The House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the bookThe House at the End of Hope Street got on my radar only recently, when Wendy mentioned the book as one of her top favorites. The premise of the book sounded fabulous and my library had a copy as well. I started reading this book shortly before leaving for my Canada trip and what I thought would be a fast read ended up taking about 2-3 weeks total. Not because the book was hard to read or boring. On the contrary, it was quite entertaining, but it was not a book I could race through.
Distraught from a tragic experience, Alba was walking through her hometown when she comes across a house she had never seen before. The owner of the house, Peggy, invites her in but tells her that she can only stay for 99 days and has to turn her life around before then. Alba is glad for the offer - she didn't think she could face her family just yet. Over the next few days, Alba finds that this is no ordinary house. Indeed, the house seems capable of sending messages to its inhabitants, hiding or revealing things depending on whether anyone in the house needed extra motivation to get their life sorted out.
Along with Alba, there are two other inhabitants who discovered the house just like she did - Greer, an actress whose acting career never really took off, and Carmen, who seems to have run away from something terrible, away from her husband. As these three women try to find out what they really need in their lives, Peggy is dealing with matters of her own. Apparently, the house wants her to retire and find a successor. Retirement usually meant death for the owner of the house but Peggy loved a man and wasn't sure how to live the rest of her life with death looming in front of her.
I picked up The House at the End of Hope Street mainly because it sounded charming. And it sure did live up to its charm. The plot is mostly predictable, at least towards the ending, and that could be part of the reason why I couldn't read more pages in a sitting. It also took a long time for the plot to develop and the frequent change of narrators didn't help it much. But, my reading experience did not suffer despite those issues. There is something to love about a house that was magical - a house that suddenly revealed a whole wardrobe full of gowns, a house that gave plenty of inspiration when the going gets tough, a house where past inhabitants lived in its pictures and often talked to Alba, a house that had its own ghosts - a cat named Mog and a woman named Stella who was bent on helping Alba. Alba had a secret ability that made her extra sensitive to the house's secrets. Although Greer and Carmen were privy to some of these secrets, they didn't really know the full gamut of the house's powers.
There is much I loved in this book - it's one of those feel-good books that leaves you with a deep contentment. The house revealed itself only to women who needed a pick-me-up, and anyone else who walked through its doors were invited by the inhabitants. The past clientele includes several incredible women - great thinkers, writers, and poets. Chief among them were Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Parker, and Beatrix Potter. Books also play a huge role in this book. I can see how you could want to read every book and writer mentioned in this book - that would make for a great women's fiction reading project. Overall, definitely charming, though predictable - this is something to read when you are looking for a whimsical read....more
Nicole Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. But one day, while in her 20s, a palm reader ominously hints that her real father is alive.Nicole Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. But one day, while in her 20s, a palm reader ominously hints that her real father is alive. Of course, she isn't someone who buys into anything fortune tellers say but she couldn't help but think about her real father (her mother had since lived with and/or married several men).
Her mother isn't the kind of person one could just ask about her father, so she had to try different approaches. One of her sisters suddenly seemed to want to meet her to discuss her father and around this time, she falls in love with Radar, a singer who encourages her to find out the secret about her father.
The title of this book really refers to a radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who happens to be someone Nicole and her mom listened to often, but whose impact to the story is limited to a few pages in the book. The book had a lot more going for it than just what the talk show host says to Nicole. Throughout the book, Nicole struggles with her identity, her being a lesbian, her idea of a father, and her relationships with her mom, her sisters, and Radar. A lot of it screams dysfunctional family out loud and makes you feel sad for Nicole. Radar is the most important person in Nicole's life at the time of these events, but even this relationship begins to get affected by Nicole's obsessions and insecurities.
I wasn't a big fan of this graphic memoir. It jumps too often in time and the chapters are too small and jarring. Maybe this is a book better enjoyed when reading it a second time. While I didn't love the artwork too much initially, I came to enjoy it over time. Not that the drawing is bad - it is pretty good. But I didn't find it contributing to the story too much....more
Every summer, Rose and her parents stay at a lake house in Awago Beach. Once there, Rose and her friend, Windy, who also visits there with her motherEvery summer, Rose and her parents stay at a lake house in Awago Beach. Once there, Rose and her friend, Windy, who also visits there with her mother and grandmother, explore the Beach and spend a good amount of time swimming, shopping, or watching movies. Except this time, things aren't going to be quite as fun as Rose wants it to be. Her parents have been fighting, her mother has not been getting along with some company, and Rose has been a little too interested in one guy at the only store at the beach.
