Summer Reading Fun

To me, Summer is all about lazing around, doing nothing but reading, hopefully with a bowl of fresh fruit to munch on or a glass of sparkling juice to sip, by the side. And that’s what my kids and I are mostly doing these past few days, as the temperatures soar outside. We are trying to make the best use of these days before the usual rut kicks in again by mid-June and we get busy with school! (Plus this time there’s the double bonanza of our littlest one starting big school too! Double Trouble, I call it!!)

So… We are forgetting all of that. For now. And immersing ourselves in reading and crafting and big-time movie-watching! Yay!

Since I’m big on setting goals for myself and my family, I decided to make a Bingo kind of reading challenge for Medha and I. Madhav will have his own next year, maybe? Before we began, I checked Pinterest and Google for the keyword, “Reading Bingo”, and found a ton of ideas. Basically, a Reading Bingo is a game where we read all the books listed in the chart, one by one. There will be all sorts of suggestions in it, like “Read a book by Dr. Seuss” for Medha, and “Read a Historical Fiction” for me. We will complete one book after another- I’ll read on my own, of course, and Medha will read with my help as she is still a level 2 kinda reader? (I don’t know where she stands. Maybe there’s a test for finding out?)

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We will stick stickers (Golden Stars!!!) to the charts after we complete each book and reward ourselves with something special after we finish the whole challenge. Medha is way ahead of me, already! That girl is very competitive!! While she might tear through all the books this summer itself, I might need the Monsoon and the Winter thereafter too, to trudge through all the books I’ve chosen. Some of them are mighty big, you see…

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I thought this would be a good opportunity for us to read some of the books we already own, but never read. And also re-read the books we read long back. I’ll be renting or buying the rest of the books only after we read the ones we already possess. It pinches me that I buy more books than I am capable of reading!

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Also, I’ll be reviewing some of the books along the way, Medha’s including. So, please visit us often to check on our progress and give your valuable suggestions. I’m all ears…

Love,

Manasa.

E-books Vs. printed books

I love the smell of a book, old or new, like any other book-lover I know. I love the sight of a thick hard-back, the illustration on the jacket. I love to lose myself in it’s pages, a pencil in one hand, to underline or scribble, and a steaming cup of masala chai in another.

Nothing uplifts my mood as easily as walking the aisle between shelves brimming with books in a library or a bookstore. Nothing satisfies me as much as watching the pile of books I’ve already read  outgrow the pile I’m yet to lay my hands on.

I had always been a staunch supporter of printed books over E-books. I never gave in to the lure of fancy hand-held devices. When Prasad encouraged me to read digital newspapers or buy e-books, I acted deaf. I ignored his arguments supporting e-reading. “I’ll buy used books if money is the issue”, I retorted.

I called myself ancient, a romantic fool. The fact is, I was scared. Yes, I truly, seriously, from the depths of my heart feared new technology. Gizmos and Gadgets freaked me out. They come with their own language – coded, cryptic, undecipherable; They need to be attended to with care; Plus, they are super-expensive.

No matter what my inhibitions, Prasad bought me a Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 for my birthday anyhow. This one has a magnetic pen attached to it; He wished to encourage the writer in me.

It is so portable I began carrying it around everywhere. I wrote whenever and wherever I could. But I always read from physical books. I did have the Kindle reader app installed but hardly ever used it.

Then, for another birthday, Prasad gifted me the whole set of Harry Potter books from Pottermore. Yup, E-BOOKS! ” I dream of you becoming a great author one day.”his message read. Of-course I HAD to give e-book-reading a try! And now I’m a convert.

Here I have listed a bunch of pros and cons of E-reading.

Pros:

1. I can read at night on my bed without having to turn ON the light and disturbing my family’s sleep.

2. Kindle, the reading app, lets me adjust the light setting, text color or background color of the book so my reading experience isn’t painful.

3. A number of e-books can be downloaded for free. Right now I’m reading “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, a free e-book.

Also, there are free children’s books. I always download a few before we head out, to read to my kids on long drives.

4. There are books I yearn to read but which aren’t easily available for purchase in India like the one I’m reading for my book club – The Firestarter Sessions. With Kindle I just order an e-book from Amazon so I don’t have to worry about shipping charges.

5. When I come across a word I can’t comprehend I just highlight it and ta-da, it’s meaning and usage appears. Kindle also allows me to highlight my favorite quotes or make notes as I read.

