Book Thoughts: I Came Upon A Lighthouse, Shantanu Naidu

I Came Upon A Lighthouse is a memoir by a millennial-Shantanu Naidu, on anecdotes of his journey, which through a ‘shared concern’ for animal welfare aligns with the philanthropist – Mr. Ratan Tata’s life; chronicling their endearing inter-generational bond.

The book, with its thoughtfully named chapters and heartening illustrations is a delight for bibliophiles, dog-lovers and readers wanting to know the warmer, sunnier side of the revered industrialist.

And, whilst the book adoringly brings the light-hearted bond between the two, Shantanu as a debut writer deftly connects his readers to the ‘millennial’ life too.

From chapters unfolding his empathetic endeavour, his brain child- ‘Motopaws’, to the ones where there are the jitters of initial meetings with Mr. Tata, and to some that recount his venturing into a new land far away from the warm cocoon of family-experiencing loneliness, self-doubt; yet making efforts to thrive amidst and despite that. (Not without his adorbs companion-Winter!)

I see it as a story of our times because the pages, not only bring the ‘sparks’ and the bright sides, but the vulnerability of the challenges that life brings to a ‘twenty-something’; and that perhaps is something every millennial would connect to!

Even though, its the beginning of the year, and this is my first book, I am truly confident in saying that it is one of the best books I have read in 2021. (Yes, I know this, for sure 🙂

And, lastly, time for my Personal Award System for favorite books (yes, it exists), I would say that I call this little memoir as a ‘Mug Brownie’ read–warm, sweet, amiable, and just melts your heart 🙂

Also, cannot appreciate enough how much I love the cover and joyous vibe of the book.

Kindle Reads: The Choice, Edith Eger

“the biggest prison is in your own mind, and in your pocket you already hold the key….”

‘The Choice’ is a memoir and an inspiring chronicle of Dr.Edith Eger’s life who is a holocaust survivor and now an acclaimed psychologist.

The book was listed in Bill Gates’ reading recommendations, and what drew me most to this book was how a holocaust survivor metamorphosed her traumatic stress by becoming a doctor of psychology- from experiencing scarring trauma, to facilitating scientific healing.

It is a book that introduces you to a spectrum of life–from Darkness to Light. Where one extreme end of darkness takes you to the brutal, inexplicable horrors of the Holocaust carried out by Hitler; the other end of the spectrum-the Light, subtly, gradually soars you to the legacy of hope, healing and discovering through the accounts of Dr Edith’s patients and Dr.Edith herself.

This was the first book I read about the Holocaust-of and about the systematic dissemination of prejudice, war; the enslavement and unfathomable destruction-physical, psychological, communal. It is a book that brings you to the epoch of the Nazis, of struggles and destruction of the past, unbeknownst, but grievously factual.

Yet, it is also a book that unveils the timeless wisdom: that only we hold the key to the prisons of our mind, and that “suffering is universal…but victimhood is optional”

Needless to say, it is a memoir that’s going to live with me for a long time, the pages of which I am going to reopen in moments of despair, and of hope..

Thank You Dr.Edith Eger, this story was needed for the times of existential crisis we are living in.

Thank you for acknowledging that “there is no hierarchy of suffering”.

Thank you for nudging all of us to look for meaning in our lives, to find the ability to maintain hope, amidst and despite what’s happening in the outside world.

“ALL YOUR ECSTASY in life is going to come from the inside…”

Book Thoughts | The Secret Life of Debbie G. | Vibha Batra & Kalyani Ganpathy | HarperChildren’sFestivalList

Storm and Stress’ is the term used by Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, connoting the whirlwind of emotions a tween and teen go through. And I couldn’t agree more, given the roller-ride I went into back in the day.

Bombarded with like a gazillion things- doing well in academics, dealing with heartbreaks and body-shaming, staying ‘relevant ‘ in the fancy school group, ritualized weekly/daily conflicts with parents, because ‘HEY, they don’t get me!!!’ –All this and more whilst Mr.Impulsive-Highly Volatile and Sentimental becomes the puppeteer of the teenage mind. And, you add the current perils of the social-media-age- KABOOM!

