Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 19-02-2017)

It was only after finishing reading ‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Graham Greene that I decided to read everything he had written. I had already acquired a few titles by him, some that I picked up at Abids and other places without knowing how well he wrote. I had read about ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ somewhere a long time back but couldn’t find it anywhere. Last Sunday, however, at last I came across a decent enough copy of ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ that I snapped up the moment I laid my eyes on it. I got it for just twenty rupees.

On Saturdays Business Line comes out with its supplement ‘Blink’ that I had begun reading a couple of years back for its interesting mix of articles. It is not easy to find ‘Business Line’ with the usual vendors because it seems the paper gets sold out soon enough. Only a few vendors have enough issues that can be found at any time. I usually buy it at a vendor at Lakdikapul. Last suggested the vendor asked me if I wanted ‘Mint’ as well and offered it to me assuming I wouldn’t say no. So I took it and sometime after returning home from work I found the time to read it. Inside was a very interesting article titled ‘The Slow Rise’ by Neha Bhatt that was about artisanal and home-made breads. It was a wonderful piece about how some people were baking some interesting breads.
After reading the piece my mind immediately went back to a book that I had been seeing with a seller at Abids which was also something about home-made breads. It was a big tome with an attractive cover that tempted me a few time to buy it just for the heck of it but I did not succumb to that temptation. But the next day which happened to a Sunday, when I saw the book at Abids I picked it up to take a closer look. It was ‘Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads’ and was in a good condition. I hesitated wondering what I would do with that book because I had no intention to bake bread at home. But I bought the book just because the cover was very attractive and the fact that it might come in handy in case I suddenly decided to chuck my job and open a bakery.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Birthday Haul

On the sixth of this month I turned fifty four. I am yet to believe that I have actually crossed fifty years. As the age increases the gifts seemed to be coming down. However, there are two friends who never fail to give me a present on my birthday. This year too they offered to present whichever title I wanted since they knew I loved to get books as gifts. So I chose two books. I told M to send me ‘Ghachar Ghochar’ by Vivek Shanbhag and when I went with Hari to Landmark I picked up ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi.
I had actually picked up ‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh but when I saw ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ I picked it up instead. It isn’t a book to be read by those in their fifties especially around their birthdays. It is a crushingly sad account of a young neurosurgeon’s account of his struggle with lung cancer that ultimately defeats him. I felt terrible after reading the book and for a couple of days I found it difficult to shake away thoughts of death that were in mind all the time.
On Sunday I had been to Abids but I hadn’t found anything worth buying there. So I returned empty handed which felt good for a change. I hope next Sunday I will find something good.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 5-2-17)

Since the beginning of this year I’ve brought home an average of four books from Abids every Sunday. Last month I hauled in a total of twenty odd books and last Sunday I picked up four more books. If this trend goes on I guess there would be a small mountain of books at home. Every Sunday before starting for Abids I make a resolve to pick up just one book if I cannot help it but end up buying more than one title. So last Sunday when I saw four good titles I was unable to resist not buying them.
My first two finds last Sunday was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally. The seller had some fresh stock and the books appeared all new. I found a wonderful copy of ‘In the Heart of the Country’ by J.M. Coetzee that I snapped up as it was almost brand new. The next find was ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’ by Rahul Pandita. This was another brand new book. There were more than a dozen new titles in the stock with the seller at Chikkadpally including Mihir Sharma’s ‘Restart’ that I somehow did not buy. I got these two titles at thirty rupees each.
I thought of returning home with these two books but my Sunday is never complete without a visit to Abids so I went on. I hadn’t met my friends since a couple of weeks so I thought they’d be disappointed if I do not turn up. However I was a bit disappointed that none of my usual Abids friends turned up. Alone I went around and chanced upon two wonderful titles- one about writing and the other about reading- two things I love to do.
Apart from books that I have loved reading I also buy multiple copies of books on reading and writing because someone or the other is always asking me for books on writing. So last Sunday when I spotted yet another copy of ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott I picked it up. It was in good condition and I was getting it quite cheap. I had found my first copy of this title a long time but after a long search. ‘Bird by Bird’ is a recommended read for anyone who plans to begin writing and, as I have found, it is quite an useful book for writers taking their first steps.
The second find was about reading. It was a nice copy of ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren. The previous owner of this book seemed to have read this book thoroughly because it is underlined, passages highlighted, and remarks written in the pages of this copy. I think I had read about this book a long time back and had also made a note of the title in one of my notebooks. I am glad I found this wonderful book about reading a book, and naturally, I am eager to read this book right away.

