Reading Round Three
Third Fiscal Month Of Reading
Welcome to my newsletter! I am Arjun Agarwal and I hope to convince you that books are the best of best friends.
Welcome to another Reading Round. In this series, I tell you about my top five(hall of fame) and bottom five(hall of Shame) books of the last half quarter/fiscal month. This post covers the books from April 1, 2022 to June 1, 2022.
This fiscal month/half quarter:-
Books Read: 32
Pages Read: 7930
Longest Book: It(1168)
Shortest Book: The Go-Giver(128)
Unfortunately, I am a bit behind my goal. This month I’ll blame travel, shifting and exams. If I am in any mood to catch-up on my goal, I’ll need to read about a book a day for the next month.
Hall of Fame
#5 How to Read Literature Like a Professor(5/5)
I had been avoiding reading this book for quite some time as I was scared that my reading method may be wrong.
After reading this, I was glad I read it.
While not novel in strategies for analysis, the book is well written. The chapters are divided into relatively similar page counts and, while each chapter explores a topic and provides helpful examples from literary works, the length of each chapter allows for digestion of information in small bites.
Citing folklore, religious dogmas, and Greek mythology, the author delicately introduces varied or contrasting belief systems for interpretation of literature in an unoffensive and unbiased manner.
While this book provides a thorough examination of theme, symbols, and contexts, the author freely admits that it is by no means a complete compilation. The writing is consistently comprehensive and entertaining, occasionally infused with Foster's personal quips and moments of charming self-deprecation. His points, whether serious or silly, are stated with eloquence.
The book should be given all high school students before handing them classics. I will not tolerate any more ‘XYZ classic is over-hyped’ posts on reddit.
#4 The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down(5/5)
I had saved this book on a Pinterest board a few years ago. I then stopped using Pinterest. Recently, when I was looking for a certain saved pin, I came across this book and decided to read it. I can review this book in a single sentence. It's a hug in book format.
#3 Death on the Nile(5/5) and Cards on the Table(5/5)
Christie, Christie, Christie! Every single book a damn masterpiece. Pick any of her books and I promise you that you shall not be disappointed.
While the film was decent, Death on the Nile in book form is an absolute delight. One cannot ask for a better mystery and a better solution.
Cards on the Table on the other side is polar opposite of the former in terms of story. It features only four suspects and almost no ‘action’ sequences. But one thing is common, The solution is perfect.
#2 The Go-Giver(5/5)
As my regular readers know, no book list on my newsletter is complete without a business book and an academic book.
If I had the money, I'd buy a copy of this book and send it to every person I know, wrapped in gold foil paper. This isn't just a business book. It applies whether you're a volunteer, in a romantic relationship, or with your coworkers.
Its just a modernist Alchemist. Short to read and nourishing for the mind. Set in small chapters, the book highlights 5 success factors that you can easily adapt & imbibe.
While the key lesson of the book is that it is in giving that we receive. That everything we do shouldn’t be about being selfish. That there is a larger force of reality at work, and it can be amazingly leveraged when you give.
And it has bloody good quotes.
“The majority of people operate with a mindset that says to the fireplace, ‘First give me some heat, then I’ll throw on some logs.’
“If you go looking for conflict, you’ll find it. If you go looking for good, you’ll find that too. Ultimately, the world treats you more or less the way you expect to be treated.”
“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.”
#1 Fermat’s Last Theorem(5/5)
Simon Singh has the ability to present a story about a mathematics problem, and tell it like a detective story. This is a even bigger feat than doing it in a fiction book as in this case the outcome is well known.
This book is endowed with all elements of a perfect story, which are characters, surprising events, tragedy, ambition, moments of defeat and finally an astonishing success.
Pierre De Fermat, A recreational-mathematician, finds a simple proof to what seems like a deceptively simple problem of mathematics - that pythagoras's theorem only works if the terms are squared, and not if they are any other power up to infinity. Sounds dull. Except the fact that Fermat jotted down that he has found this proof, but not what the proof is. For over three centuries, the proof eludes the greatest of minds.
More mathematically inclined readers needn't feel left out as the mechanics of the math is also included, but it's treated in a gentle way: each step of the problem (and it's solution) is described in a simplified (but certainly not dumbed down) manner and some simple exercises are included in several short appendices.
There are several places where the math is obviously too complex for the normal reader and Simon Singh is not afraid to confess to the same and then gloss over them completely. That may be a disappointment to some, but according to my thought process, it just prevents the book from becoming a textbook. The more curious reader can find more information about the same all over the world wide web.
The search for the answer to Fermat's riddle reads like a detective story and not a mathematical treatise and it includes a truly absorbing potted history of the development of math over the years and, from Pythagoras to Fermat to Gödel to Wiles, each part has a fascinating human side to it.
If you read any books from this list, for god’s sake, read this. YOU DON'T NEED TO KNOW ADVANCED MATH TO READ THIS!
Hall of Shame
#5 Pumpkin Heads(3/5)
Faith Erin Hicks is a wonderful artist. The art is stunning and the design marvelous. It's cute, really, really cute. Cute settings, cute characters, cute drawings, everything's cute. Unfortunately, Rainbow Rowell does zero justice to it.
