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Top 10 books to read when you are depressed

Books are handy weapons to stave off blues - be it the dregs of the Sunday evening or a nasty bout of flu. When you are depressed, it takes herculean efforts to shake off the feeling. And I'm not even talking about the more severe, clinical form of depression. I can't get myself to pour myself a glass of water the day after Diwali; on Fridays on the other hand, I am the epitome of eternal sunshine. For such moody, dull days, these top 10 books are the surest way to dust a little sparkle in your life.
1) Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog): This is Jerome K. Jerome at his absolute best. It was published some 130 years back and is still capable of eliciting raucous laughter. It is the honest journal of three young, bumbling flatmates and their dog on a river cruise. Look out for some meandering, pedantic pages, but they offer some relief from the relentless humour. 
2) James Herriot'sDog Stories: If you love animals (and dogs, in particular), this is the ultimate…
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A Legacy of Spies - John Le Carre

Genre: Fiction
Sub-genre: Spy-thriller
Rating: 4.5/5

Sometimes, I really do feel that an intelligence organisation must be very much like any other workplace. What is at balance is certainly much more valuable and capable of altering the course of history. All the same, it is a workplace, an office with employees and clients. 
John Le Carre's Circus is thus a workplace. It behaves as drudgingly as one, and there lies the connect that every single book about this agency elicits in its readers. A Legacy of Spies is fittingly another installment in the legacy of the Circus. The murky past catches up with my beloved Peter Guillam in his retirement years; it unlocks suppressed corners of his heart and makes him revisit the morality of his life's work. I say his, but I really do mean in the plural. 
Le Carre's stories have always been remarkably steeped in cynicism, and part of me believes that we still love them because, in some dark way, they resonate with our daily experienc…

Higginbothams of Ooty

It took us some time to decipher that the name of the crossroad was Charing Cross. After all, it is an unexpected name for an Indian crossroad in Tamil Nadu, and the mildly opinionated chap driving us to our hotel had a heavy accent. Charing Cross turned out to be a triangular enclosure, with an imposing fountain (we later discovered that it was named the Adam's Fountain; it is three-tiered, the second one topped by four very colourful cherubs). Since we had arrived in the middle of the afternoon in the thick of winter, the roads were thronging with people and vehicles. Shops were bustling and business appeared brisk. Our driver skilfully negotiated the traffic as we passed woollens shops, gift houses, eateries, groceries and mobile-phone shops. 
We returned to the market later in the evening, after having deposited our luggage. Both my husband and I had been fending off a nasty bout of flu and needed to restock our now near-empty medicine pouch. Charing Cross in the evening (thi…

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Genre: Fiction
Sub-genre: Autobiographical narration/mystery
Rating: 4.5/5

It won the Man Booker in 2011 for good reason. As I have mentioned in this post of mine, the number of pages is hardly the yardstick of the intensity of a story. I can safely club The Sense of An Ending with the likes of Of Mice and Men or Animal Farm; their slender spines pack a whopping punch. 
Middle-aged Antony 'Tony' Webster mirrors the common folk. His demeanour and personality are not uncommon. The story centres on a particular episode in his life, described in his own self-flattering, borderline-pitying tone. What began as a perplexing letter, ends in the unlidding of the Pandora's box. 
The genius of the story rests on the author's ability to turn the tide - not once,  but repeatedly - for and against the narrator. This is like an extended diary entry not meant for anyone's eyes. save the author himself. The recordings are true, but then truth is so qualitative, so relative and so …

Man-Eaters of Kumaon - Jim Corbett

Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5/5

This one is decidedly a classic, so there is little point in reviewing this book. It is a beautiful one, without doubt. 
Personally, I avoid any form of entertainment (books, movies, plays, anything) which features cruelty - either directly or tacitly - towards animals (I have not yet seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, Ant Man was uncomfortable too). So deciding to read this book took a certain degree of convincing. 
Much credit goes to the beautiful cover of the book. This one is an Aleph Classics (co-founded by David Davidar of The House of Blue Mangoes fame, and Rupa Publication) edition. In terms of sheer elegance, the cover design is unmatched.

