BENEFITS OF READING BOOKS

Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime.A person who reads everyday gets better at it over time. Not surprisingly, daily readers also gain more enjoyment from it than those that read less often. It can even improve memory and critical thinking skills.

Stress Reduction:
No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.
Knowledge:
Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.
Vocabulary Expansion:
The more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary.Being articulate and well-spoken is of great help in any profession, and knowing that you can speak to higher-ups with self-confidence can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem. It could even aid in your career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.
Memory Improvement:
When you read a book, you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story. That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvellous things and can remember these things with relative ease.
Improved Focus and Concentration:
When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing.
Better Writing Skills:
When we read books we get better writing skills. It will be useful for us in many ways while we are writing books or novels. We get some knowledge about how to write.
Advantages of reading books:
Improve Focus And Concentration.
Improve Vocabulary.
Improve Creativity.
Provide Inspiration.
Provide Perspective.
Help You Make Friends.
Fun To Read.
Help You Improve Your Professional Life.
Reading can allow you to see what’s important to you by the kind of books you tend to choose. Reading increases your own creativity, sometimes sparking other ideas in your life. Reading can make you feel not so alone, especially a memoir of someone who’s been through the same thing you have.
Reading is important because it develops our thoughts, gives us endless knowledge and lessons while keeping our minds active. Books can hold and keep all kinds of information, stories, thoughts and feelings unlike anything else in this world.

‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a classical narration of thirty years of Afghan history.

“I will follow you to the ends of the world.”

Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

A gripping tale which can only fail to move the hardest of hearts. Khaled Hosseini, an all time best-selling author, with all of his published novels brings a heart wrenching story portraying female suffering and endurance under the Taliban rule.

The story is about a girl Maryam who is sent off to Kabul to marry Rasheed, only at the age of fifteen who befriends a local teen, Laila, a few years after her residence. And after the Taliban strikes rule, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can make people act in unexpected ways, leading them to overcome nerve wrecking circumstances with heroism. Hosseini strings every characters life with another in amusingly satisfying ways, the story teasing and testing your urge to turn the page throughout the way.

This books serves the purpose of throwing light on the difficulties afghan women and girls face since their childhood to their adulthood, enduring domestic violence and patriarchal issues. Khaled Hosseini pours all his feelings and emotions he had experienced during his childhood since Soviet army invaded Afghanistan by the1980’s. He uses his experiences and observations to portray a real image of Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. He successfully discussed on the issues like women rights through toxic patriarchy and domestic violence.

Hossieni’s story telling approach in this book will help you to get a closer view of these social issues as you lend your eyes and ears to the struggles of Afghan women and girls.

“Each snowflake was a sigh heard by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. All the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women suffer.”

-Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

A book so intense, swirling with emotions and struggles at every foot will hopefully serve immense satisfaction at the door of your heart. Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns will hold you at the brim of suspense throughout the story, warming your heart with his unique way of stringing the words.

Read A Thousand Splendid Suns, an irresistible creation which will leave your mind blown.

‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done – then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” 

‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, though belongs to children’s literature, is an interesting read even for adults. Mary Lennox, a sick looking girl, goes to Yorkshire after her uncle takes her custody due to the death of her parents in India. Having brought up without any motherly love and having got her way in everything from her childhood, Mary finds Yorkshire a new world. Her caretaker Martha, being a young girl herself, isn’t subservient to Mary and this is all new to Mary who has always got her own way. Mary learns about Yorkshire from Martha and also learns about the Secret garden in her uncle’s manor. The door to that garden was locked ten years ago and the key has also been buried, whose whereabouts no one knows. Intrigued by this, Mary tries to find the secret garden. The book progresses to show whether Mary finds the secret garden and what she finds in there and what effect it has on her. 

Colin, who is also of the same age as Mary, is introduced as a sick and bed ridden boy. As the story progresses, we can also see that he imagines an illness which he doesn’t have and expects to die soon. In simple words, Colin suffers from hypochondria. So, what happens when Mary and Colin meet? What changes do they bring to each other? How will Mary assure Colin that he won’t die? All these are answered as the plot unfolds.

