Monday, March 14, 2005

Books of the Month: March 2005

In a email exchange yesterday, I wrote "I grew up in a small town in India where it was often very difficult to find books. It sometimes took years for me to get my hands on books I wanted, and I hated the waiting." One of my favourite things about America is that every book I really want is available from one of:
a) the Urbana Free Library
b) Campus Libraries (UIUC apparently has the third-largest academic library system in North America, after Harvard and Yale.)
c) the Illini Union Bookstore
d) Amazon or eBay.

In the last six months, I've read books ranging from Clausewitz' On War to E. B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan, books by Mark Twain and Stephen Donaldson, books of science fiction and on the science of Economics. I've found so many treasures that I've decided to pick (at least) two of my favourites every month and describe them here.

March's books are Manalive (Warning: The Amazon review contains spoilers!) by G. K. Chesterton and The Good Companions, by J. B. Priestley. They're both superb, absolutely; the only other thing I'll say about them is that you should get your hands on them at once, at once. If that last sentence seems awkward, you really need to read The Good Companions at once :-)

I discovered the books only because they were highly recommended by Deepak and Lakshmi, respectively. Readers are invited to list in the comments any outstanding books they've read in the recent past; I (and possibly some of the other commenters) would love to try them.


Sridhar said...

Try "Picture This: A Novel" by Joseph Heller. Read it a while back and liked it. I have to warn you though, I'm going through a "I will read only pulp" phase...... and my taste in books has become a little weird.....


Anonymous said...

if you like swapping books, check out

Nitish said...

I'm actually a member of, though I don't give away as many books as I should. There are at least a couple of active BookCrossers in Champaign-Urbana, one of whom frequently leaves books in the atrium of DCL, where I teach. :-)

Anonymous said...

There's an exceptional book that comes to mind, though it's been a few years since I read it. 'The Seven Percent Solution', a book my Nicholas Meyer, is an extrapolation of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and came out in the 'seventies.
When Holmes makes his comeback after the Reichenbach falls story, we are told that in the interim, he wandered in Tibet. 'The Seven Percent Solution' though, says that he did no such thing. On the contrary, it describes how Holmes becomes a slave to cocaine, and how Watson then lures him to go meet Sigmund Freud, who then psychoanalyses him.
It's a wonderful book simply because the research and cross-referencing is so immaculate that every event fits in when seen against the backdrop of the original Holmes stories. And it has some great surprises, one of them being: Who is Moriarty, really?
I am not sure how famous the book became in its time, but I certainly haven't heard of it very often.


Nitish said...

Thanks, Aparajith. I'll have to check it out. I'll see if I can get it, and "Picture This: A Novel" at the library.