Bibliophilic Endeavors – Book Club Meet

Another month, another meet. Our book club DYRT (Did You Read Today) just wound up our monthly get together this evening.

Our guest author kickstarted the session by introducing and reading from one of her books, as well as providing snippets about her writing and publishing journey. Savita Nair is an advertising copywriter by profession, whose genre as a published book writer is poetry. She describes her poetry as “straight-talking prose” that anyone who has dealt with the chaotic madness of modern day urban survival can understand and relate to. Her poetry can be described as a mix of romanticism, thoughtfulness, stoicism, pragmatism. Her poems are for those who enjoy poetry that doesn’t shroud itself in fancy analogies and jargon. Nair revealed she began writing poems at the age of seven, and cites Dorothy Parker as her primary inspiration. Her work reflects her state of mind – complex, candid and fearless. For the book meet today, Nair articulated six poems from her collection titled “Tell Me Your Real Story” – a fusion of angst and heartbreak, celebration and romance, disbelief and skepticism, sarcasm and fun. The poetry bandwagon takes you on a ride that is urban and chic, cynical and syrupy. A wonderful orator as well, Nair has herself read the audio versions of her books. She presented four autographed copies of Tell Me Your Story to randomly selected readers present at the meet.

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The author session was followed by the book review segment. We started with “Sambhaji” by Vishwas Patil, a book originally written in Marathi, but reviewed in English and Hindi by one of our members. A story of the unfortunate journey of the emperor Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj who spent most his life being compared to his father Shivaji Maharaj. The politics behind the throne, the defiance against various forces, the epic wars of Shambhuraje against the British, the Portuguese, Aurangzeb – all in all, a detailed narrative of Shambhaji’s history.

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The little bookworms followed this in-depth analysis of historical facts with some more world history. Some of the children of our members accompanied their parents to the meet, and reviewed their reads as well. Starting with Anne Frank’s “The Diary Of A Young Girl” by a ten year old who was fluent and fabulous as she described her analysis of Anne’s life through her diary entries. A thirteen year old carried forward the reviewing session with Ashwin Sanghi’s “The Krishna Key” – a historical and mythological thriller set around two timelines, five thousand years ago at the time of Lord Krishna (the Blue God), and a child in the present who grows up believing he is the final avatar of Krishna. An exhaustively researched plot which provides an alternate interpretation of the Vedic Age, and can be relished by conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts. Another articulate thirteen year old followed this with a delightful review of John Green’s “Paper Towns” . An attentive, intuitive and funny story about Margo Spiegelman whose adventures are the centre of attraction at her high school. She goes missing one day, and her friend Quentin Jacobsen sets about in unravelling the mystery, which in turn takes him on a splendid road trip across America as he follows the clues left for him. The storyline and plot are simple, but Green’s storytelling bumps the narrative up a notch keeping it funny and poignant, with relatable characters.

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The floor was then left open for the debate session which followed the book reviews. The topic for today was “Freedom To Choose Books” – should parents select books for children or should kids be allowed to choose what they want to read? Various perspectives were put forth, siding with both hemispheres of the argument. The age of the child, external influences from schools and peer groups, presence or absence of older/younger siblings, the child’s grasp over the language of reading, reasons for reading (pass the time or improve vocabulary) – many factors play a role in whether children should pick their own books or parents need to intervene in their literary choices. A well-rounded discussion where there was no right or wrong, with the emphasis on the context of reading in children.

The venue for this month’s meet being the YMCA, the merry bunch of bookworms wound up our monthly undertaking by donating books to the organization. The customary photo session and snacks brought an end to the evening’s agenda. Until we meet again next month. 🙂

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DYRT – Book Club Meet

“A book is kind of like a river, I simply jump in and start swimming.”

~Melody Carlson

It was time to start swimming with fellow bibliophiles, as the weekend ushered in our book club’s monthly meet-up. For the uninitiated, our reading group was started by a bunch of us runners who loved to read and discuss books, and were looking for people who shared similar interests. What began as a group of runner-readers connecting over common passions, led to family and friends joining in, and ultimately had outsiders attending the book meets as well. Books connect us in myriad ways. Many of the book club members are runners and athletes, but all genres of books are discussed – not just running or sport related ones.

Our book club is referred to by the acronym DYRTDid You Run Today was the name of our running group, which we use interchangeably for Did You Read Today, and we also have a sister writing group for budding authors called Did You (w)Rite Today.

Coming back to our book meet, the session started off by introducing the guest author – a technology professional turned writer who has three books to his credit. Vijay Raghav’s literary career began as a poet in 2012 when he published his first book, ‘The Peak Of All Thoughts‘ – a bouquet of essays written in a mix of prose and poetry. Raghav then came out with his debut novel in 2013 titled ‘Fall‘ – an emotional roller coaster of love, envy, deceit and mystery. The book he selected for today’s reading session was his newly published compilation titled ‘The Curve Of Chance‘. Released in February 2018, the book comprises four intriguing short stories entwined with threads of chance and probability. Set around the city life, the tales are a mix of fact and fantasy, dealing with timely coincidences and untimely encounters. Through our author sessions, we try and introduce readers to niche books and writers who might not be popularly known around the world. It gives readers a chance to explore books they might not have come across otherwise. If you like exploring new authors, check out Raghav’s books.

After the author’s reading session, it was time for book reviews by our reader members of two selected books for today’s meet – Burmese Days by George Orwell, and Zero To One by Peter Thiel. We usually encourage a mix of fiction and non-fiction so that different genres can be explored, which cater to varying reader tastes. ‘Burmese Days‘ was the first novel by George Orwell, published in 1934 and based on his experiences as a policeman stationed in Imperial Burma in the 1920s. John Flory, the 35-year old hero of the novel, was characterized around Orwell himself, and the book presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and bigotry in a society where natives were considered an “inferior people”. Peter Thiel – one of the founders of PayPal – brings to us ‘Zero To One‘ which gives a new perspective on what basis one should start a company, and how businesses should be run. A recommended book for startups and entrepreneurs that sheds light on the fundamentals of starting a business, with Thiel emphasizing on research and innovation and providing anecdotes and statistics to share his insights with the reader.

A fourth book that was the highlight of the evening is titled ‘Fighter‘ – about ex-navy officer cum marathoner and golfer Cdr. Ravi Malhan who succumbed to cancer at the end of last year. His wife Rekha Malhan presented the book which she published in memory of her late husband. Cdr Malhan was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and underwent total laryngectomy, which left him unable to speak in his last days and consequently resorting to share his thoughts through the written word. ‘Fighter‘ is a compilation of all his journal writings and musings, and proceedings from the sales of the book are being donated to cancer charities. The founder of our book club, who is also an ex-Navy officer and marathoner, read excerpts from the book.

We concluded with an autograph session with the guest author of his books that were available for sale at the venue. All in all, another well spent bookish evening for all the bibliophilic attendees who could make it for the meet.