I had mixed reactions to This One Summer. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the story. Rose is at that age when she is extra sensitive to triggers around her. When a girl comes to the store crying about something, she and Windy go to great lengths to find out what the deal was. When her mother starts behaving strangely, she worries that she could be part of the problem. And Windy being an exuberant and lively character, Rose struggles to share anything with her because the two girls truly are opposites. There is a lot of teenage angst in this book!
While the story itself was engaging, I wasn't much a fan of how it was executed. There were occasional leaps in the story that I found disconcerting - as if a panel or two was missing in between. Unlike most other readers of this book, I wasn't a fan of the artwork. I think I didn't like the overwhelming blue of the illustrations - they worked great for drawings set at night, but for others, they appeared somewhat whitewashed. I'm probably in the minority though - many others have loved this book, so you may enjoy it too, if you haven't yet read it....more
Last weekend, I was browsing through my bookstore, when I came across a copy of Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library - all shrink-wrapped and lookingLast weekend, I was browsing through my bookstore, when I came across a copy of Haruki Murakami's The Strange Library - all shrink-wrapped and looking like a book-lover's toy. Seriously, how do you resist a book like that? Even if I didn't like Murakami, I would probably walk out of the store with that book.
I love books (and food) that are interactive. It feels almost four-dimensional to me. There's the mental pleasure of being lost in the book and there's the physical pleasure of just wrapping that treasure open and wading in with excitement. The front of the book has two flaps that snap together, very much like your typical cereal box. And then you flip the pages to read.
As for the plot, The Strange Library was... well, strange. A boy goes to a library to borrow some books, instead he is sent to the mysterious basement where he had never set foot in. There he meets a strange man who have some twisted devilish motivation for running that place. The boy is trapped in his evil scheme and comes across a sheep-man and a mysterious girl who sort of help him.
There is more to the story but I don't want to go too much into it because this book is a nice little gem to read. There is some strangeness to the book, and it feels more like being lost in a nightmare. But it is nowhere near strange as some of his other books. It reminded me more of Neil Gaiman's Coraline than a Murakami book. If you have been unsure about reading Murakami, this is probably the good one to start with. It has a lot of his tell-tale narrative style and some of the strange stuff he is famous for, but it is not a full-fledged Murakami book, both in size and content, so you'll probably not feel too dazed.
That said, this is a short book, more a short story than a novel. His novels have felt more complete, if you know what I mean, despite any amount of fantastical themes. This is more like a fable, so if you do want to sample a full Murakami, I would try one of his novels, maybe Kafka on the Shore, which I enjoyed a lot....more
The Cellist of Sarajevo has been a book I wanted to read for quite a while. Every time I read a review of this book, I feel compelled to read the bookThe Cellist of Sarajevo has been a book I wanted to read for quite a while. Every time I read a review of this book, I feel compelled to read the book itself but then pretty soon I forget all about it. When I saw this book at my B&N store early this year, I picked it up almost on a whimsy, and a few weeks later, I dived into it.
This is a very short book, but it is by no means a fast read. I found myself wanting to stop often, to ponder the passages and their meanings. There is so much depth in this book, which is interesting because plot-wise, there isn't much. I wouldn't even say that this is a character-driven story, which it is. To me, it felt more like an action-driven story - how something you do ends up having a lot of consequences and can change the path of your future, how you give the impression of being a certain kind of person but deep inside you are nothing like that vision, how you never wanted to be involved in something but life and war brings you to the exact spot you swore off. The Cellist of Sarajevo is a very interesting study of humans and war, specifically humans in war, with the Bosnian War as the backdrop.
At the center of the story is the titular cellist, who is a minor character of this book. He has just resolved to play the cello at the site of a bombing for 22 days to mourn the 22 people who died there. (This cellist is inspired by Vedran Samilović, the real-life cellist who used to play in ruined buildings.) The arcs of three other characters, Arrow, Dragan, and Kenan evolve around the cellist's resolution. Arrow is a sniper who never wanted to kill people, and yet here she is, targeting the rebels and gunning them down. She is so good at what she does that she has thus far escaped capture. However, her newest assignment - protect the cellist at all costs - is likely to be far more dangerous than aiming her gun at remote rebels.