The palette concept of jungle green coupled with the late afternoon sun creates an ambiance even before you delve into the pages. I picked out the book from a thin pile on a shelf in the little HigginBothams book-store near Charing Cross in Ooty, one biting winter evening (more on that later), such w…

How are rugs and books related

As a child, I was pretty indifferent to rugs or carpets. Back at home, they always existed. They were scrubbed and vacuumed and dirtied and dribbled upon and I didn't quite imagine life without it. Till I moved out. 
Basic amenities do not cover rugs, far less, carpets. The first few days I didn't mind, basking in my new-fangled independence, traipsing over bare floors with un-socked feet. Eventually though, the irremovable stains on the bathroom floors made it clear that, in the absence of carpetting, a near-permanent use of slippers is a must.
Then came the winters. It brought the chill from all possible directions, including and especially, the floor. The soles of my feet must have been frostbitten on a regular basis and I yearned for the luxury of a nice woolly carpet to sink my feet in. As a conscientious student out making her life (not very successfully), I chose to brave the chilblains (they were not, really). 
It wasn't until I was married that I invested in carp…

My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell

Genre: Autobiography (may be a bit fictionalised, but who cares!) Rating: 4.5/5

When you are down and out and in need of some form of strong restorative, My Family and Other Animals is the medicine to resort to. Contrary to popular belief, you need not be in love with animals (though it certainly helps if you are) to read this book. It is a slap on the face of turmoil and a reminder that when life is down in the dumps, there are always a few cicadas around to marvel at (or whatever catches your fancy). 
My Family and Other Animals is not the first of Gerald Durrell's writing expeditions, but it sure is his masterpiece. By the time he had begun writing this book, he was a reasonably seasoned hand at mounting expeditions and collecting animals all over the globe. In 1956, recovering from a bout of jaundice, Durrell penned this sweet little piece of work about his life as a child on the Greek island of Corfu. 
My Family and Other Animals is a collection of short stories, mapping the e…

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

Genre: Thriller Rating: 5/5

'Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again.' The epic opening line to Rebecca ushers the unsuspecting readers into the docile, slightly sad life of a young girl, who shall remain nameless throughout. Rebecca is one of the crowning works of Daphne Du Maurier, the others being The Scapegoat, My Cousin Rachel and Jamaica. It can be safely proclaimed that nothing really comes close to Rebecca
Rebecca starts as a meek little story, like its protagonist. It seems as timid as Little Women, wherein a young girl is swept off her feet by the taciturn, kind gentleman Monsieur Maxim de Winter. It ends in the two getting married within a fortnight of their meeting.

The marital life of the girl starts like any other, filled with trepidation, doubt and a lot of love. As days pass, she finds cues in her magnificent marital home - Manderley - and gets acquainted with the household. Not everyone is friendly, certainly not a particular Mrs. Danvers - who is ope…

I am currently reading...

The Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. This is proving to be a very empowering read, which I believe was the whole point of the book anyway. For those judge a book by its cover (which is also pretty badass), it really doesn't seem to even skirt the edges of feminism. At its crudest, it is a collection of stories and their analyses to help rediscover what it means to be a woman. If it sounds redundant, then it goes to show howo much we need this book. 
I must say, books of this kind are not up my alley. It feels too verbose (even by my standards) and the bluntness induced by my utter worldly view of things makes it really difficult for me to penetrate the exuberance of being a woman, as noted in the book. I am just three chapters down, so it wouldn't possibly be wise to quote a favourite right now, but La Loba seems very ethereal. The whole concept of some force (our own, presumably) that can join broken, littered pieces, is deeply appealing. 
Newspapers a…

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

Genre: Classic, Drama Rating: 5/5
There is no arguing the sheer brilliance of John Steinbeck. The long list of accolades and the controversy he had courted in his days (some of which still continues) is proof of his influence in the current society. Some deem him (astoundingly) mediocre, partly on account if his opinionated take on events; others, consider his work as American classic. Neither argument is completely false, though I, personally, align myself with the latter. If it would be possible to keep aside for a moment, the political ramifications of Steinbeck's work, one cannot deny the strength of his writings. He does not waste words; his economy only accentuates the somewhat lean personality of the settings and the characters. Everything is stripped unappealingy bare and covered flimsily with sardonic humour. A bit like J.D. Salinger, in some ways, but with a bigger lens on the society.    
The man is a Nobel laureate (the logic of which, too, is widely contested), and his…