Of everything, the ending disappointed me, because I really thought that we would have a story about a guy and girl that didn't end in romance. I mean they could have been friends, and I genuinely didn't get a sense of romantic attraction from either of them. I thought that the ending about Josiah going back to Deja was going to be about being with the people you know instead of the people you've fantasized. But that would be meaningful and memorable. But this is a YA book so no good can stay. So I think I was wrong to expect that. I should have seen this stupid ending coming, because most(almost all) YA is $@#%@*&.
#4 It Ends With Us(2.5/5)
Let me tell you my views regarding page turners, similar to this book, in one paragraph. Enjoyable books are one of three categories. There are some books which you buy on the airport, read them in the air and are moved for life. These books lie in our book-shelves, both physical and that of the mind. Below them are books which we deem as good and praiseworthy but we are not moved excessively by them.
And at the bottom of this hierarchy lies books like It Ends With Us. You will read them in the air and forget them as soon as you land. The book was entertaining, no doubt about that. But it was not good.
While I will not spoil the book for you, I’ll not recommend you to read it unless you are travelling and have a route of above 18 hours ahead of you.
#3 Hitler’s Secret[aka Hitler’s Angel](2/5)
"An incredible adventure and great page turner!" - Bear Grylls.
And I couldn’t agree. This book had the potential to top the list. To be the best fiction book of this year yet. It is an excellent war/spy adventure. It could almost be categorized as an "alternate reality" fiction book, because the whole reason for finding and removing a young girl from Germany is based on something that didn't actually happen, but it made for an excellent story. Very gripping from start to finish.
I have said it before and will say it again, THE MALE AND FEMALE LEAD DON’T NEED TO FALL IN LOVE.
But that is just a minor caveat, if I am liberal , just a personal pet peeve. But the real reason why this book is on the Hall of Shame list is its horrible, horrible ending.
I was invested in the characters. I loved Otto and Leni(the protagonists). I hated Hitler and his minions(obviously). I adored Angelika(the girl who was to be rescued). And was completely invested in the plot.
The last 20-30 pages ruined all of it. While I cannot reveal the content without spoiling the entire book, it’s bad. very very bad.
#2 Cartoon Guide to Statistics(2/5)
I didn’t expect that a Larry Gonick book will land in the Hall of Shame. But here we are. I didn’t understand the book on multiple readings. That’s all. It probably tells more about me than about the book. After all, Larry has given us multiple great books on STEM subjects. Like the book is bland and dry with almost no humor. The explanations are uninteresting and the examples confuse more than clarify.
Maybe I am wrong about this book, and this book rightfully deserves to be placed in the Hall of Fame, but I don’t wish to read it again at this moment. Maybe I’ll re-read it and my opinion of it will change but today is not the day.
#1 13 Storey Treehouse(2/5)
Yes, I know that the book was not meant for my demographic. But a cousin had it, I was bored at his house, so I read it.
This book has a lot of problems. It is a common pedological thing that books for kids should include some kind of learning angle. The lessons don't have to be life-shattering, but there should be something there. It can be about socializing or history, morality or science, but there should be something in the stories we give to our children that offer them tools with which to approach the world. This book is about two kid-authors who spend the entire book procrastinating and then (spoilers) at the last minute pull through and finish their project by WRITING ABOUT HOW THEY PROCRASTINATED. And then their books is published and everyone loves it. So I guess the moral of the story is "Hey Kids! You can not do the shit you're supposed to do and you'll still be fine!". Good lesson, Andy Griffiths, good lesson.
If I stop thinking from the pedological aspect, Then the book is lazy story telling. At the end of the book there are several pages that are just shrunken down images of previous pages because Andy and Terry are "writing the story" and that is the visual representation of them doing so. There is a page full of frames of a single dog saying "bark" over and over again. And there exist more than one such instance. While the comedic value is understandable, I still feel it was the authors trying to reach a page count.
If I stop thinking as an author, Then the book is just plain and boring. The cover and title of this book promise adventure, but the story disappoints. Two guys live in a really cool treehouse and have some really cool things, but after the "tour" in the first few pages, It is a book about two guys who are supposed to be writing a book, which ends up being the book we are now reading. A bit too meta for the audience, but not even in an interesting way. Predictable, simplistic, and read like a slacker's attempt at an essay for school that was put off until the last minute. Which is essentially what the authors/characters say it is, but they and their editors should know better than to actually publish something like this.
If I stop thinking from Pedological aspact, I stop thinking as an author and stop thinking as a reader; basically if I just stop thinking all together, then the book can be considered decent(not good, decent).
Books Read: 77
Pages Read: 20085
Longest Book: It(1168)
Shortest Book: The Gopi Diaries: Coming Home(91)
And that’s that.
Thanks for Reading,
Added 2 of these to my wishlist; THE GO-GIVER and FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM. Can't wait to check them out when I get to them. Thanks for the awesome reviews/recommendations!