Dragan is one of the lucky few who still had a job. Every day, he makes his way from his house to the bakery where he works but there is one intersection that he needs to cross which is occasionally the focus of some sniper's fire. This particular day, the sniper has his scope focused on the intersection making Dragan unable to cross for a long time. It is here that he learns some valuable lessons about the indomitable human spirit even in the eyes of real danger.
Kenan makes a trip every few days to a water reservoir to fill his six bottles with enough water to keep his wife and kids sated for a few days. He also takes two extra bottles for his elderly neighbor whom he doesn't like and who doesn't give him any gratitude or appreciation. So far, he has been lucky although there is plenty of danger that he needs to face during this journey. But this time, he isn't so lucky.
There is so much to love in this book. Galloway's portrayal of what war does to people is interesting. Two of the characters identify themselves more as cowards than heroes. I would hesitate to call them cowards because they are really just scared. Kenan, the father, appears stoic, in control of himself, and confident in front of his family but the moment he steps outside for one of his frequent trips to get water, he crumbles to the floor because he doesn't want to die nor does he want to go out and walk in front of the enemy. Dragan doesn't try to help a friend who gets shot when she tries to cross the intersection but he does get embarrassed when a total stranger helps this woman over to the other side. Arrow, on the other hand, is more of a self-righteous person. She doesn't want to kill a weaponless person just because they seem to be in enemy territory. She would rather die than lose her principles.
I loved The Cellist of Sarajevo more than I thought I would when I first started it. The best comparison I can get for this book is any of José Saramago's books, which are incredibly difficult to plow through but by the end you are rewarded with an excellent story, wonderful characters, and plenty of wisdom to ponder. This isn't a book you want to rush through. It would make for an excellent night-time reading - the chapters aren't long, the characters are very identifiable, and despite how sad the circumstances are, you can't help but feel uplifted by the positive aspects of the book....more
Letters in the Attic was another quick read I found on Scribd. Lizzy McMann is secretly happy that her father wants to leave her mother. She never likLetters in the Attic was another quick read I found on Scribd. Lizzy McMann is secretly happy that her father wants to leave her mother. She never liked him anyways and besides, he rarely acknowledged her, unless he wanted something. But her mother wasn't taking it too well. They eventually decide to move out of Phoenix to upstate New York, where her grandparents resided. Lizzy didnt even know she had grandparents so she was looking forward to meeting them.
The stay at New York turns out to be completely different from what she imagined it to be. Lizzy's grandmother has been very hostile and wouldn't even look at her. She also took every opportunity to ridicule her daughter. Lizzy also ends up learning certain secrets about her mother that makes her initially excited and later very angry. Along the way, she ends up learning that she likes girls and that fact scares her, especially since everyone she knows considers that a very bad thing.
Letters in the Attic was a sweet read but I think younger readers may appreciate it more than I did. I wasn't super thrilled by how the characters evolved through the book. The mother was someone who never learned from her mistakes, and most characters aren't fleshed out too well. It bugged me a lot how every chapter started in the present and then flits back to something that happened a few days or weeks ago. I don't mind flashbacks generally, but this style of narration just seemed too distracting and tiring. Besides, I am not a fan of characters who live too often in the past. Other than these odd hiccups, this was a nice book. All Lizzie wants is a dream home, with parents that would form the perfect family portrait. But more importantly, she wants her mother to be happy and often ends up taking care of her mother....more
I chose to read Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop almost on an impulse. I was browsing through Scribd and came across this title. I find it always diI chose to read Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop almost on an impulse. I was browsing through Scribd and came across this title. I find it always difficult to resist books with bookish titles - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Strange Library, The Bookshop, just to list some of them. In The Bookshop, Florence Green risks everything she has to open a bookshop in the seaside town of Hardborough, which does not have any other bookstores. Despite many expecting her to fail, she actually succeeds and makes more money than she expected to, enough to hire an assistant and start a lending library. But her prosperity invites a lot of negative attention from the owners of nearby stores - none of them happy about the smaller number of people coming to their stores - all content to blame Florence for their woes. Florence also ends up crossing Mrs. Gamart, who, as soon as she becomes aware of Florence's plan to open a bookshop, wants to make it known that the building Florence wants to buy is better suited for an arts center. To top it all, the building is very old and has plenty of maintenance problems, including something that feels haunted.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Bookshop. It's a really tiny book - just 190-odd pages and reads very fast. It was also very interesting and not just because it has a bookshop at the crux of the story. The ending wasn't what I expected at all, and for a good while, it left me feeling sad overall, but it also hints heavily at all the brouhaha that happens when the playing field is not level, and you have some influential people dictating terms. This was my first brush with Penelope Fitzgerald and I would certainly like to read more of her books....more
I've been trying to review this book in my head for a week and I always get stuck with the summary. This is not an easy book to review, not because itI've been trying to review this book in my head for a week and I always get stuck with the summary. This is not an easy book to review, not because it is deep or mysterious or happens to have a spoiler you absolutely should not reveal, but just because this is a book more about the journey of two beautiful characters, and a journey cannot be summarized in any easy way.
