All posts tagged: Biography

greenlights ebook with leaf, cars making the traffic lights, and moon locket

Book Review: Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

“Great leaders are not always in front, they also know who to follow.” I knew this book would be eccentric; I just didn’t realise how much. Matthew McConaughey Oscar winner actor is anything but your regular cup of tea, and this memoir of sorts just gives you a glimpse of that wild life. Greenlights is not a tell-all book. He hardly discusses any of the movies he worked on and doesn’t talk about anyone he filmed with or dated. It’s a book about his upbringing, his experiences and explorations, and what he’s learnt along the way. So if you’re here looking for some gossip, this is not for you. Greenlights is part memoir and part life guide. He has a few insightful observations which have shaped the way he lives his life. Just go for what you want and be true to yourself. The universe will give you green lights as you move ahead. Take a break on yellow lights when you need it, and watch out for the red lights. “The inevitability of a …

collage of book covers of biographies

7 Must-Read Biographies

I love stories. These stories become even more meaningful when you know they’re true. I’ve not always read non-fiction, and I started reading biographies even later. Since then, I’ve read stories from people’s lives that are inspiring, heart-breaking, and relatable.  I cannot classify the stories I’ve read into good or better stories. Each book brings its own charm. However, some books are well-written, and some books pull you in and make you pause as you feel each word that’s penned down. This is a list of those books. Decoded by Jay-Z It gave me a refreshing perspective of the hip-hop culture and rap music – a genre I always overlooked. The lyrics have been beautifully written and explained and is comparable to pure poetry. That is not to say that there isn’t some lousy hip-hop doing the rounds (pointless violence and sex), but good rap, as Jay Z points out, is very powerful and has several layers. Even the cover of a Rorschach blot is a stroke of genius…just like rap music, it conveys different …

My Top Recommendations for Biographies with Animals

“Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.” John Grogan, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog Every story becomes better with an animal in it. In books and movies about violent deaths, the animal’s death is the most painful (for me, at least).  Since I’ve started reading biographies, I’ve come across some amazing stories about animals and how they’ve impacted the lives of people around them. Each one is a tear-jerker – happy and sad.  Here are my top recommendations for biographies with animals. Marley and Me by John Grogan  I fell in love with Marley’s pure and goofy heart from the start. His joy refused any limits on his behaviour. His love and loyalty were boundless, too. It is also a story about Marley’s parents, who adopt him as a young couple. Marley shares their heartbreak over a miscarriage and joy at their first pregnancy. He grows old …

Books by Ismat Chughtai on a blue backdrop with a gold necklace

Book Review: Ismat Chughtai

For someone who loves to read and has studied English literature in school and college in India, it was very disappointing to learn about writers like Maanto and Chughtai so late in life. It enrages me that we teach a handful of English writers and completely ignore great Indian writers. “Faith is one thing, the culture of one’s country is quite another. I have an equal share in it, in its earth, sunshine and water. If I splash myself with colour during Holi, or light up diyas during Diwali, will my faith suffer an erosion? Are my beliefs so brittle and judgements so shaky that they will fall to pieces?” Ismat Chughtai – the story-teller Ismat Chughtai was a contemporary of Saadat Hasan Manto. They wrote during the time of India’s independence. Both were put on trial for indecency in their writing then finally acquitted. However, it put a downer on both their temperaments.  Chughtai’s Lihaaf or the Quilt was considered quite progressive for its time, talking about female sexuality. She has also written screenplays …

top view of a kindle on a lap with the cover of the book Hunger by Roxane Gay. Person on the sofa is holding a coffee cup next to it

Book Review: Hunger by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger is a startling, brutal, and deeply human account of her relationship with food. I found it to be an emotional read. It was beautiful, infuriating, heartbreaking, and incredibly eye-opening and powerful. I followed Dr Roxane Gay on Twitter long before I read any of her books. Her observations, opinions, and sharp replies always fascinated me. She says things so easily, exactly, and fearlessly – things I wanted to say and in a way I would if I wasn’t scared of confrontations. Hunger is the second book I’ve read of hers, and let me tell you, you need to read it. You might be one of the rare specimens who have a healthy relationship with your body and food. You still need to read it. “This is a popular notion, the idea that the fat among us are carrying a thin woman inside. Each time I see this particular commercial, I think, I ate that thin woman and she was delicious but unsatisfying.”  I love how she writes; her open vulnerability, and …

covers of biographies by Mariah Carey, Barack Obama, and Anthony Bourdain

Reading Challenge: 2020 (Biographies)