Friday, February 03, 2017

A Double Haul

A Weighty Haul
The New Year began with a wee bit of luck in store for me. Eight months after the posting in a district I was shifted to Hyderabad. I will post about this stroke of luck and my new place of posting sometime later. More than anything one reason why I wanted to be in Hyderabad was to be able to drop in at the second hand bookstores and also to be able to attend literary events such as book launches and readings whenever I wanted. Within a fortnight of being transferred I got the opportunity to drop in at a second hand bookstore and haul in a tidy collection of books. I also got to attend the Hyderabad Literary Festival where again I found two more titles in book stalls there.

On the Republic Day (26th Jan) after attending the flag hoisting event at my new workplace in the morning I stopped at a second hand bookstore on the way back home. Nowadays second hand bookstores in Hyderabad have started selling books by weight. I wanted to check out if I could find something of worth in the MR Bookstore in Begumpet so I landed there early in the afternoon on Republic Day. I had the whole day before me so I decided to spend at least a couple of hours in the store looking at each and every title to see if I’d be able to find something good.
Only the week before I had finished reading ‘CAL’ by Bernard MacLaverty that I had found some time back at Abids. It turned out to be extremely good and enjoyed reading the interesting love story of Cal, the protagonist. After finishing reading it I gave it to Hari to read. At the MR store I found another Bernard MacLaverty title- ‘Grace Notes’ that I got for fifty rupees. I was thrilled to find it and afterwards I went into the section where the books were to be sold by weight. It was downstairs where there seemed to be thousands of titles on the shelves. I got down to looking at the titles hoping to find enough books to make up a kilo which was the minimum one had to buy. The books were priced at Rs 120 per kilo. I got lucky and found four good titles.
The first title was another Bernard MacLaverty title- ‘Lamb’- that was also made into a movie like the other title I had read-CAL. So I was mighty thrilled and breathless I searched carefully. I found a hardcover copy of ‘The Man Within My Head’ by Pico Iyer. The jacket had a piece missing on the front but otherwise it was in good condition so I picked it up though I already have another copy of this same title. The next find was ‘Bomber’s Law’ by George V.Higgins, a writer whose books I don’t want to miss reading. I had been hunting for ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ but haven’t found it so far but any book by George V. Higgins is worth picking up. Only recently I had found his ‘Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years’ at Abids last December. The last find was ‘A Home in the Sky’ by Vaasanthi.
These four titles added up to a little more than a kilo that cost me just a hundred and thirty rupees. It means I got these books for a little over thirty rupees each. It surely is a ‘heavy haul.’

The HLF Haul
A day after I bought the books by weight at MR Bookstore the Hyderabad Literary Festival began. However I wasn’t able to attend on the first day but I took a day off on Saturday and landed at the Hyderabad Public School. As usual, there was the stall by Oxford Publishers and one stall by Best Books.
At the Oxford stall I picked up ‘Roots’ by Malayatoor Ramakrishnan for seventy rupees. At the Best Books stall I picked up a title I had missed buying at the Annual Hyderabad Book Fair last month. It was ‘People of the City’ by Cyprian Ekwensi. I got this book too for seventy five rupees. I had read somewhere that this book was published much before Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’ With these two books the number of books I had bought in the first month of the New Year stands at twenty already.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Sunday Haul