I had wanted to read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, ever since I saw this gorgeous cover and spunky title. But like many other books I want to read, it found its place in the dusty never-trodden folds of Mt TBR. Until I found myself in a rut for most of December, and remembered Jenny's review of this book. I found it on Scribd and settled down with the book, hoping it would save me from a rut. It did more than that.
Aristotle, or Ari, as he likes to be called, is a somewhat-angry teen who is more like his quiet, soft-spoken, PTSD-suffering father than his cheerful happy mother. He wants to understand his father better, but his father isn't keen to talk much. Dante, on the other hand, is a know-it-all, who makes up rules for everything in life and expects things to go his way. When the two boys meet one day at a swimming pool, they hit it off immediately, and become best friends. But when Dante moves to Chicago for a year, Ari doesn't quite behave as if he misses him. He is mostly confused by how he feels.
If I didn't know anything about this book, I would have been even more wowed by how Benjamin Alire Sáenz tells the story of Aristotle and Dante. But, this was still a seriously awesome book. Aristotle and Dante are at the age when boys are exploring their sexuality. They think about dating and meet girls, and learn things along the way about themselves and their friendship. Dante, being the more open person, reveals his feelings easily. Ari, who is the narrator of the book, isn't much into understanding himself, even in his own thoughts. He doesn't believe that he could be a great person that other people love and respect.
But Ari made for the perfect narrator. His confusion is our confusion too. At times, I could see what his thoughts were hinting at, but since our narrator refuses to pursue those ideas, I doubted my theories. When I finished reading this book, I wanted to reread it - this time, armed with complete knowledge of the characters, so that I could look at their behavior better.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a satisfying coming-of-age story. By the end of the book, they learn one of the most important facts about themselves that they wouldn't have learned without each other, or at least not until much later. Moreover, I was super happy to come across two teens who obviously and openly loved their parents. I know real-life teens who adore their parents, but the teens in many books either hate their parents, think their parents are not important, or love their parents but don't ever share that opinion....more
This food memoir probably needs no introduction. I have seen this graphic book on so many book blogs that I don't know why it took me this long to getThis food memoir probably needs no introduction. I have seen this graphic book on so many book blogs that I don't know why it took me this long to get to it. Maybe because it was a food memoir, which is something I always want to read but never feel like it is for me. But I love reading graphic memoirs and decided to give this one a try.
This book definitely lived up to all the good stuff that everyone has ever said about it. I loved it. I love food and I like cooking but I don't have the persistence to spend more of my time cooking though I always have this vision of me cooking more than I really do. Lucy Knisley owes her love and respect for food and cooking to her parents and the food-loving social circle she grew up with. Her father is a connoisseur of all things classy. He likes good wine, good food, good clothes, and good restaurants. He didn't cook but every time he traveled, he used it as an excuse to find and eat at the amazing restaurants in his travel destination. Lucy's mother was a chef and caterer and thanks to her, Lucy was an insider in the world of good food. No matter what the food is or if it was her first time trying a certain food, Lucy yearned to taste it and decide for herself if she will enjoy it. Quite unlike me, for whom the visual appearance of the food can be a deal breaker.
