Top Ten Tuesday: Required Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new Top Ten list and everyone is welcome to join. All you do is link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

This week’s topic: Top Ten Books Every Teen Should Read

Just a note – I know very few “fellow teens” who read the books that I do, so I am not sure if this list fits them. In the end, everyone just has to find their own favourite reads. This is the books I’d recommend to anyone who asks, mostly because I read them as a teenager or I wish I had, anyway!

10. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I was thirteen when I read this, and I didn’t like it. But many of my friends loved it back then, and say it’s “okay” now. It’s a book that everyone should read at least once, sure, but you’d better read it early if you want to enjoy it!

9. Malgudi Days by R. K. Narayan – I don’t read much Indian fiction, but this one I’d recommend in a heartbeat. It’s a collection of short stories in the fictional town of Malgudi in India. It’s a wonderful book! Anyone who grew up in India in the 90s has seen the television series based on this book, and reading the stories when you’re older makes you realize the depth behind the humour!

8. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – For the relatively older teens. It may not be the best book on the planet – trust me, I know – but I think everyone should read it at least once.

7. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – So. I didn’t like this book. I really didn’t, but I know tonnes of people who would and whom I’d recommend it to. I am not sorry that I read it, that’s for sure. According to my friend, it is a perfect read for an older-ish teenager and it probably is.

6. Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein – I still have one year to go before I am not a teenager anymore and I will have read this by the end of it. I’m sure of that. I am not going to mention the Harry Potter series here, because there is no need to wait till you’re a teen to read it!

5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I read Life of Pi in high school and it is still one of my favourite books! The excitement and adventure combined with a bit of serious talk about religion and stuff and lots of humour, makes it just right for teens.

4 & 3. Neil Gaiman & Stephen King – So, I am not naming a book because it can be any one, really. It is just ‘required’ that every teen read at least one Neil Gaiman and one Stephen King book before they turn twenty!

2. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones – Or Howl’s Moving Castle. Or any of her books, really. I wish I’d read them when I was thirteen and in high school and too obsessed with Harry Potter to read anything else!

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Not that this is a book for a specific age group, but I think it’ll be a good change for a thirteen year old who thinks it is finally time to stop reading murder mysteries and all that!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

(image courtesy: here)

On Writing by Stephen King is actually two books. The first is a vivid description of his childhood and what got him into writing: his autobiography of sorts. In the second part he tells us what, how and how much to write.

The title of the book might fool you into thinking this is “How To” book. It’s not. It’s a memoir. Even if it were, this book is the most refreshingly honest “How To” book I have ever read.

The first part of the novel is as entertaining as an autobiography can get. I don’t particularly like reading autobiographies. What King has written, is a series of anecdotes loosely stringed together. You know where he grew up, you know which schools he went to, you know he went through some pretty bad times(who doesn’t?); but you know all that through a bunch of hilarious exploits! I found the narration in the first part of the book rather spectacular!
In the next part of the book, King takes a broad approach to writing. He doesn’t give you a list of seven things you shouldn’t do – with no further explanation given. No. He writes about his experiences with writing. He talks about the process, not the results. He keeps the book very practical; he tells incidents that help you give that underlying advice to yourself, rather than a numbered list of things to do. Those never work, this will. He tells us how he wrote the book Carrie or The Stand. He writes with much ease about his shortcomings as well. King doesn’t just write about himself – he also tells us about other authors. There is no “sit in a quiet place” and “write five pages a day” here. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed.
I can list down the things he mentions. Writing paragraphs, giving descriptions, adverbs and the passive voice (which happen to be his pet peeves!!) But I think it’s best to read the entire book! I would recommend it to anyone who loves to read and write. It’s awesome!

Mini Review!

Books I wish I read when I was a kid. Yes. I read it right now. Call me crazy…!

When I was little, I read an awesome book at my aunt’s place. It was something about some bunnies…I can’t remember what. And it’s killing me. Ugh. Anyway, I also read Matilda back then. By Roald Dahl, of course! And I love it. Of course. I didn’t read any other books by Dahl though – a very stupid thing to do.