At Abids last Sunday it felt like a mid-summer morning because it was unbearably hot even though it wasn’t yet noon. It felt like summer was already upon us and I have a feeling that this summer it is going to be very hot, hotter than what it was last summer. Last Sunday’s visit to Abids resulted in only one book in the haul. I found a book by someone who had left the IAS and written a book titled ‘Why I am Not a Civil Servant.’ It was by Ajay Singh Yadav who, I read in the book, had launched a political party and also contested the general elections. It sounded interesting because I have heard of other people who left the IAS and either joined politics (Jaya Prakash Narayan of Lok Satta) or joined the private sector.
On Monday, I dropped in at the Akshara bookstore in Jubilee Hills. It happens to be quite near to the place where I am working now in a different posting about which I plan to write in another post. The first thing that struck me as soon as I entered the store was the smell of books that I could never find in other stores. It made me feel at home and I spent about an hour checking out the stock in another room at the back where I had found some interesting titles on an earlier visit sometime last year. This time too there were a lot of books I wanted to buy but I ended up buying just one. I picked up a story collection titled ‘The Last Exit’ by Nirmal Verma, the acclaimed Hindi writer, for just fifty rupees.
A long time back I had watched an interview with Nirmal Verma on DD but unfortunately I had not paid much attention to what he said because at that time I was not as interested in knowing about writers as I am now. I only remember that he discussed about his stay in Czechoslovakia and the Sahitya Akademi award that he got for his book. The book I picked up ‘The Last Exit’ is an English translation of the same collection of stories in Hindi- Kavve aur Kaala Paani- that got it the Sahitya Akademi award. It has seven stories including ‘Crows of Deliverance’ that I remember seeing somewhere. But I am glad I found this book that I plan to begin reading right away.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 15-01-2017)

My luck with books seems to be holding on well into the New Year also. In the first two Sundays of this month I found some pretty good titles on the pavements of Abids. I had found titles by Julian Symons(Critical Observations) Frank Harris, and also Jean Genet (Querelle at Brest). Last Sunday again I foudn five good titles which take the tally of books I have bought this month alone to twelve. If I keep buying books at this rate I think I will end up with aother haul of nearly two hundred books by the end of this year also. I cannot help picking up the titles I see because I find them too good to leave behnd like the two Dashiel Hammets I came across last Sunday.
It may sound odd but I love to read film related books though I myself do not watch movies as often as I wish, I watch about two or three moveies in a year which is less than the number of film related books I buy every year. My first find last Sunday at Abids was such a film related book. I found a nice copy of 'Our Films Their Films' by Satyajit Ray. I snapped it up the instant I spotted it. It was a good copy and the seller asked for just thirty rupees for it.
The second find was a book by an author I thought I was familiar with. I saw a copy of 'A Loss of Heart' by Robert McCrum but I wondered if it was the same Robert McCrum who wrote 'My Year Off' and also a book on PG Wodehouse. When I checked the inside pages of ' A Loss of Heart' for list of other titles by the author I did not find 'My Year Off' in it. Later I found online that it was the same author. Since the book was a thriller and the blurbs at the back were impressive I went by my gut instinct and picked it up. I got it for only twenty rupees.
The next find was a title I had sen the Sunday before. I had seen 'Johnny Got His Gun' by Dalton Trumbo but hadn't bought it though the blurb at the back said this: It was a Vietnam war novel and I have read enough titles like it to know how hardhitting and gut churning they are. After some hesitation wondering if I'd be able to take all that I finally bought it thinking I'd be a fool not to read a book that 'Washington Post' says is 'A terrifying book, of extraordinary emotional intensity.'
The next finds were the two Dashiell Hammett titles that I found one after the other. I first saw 'The Maltese Falcon' in a heap selling for only twenty rupees with a seller who did not seem to know its value. I grabbed right away though I have a copy at home. Even before the excitement of finding one of the greatest classics of crime fiction died away I stumbled upon a nice copy of 'The Continental Op' with another seller a few feet away. I was surprised at the coincidence of finding two Dashiell Hammett titles within minutes. I have a copy of 'The Continental Op' too at home but I bought it because I couldn't bear not buying it, and also because I was getting it for just thirty rupees.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 8-1-2017)