In Relish, Lucy talks about the role that food played in her upbringing and adult life. After reading it, it is really hard to look at food the same way as before, at least for a while. There is a lot of appreciation for getting the right quality of ingredients, embracing cooking as something to love rather than a necessary routine, and having an open mind and no prejudice about any kinds of strange or unappetizing foods. When Lucy was still a kid, her parents divorced and her mom moved from their NYC apartment to Rhinebeck, NY, where she started growing several vegetables and fruits in her garden. Although initially unhappy with the move, Lucy quickly begins to love this new rural life and learns a lot about the produce in their (and the neighbors') gardens.
Of course, like all young people, she goes through a phase of loving fast food, especially at McDonald's. Her parents don't like this at all but Lucy's love for non-fast food doesn't diminish. All through her childhood and adult years, she continues cooking. She mentions a memorable few days when she baked croissants after croissants trying to recreate the really amazing ones she had while on vacation at Venice.
Lucy was an art student and she feels art students make some of the best cooks because creating a dish is a kind of art - there is a good amount of visualization that goes into it and plenty of willingness to be bold with some choices in making the dish. If you are a fan of cooking shows, this is probably something you would strongly agree with - not necessarily the art student part but definitely the visualization part. When she was a kid, most of the people who worked in the kitchens at restaurants and bakeries in NYC were art students and musicians. Fast forward to when she is an adult, and the kitchens contain mostly people who are studying for a degree in a food discipline or on their way to becoming a professional chef.
There is much to love in this book. Who knew food could look so wonderful, yummy, and entertaining in a comic book? This isn't a traditional graphic book, where the illustrations do most of the talking. In some cases, the pictures speak a lot but in most cases, they are accompaniments to the text. However, when it comes to the recipes in this book, they certainly had more graphics than text. Lucy's family was hard not to love. I enjoyed reading about their experiences with food and all the trials they go through trying to create a favorite dish or cater to a new set of customers. Each chapter in this book focused on a different aspect of her life - her early teens focused on a fascination with fast food, her college days on her croissant baking attempts and on making dishes that her fellow students appreciated.
I am glad I finally read this one. Mostly, it has made me want to read more food memoirs and experience the journey these cooks/chefs/bakers had with food through their lives....more
I have a big fascination with Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder). It started with reading Sidney Sheldon's TellI have a big fascination with Multiple Personality Disorder (now called Dissociative Identity Disorder). It started with reading Sidney Sheldon's Tell Me Your Dreams, in which a woman has three alters and since this is Sidney Sheldon, there's a lot of sex and damaged woman issues. Then there was an Indian movie, Anniyan, that tackled this issue. The movie was a success but it was more entertaining and less informative about the illness. I've read that book and watched the movie multiple times just because that illness fascinated me. And so, when I saw Switching Time for sale in Audible, I purchased it after doing a quick review scan to make sure people were somewhat happy with the book and that it wasn't fake like Sybil's story is.
Switching Time is about a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder and told from her psychiatrist's perspective. Karen, the subject with the disorder, has 17 alters that were born to help her deal with severe trauma. She has been raped too many times by her father, her grandfather, her grandmother's brother, neighbors, friends of her father, and others. While this was happening, her own mother pretended she couldn't see what was happening in front of her, and years later, would deny that any such thing happened.
Karen's father and grandfather were members of a small cult and would brainwash Karen into believing that she was a devil and deserved to be tortured. As part of their rituals, she has had all kinds of pointy objects scar her skin and inserted into her. If not the rituals, then it is some night-time gathering at her parents' house, where her father invited his colleagues to rape Karen for a fee. Some men weren't too comfortable about this, but the fear of losing their jobs made them accept this "offer". I was honestly in shock. I know that there is a lot of abuse in this world but it's always been something I read about in the news, or vaguely mentioned in a book, or seen in a movie or the news. I have also read a few books where there is significant abuse, but nothing of the sort that's in Switching Time, where one person gets abused consistently over a significant period of time. Karen mentions growing up hearing everyone question her self-worth that it never occurred to her even as an adult that they could be wrong, that she deserves every bit of respect that every other person gets.
When Karen arrives at Dr. Richard Baer's office, she doesn't have even one iota of confidence or desire to fix her problems. She was depressed, docile, diffident, and not sure what to look forward to during her therapy sessions. It isn't until a few years later that her disorder is revealed.
