing novels, constantly whipped and derided for their lousy writing. The writer says, 'I think I'd like to see heaven. This looks awful!' So the angel takes him to heaven, where he sees exactly the same scene. 'This is exactly the same!' the writer exclaims. 'Oh no,' says the angel. 'Here, they are published.' "

He wrote Q&A during a few weeks in England where he was doing diplomatic duty and his family had already gone on to India ahead of him. He'd thought about this book for a while but never gotten down to writing it, but left alone in a foreign city, he finally found the time. He said, "Usually, behind a successful man is a great wife, but for writers, behind a successful man is an absent wife!"

So I went out and bought the book. It's a great read. I love the unique structure of it. I haven't seen the movie, but I plan to watch it this weekend when I'm done reading.

The other two books I bought this weekend are both non-fiction. I don't read a whole lot of non-fiction. Percentage-wise, it's probably pretty low. But I love true-life adventure stories, like Alive, Into Thin Air, and The Perfect Storm. I have read just about every book out there about climbing Everest, and Kraukauer's Eiger Dreams is high on my list for this summer.

But I came across a review for Crazy for the Storm last week, and I couldn't wait to read it. It's the memoir of a man who, as a young boy, was in an airplane crash in the mountains with his dad, his dad's girlfriend, and a pilot. His dad and the pilot died on impact, and he chose to hike out of the snowy mountains with the very injured girlfriend. She died on the way, but he survived, thanks to the experiences he'd had with his dad in extreme sports.

Funny enough, it's structured very much like Q&A. I was sucked in by the photo of him on his dad's back surfing when he was only months old. Who does that? And by the guilt he has felt all these years that the girlfriend died after he convinced her to leave the plane and hike out.

The last book on my nightstand is Columbine. It's morose, I suppose. I asked for it for my birthday and I got lots of raised eyebrows. But I've been fascinated with the book since long before it came out. I stumbled on the cover artist a while back and read about how he decided upon this design, which led me to the substance of the book.

I am most interested in how our perceptions of who the killers were, how the media portrayed them, is all wrong. I think I'm interested in this for a great part because I see the effects of Columbine on my own kids' schooling. The security, the endless anti-bullying campaigning, the sensitivity training they are getting in public school that came about because of the erroneous belief that Dylan and Eric were loners scorned by their classmates and relegated to the fringes of the school.

I think it will be a good thinking book - one I will want to talk about when I'm done.

So that's my reading list for the next week or so.

What have you been reading? Anything good to recommend?


  1. Ah, I've been wanting to read Q&A! Let me know what you think, okay? I also want to watch the movie, but it's not here yet. SIGH

    Also columbine looks great. I love the cover. Where's the link that talked about how he decided on it? I'd love to read that too.

    Hope you're feeling a little bit better! Get well soon!

  2. Let us know how Columbine is. I had forgotten that the book was out, but I definitely wanted to read it. I was finishing high school when Columbine happened, and remember how crazy it was at my own school afterwards. They banned bookbags and purses and baggy pants and coats (it's FL).

  3. 'Oh no,' says the angel. 'Here, they are published.'

    That's awesome! I'll have to check it out.

  4. I want to read Columbine, which I will do soon.

  5. I really like Q&A so far. It's very unique and non-linear. I'll write about it when I finish, which should be in the next day or two.

    I'll write about Columbine, too. I found the blog about the cover designer and linked it in the blog. I find this process just fascinating! And I think about all the options he tried first every time I look at the book!

    Megan Rebekah - I was home with my son, who was only about six months at the time. I remember it like it was yesterday. Schools will never be the same, and they probably still won't prevent it from happening again!