Abids in Hyderabad is the only place I know where one can buy a book (a second hand one) for as little as ten rupees only. A couple of years back one could get them for five rupees only but now it is ten rupees. For a long time I hadn't seen the ten rupee heaps at Abids but last Sunday I saw one such heap. In it I found a gem. I found 'Querelle of Brest' by Jean Genet. Though I haven't read the other Jean Genet title (The Thief's Journal) that I had found at Abids sometime back I picked up 'Qurelle of Brest' not for the price that I was getting it for but I had a feeling that it would be a good book.
The copy of 'Querelle of Brest' that I found was in good condition and I was glad at having spotted it. From the looks of it and the blurbs on the back by Edmund White and Cyril Connolly 'Querelle' promises to be an interesting read. I saw another title that I felt I should have picked up but for some reason I didn't. It was 'Johnny Got His Gun' by Dalton Trumbo. After I got home I checked out this title online and realized I was dumb not to have bought it. I hope to buy it next Sunday if no one has bought it by then.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 1-1-2017)

It is quite difficult for me to put into words why I feel like buying books all the time. Not more than a week has passed since the eleven day Hyderabad Book Fair ended just a day after Christmas and where I had bought thirteen books in the four or five visits I made to it. By the time I was done I had bought a total of 157 books in all during the year.

Last Sunday, incidentally, the first day of the New Year I was at Abids as usual. In the year gone by I had picked up more than a hundred and thirty or so books at Abids on Sundays. After buying thirteen books at the Book Fair only a week earlier I thought it wouldn't be a bright idea to take home more books. So last Sunday I started for Abids with the intention of returning home empty handed. However, once at Abids, the sight of all those books tempts me a lot and I ended up buying five books.
The first book I saw had the picture of George Clooney on the cover. It was a title that seemed to have been made into a movie. The copy of 'The American' by Martin Booth that I found was in a good condition and came for fifty rupees. With the same seller I found another interesting title- The Ayurvedic Cookbook- that I bought. It was a hardcover title but I got it for just fifty rupees.
After the usual chai and half hour of talk with friends in the Irani hotel at Abids I set out again. Sometime during the eleven day book fair I had overheard a young woman asking a bookseller if he had any books about Indian birds. She was disappointed when the seller said no. I felt sorry for her since she seemed very keen. Many years ago I had seen a copy of Salim Ali's books on the birds of India. But it had been in a very bad condition with a torn cover and missing pages and I did not buy it. Last Sunday I came across a hardcover copy of 'Pictorial Guide to the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent.' It had plenty of illustrations and pictures of several birds inside. Except for a bit of the cover missing the book was in a good condition and cost me only a hundred and fifty rupees.
In a heap of books selling for thirty rupees only I found a book with an interesting cover that suggested it would be an old and interesting title. It was 'My Life and Adventures' by Frank Harris. I usually buy memoirs and autobiographies by any literary personality so when I read inside that Frank Harris had been an editor of 'Saturday Review' I bought it.
A little further down the road I saw another old book with the author's photograph on the cover that had something all over it that made me pick it up for a closer look.The name of the author- Julian Symons also rung a bell somewhere inside my head and made me buy it. Inside I saw that Julian Symons had written on Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and also had articles on a literary magazine and others that I bought it without a second thought. I had a pleasant surprise when the seller asked for just thirty rupees for this hardcover gem.
After finding the above five books that were weighing me down I thought I wouldn't come across any more good title worth buying when I saw another title which was a memoir. I found 'The Spiral Staircase' by Karen Armstrong that I got for fifty rupees only. So I began the new year with a haul of five books and it looks like I am going to end this year too with another haul of nearly two hundred books.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 25-12-2016)

