The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: A psychological thriller that’s unputdownable!

Alex Michaelides’s debut novel reads like a slow burn thriller but surprises you when you least expect it.

I’m going to go so far as to say that The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is hands down one of the best debut novels I’ve read. His immersive, slow-burning, keeping-you-on-the-edge novel has lived up to the hype it has been receiving and rightly so.

When Alicia, a famous painter shoots her husband five times without any remorse, she becomes the talk of the town. Discarded by the people, her refusal to defend herself or talk, immediately perks the psychotherapist, theo’s interest. While Alicia is being kept in a forensic unit in London, called The Grove- Theo is hellbent on making Alicia talk. He’s as fascinated about Alicia’s life as he is about her deafening silence. When the opportunity to become her psychotherapist arrives, Theo jumps to take the offer. Here starts the cat & mouse chase as Theo tries to unravel layer by layer, dissecting the infamous life of Alicia, and what caused her to murder her husband.

The narrative structure of the novel doesn’t read like a thriller in the sense that it doesn’t have whiplash moments, or hands-on-mouth kind of a situation- it seeps deeper into the psyche of the mind, and tries to understand the ‘WHY’ rather than the ‘HOW’. The more you read it, the more bizarre and twisted it becomes. We see the story unfold through Theo’s eyes as he begins his sessions with Alicia, trying to talk his way through the walls she’s built. Not just that, we also learn a lot about Theo, his abusive past, and why he wanted to make a career in mental health, and his ultimate fascination of the notorious Alicia.

Read The Silent Patient for its immaculate plot, excellent narrative structure, and for an in-depth character study that runs parallel to great storytelling! It has also been optioned for a film, and I CANNOT wait!


Author: Alex Michaelides

Publisher: Orion Books

Genre: Psychological thriller

Rating:4.8/5

 

Blurb

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Daddykins by Kalpana Mohan: A bitter-sweet memoir that will make you laugh and cry.

Books & Teaa

While driving back in the car after the party, he turned to my sister to ask her the one question that seemed to giving him heartburn. “Was this a birthday or a sendoff?”

Returning back after celebrating his ninetieth birthday, the one thought that kept lingering in the mind of Daddykins, was that of mortality, and how much more time did he have? In this memoir that’s written with utmost affection, love and respect for a man the author grew up loving, her father, we see life through his eyes, and how with changing times, Daddykins, remained loyal to his routines, his family, and everything that was dear to him.

Kalpana Mohan, a journalist in California, flies down to take-care of her father whose health keeps deteriorating, She describes her father’s life, piecing together every little detail with precision, and caution coupled with laughter and wit. She traces her father’s…

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In Conversation with Faiqa Mansab: Author of This House of Clay and Water

Resharing one of my most cherished Author Interviews.

Books & Teaa

When I read This House of Clay and Water a few months back, I knew I had stumbled upon a story that would stay with me for a long time. I devoured the book within a day, and struggled to come up with a review that would do justice to the book. It was a book that made me realize why I love reading, and why the written words will never fail to leave me breathless. When you read a book that speaks strongly to you, you can’t help but get inside the head of the author who wrote it, and therefore, I had the honor of interviewing Faiqa Mansab, author of This House of Clay and Water. Absolutely honest, insightful and full of literary wisdom, the author tells us what it’s like to be a writer and much more!

INTERVIEW:

Thank you so much for taking out time to…

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In Conversation with Aanchal Malhotra: Revisiting the past one object at a time.

Aanchal Malhotra talks about how the book came to be written, and the aspects involved with recording material memory.

I remember going up to my grandfather after I had finished reading Remnants of a Separation to inquire about his past, about what happened during Partition, and how after all was said and done, he along with his family, decided to live for the rest of their lives, carrying a huge loss in their hearts. And that’s what Aanchal’s book ” Remnants of a Separation” prompted me to do. It has in ways more than one opened room for discussion for not just me but many who’ve read the book but never realized they have family members who were witness to the partition. It has given all those who were thrown into the middle of one of the most important historical events a voice. We all know what happened through innumerable written, oral and visual sources. But the primary source has always been the people who experienced it firsthand. Through interviews, Aanchal has given us an insight into what happened, relying on material memory, and how objects play a powerful role.

It was a pleasure interviewing Aanchal, and listen to her narrate how it all began.

INTERVIEW:

  • You’re an artist and Oral historian, how did writing a book on material memory come into the picture?

What I put on my blog were just snippets of information, at least at the beginning. When I was doing these interviews people were telling me things that were never taught to us in schools and they weren’t great things like religious importance or anything. They were just things about Undivided India and I thought everyone should have access to that kind of information, of what life was like beforehand. The thing with putting things online is that it’s accessible and democratic.  I didn’t really expect such response from people and I didn’t know if people were interested still about the Partition. I started writing the blog on a whim because when you’re doing such interviews, you hear all this information and it gets heavy in your head. All these things about trauma and loss, and you think to yourself,’ I don’t want to hold all this information in my head’.  I mean, factually writing a book is also a catharsis of sorts. So it clearly came from the need of NEEDING to share because I needed other people to know that, ‘hey they’re not so different or hey things were really not so bad all the time’.

 

  • Remnants of a Separation, which was once your thesis project is now a book. How would you describe this journey?

