WHAT I’VE BEEN READING LATELY
My Seditious Heart by Arundhati Roy, Hamish Hamilton, $50. My Seditious Heart collects the work of a two-decade period when Arundhati Roy devoted herself to political essays covering current events in India and the state of justice, rights and freedoms in an increasingly hostile environment.
She was there when the Narmada dam was being built and tens of thousands of people were left homeless and bereft of any support. Big Dams in India have displaced not hundreds, not thousands, but millions – more than thirty million people in the last fifty years. Almost half of them are Dalit and Adivasi, the poorest of the poor.
Roy writes passionately about the international dam industry, worth nearly $50 billion a year. India has more dams than most nations she says, and yet, the water crisis is an ugly reality. Why do only Third World countries build dams, she asks.
She explores the despair of the poor in a nation that was nuclearising its military and undertaking space exploration.
Who are these people? They are the millions who have migrated from their villages, some voluntarily, others involuntarily in search of work. They are the people who aren’t supposed to exist, the “noncitizens” who survive in the folds and wrinkles, the cracks and fissures, of the “official” city. They exist just outside the net of the “official” urban infrastructure. Close to 40 per cent of Delhi’s population of twelve million – about five million people – live in slums and unauthorised colonies.
In the age of so much media coverage with so little real news, My Seditious Heart delivers a reality check.
A Better Man by Louise Penny, Minotaur Books, $36.99. In this taut thriller, two stories run parallel. As the tensions build and the wa-ters of the Bella Bella river rise, who or what will break first? The tightly-reined in emotions and discipline of Armand Gamache and Jean-Guy Beauvoir or the river?
A deeper mystery. A darker current. A better man. The tagline says it all. The Chief Inspector Gamache series as it is known to multitudes of fans, is loved for its cerebral mysteries and for its very human, very relatable cast of characters. Including the artist Clara who quotes Anne of Green Gables: “I’m well in body. But considerably rumpled in spirit.”
Readers know everyone in the village of Three Pines, have followed their stories, their joys and sorrows, have seen them grow.
In this, the latest, the team is investigating the case of a young woman who is missing. As floodwaters threaten the province, Gamache realizes the search should be abandoned but with a daughter of his own, finds himself unable to do so, haunted by the question, What would you do if your child’s killer walked free?
Gamache watched as Vivienne’s father groped his way forward. Into a terrible new world. Stumbling over shards of words he dared not say. Falling into emotions he dared not admit.
With Gamache facing a media onslaught, mistakes are made. Who, really, dunnit?
The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno, Penguin, $27. Shunmyo Masuno, the head priest of a 450-year-old Zen Buddhist temple in Japan, offers clear, practical, easy-to-adopt lessons – one a day for 100 days.
The renowned Buddhist monk draws on centuries of wisdom to help one find happiness by making small changes to one’s life.
Make time for emptiness, he avers. First, observe yourself. Making time for not thinking about anything – that is the first step toward creating a simple life.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier, he suggests. It’s not that we are busy because there isn’t enough time. We are busy because there is no room in our heart... waking up 15 minutes earlier magically liberates you from busyness.
A delightful read, with a mini-malist line drawing accompanying each lesson.
Our Story by Rao Pingru, Pantheon, $40. Begun by the author when he was 87 years old and mourning the loss of his wife, Our Story is a unique graphic memoir.
Spanning 1922 through 2008, it’s an outpouring of love and grief through paintings and prose.
Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby, Anchor Books, $22. Kat makes them an offer they can’t refuse and Sina, Maya, Ingrid and Lisbeth travel to her cocoa farm in Fiji to spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers. They come to terms with the lives they left behind and begin to reinvent themselves for the future that beckons.
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers, Alfred A Knopf, $36. A treat for fans of Dave Eggers’ writing (What is the What, A Hologram for the King), The Monk of Mokha is the true story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a young Yemeni American raised in San Francisco who dreams of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee but finds himself trapped in Sana’a by civil war.
He was twenty-four and working as a doorman when he discovered the astonishing history of coffee and Yemen’s central place in it.
It is a rich brew, detailing the unlikely road to success.
The Fox by Frederick Forsyth, GP Putnam’s Sons, $37. Fans of The Day of the Jackal (1971) and The Odessa File (1972) will be happy to learn that Frederick Forsyth is still going strong. Former deputy chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service Adrian Weston is brought in to tackle the breach in the firewalls of the Pentagon, the NSA and the CIA by a young British hacker nicknamed The Fox. Can The Fox be put to another use? An old master of the game takes on the threats of tomorrow.
Baghdad by Justin Marozzi, Penguin, $19.99. For much of its extraordinary life, Baghdad, the “City of Peace”, has been one of the most violent cities on earth.
Justin Marozzi brings to life its tumultuous history – as imperial capital, marvel of glittering palaces, thriving centre of learning, home to tyrants and slaves – through thirteen centuries of splendour and destruction.
Pick a Pumpkin by Patricia Toht, illustrated by Jarvis, Can-dlewick Press, $21. A fun way to experience one of the most loved Halloween traditions.
Pick a pumpkin from the patch
tall and lean or short and fat
Vivid orange or ghostly white
or speckled green might just be right.
The vibrant art and rhythmic text are just the inspiration you need to create the perfect jack-o’-lantern!
Ruhani Walia’s Teen Review of The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore, Atria, $11.33. Oliver and Delilah want nothing more than to meet each other face to face.
This seems like a relatively simple task. However, Delilah is made of flesh and blood, while Oliver is made of imagination, words and ink – a hero of a fairy-tale.
Delilah keeps her academics up in an attempt to give her mother one less thing to worry about since Delilah’s father left them to start a new family. In the fairy-tale, Oliver’s dad had been slain by a dragon the day he was born. Oliver and Delilah bond over growing up without a fatherly figure. Both these characters are portrayed as extremely determined as they go against all odds to figure out how to meet each other. The two try ideas one after the other in an attempt to break the wall between ink and the real world. That this novel was able to capture this bittersweet feeling between the two characters is quite beautiful.
Delilah’s personality has many different sides. She’s a different person at school, at home and with Oliver. To be candid, everyone is like this. We each have different levels of comfort with various people in our lives and each knows a different side of our multifaceted personas. Oliver, however, is quite “one sided” as he has only existed “between the lines” his whole life. He grew up in a place that is the complete opposite of the real world.
Delilah and Oliver become close in the beginning of the story because of their similarities; however, their differences are what cause them to remain close. To be able to send a message of unity within the difference is a remarkable imaginative work.
• Ruhani Walia is a grade 10 student and a member of Brampton Library’s Teen Library Council.