Though the Hyderabad Book Fair was on I decided to go to Abids on Sunday morning since it has become a habit I cannot avoid. None of my friends had come so I was pretty much alone browsing the books spread out on the pavements. Some of the sellers who had set up stalls at the Book Fair were not to be seen. Though I did not find anything at Abids I found one title at Chikkadpally on my way home. I found a crime fiction title that turned to have been made into a movie that was more successful than the novel. I found ‘Bullitt’ by Robert L Pike that was wrapped in plastic. The cover was half torn but I bought it since the price was only twenty rupees.

I hope I'll get to see the movie someday. Another movie of a novel I like very much is 'Get Carter' and this is a movie I also hope to watch soon if I am lucky enough to find either a DVD or something like that somewhere.

The Book Fair Haul-II

After my first visit to the 30th Hyderabad National Book Fair that I made on the second day of the fair I made a couple more visits, on holidays usually because I am working someplace out of Hyderabad. On my second visit to the HNBF I found the English translation of Dharamvir Bharti’s ‘ Sooraj ka Saatva Ghoda’ in the National Book Trust stall. It was titled ‘ The Sun’s Seventh Horse’ and was priced at just twenty five rupees. I picked this title right away. However I had meant to buy another title that I had been looking for- Vinod Kumar Shukla’s ‘Naukar ka Kameez’ the English translation of which was also there in the NBT stall but for some reason I did not find it. I had seen another English translation of the same title but published by Penguin in the book fair but the stall owner where I saw it couldn’t trace it. Since I found that NBT has a stall in OU I decided to by Shukla’s book some other time.
On my third visit I picked up another title I had been looking for a good copy of. It was Anuradha Roy’s ‘An Atlas of Impossible Longing’ that I had seen earlier but did not buy because the price was too high. I saw this copy with a Hyderabadi second hand book seller who had his stall at the fair and for some reason he came down on the price and gave it to me for just a hundred rupees. It was a beautiful copy and I am looking forward to read this much praised book sometime in the first few weeks of January.
On my next visit to the book fair on Christmas day I found that the crowd was a much larger one than what I had seen on my earlier visits. It was the penultimate day of the book fair and also a holiday hence the large crowds. It was a sight to watch all the stalls packed with people looking at books and buying them by the dozen. But I bought just one book again. Somehow I kept putting off buying some titles that I had seen and that I thought nobody would buy. That way I missed buying a good copy of Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ and also a beautiful copy of ‘The Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen that I saw in a stall that was selling all books for just thirty rupees. They were gone when I went looking for them.
I saw another copy of ‘The Rings of Saturn’ by WG Sebald at one of the second hand book stalls. I had found the same title a couple of years back but the copy I bought had the first two pages missing. However the copy I found at the book fair on Christmas had the first two pages intact so I bought it. Even otherwise I would have bought it because it is a title that is difficult to find though I feel that not many people know about WG Sebald. I thought I was lucky to find this title that I got for just a hundred rupees.
I made another visit on the last day of the fair hoping to find some of the titles I missed buying. Though I did not find them I found another good book. The only book I bought on the last day was by an author I had read about only recently this year. I think it was in one of the issues of some newspaper where some authors listed out the titles by writers who are either underrated or are not so well known. In that article I read someone list out Naiyer Masud as one such writer. I found a collection of stories by Naiyer Masud titled ‘Snake Catcher’ which had the following eleven stories: Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire; The Woman in Black; Snake Catcher; Resting Place; Ganjefa; Weather Vane; Custody; Epistle; Lamentation; Allam and Son and; The Big Garbage Dump.

It was a brand new copy but I got it for only hundred rupees. This is another welcome addition to the growing list of short story collections I had picked up this year. I think 2016 stands out for the most number of short story titles that I have managed to find during the year.