Anyway. I’ve always (firmly) believed that it’s never too late to read a children’s book! With me, it’s totally okay to read (and love) a children’s book – even when you’re nineteen, that is. So. I did! You know, like I read the likes of the Graveyard book by Neil Gaiman and found them nice. Now I finally read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

It was like being a kid again. I mean, it did seem silly reading the book now – but I can see how I would have totally loved it as a kid. Blame my house full of Enid Blyton books.

Just a quick summary: Five lucky kids win a day trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – the biggest and the best in the world! A day long tour with Mr. Wonka himself, and a lifetime’s supply of Wonka chocolates. Then things go very wrong, as they usually do. But everything turns out fine, as it usually does.

It is one of the funniest and most fascinatingly whimsical children’s books I have ever read! And the most delicious one too!! And you know, there is that whole dark side to it. I guess it’s more obvious in the movies.
The descriptions are magical and when the chocolate doesn’t seem delicious enough (which is never) there are absurd Oompa Loompa songs to crack you up!

Unless you’re ninety, in which case you might not like it just as much, read this book! Go, now!

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci

The Chrestomanci Chronicles is an awesome fantasy series by British writer Diana Wynne Jonnes. I started and finished with Volume I (first two novels) yesterday, and I’m reading Volume II right now! And you know a book has got to be awesome, when Neil Gaiman calls it “…always perfectly magical.”

If anything big happens in history, like a war or an earthquake; something that might have two or more possible outcomes, reality splits and two or more worlds are created! Presently, there are hundreds of such parallel worlds existing together. Volume I is set in a world pretty much like ours, except that magic is freely practised and it is a bit old fashioned. Chrestomanci is the title given to the nine lived magician/ enchanter who controls the magic of all the parallel/related worlds.

The first novel is called Charmed Life, and it is about two little siblings, Cat and Gwendolen and the time they spend at the Chrestomanci Castle. Gwendolen is a powerful but stubborn witch, whereas Cat seems to be just a normal boy, who has to suffer because of his sister’s ill-doings. Soon she runs to another world, and sends back her counterpart from that world as a replacement – leaving Cat to deal with her mess. While the story is pretty exciting, we get to know little about the Chrestomanci.

The next novel makes up for it. The Lives of Christopher Chant is about the little boy who is an enchanter, has nine lives, and can travel to the related worlds in his dreams. And he has no idea what a powerful magician he is! We see him get involved in a gang of wizards who smuggle rare magical materials from the other worlds, befriend a goddess, and eventually, study to grow up and become the next Chrestomanci (the same mysterious man we first see in the Charmed Life).

Reading this was almost like Harry Potter all over again. It is funny, the characters are fascinating, the plots are exciting and the imagery is just magical! The stories are full of twists and turns and surprises, and though the book seems a teenie bit childish at times, it is pretty fun! I’d recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat!!

Good Omens – Book Review

It is time for yet another book review! The book in question is Good Omens (The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch) by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

The world is going to end soon; next Saturday, to be precise, right after tea! Anathema Device is a witch. Newton Pulsifer is a witch hunter. They team up to stop the Apocalypse that the seventeenth century prophetess, Agnes Nutter has predicted in her Nice and Accurate Prophecies (where nice means precise). And they aren’t the only ones.

Crowley the demon and Aziraphale the angel, are representatives of Good and Evil stationed on the earth. As the End-of-Times is nearing, they seem to be in a bit of a mess. Not only have the managed to develop a liking for the earth, but they have also lost the one who is supposed to bring about the Armageddon – the Antichrist (who is an entirely different 11 year old boy from the one they thought was the actual son of Satan!)

While a whole lot of people, including the Four Horsemen (Bikers) of the Apocalypse are out to track the Antichrist, somewhere an 11 year old boy is naively using powers he doesn’t know he possesses to change the world according to his will.