One character that everyone has to look out for in the novel is Dickon. Just as how he is loved by everyone in the novel, he is loved by every reader. Who doesn’t love a person who is friends with every animal, bird and plant. Being elder to Mary and Colin by two years, Dickon acts as a good friend and as an agent of positive influence on them. 

This novel is a healing novel. It has the best lines which teaches the reader on how living with nature heals the soul and makes one to grow positive and healthy. When we see things budding and thriving to come out of the earth, it makes us believe we can grow too. 

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

Another lesson we learn from the book is about magic. Now, you don’t need to relate magic to flying castles and extraordinary power. Magic is found in everything even within us. That which makes things come true is magic. That which fills us with goodness and makes us move forward is magic. Magic is in everything.

“Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”

The novel is an amazing read except for the racism and stereotypes it contains against India. Thus, ‘The Secret Garden’ is a book you would love to read and recommend. 

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

The very first statement, which starts the novel “Pride and Prejudice”, sets forth the major themes of the novel. Opening with an introduction to the Bennets, the first chapter shows an anxious Mrs. Bennet, who wants her daughters hitched and their new neighbour Mr. Bingley seems right for that purpose. When Mr. Bingley organises a ball, everyone in the neighbourhood is invited. There, the meeting takes place between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the protagonists of this story. The story proceeds as the misunderstanding between our protagonists grows and they break away only to understand each other better. 

Beyond the obvious love brewing between various characters, the novel discusses other themes like class difference, need of money, marriage, the status of women, parenting and self – reflection. Unlike the Chivalric romances, Jane Austen portrays reality in her novel. The novelist shows how women of that age weren’t allowed to work and were expected to learn everything (knitting, embroidery, housekeeping, music and such) to be considered accomplished women. And when our female protagonist stands up for women, she is criticised. Elizabeth challenges the established beliefs of that age and gives out the message that women needn’t be perfect to be accomplished.  

“I never saw such a woman. I never saw capacity, taste, and application, and elegance, as you described, united.”

The novel also shows how women were dependent on marriage for financial support and they should also possess some money for a successful marriage. Instead of showing a fantasy where love solves everything, the plot showcases the importance of money in life but this doesn’t necessarily mean money defines happiness. The influence of class difference was strongly felt by the way Darcy and the Bingley sisters treated others like the Bennets. This is one of the important factors in the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth and Bingley and Jane. 

One of the best things about the novel is that we can vividly see how the characters evolve. The character development in both Elizabeth and Darcy is what brings together. There comes a situation when both have to step back from each other before they can grow closer. This brief interval helps them to understand themselves and face their inner flaws. The attributes in the title are clearly associated with the protagonists. Darcy was self conceited and Elizabeth was prejudiced.

Jane Austen had written some of the finest lines in English in this novel. The lines make us think and what makes them more attractive is that it appeals to people of all ages and all nations. 

“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we have others think of us.”

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is wilfully to misunderstand them.”

These lines have the most impact when one reads the story. Adding, Jane Austen is also the best at description. Her descriptions of landscapes, settings and others transports us to that age.

This book also helps to reflect on ourselves. We are all proud and we are all prejudiced at least sometimes. All it takes is us admitting them and trying to work on it. This novel is relatable even in the 21st century.

‘Of Studies’ by Francis Bacon.

We are told that studies are important but no one tells us why we should study, how we should study and what we should study. Francis Bacon’s essay ‘Of Studies’ answers all such questions. Firstly, 

“STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.”

When we read books in our leisure time, it brings us delight. When we use what we have learnt in our conversation, it decorates or graces our speech. When we apply what we have learnt in our judgement and business, it becomes our ability. While men of experience can carry out and judge only some particulars, the learned make the best plans and execution of affairs. This is not to say experience is not important. 

Though we are bestowed with inborn talents, we need studies to perfect them and in turn the studies are perfected by experience. Our inborn talents are like plants which require pruning and this the studies do. Though studies give all the directions, they are also bound to experience.

“To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgement wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar.”

While men of experience scorn studies and laymen look up to them, only wise men use what they have learnt. We shouldn’t read just to argue; neither to believe everything given in the text blindly nor to boast about what we have read, but to scrutinize and to regard them carefully.  

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and few to be chewed and digested;”

There are myriads of books to read but how do we prioritise them? Bacon says that there are some books which only require some of its parts to be read, some books though read fully don’t demand close reading, but there are books which require our full attention and are to be read with diligence. 

