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Krishna Sundarram

Books I read in 2013

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I got into reading when I was around 5 or 6, making a spectacular debut with a book starring Noddy by Enid Blyton. I’ve come a long way since then, reading more than a few books across a variety of genres. (Here’s a list of my favourites in case you’re interested.) I used to read physical books almost exclusively because I reading PDFs on laptops was simply too painful to be worthwhile.

That is, until I got a Nexus 7 tablet earlier this year. Suddenly, reading eBooks wasn’t something that I had to put up with to enjoy a good book, it became as enjoyable as reading a physical copy, but it a different way. It’s much easier to acquire eBooks - I would hear of a book and begin reading it a few minutes later; very convenient too - I could carry my book around the whole day and read whenever I got a few minutes of free time. There were a few small benefits that I appreciated too - all books now had the same font and font size, and I could track my reading sessions thanks to detailed statistics.

Thanks to my Nexus and the Moon+ Reader app (can’t recommend it enough) I’ve read over 40 books and counting this year. I’ve been meaning to do proper reviews of each of the books that I’ve read, but somehow I seem to get distracted by other books. I thought I’d do a quick review of all the books I’ve read so far.

  • The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (Fantasy) - About a guy who learns to be an arcanist. Its narrated by the main character himself, years after he gained and lost immense power and fame. It has a very detailed and well explained magic system that stays logical. The pace of the book is snappy, thanks to the antics of the hero and the interesting side characters. Rothfuss does a good job of holding your attention and occasionally impressing the hell out of you. Looking back, however, very little of the tale of the Legendary Kvothe the Bloodless was told in the first two books, though they’re huge tomes. The author has set himself up to tell an epic and truly massive tale in the final part of the trology (out next year, reportedly) and might consider extending the series. I highly recommend to any fan of fantasy.

  • Mort by Terry Pratchett (Fantasy) - Its not easy being Death. Since people are always dying somewhere or the other, you can’t really afford to take a break. That is, unless you have an apprentice who could do your job for you. Enter Mort, a thoroughly average young Joe who has some big black boots to fill. To readers unfamiliar with Terry Pratchett, he writes fantasy books set in an imaginary world called Discworld. They’re all incredibly funny, light-hearted and short (around 3-5 hours, making them the ideal way to spend an otherwise uneventful evening. Mort isn’t one of his best, but its pretty good nevertheless.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (Historical Fiction) - Most of us are familiar with the story of Edmond Dantes, a man who is immprisoned wrongfully, stages a daring and desperate escape attempt and gets revenge on those who put him in prison in the first place. However, few have had the opportunity to read the full, unabridged, uncensored version and trust me when I say, it is well worth reading. The full text has many minor plotlines that are missing from the abridged ones, and it is in these plotlines that allows other characters’ depth to be shown to readers, and for the stage to be set for the Count. Never have I read of revenge executed so patiently, ruthlessly and completely. Download Here

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy) - Its hard to summarize 14 books (containing roughly 4 million words) in a paragraph, but I’ll try. I spent around 200 hours over 2 months reading these books, enjoying every minute of it. Most series have a cast of 4-10 characters around whom the series revolves, but this one has at least 30 fully fleshed out characters, all of whom have profound impact on the main storyline. Robert Jordan wrote the first 11 books over 2 decades and it was finished after his death by Brandon Sanderson. I personally, found the first and last books to be the best ones and for this reason, I’d recommend the first book to any fan of fantasy.

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Historical Fiction) - This story is narrated by Death during a busy time in his life(?) - World War II. He tells the tale of a girl living in Germany during this time, and how she goes from being illiterate at first to being an avid reader and prolific writer. Along the way, we gain a fine insight into what the lives of ordinary Germans were like during this difficult period in their history. I wrote a longer (and spoiler-free) review of this book here.

  • Darth Bane Trilogy by Drew Karypshyn (Science Fiction) - This trilogy is a part of the Star Wars expanded universe, happening a thousand years before the first movie. Darth Bane is a Sith Lord (aka bad guy) who decides that for the Sith to rule the Galaxy, they need a radical new approach. He founds a new Sith order based on the Rule - “Always two there shall be - one master, and one apprentice”. When the apprentice is ready, he will kill the master and find a new apprentice. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll love the story - for Bane’s successors would one day be Darth Sidious and Darth Vader from the movies. If you aren’t a fan, stay clear of them - for the plot is a little worn, and the characters, with the exception of Bane are somewhat one-dimensional.

  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré (Spy Fiction) - We’ve all seen and enjoyed the James Bond films with their fast cars, beautiful women and flamboyant action sequences. Real spy work of course, features none of these things and real spies are a “a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors…pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives”. At least, that’s how its described by the main character, Alec Leamas, himself a heavy drinker. He suffers a big set back in the beginning when his entire spy network in Germany is destroyed by the East Germans. Incensed, he vows revenge against the East German spy chief and thus begins an elaborate scheme for revenge than unfolds slowly but with purpose. The author is a former intelligence officer posted in Bonn, so this story has an atmosphere of credibility that keeps you hooked.

  • The Tales of Dunk and Egg by George R. R. Martin (Fantasy) - Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of Game of Thrones. The hit TV show is based on a series of novels by this author that count amongst my all time favourites. The reason I liked them so much is George Martin’s trademark method of switching each chapter to different character’s point of view. It helped us build a special bond with (almost) all of them, and this made it hurt that much more when he uses his other trademark - ruthlessly killing off main characters. The series’ resulting lack of predictability is arguably its biggest draw. These novellas are approximately a tenth of the size of the main books and have a very small cast of characters. They’re set a 100 years before A Game of Thrones, and follow the adventures of a knight called Duncan and his squire Egg. If you’re looking for something to slake your thirst till the 6th book is released, this trilogy is ideal. If this paragraph made no sense to you, stay away.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (Magic Realism) - This is the second novel by Márquez that I’ve read, the other being Love in the Time of Cholera. In both, his skill as a story teller is on display. He has a gift of describing people, places and events completely and succinctly that few others authors (that I’ve read) possess. In Cholera, he focuses on the lives of 2 people over 50 years and how each of them navigate the web of life and manage to find love in their own ways. On the other hand, Solitude feels more like the story of the town of Macondo told through the eyes of several generations of Buendías. Both are excellent books, though I personally liked Cholera a lot more.

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon (Mystery) - The title quotes Sherlock Holmes from the short story Silver Blaze, and if you’re forced to compare the two you’d find that there’s a lot less mystery in this. But I feel this story is less about mystery and more about perspective, I’d say. The life of a child who is born different is a difficult one, for both the child and its parents and without experiencing it first hand, its hard to fathom how difficult. This book comes close though, written like a journal of a teenager who can’t empathise with others, or read their faces or put himself in their shoes. At the end however, I felt myself empathise with him.

  • Galactic Empire Series by Isaac Asimov (Science Fiction) - TODO

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Epistolary Novel) - TODO

  • The Interpreter of Maladies - TODO

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