Before you know it, you are transported into a zany, faced-paced, indescribably awesome world, full of characters so surreal; they might as well walk right out of the book. Who knew the Apocalypse would be so funny!

Aziraphale stared out at the rushing hedgerows.
“It all seems so peaceful,” he said. “How do you think it will happen?”
“Well, thermonuclear extinction has always been very popular. Although I must say the big boys are being quite polite to each other at the moment.” said Crowley.
“Asteroid strike?” said Aziraphale. “Quite the fashion these days, I understand. Strike into the Indian Ocean, great big cloud of dust and vapor, goodbye all higher life forms.”
“Wow,” said Crowley.
“Doesn’t bear thinking about it, does it,” said Aziraphale gloomily.
“All the higher life forms scythed away, just like that.”
“Nothing but dust and fundamentalists.”
“That was nasty.”
“Sorry. Couldn’t resist it.”

The book is ‘ineffable’. That’s what it is.

Books or movies?

What do you like better? I’ve always said that the movies that are based on books are either way worse than the books, or almost as good as. Never better; for the simple reason that, however extraordinary the direction or the acting or the camera angles (or whatever) might be, it’s still nothing without the story! And you have got the book to thank for that!! Here are two books that I loved the MOST, and the movies based on them were only a tad bit worse; probably only because I had already decided that the books were going to be better! Anyway:

1. Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King:
Andy Dufresne is wrongly accused of murder, and is sentenced to imprisonment at the Shawshank prison. There he meets the narrator, Red, an inmate who is known for smuggling contraband into the prison. Andy gets Red to deliver him a rock hammer and a large pin-up poster of Rita Hayworth. Then he goes on to do something that has never been done before: escape Shawshank!
This is a novella by Stephen King that was published in 1982 as a part of his collection called Different Seasons. If there’s any author who knows how to create wonderfully complex characters and build up their lives, it’s Stephen King. And this book is definitely King at his best. The 1994 movie Shawshank Redemption, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman received multiple award nominations including seven Academy Awards!

2. Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris:

Clarice Starling, an FBI trainee, is assigned to the case of a certain serial killer known to all as ‘Buffalo Bill’. She has to interview the infamous serial killer, Hannibal the Cannibal, as he is the only one who might be able to help them solve the case. Dr. Hannibal Lecter, once a brilliant psychiatrist, is now kept in a secluded chamber in high security in a mental institution. As the story unfolds, it is he who leads Clarice to the solution and helps her uncover the truth.
Silence of the Lambs is a book written by Thomas Harris, published in 1998 as a part of his Hannibal trilogy. This book has won the Bram Stoker Award for thriller fiction. The novel is one of the best in its genre. The 1991 movie based on the book, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins has won the five most prestigious Academy Awards.

Do make sure to read these books too, by the way, since I cannot imagine anyone who hasn’t seen the movies!

(This slightly uncalled-for post is my attempt at getting rid of a case of writer’s block that isn’t allowing me to write some things that I want to finish writing today! Hope it has worked!)

A long overdue book recommendation

It’s almost the end of the year, and I’m desperately looking forward to the next year! So I haven’t been doing much lately; other than waiting around for time to fly by, of course! And reading Discworld – every second that I am at home.

It’s a comic fantasy series by Terry Pratchett and I have been reading it for the past couple of months. There are 39 books in the series, 6 short stories and a couple of more books about the Discworld; so you really can’t blame me for taking a lot of time. Actually, I’m still in the teen-ages of the series!

It’s about a flat disc-shaped world, that rests on the heads of four huge elephants, that are standing on top of an enormous turtle named the Great A’Tuin, that is slowly swimming through space! Don’t imagine a “Horton Hears a Who” kind of world, it’s an enormous planet, the Disc! Possibly the Creator of the universe got bored with all the usual business of axial inclination and rotational velocities, and decided to have a bit of fun for once. It’s quite different from the worlds made by creators having less imagination and more mechanical aptitude!