“Reading maketh a full man; conference ready man; and writing an exact man.”

So, if a person writes less, he should have a good memory to remember everything he had read; if a person speaks less, he should have a quick wit so that he can escape his problems; if a person reads less, he should at least have wit enough to act like he knows the matter.  Bacon lists the advantages of studying each subject.

“Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.”

When we read about past ages and of men, we come to know why they failed or succeeded; when we read poems which expresses huge meanings in small words, we gain wit; when we study math, we become clever in analysis of the problems; when we read natural philosophy, we gain deep knowledge of the universe; logic and rhetoric helps us to win arguments.

“Abeunt studia in mores” means studies become habits. When we practice what we read, it becomes a part of us, Just like how there are different physical exercises to cure the diseases of different parts of our body, different studies cure impediments in our wit. If a man lacks concentration, he ought to study math because if he gets distracted while doing sums, he has to redo the whole sum else he won’t understand. If a person cannot distinguish what is right or wrong, then he ought to read philosophy. If a person can’t get to the root of the matters and cannot defend his stand, then he ought to read law.  

“So every defect of the mind, may have a special receipt.”

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.

-Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

This is for all the girls who have just experienced a breakup. I just want you to understand that it was not your fault, so stop blaming yourself.

Breakups can be a shambles. Breakups can be excruciating. People also use memes to mask their pain and turn it into a source of amusement. They are aware, however, that it will not be easy. The agony you’re experiencing is indescribable, and no one could possibly comprehend it. You’re stuck in a rut, unsure of what to do next. Is it time to move on or not? Was he going to return or not? Is it better if I call or if he calls? Is he going through the same thing I am right now?

All of these questions have the same answer: ‘It doesn’t matter.’

What matters is how you’re keeping things together. Is it fair to be so harsh on yourself? You weren’t solely to blame. Perhaps you should set aside some time for yourself. What if he doesn’t return? So, what’s the point? You’ve got your friends, family, and, most importantly, you’ve got yourself. “But I just want him,” I know you’re wondering right now. You don’t want him, that’s the truth. YOU DON’T WANT HIM, BELIEVE ME. He abandoned you in this mess. He said he wouldn’t, but he did anyway. He deceived you. It’s time for you to do the same. He walked away without looking back, and it’s time for you to do the same. It’s past time for you to forgive yourself.

This is just like the girl on the train. Rachel, who recently experienced a breakup, is unable to accept the harsh reality. She also believes Tom loves her and that he will return. Everyone assumes she’s just a drunk girl who’s lost her job and has a broken heart.

Is anybody a fan of suspense novels? If you answered yes, you should probably read this at least once. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible either. You won’t be able to figure out who the killer is.

Apart from that, there is a lot of lying in this storey. All is deceiving one another. Many secrets are kept locked in the recesses of their minds. Loved ones are kept in the dark about secrets. However, with all of the lying, I began to doubt the confidence. Who could be trusted by whom? Rachel had faith in Tom. Scott had faith in Rachel. Anna had faith in Tom. Megan had faith in Kamal Abdic. Despite this, they all ended up rejecting each other. Okay, well, Rachel trusted herself in the end.

That’s one of the things I loved about this book: she wanted to see the whole picture and trust her intuition over Tom’s words. This is a tale about three women who were once strong but had become vulnerable as a result of their circumstances. Don’t let it happen to you as well. Have faith in yourself. Fight for your own interests. Because you are the best, girl.

‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

This is the opening line of the book ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. Set in the time of French Revolution, this historical novel gives an insight of the cause and outcome of the revolution. The revolution, which was expected to be the kickstart of the new era and new hopes, turned out to be a bloody massacre. Dickens has intricately woven his plot to align with the timeline of the real events. 

A fiction which is set in the past is Historical fiction. Such a genre mingles the fact, events as in the recorded history, and fiction, the author’s imagination. As the novel is set in the past, the characters, the places, the language, the conflict should all accord to those of that period. The plot doesn’t completely depart from the records.  All these characteristics are observed in the novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

The novel features two cities London and Paris and which in turn bridges two countries England and France.  The French Revolution which occurs in France also casts its shadow on England.  The novel traces the causes of French Revolution. Though a part of it may be fictional as in the part of St. Marquis Evremonde, the novelist brings out the cruelty of the aristocrats in the embodiment of Evremonde. It brings out the horror of the age and how inhumanely the third estates were treated.  