Evincing the struggles and journey of today’s teens, The Secret Life of Debbie.G is a truly ‘unputdownable’ graphic novel, weaved around the story of a 16 year old teen Saundarya, sort of an ‘Invisible’ in a top-shot school, who builds an alter-ego through social media to give back to all the ‘super-brats’ and the ‘geeks’. Yes, there existed such hierarchies of ‘coolness’ in our school too, didn’t they?

The tale is a witty and warm saga of the life of today’s teens, and how turbulent family dynamics, along with all the existing pressures of social media, body-shaming, and just being a Millennial or Gen-Z kid can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional health.

Being a graphic novel, it is through and through illustrated with the cutest graphics, and I must add I learnt a lot many ‘cool-tween-terminologies’.

This book, is so far my most engaging read of the year. Seldom does it happen that I ‘pull an all-nighter’ to read a book. It did happen with this one.

A 10 on 10 kind of a read that gives you a ride of the rollercoaster (of quirky emotions)!

Big thank you to Harper Collins India for recommending and sending the advanced review copy of this endearing book.

Book Thoughts | How To Be A Writer, Ruskin Bond | HarperCollins Children’s Books

For every reader at some point hopes to write a book someday. For every person who often retires in their room with a pen and journal, might have aspired to make something ‘literary’ out of it. And, for every person who is observant of their habitat, the familiarity of the sounds of the vendors passing by the alley on a lazy afternoon, might have had a day-dream of putting all those verbal portrayals in the form of a book, a story, a satire.

And, as Sir #RuskinBond rightly quotes, “Writing, for me, is the simplest and greatest pleasure in the world”.

‘How To Be A Writer’ is an artful, cheery delight for young readers (you may choose to call yourself ‘young’, like I do) dreaming to not just read, but to be read too; and to hold their literary trophy– a book having their name on the cover.

The little book, which is a part of #HarperChildrensFestivalList has seven chapters imparting ‘little’ lessons to beginners on the qualities of a reader, finding a familiar setting to write about, to creating a writing routine, to building characters, overcoming writer’s block and to finally getting published.

Even though its a ‘guidance’ sort of a book, one can be sure of the simplicity, light-hearted, amiable tone of Ruskin Bond throughout.

From the cover of the book, to each and every illustration at the beginning and amidst the chapters is so eye-catching, fun and admirable.

Its safe for me to say that the book feels like ‘sunshine’ in hands!

A ‘weekend-afternoon’ kind of a read with a sprinkle of inspiration for the budding writer.

Thank You HarperCollins India for sending across this little balmy book to me!

I’d Rather be Reading | The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life; Anne Bogel

“But I am still growing, changing—not the kind of growth you can measure against a door frame, but the kind you can see measured against the books I’ve read”

‘I’d Rather be Reading’ by Anne Bogel is a literary solitaire I found on my Kindle Unlimited. Chronicling her own journey of becoming a reader, it is a book that harmonizes with the thoughts of every reader.

From reflecting on one’s early bonding with books, to finding a sanctum in a library and to seeking nostalgic serendipity in the old books that a reader continually finds comfort in…the chapters of the book vividly cover the ardour around books, and reading.

There are so many phrases and lines that one feels like highlighting while reading this one, because so many of them are like a *literary hug* as they resonate so well.

It was a like a ‘mug-brownie’ read for me… sprightly, merry, delighting and full of warmth.

And having spilled my little share of thoughts, I would just say: Dear bookstagrammers and fellow readers, this book belongs to you and your lifelong friendship with reading…

“Just as I’m all the ages I have been, I’m all the readers I have been”

Learning to Read and Reading to Learn | Reading for Beginners

Reading is a learned skill unique to all humans, and that most of us are privileged to acquire in our early developmental years. Though, in those early years, we learn ‘how to read’, eventually, we reverse that process and ‘read’ in order to ‘learn’ academic concepts, fulfill educational requirements, understand the world we live in, etc.