It is fascinating what the mind is capable of to protect itself. Karen's mind would split itself when she was facing a particularly unbearable trauma. Some of her alters are males who were created when she was being raped. Since a male doesn't have a vagina, it cannot feel the rape, thus protecting Karen from the experience. They also do not share those terrible memories with Karen, so she really didn't "know" most of these incidents when Dr. Baer was treating her. Besides, each of these alters held a certain trait of Karen - there was an artist, a sweet little girl, a devout, and two alters who took care of all the alters and managed them. There was also one who had a propensity to steal, another one who over-ate to deal with issues, and then several alters who came out when Karen was hurt particularly bad and hence would forever carry those pains with them.
Yes, there is a lot of sad stuff in this book. But oddly enough, it was also optimistic. I knew that she will recover and I just wanted to cheer her on while she battled her inner demons. If reading about child abuse is something you can stomach, this is a book that should be on your list. Despite how much Karen has suffered, Switching Time is really about the awesomeness of the human mind and how it can also be fixed.
Be warned though that the writing in this book isn't particularly great. It reads more like a journal and could have benefited from a good editor to remove some of the repetitions and redundancies. It was easy on the ears though - it gave the impression of someone narrating their experiences realtime. Therefore the audiobook is certainly highly recommended. There's also a ton of fascinating stuff in this book so those made for some exciting listening. This is probably among my fastest listens - the audiobook is about 13 hours, but I took to listening to it whenever I had a few minutes to spare....more
I am Malala was never on my radar. Part of it had to do with the fact that I had not heard of Malala until this book began making the waves in blogospI am Malala was never on my radar. Part of it had to do with the fact that I had not heard of Malala until this book began making the waves in blogosphere. (Yes, I seem to be living under a rock. In my defense, I stopped reading the news about four years ago. I didn't have a desire to ruin my days after reading some particularly upsetting news.) The other reason was that I keep my memoir reading to a minimum, and I am never a fan of autobiographies that extoll the writer's great virtues. Luckily, Malala is one of the most matter-of-fact narrators I've come across. The only exclamations in her book are when she talks about having fun with her friends just like any regular schoolgirl should. There is no hint of arrogance or "I did a great thing therefore people worship me" attitude in it, and these made this book a seller.
If you, like me, had no idea who Malala is, this young Pakistani girl got shot by the Taliban in her own hometown because she was speaking out for education for girls. Talk about stuff that can get you killed in some places! Malala was 14 when this happened and the last 15-20% of the book follows this incident and her recovery afterwards. But it is the first 80% of the book that won me over. I cannot reiterate enough how much I loved Malala. She was just like any other girl I knew growing up. She had fun with her friends, she had opinions, and more than anything, she just wanted to be a regular every-girl who attended school without issues. Instead, the Taliban had different plans for her.
Her hometown in Swat was not a heavy Taliban area initially. There were boys and girls schools, and even some coed schools. But a certain Maulana Fazlullah was just beginning to slowly influence people with his religious and often misogynistic opinions. Over time, he began to condemn people who still let girls into school, while also publicly appreciating those girls and women who dropped off school. Malala continued attending.
Besides, her father was also an anti-Taliban activist. All he had ever wanted in life was to run a school where kids like Malala could attend. He encouraged Malala to be strong, though when the death threats started pouring in for him and Malala, he began to worry that he will regret his decision later. But Malala was becoming more renowned on her own accord. She was meeting government officials, writing a blog, and airing her opinions without fearing for her life. Her father was her role model and she had never seen him cower or hide in fear. So why should she?
Malala also gives a good history of her country, Pakistan, and its apparent friendliness with Afghanistan. I'm sure many people know that people in Pakistan also suffer from backwardness, thanks to an inefficient and ever-changing government and its physical and spiritual proximity to Afghanistan. But the latter gets in the news more, simply because the problems there are bigger in comparison to those in Pakistan. Malala is ready to criticize her country when something wrong is being done and also expresses embarrassment when negative attention falls on Pakistan, but her thoughts are nowhere near the disgusting or impractical ones that usually occupy the airwaves most of the time.