“The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old; the children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sigh, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere.”

The conduct of the characters is also in congruence to the period. The time period and the cruelty of the age justifies the actions of the Defarges and the other revolutionaries. The conflict in the novel is also a parallel to the period of the revolutions. The novelist foreshadows from the very beginning of the impending terror in the novel. 

“The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.”

But the conflict is not only between the aristocrats and revolutionaries but also between the innocent whose lives were claimed by the revolutionaries. This is portrayed through the misfortunes of Darnay and his family. Though they were innocent, they were pulled into the political storm of France. By providing many sides of the history, the author makes us think to which degree the revolution was successful and to which degree it was a failure.

The novel doesn’t just bring out the themes of revolution, class division, poverty but also the themes of love, hatred, self-hatred, mental health and other complex themes. The character which makes the most impact in the reader is Sydney Carton. He doesn’t fail to move the readers to tears and a character with a lot of inner conflicts which is worth analyzing. No other words can give such a powerful ending as these.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Thus, by going beyond the expectations of readers and by enchanting them with a descriptive language, Dickens has produced a timeless classic – ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Read more about Historical fiction at https://awriterofhistory.com/2015/03/24/7-elements-of-historical-fiction/

Read the novel at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/98/old/2city12p.pdf

DYSTOPIAN LITERATURE

You may have heard about ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’, ‘The Maze Runner’ but have you noticed the elements they have in common? All represent a wretched state of society characterized by oppression, unhappiness, and rebellion. They all belong to the genre of dystopian literature.

In the 16th century, Thomas More dreamed of Utopia – an ideal state of things, people and society are happy and peaceful deprived of sadness and destruction. The following centuries proved it impossible for such a state to prevail. There were endless wars, revolts and rebellion,exploitation,unprecedented scientific discoveries, and disruption. All these provided endless materials for the new form of literature – the Dystopian literature.  

Dystopia is contrary to Utopia. Dystopia characterizes a complete havoc and a wrecked state which is beyond repair. It portrays an imperfect world. The main themes of such a literature are extreme divisions in society, rebellion, environmental destruction, disaster and dehumanization. 

As seen in the above mentioned fictions, there is an organization or a character with a propaganda to dictate people of the state. In such a state, there is a difference of power leading the citizens to an unfair treatment and are left to live in poor conditions. President Snow in The Hunger Games has complete control over the people and people lead their life adhering to his regulations. And so, there is a clear difference in the standards of living between the people of Panem and other districts.

There is no independence, free access to information and all are expected to be uniform leaving no place for individuality. People of the state idolize an authoritarian or an idea. The characters or the people live in an illusion that their society is an utopia. In the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the state, which is set in Chicago, is divided into five factions namely Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Dauntless and Candor. It is expected of all people to fall into either one of the factions. But we see that the protagonists Beatrice and Tobias, who don’t belong to any of these factions, are ostracized. In the beginning, the characters in the story believe such a division in society as ideal and necessary for an order in the state. 

The characters are often monitored by some authority and nothing misses their watch. Being confined to their own little world, characters fear entering the outside world. They are ignorant of what lies outside their state. The outside world is either banished or not allowed to interact. In The Maze Runner series by James Dashner, the Gladers are constantly watched by some mysterious authority which is later found out to be WICKED. Being shut in the Glade, the characters don’t know what lies outside the maze for none has reached it and came back alive. They accept the challenge and make it out of the maze. They later notice that the outside state is in a state of ruin with a dangerous virus called Flare affecting people. So, the immune Gladers are not allowed to interact with the outside world.

Dystopian literature is also speculative literature. They hypothesize of a future which present conditions may lead to and warns of the imminent dangers. It also criticizes those aspects of society which may cause the downfall in the near future.  Now look around and ask yourself if you are living in dystopia.

Read more at http://www.readwritethink.org/files/resources/lesson_images/lesson926/DefinitionCharacteristics.pdf

Also watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a6kbU88wu0