Some of us continue to practice this life skill further in life and then come to identify ourselves as ‘Readers’

Despite being convinced of the benefits and wanting to give space to reading in our lives, many of us feel overwhelmed and confused as to where to start, and to find the right book. Here are a few pointers that I have summarized which may get you started to the magic of reading.

  1. Start Simple and Start Small: You don’t have to run for that ‘bestseller’ book, or a book that you know may be a little tough for you to start. Start with any genre, and any book you like. Pick up the smallest book or even a comic book. For me inculcating reading in my life has been like a series of thread, each connected to another. Often an end of a book, suggests midway or by the end, another book to me.
  2. Goal To Books, and not Books to Goals: For reading non-fiction or scientific books, may be try visualizing what is your goal? Like for example, my goal is to be more thorough with therapeutic interventions for my practice, so now that I have a goal in mind, I can just go in reverse and look for books around that. And there are always books waiting for you 🙂
  3. Inspiring Biographies: A good and engaging way to begin reading is to pick up a book written by or around a public figure who is your inspiration. It is a good way to know them up close, learn about their lifestyle, and what attributes they practiced to actually become your inspiration today.
  4. Ask Your Reader Friends: Your friends know you well. And if they know you well, a reader friend would be able to suggest a good book to get you started on the reading journey.

Prognosis, A Memoir of My Brain | Sarah Vallance | Book Thoughts

What happens when in your mid-to-late twenties, post an exhilarating adventure, you realise that you have damaged an important part of your brain? ⁣

⁣That, you are soon losing basic cognitive functions like memory, reading, comprehension, navigation—all the one’s you always took for granted because they were so automatic and natural.⁣

⁣And what feelings would follow, when, just in a span of days, you can’t decipher the meaning of your own Ph.D research topic, let alone accomplish it? ⁣

Prognosis, A Memoir of My Brain 💐 by Sarah Vallance is a story that explores loss, grief, post-traumatic growth not just in the ‘resilience’ sense but in the #neural and anatomical sense 🧠

⁣What especially interested me in this book was how our brain has the capacity to develop new neurons and neural connections when given the right stimulation, a concept I am deeply interested in- #neuroplasticity ⁣✨

And, though I’ve never been a lover of dogs (yet, admirer of dogs and dog lovers @teople_poo ), this book brought me closer to how they may be your truest companions; even when you fear that the world of humans may be mocking at you, and when you give yourself ‘labels’, the companionship and love of a dog can be, after all, a safe haven- of acceptance, and warmth ☀️

A book that was in my @goodreads TBR shelf for long, which I rediscovered in my #kindleunlimited catalogue. ⁣

Daughters of Destiny | Shanti Bhavan | Netflix Limited Series

This time it’s not a book that has inspired me, but a limited series on Netflix called ‘Daughters of Destiny’.

The series takes us to ‘Shanti Bhavan’, a philanthropic institution built by Abraham George, where children come from some of the most impoverished families, that are deprived from not only umpteen tangible reservoirs of life but also the substantial needs like social equality, justice, peace.

Shanti Bhavan as a residential school admits one child from such families. These children, from a very young age, although face separation from their brood and natural haven, live in SB where they gain access to competent education in English-medium, exposure to vocations and artistic pursuits-the potential of which may have gone untapped otherwise, awareness about social issues, alongside encouragement towards inculcating values and character strengths.

The hope behind taking on just one child per family is that, that ‘one child’ would conceivably become the bearer of light for the others in his/her family and community, and once educated and financially independent, would break the centuries old cycle of poverty, illiteracy, destitute living; by becoming the change maker of tomorrow.

The episodes of the series, through the longitudinal narrative of the life of five students presented over a span of 7 years, chronicles the significant transformation these children go through, the struggles they face while gearing between being the beneficiary of striking upbringing at the residential school, and coming to terms with their ancestral and social reality – only to ignite a will within to build an equitable, just, and worthwhile world.