The Discworld series is a mind blowing read for an fantasy fiction fan! It’s also one of the few books that can actually make you laugh out loud! I’m not writing a review of the books, because there are too many new ideas to understand and explain; and because I have read too little of the series as of now! But I want to recommend the books, to anyone looking for an interesting and fun read! So I decided, instead, to write(type) down one of my favourite introductory paragraphs from one of the books:

I would like it to be understood that this book is not wacky. Only dumb redheads in fifties’ sitcoms are wacky.
No, it’s not zany, either.
This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn’t pretend to answer all or any of these questions.

It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.
However, it’s primarily the story about a world. Here it comes now. Watch closely, the special effects are quite expensive…

I hope someone does take my advice and reads these books; because it will be only the best thing that’s ever happened to them! Also, I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year, in advance! I created my little blog in 2010 and honestly, I’m totally looking forward to having a “2011” section on it as well!

Nargles, Wrackspurts and Blibbering Humdingers.

When you think about your favourite novel, where do you really start? There are so many books that can be called memorable, that make you nostalgic of the time when you loved them. There are so many books that you’ll love even years later only because you loved them years ago. I remember when I was a kid and there was nothing more imaginative and creative than Enid Blyton’s stories. I also remember the countless Famous Fives and Five Find-Outers that I read. Back then, I couldn’t have imagined better books.

It’s hard to pick the most memorable book. Right from my childhood favourite, A Book of Brownies by Enid Blyton, to the books I read in my ‘I-Worship-Ayn-Rand’ phase, to the book I last read, Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter; it can be any of these! And it’s also hard to pick my oldest, most favourite book. But it’s only hard; not impossible.
Harry Potter. Yes, I am treating it like one whole book, one whole story. There’s nothing I have read, till date, that is more amazing, and more memorable than this book. It’s a classic, or it will be. If I think about it, some of my best memories are about this book or because of this book or even while reading this book.
I can think of a hundred reasons why I love this book, and they are all so obvious! It’s interesting, it’s fun, but more than anything – it’s different. Don’t tell me it’s not; don’t tell me it’s a copy of some book, don’t tell me Dumbledore’s exactly like Gandalf, only Gandalf’s better. That’s not why I call it different. No, I’ve read a lot of fantasy. But Harry Potter is realistic. It is believable. It’s an alternate world, yes, but it is not some outrageously different world. It’s actually pretty much like our own world, with magic in it. I think that makes it much, much better than most of the fantasy books I have read. There is an explanation for everything. It’s funny! Take mountaineering accidents, for example; who knew they were actually giants attacking people?! (Book 5 – Hagrid’s Tale). It makes you wonder if such things actually exist: not actually wonder, just consider the possibility. The feeling of “who knows?!”, that’s what I love the most about this book.
And there’s the way she writes, the quick wit, the stereotypical characters that you’ll find in every “Muggle” school as well (every class has a Hermione, a Luna, and an irritating pair of Lavender and Parvati), the adventure, the mystery, the way every piece fits – how all the books are interconnected, it seems as though she thought of all seven books together; it’s one whole story with seven books as seven chapters and Quidditch – who can think of anything more wonderful than Quidditch! Like I said, there are a hundred reasons.
So, when I say my favourite book is Harry Potter I think of reading the first book and falling hopelessly in love with it; endlessly talking about the books in school; the amazing Harry Potter quizzes and games and competitions; saying Lumos to put on lights(everyone does that!) or muttering Silencio when someone just won’t stop talking; waiting for the next book to release and dying to be the first one to read it so I could tell my friends the suspense; discussing what house we’d be in at Hogwarts; sitting in a boring Chemistry class wondering how helpful a Nosebleed Nougat would be right then; wishing I had Extendable Ears during vivas; forcing my father to read the book and seeing him get as hooked on it as me! I think many, many of the funnest moments in my life wouldn’t have happened if this book wasn’t there!
If you haven’t read/don’t like Harry Potter, I have to say, you are really missing out on a lot.

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