I fell in love with biographies after I read  Jay-Z’s Decoded. It’s one of the best ones I’ve read. Not only does he talk about his origins but also about rap music. I was one of those who didn’t understand it or like it but he completely changed my perception. Now at least I appreciate it, and realise good rap is poetic. He admits a lot of the new music just caters to what’s expected out of the genre instead of being true to it. You need to pay attention.   It made me understand the power of stories, and good writing. Unfortunately a lot of good stories get lost because of bad story-telling. Indian greats like Milkha Singh and Mary Kom have such a powerful story to tell but their writers have let them down. And the movies made on them have let them down further. This year I read some good biographies. The Meaning of Mariah Carey: I loved her music as a teen but never knew her struggle. She’s portrayed as such a …

mug with coffee and strawberry on opened books

Reading Challenge: 2019 (Non-Fiction)

The Power of true stories cannot be underestimated. Stories and facts that we have not considered come together to make non-fiction a staple in your reading lists. Here are some great ones I read this year. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: The first thing that comes to mind is the amount of talent and knowledge that has been lost (and continues to be lost) because of barriers to education and employment. Such a criminal waste. That said, this book brings to light the contributions of women, especially African American women, in the space age. Well researched and told. A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa: A disturbing look into some of the lives of people living in North Korea. The words barely begin to describe the true horror of the starvation and oppression being faced by so many in secrecy. The ending of the book is quite heartbreaking and since there’s not much information available on the author online, we don’t know how the story ends up. Homo Deus By Yuval Noah Harari: The …

Reading Challenge: 2018 (Non-Fiction)

I would refuse to read non-fiction books for a very long time. As a teenager, The 7 Habits was thrust in my face far too many times to put me off that section completely.  The first non-fiction I remember reading voluntarily was Men are From Mars and Women are from Venus by John Gray (on recommendation by Oprah). Although it was very cliched, in my young mind it made a lot of sense. Slowly I warmed up to biographies and other non-fiction books. They are an essential part of my reading list every year now. Here are some I read in 2018. Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum: All of us who have been in the majority and never had to face discrimination or worry about our children being ridiculed, excluded or worse should read this and examine how we are complicit or have actively caused such hurt. It is appalling that so many of our friends and children live in this constant fear. The Perils of Being Moderately Famous by Soha Ali Khan: I …

Reading Challenge: 2017

I finally am getting back to my stride and making time to read more. This year I jumped to 41 books. There were a few hits and a few misses as with every year. So without further delay let’s dive in. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: It is a more holistic approach to racism than I’ve read before and tries to approach the story from different angles. The neat way it’s all wrapped up in the end seems far fetched but it’s known to happen. The courtroom drama is not as dramatic as novels of the genre and there’s not much of it. It’s basically a book on the racial divide in the US and feelings that it brings up in different people A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: Beautifully written. Reminded me of the movie Up in some ways. Makes you smile through the grumpiness. A simple feel good book especially in these troubling times. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, M.D.: It is a story of living life when death …

open pages of a book laid next to a tea cup and flowers

Reading Challenge: 2016

16 books in 2016. Before I get dejected by that low number, I remind myself I just had a baby and I’m glad I could read even one. Fans of physical books will scoff at me but the Kindle got me through the long breast-feeding and rocking-to sleep sessions this year. I could hold it in one hand and read without disturbing my sleeping baby. I love technology. I do miss the feel of paper, using bookmarks, and finding leaves and flowers between pages long forgotten; I don’t miss the wrist pain after reading large books, carrying a large book while waiting in a waiting room, or reading in uncomfortable places because everywhere else people need the lights off to sleep apparently.  Kindle ebooks are readily available for almost all titles, you can carry a bunch of them wherever you go, and read without hurting your wrist and neck. I have the Kindle Paperwhite which lets me adjust the screen brightness and it doesn’t strain your eyes like a tablet or phone does. I freely …