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Trailer: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The trailer for the American version The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is finally out. It looks really, really good:

Wired has more details on the movie here. It’s good to note that it is being directed by David Fincher, so it will be dark and twisted– and very good! The movie won’t be released until December 2011. This leaves me plenty of time to read all three of the novels and watch the Swedish versions of the films.

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Written by niraj

June 4th, 2011 at 12:47 am

You Should Be Reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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If you are looking for something enjoyable to read during lazy summer days, you should  read Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s brilliant novels. They are that good. Both his novels, The Shadow in the Wind and The Angel’s Tale, are what I like to call children stories for adults. They are books infused with mystery, adventure, magic, mysticism, faith, romance. Like classic 19th-century novels but written for the modern age.

What makes these novels  interesting is that they revolve around literature: the protagonists in the novels is either a bookseller or writer, and the core of their conflict is a single book. It is this one book that they and the reader chases to the end, leading to god knows where. You’ll have to read the novels yourself to find out what happenes. But I must tell you thing, it’s one hell of a ride!

Like all good stories, Zafon’s novels are vivid in their detail as in the intricacy of the plot. Zafon paints Barcelona, which he is both a native of and is the setting for his novels, with such detail it can be used as a travel guide. Both novels take place during the middle of the 20th century, a turbulent time for Spain, on the cusp of revolution, and the world at large. And the characters are rich as the city they reside in. Even the villains come off as sympathetic souls than the monster they are meant to be, which, of course, doesn’t make them any less evil but definitely more human.

Zafon novels also provide an intellectual bromide for the countless brainless thrillers that pass novels (you know who you are!). One thing about Zafon’s  novels are various philosophical dialogues that I found to be entertaining without being pedantic.  One of the key reasons is that Zafon’s prose flows smoothly from one sentence to the next, without getting bogged down.

These are novels of complexity, but not difficulty. Like I mentioned before it is one part mystery, adventure, ghost and romance. Don’t expect a conventional ending, it is not a police procedural where the criminal is finally caught; or a happy one. But it has a human ending.

I highly recommend these two novels, you will not be disappointed.

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Written by niraj

April 29th, 2011 at 8:17 pm

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Reading Update: Vol. 1

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My last reading update was July 16, 2010. I believe it’s time for another.

Since my last update I have returned to work, which has seriously cut into my reading time, detrimentally so. In fact, three or four books listed in my last update are still lingering around, even with my best efforts to finish them off (fortunately, they are mostly anthologies of magazine essays). These will be listed below as well. In addition, I acquired a Kindle. An amazing device. In fact, two of the books in this update will be Kindle books.

The list:

  • The Best American Crime Writing: 2004 Edition
  • The Best American Science Writing 2009
  • The Best American Crime Reporting: 2010 Edition
  • The Accidental Billionaires
  • The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature
  • The Serialist: A Novel
  • The Angel’s Game: A Novel
  • Things Fall Apart: A Novel
  • The Schirmer Inheritance: A Novel
  • Molotov’s Magic Lantern: Travels in Russian History [Kindle Edition]
  • Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia [Kindle Edition]

That’s a good list to work on for the first quarter of 2011. I will add more as necessary. I have no set goal in mind for this year, but I plan to read more novels, especially classic noir.

I would also like to list two books I’ve read in the interim of the two updates. They are:

  • The Archivist’s Story: A Novel
  • The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books That Shaped the Cold War
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Written by niraj

January 31st, 2011 at 2:26 pm

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Planning My Ideal Library

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I have a good size library at my parent’s house, but it’s far from my ideal of what a library should be: a comfortable chair or sofa is a must.  Silence absolute: it must be like a monastery, whose inhabitants take a vow of silence.  Unfortunately, my library also doubles as a noisy home office, which is a distraction, as well as a home for a small television that is constantly on.  My ideal library would kind of look like this:

This library belongs to rock star Rod Stewart.  I didn’t know he was such a reader!  Except for being overrun with tacky knick-knacks, it looks like a good starting point.  I found this picture here, where you can see pictures of other celebrity libraries.

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Written by niraj

January 12th, 2011 at 1:29 am

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The Art Of Reading: Take It Slow

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A very interesting article in the Guardian about the benefits of “slow reading”:

So are we getting stupider? Is that what this is about? Sort of. According to The Shallows, a new book by technology sage Nicholas Carr, our hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information. Round-the-clock news feeds leave us hyperlinking from one article to the next – without necessarily engaging fully with any of the content; our reading is frequently interrupted by the ping of the latest email; and we are now absorbing short bursts of words on Twitter and Facebook more regularly than longer texts.

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, “we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion”.

People were reading less even before the boon (or curse) of the internet. All the internet has accomplished is to accelerate the process, turning most of us into a gaggle of professional skimmers. Defenders claim more can be read in the same amount of time. In essence, volume is king. Time, valuable as it is, is to be commoditized, its benefits maximized.