I purchased this book on Audible when I had to choose a book to complete a sale. Funnily, this is the book I listened to first, of the lot. The narrator, Archie Panjabi, did a great job narrating this story and made for a great voice in my car during the couple of weeks it took me to finish listening to this book. I am glad this book turned out to be informative (there is so much about Pakistan that I learned here - all interesting stuff too) and personable (Malala is certainly a charming person), but most importantly, this is a record of a little girl's triumphing over the Taliban, and that, in my opinion, is a great read anytime. On the other hand, books like these make me sad though, because for every well-known girl like Malala getting shot and saved, there must be countless other girls dying without a grave or newsprint to honor them....more
I have a confession to make. I have a morbid curiosity for what goes on behind some of the most popular technological companies out there. I love to fI have a confession to make. I have a morbid curiosity for what goes on behind some of the most popular technological companies out there. I love to find out how some of their products came into being, who decided who would become the CEO, and how these companies or people got funding to build and sell their products. I don't care much for established products of yesteryears such as Microsoft, Yahoo, or Apple. But dish me some of the sordid stories from Google, Facebook, or Twitter and I'll probably be all ears. I guess some of that interest comes from being a programmer myself but it's fascinating to learn how an everyday programmer, the likes of whom I see everyday at work, would build something that the world would just adopt heavily.
Still, none of that eagerness nor watching (and being shocked by) The Social Network prepared me for just how sordid a background Twitter has. Seriously, I'm surprised that such a discordant company led by people who barely got along managed to produce a product that is used by every Tom and his neighbor.
Hatching Twitter starts at the very beginning - with Blogger's creation. Evan "Ev" Williams developed what would become Blogger and it wasn't soon before it was bought by Google. After a brief stint at Google, he left the company and started a podcasting company called Odeo along with his neighbor Noah Glass. Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone joined shortly, along with several others who would be part of this group for a long time to come. Although they were officially building a podcast product (though that term was not yet in the mainstream), unofficially an idea to share status messages with other people in an SMS-like manner was taking hold among them. Jack Dorsey came up with the idea first, and soon they put together a very early version of Twitter. Then they sat waiting for people to sign up.
Except, it didn't get anywhere.
It isn't until months later that Twitter began to make a tiny name for itself at a time when startups were all the craze.
I found Hatching Twitter immensely fascinating. These founders are clearly very intelligent, but most of them were also very introverted or socially awkward. Twitter was a big part of who they wanted to be. As Noah often said, Twitter was where he could make lots of friends and not feel too alone, as he often did in real life. These guys bonded with each other easily, but some of them were quick to back-stab someone if it meant getting a leg up in the small Twitter corporate ladder. Jack and Ev abhorred confrontation and many a problem at Twitter could be blamed at their hesitation to address issues constructively.
Over time, Twitter's leadership changed hands quickly and people were getting fired. Jack Dorsey was made CEO first since Twitter was his idea after all. Noah Glass was fired from the company even though he was a big part of the company. When Jack wasn't fixing problems but trying to make new plans for Twitter, the board fired him and made Ev the CEO. The board would later do the same thing to Ev and make Dick Costolo the CEO. There were times I wanted to gouge my ears out - this company was filled with people who didn't know how to solve problems! Unfortunately, that's the story of many corporate companies.
If only the story ended there.
Just as in fiction, Jack comes back to get his revenge on Ev for firing him. He seemed to be playing some mental chess where he moved his pieces (the people influencing Twitter) around and managed to get back on top. At least, this is what the author says and after doing a fair bit of research since, this does seem to be true. Amidst all this betrayal and poor sportsmanship at Twitter, Noah's is certainly the saddest tale of all. He had a very effusive personality and was often a difficult personality to handle, but I got the feeling that he was also the only genuine person working at Twitter. Being fired from the one company he poured his soul into hit him too hard, so much that he has mostly disappeared from social media.
There were some interesting mentions that most of us users were a part of. Remember the #failwhale that used to grace the page of Twitter every so often? The #failwhale is also a big part of the book. I was amazed to learn that Twitter's failwhale woes hung around for years. I joined Twitter in early 2010 and even then it was the one page I ran into more times than any other. The #failwhale is also one prime reason for both Jack and Ev to get fired. Another interesting detail was that the Twitter founders didn't care for the hashtag. They considered it too technical and didn't think users would ever understand how to use them. Programmers do need to get down from their high horse and give people more credit....more