Sitabhra's Bookshelf

Welcome to the new, revamped bookshelf ! In addition to the mini book reviews that I had before, I plan to add short, personal essays about literary genres, writers I admire, etc.

``You can never, ever have too many books. You might not have enough space. Or enough money. I might say I don't have enough space for more books, but never that I have too many books. Books are the lifeblood of any intellectual culture and advanced society. The fact that there some people who don't have any books, or think they have too many are among the many signs of the continuing decline of society.'' - Rick Klaw

I couldn't have put it any better myself!  

Its going to take some time to set it up like the way I want to - but meanwhile the old pages are still here, containing short precis of some of the books that I loved reading.
By clicking the following links you can go directly to the mini reviews:
Bookshelf 1
Bookshelf 2
Bookshelf 3

Wish List: List of books that I haven't read but heard of, books that I have read partly or fully but which I badly want to re-read; in short, books I want for my bookshelf.

Science fiction still composes the bulk of my fiction reading these days. Now, for those who are not very familiar with area, the word "science fiction" conjures up images of a dashing hero blasting away at evil robots/ armoured villainous space-marauders with laser pistols and always getting the beautiful girl at the end - who just happens to be the only daughter of the galactic emperor ! Juvenile stuff ! Well - I don't blame people for having such pre-conceived ideas about SF. After all, I myself had such a notion till I was 19 - when a friend at college handed me Frank Herbert's Dune and insisted I try it out before rejecting the SF genre as a whole. My first, and till then last, attempt at reading SF was when I had got hold of a copy of Isaac Asimov's End of Eternity - I couldn't get past the first ten pages. To this day, I consider Asimov to be one of the most absurdly over-rated writers of the genre (yes, even after considering the Foundation series) - it's a misfortune that most people consider him the archetypical SF author !
Anyway, to come back to Dune - I had read before in an essay by Carl Sagan that this book contains a description of one of the most believable alien ecologies - so I was intrigued enough to plunge into the book with an open mind. And I was hooked ! Not just to the desert world of Arrakis and the prophet Muad-'dib - but the whole wide world of (intelligent) SF. From that point on I started devouring SF books available in the libraries of which I was a member: Tolkien, Clarke, Leguin, Dick, Wyndham - basically anything I could get my hands on. The collection in those places weren't great - I had to wait for ten years before I managed to read a book by Stanislaw Lem - although I had known of Lem as possibly the greatest writer in the field ever since I started reading SF. But gradually I managed to acquire a sense of which writers to focus on, who are the ones trying to formulate (if not actually addressing) the questions which intrigue me most. And Ursula K. Leguin has turned out to be my favorite writer of the genre. Its actually unfortunate that she has not achieved wider recognition outside the genre - because she in no way can be limited by the label of a SF writer. She has taken the form of the traditional SF novel and moulded it to address questions of universal significance, questions which all literature worth anything address. She is one of the reasons why I think that many of the so-called SF writers are actually the best literateurs (irrespective of genre) of the 20th century.

Related Links
Geeks with Books: the SF site columns of Rick Klaw

Tal Cohen's Bookshelf