I’ve suffered from this malady for a long time. I use to believe that I needed to cram my head with all the knowledge that I could get my hands on in the shortest possible time. I realize now how much time I wasted with such nonsensical thinking. I learned that acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge is pointless.

Knowledge needs purpose. What that purpose is depends on the individual: it could be internal, external, or both. For me it is a bit of both: internally, for self-improvement; and externally, so I can better understand the world. And the only way to do that is to process the knowledge. And this takes time. Skimming bypasses this process all together.

We need people to think, not just consume.

[via arts & letters daily]

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Written by niraj

July 20th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Reading Update Cuz I Have Nothing Else

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I haven’t written anything in awhile so I thought I post a reading update. As is my habit, I’m reading several books at once. This time, however, the volume is much higher and the selection a bit more eclectic:

  • The Best American Crime Writing: 2004 Edition
  • The Best Technology Writing 2009
  • The Death of Achilles
  • The Secret World of American Communism
  • The Red Flag: A History of Communism
  • Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman
  • The Best American Science Writing 2009
  • e Squared: A Novel
  • The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded
  • The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World
  • Spies of the Balkans
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook

This should cover me till the end of August; but at the clip I’m currently reading, I might finish much earlier than expected.

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Written by niraj

July 16th, 2010 at 9:22 pm

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Reading Update

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This is only my second reading update for the year. Back in the day, I use to write this feature monthly, now it is more intermittent. For some reason or another, I’m reading less than I use to, which is kind of strange given the fact that I’m currently unemployed and have more free time then I know what to do with. Perhaps I’m becoming senile with age, or getting more distracted. I don’t know. Nevertheless, the following books I have started and plan to complete by the end of the year:

  • House of Cards by William D. Cohan
  • The Great Gamble by Gregory Feifer
  • The Seekers by Daniel J. Boorstin
  • Every Man a Speculator by Steve Fraser
  • The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  • Magical Chorus by Solomon Volkov

That’s a lot on my plate, and only two months to finish it all. Wish me luck.

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Written by niraj

October 23rd, 2009 at 12:23 pm

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Review: Marx for Beginners

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Rius. Marx for Beginners. New York: Pantheon, 2003. 160pp.

Many people know about Karl Marx and what he stood for, but how many people, including his many admirers and critics, actually understood the man and his revolutionary ideas? In my opinion, not many, including those who unabashedly call themselves “Marxists.’ Not surprisingly, Marx’s ideas are impenetrable by even the most intelligent of people. Very few understand Marx, and even fewer who successfully translated his thinking to the general public: reading and comprehending Marx is simply beyond the ability of mere mortals. Marx’s ideas are a knotty mess of philosophy and economics, written in the turgid, confusing prose that is the hallmark of many intellectuals. So a book like Marx for Beginners is a welcome antidote, as it explains Marx in the simplest way possible—through cartoons.

The book is illustrated and written by Rius, a pseudonym used by famed Mexican cartoonist and left-wing political activist Eduardo del Rio. The book is only 160 pages or so, but Rius encapsulates Marx’s ideas in a tight, unsparing format, not wasting time on ephemeral matters but focusing on main ideas that made Marx an icon of the left. Rius gives us a biography of Marx, his influences, explains the philosophical underpinnings of Marx’s ideas, and Marx’s blueprint how the proletariat (the “working” class) can seize power. Naturally, Marx was no lover of democracy, which, for him, was a bourgeoisie concept.

Though this edition was published in 2003, the book was originally published in 1975. This explains the many references to Chile and snide attacks on the United States. Obviously, the author was bitter about the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and American imperialism in South America in general. Never mind that Allende was planning to turn Chile into another Cuba. But that’s a debate for another day.

Marx for Beginners is not intended to be a comprehensive, or even an exhaustive, look at Marx. That is just not possible. This book is a primer, of sorts, a kind of jumping off point. Because to understand the man there is no going around reading the man’s various works. A bit of a warning: reading Marx is only for the heartiest of souls and not for the faint of heart. And I’m not writing this review as a supporter of Marx. Hardly. But you cannot deny the man’s influence on history; and to understand the world today you have to understand Marx.

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Written by niraj

October 22nd, 2009 at 3:29 pm

The Lost Symbol Is Finally Here!

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Guess what’s in my hot little hands?

the_lost_symbol

Digging into it as I write this.

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Written by niraj

September 15th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Coming Soon: Up In the Air

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Walter Kirn’s delightful Up In the Air – about a “downsizing” expert (he fires people for a living) and his quest to be the ultimate frequent flier – is coming to the silver screen, starring George Clooney. Here’s the trailer:

I’m so looking forward to this film.

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Written by niraj

September 9th, 2009 at 4:04 pm