6. Books add to baggage weight while traveling, so I simply carry my tablet, which lets me read or even jot down all my travel experiences on one device.

7. It isn’t as difficult to figure out as I feared it would be.

I don’t know which device is better for reading: a Kindle E-reader that is solely dedicated to reading or a tablet that has other features apart from e-reading. My guess is any device should do as long as it has the Kindle app downloaded.

Cons:

1. When you have a number of books at your fingertips, you tend to jump a lot from one to another without finishing any. Wielding a bit of self-discipline should help in that case.

2. E-readers are expensive compared to physical books. But if you read a lot and buy books all the time (like I do. I hardly ever buy anything else for myself.) then investing in a tablet or an e-reader might be a good idea.

3. It’s a bummer if you get the itch to read something but your reader’s battery is down or it has decided to take a vacation of its own, when you’re traveling.

4. Hand-held devices are so cool, the kids will want to hold or play with them all the time. I only have educational games installed on mine, so I don’t mind if they insist upon playing. But E-readers like Kindle paper-white are built for reading only; I don’t think kids would be as interested in them.

All the above points mentioned are just my opinion. Anybody who’s deciding whether to buy an e-reader or not should make their own wise choice. All I’m saying is just give this new experience a try before you totally dismiss it as NOT your cup of tea, which I did for a long long time.

A book is a fount of knowledge and pleasure, no matter what form it takes. But if you still enjoy the feeling of a book in your hand and not a gadget, then I say, forget everything I mentioned above and just go with it. Reading should be fun, not a punishment.

(This post was prompted as a reply to my dear friend and soul-sister, Seema’s question. Thanks dear.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I love books with female protagonists. If a book has a female central character and the story revolves around a book club as well, then no kid can attempt to divert my attention from it with his/her cuteness! This happened as I read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” written by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. It was about a woman, Juliet Ashton, a writer in her early 30s,just after the end of WWII, in search of an idea for her next book. As she restores her life from the rubble of a ruined London, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a man from Guernsey, in search of a book written by Charles Lamb(He finds her name and address written in one of his books). She procures the book for him and begins correspondence with him and through him the other members of “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”. An unusual name for a book club, isn’t it? Intrigued, Juliet wants to learn more about them.

As she delves deeper into their lives, she unravels the origin of their book club and learns about Elizabeth McKenna, the woman who gave birth to the society. Through the letters from the Islanders, Juliet learns that Guernsey Island had been under German Occupation during the second world war. Their stories of hardship and sorrow sow a seed of an idea in her mind for her next writing material. She falls in love with the people that correspond with her (except a Miss Adelaide Addison, who abhors the society and its members!). On an impulse she decides to visit the Island. From the moment she spots St. Peter Port (capital of Guernsey) “rising up from the sea on terraces, with a church on the top like a cake decoration, and I realized that my heart was galloping”(pg. 159), she is enamored. She goes about interviewing people about the Germans and realizes how each story leads to Elizabeth McKenna, who has been sent to a German prison for helping a slave worker.

This book is a compilation of letters exchanged between Juliet and the members of the Literary Society as well as her publisher Sidney Stark. Even though it is just letters, you won’t miss a thing. The plot is linear and gives the whole story.I loved the idea of a bunch of letters conveying a story.

Juliet not only finds idea and material for her next book but also finds the love of her life. I sped through the book to know the ending, which I haven’t done in a long long time. A novel that keeps me hooked amidst the distractions and disturbances caused during the rearing of 2 active children is so hard to come across. I had to navigate a few bumps which caused me to pause and think about German atrocities. How could they inflict such pain on a large scale?!Did I know the German authorities made no arrangements for menstruating women- no soap, no extra clothes- and just mocked away as they bled? No! It just tore my heart and made me desperate to hug them. And how the slave workers (called Todt workers) were treated! They were made to work without food and were let out from camps at night to beg or steal food. Abominable! Such things were hard to fathom but I read anyway. I can’t keep evading hard realities and be. satisfied with the rosy picture.

The rosy part about the book was learning about Elizabeth McKenna. She was an epitome of strength, positive spirit and kindness in the face of such barbarism. Also, the society, their love of books, the discussions they had and the members themselves were a pleasure to read about. I’d love to read it again (& again), slowly, this time , absorbing every little detail.