Hence, it was only fulfilling to see how Karthikeya, a girl born into a community of miners, goes on to become a lawyer and aspires to work for human rights. And, how Shilpa, a daughter of an elephant chaser who is curious and inquisitive since her growing years, chooses journalism as her path towards upliftment… (also wrote a memoir which is in my TBR)

What touched and inspired me most was how all the SB students were so eloquent, deeply aware and grounded of the realities they have come from and yet aiming for the sky (a sky ‘just’ for all..)

Needless to say, Daughters of Destiny is a story of hope, the metamorphic power of education, bringing an inspiring promise for a better world.

Book Thoughts | Factfulness, Hans Rosling

I posted about picking up this book in a previous post and I was excited to dive into it. Rightly so. ⁣

The book, through the work of Hans Rosling and Gapminder Foundation, facilitates us a Fact-based world view of how things in the world are not as bad as they seem. ⁣

📊It begins with some statistical based questions about the world, like- ‘How many children in the world are vaccinated today’ or ‘How many women have the opportunity of continued education’, to questions like ‘Where does the majority of population live in-low, middle or high income countries?’

The answers to these questions are like a direct confrontation to our ‘dramatic instincts’ about the world. The instincts that are distorted, biased, deeply rooted and very much away from the facts. ⁣

Each chapter then picks up a Dramatic Instinct, like the ‘Gap Instinct’ or the ‘Fear Instinct’ and literally opens our eyes through updated, right facts, plunging right through our biases. ⁣

Being a CBT practitioner, I could not help but see so much similarity between the dramatic instincts shared in the book to the ‘cognitive distortions’ of the cognitive behavior theory. For instance ‘All or None’ thinking in Cognitive Behavior Therapy may be compared to the Generalisation Instinct or the Gap Instinct described.⁣

The book does justice in providing ‘Data as Therapy’ (so much so that this non-fiction, scientific fact-based book also became a bed-time read for me, a therapeutic read). ⁣

By presenting and promoting #Factfulness, it encourages the readers, and the people wishing to change the world to be hopeful, to be a ‘possibilist’, and to acknowledge that things may be bad now, but if looked from the right perspective, they are so much better. And this understanding then motivates us to keep making it better. Why? Because it’s working.. and how!

Anxiety (Overcome It and Live Without Fear), Sonali Gupta | Harper Collins

Being a mental health practitioner and a dedicated reader of self-improvement books, I have often been on the look out for books that facilitate understanding on ‘mental wellness’ that is, a ‘life above and beyond zero’.

Though there were quite a few impressive and competent books by Clinical Psychologists and mental health professionals around the world like the ‘Overcoming Series’ I have talked about previously. Yet, I think a part of me always looked for books written by Indian professionals with scenarios and experiences within that context. Because the experiences may be universal, however, the context within which they occur and the ‘triggers’ can be uniquely diverse.

At last, came up Anxiety (Overcome it And Live Without Fear). The book deftly does the job of advancing mental health awareness especially in times of unparalleled, never-seen-before stressors (hint: pandemic). It is probably what we need to understand anxiety holistically, to be able to differentiate between helpful routine stressors to what could be ‘unadaptive constant rumination’ where one just cannot get ‘that thought out of the mind’.

The book is easy to read, has a lot of insights through the client experiences that adds to the jargon-free, reader friendly vibe of the book. It is a tool for mass psycho-education of very common, yet widely ignored mental health concerns that hold the power to render so much of our life as incapacitated.

As a young professional myself, I would encourage anyone wanting to understand anxiety, or their mental health, to pick up this book; with as  much ease as they might pull up a book on nutrition or diet, or healthy habit formation.

Because as it is said by Clinical Psychologist Sonali Gupta, “..we can only learn to manage anxiety. It’s not going to go away completely.” And, I believe awareness is the first step towards acknowledging and managing a challenge.

Thank You Harper Collins India, for being so kind and sending in a review copy!