It seemed like a natural progression. It started as a thesis and I am artist, so it was a visual thesis. You know when something takes over you, and you’re not leading it, it’s leading you. Suddenly people started writing to me from different places and I didn’t really expect it to become this big because you’re talking about things. Honestly, I didn’t think that things would make such a big difference because in the larger scheme of life when people are running and freeing for safety, is a THING really that important? But 70 years later, it remains the only way we have access to undivided India’s daily life.

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  • You’ve interviewed several people in your book, situated on both sides of the border. Do you see any difference in how they have coped post-partition? Or is pain and heartache individualistic?

On one level, a very rudimentary level, there is nostalgia on both sides, and there are emotions on both sides, but when you get up to a state or political level, then the narrative is different. And unfortunately, in Pakistan, the state of the narrative is married into the narrative of identity. So it is difficult to say anything that might hamper that narrative. We have to keep in mind that a Partition is an event of versions.  Everybody’s version adds up to what Partition is. It’s not just one kind of narrative; there are hundreds and thousands of different kinds of narratives that people went through for the same event. That’s what amazes me is that even if two people move from the same village and went to the same village, their versions of what happened will be totally different, depending on their experiences.

 

  • Your interviews are more like stories being narrated. What made you choose this form of storytelling?

I think it’s because I’m not trained as a writer. I really think it’s because I am an artist, and when you study art or go to art school or make something in a studio, your primary motive is to create something out of nothing. You’re making imagery; you’re trying to transport the person to a particular place through images. I think personally as a writer that should be your job as well.  I started writing based on the images people were creating for me or the imaginary landscape I was making, I think my writing is very visual, it’s sensorial.  I don’t know anything about writing, I write because of what I feel which is how I make stuff as well. Maybe it’s like an emotion-driven process but in the case of the book, it also had to be married into facts and academia. So I had to learn a lot of tools on the way; like I had to learn how to be a historian and I had to learn how to be an archaeologist of memory; how do you ask a question? You learn to be an interviewer; you learn to be a researcher. You learn that you can’t spend your day in the studio and you actually have to spend 12 hours in the library. The form of storytelling will always remain visual for me. For me, the texture of every story is very different. The color of every story is different, the landscape of every story is different; it moves. So it’s very important to make distinctness in people that each person stands for a different kind of narrative.

 

  • Most of the younger generation seem to be uninterested when it comes to Partition or they don’t know enough about it. Do you think material memory can be the catalyst in bringing together generations and opening a discussion?

I hope so. I see it happening even on my blog or Instagram. It can be a very simple thing like maybe I’ve posted a photo of a Kadhai or glass, and if a person from India and a person from Pakistan or a person from Bangladesh are all talking about the same thing in the comment section then something is happening. Maybe the object is a very frivolous thing to be talking about but maybe it can also be considered a democratic space for cross-border conversation. It’s just something you connect to.

 

  • You’ve spoken about how the topic of Partition is almost always dealt with hesitation by the very people who were a huge part of it. What do you think is the reason?

I think it depends on people’s perspective or what they went through or their experience. But there’s a certain amount of shame in being driven out of your house, in not being able to do anything, in seeing what people around you are doing. There is anger and I think that many people that lived through it did not have the time and space to comprehend what they had gone through. I always think about this: Imagine if after the partition there had been psychologists or counselors to talk to people, imagine how different an experience it would have been. But you went through this incredibly traumatic event, you were driven out of your house, you had nothing, you were reduced to penury, and then you just had to move on, and start life again in this new place. I can’t even imagine. Would I ever talk about it if I went through it and would I ever be able to unsee the things that people saw? You know what really shocks me, and I always ask this question to people: Do you think it’s weird that something we study as a historical component in textbooks is something that you have lived through?  These people are living histories. The other thing is that after Partition no one talked about it, it’s not like the Holocaust where people wrote about it extensively. And it’s also not like the Holocaust where there’s a clear demarcation of who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? There was nothing like this here; everyone was at fault at some point or the other. The boundaries became very blurred as to who did what and who was responsible for what and who started the killing and who started the bombings. It is difficult to say because we weren’t there and I think even the people who lived through it cannot say with certainty and certainly not with an unbiased perspective who started it.

 

  • On reading the book, one also realizes that Partition is as much about people’s kindness towards other communities as it is about hatred and violence. Don’t you think the stories about Partition merely just state facts when it’s much more than that? Why don’t we hear about such stories?

Because those stories don’t sell. Violence sells a lot. There are so many stories about goodness. People don’t talk about it. Virtually everyone person I’ve met in Pakistan has some family in India and growing up in India I didn’t even think about this. Now it’s like such a common thing for me to hear.

 

 

  • Is there any story that is close to your heart but didn’t make it to the book?

Yes. There’s a particular story I heard in Karachi, just last month. And I want to tell you because it’s a very important story for me, and it really shook me. It really moved me. There was a woman, who was traveling from Delhi to Lahore, and the train got attacked by rioters and so many people died on the train. Her husband was one of the people who was stabbed and was thrown off the train. She was alive but she jumped after him. The train had stopped and the rioters had fled. All the people who had died were just lying on the train. Her husband bled till death. She took off her dupatta and she soaked up all of his blood that she could. She made the train’s attendant promise that he would bury her husband as she couldn’t take the body by herself being pregnant at the time. She soaked up the blood, got on the train by herself and reached Lahore where she didn’t know anyone. She went to the graveyard and bought a plot and buried that blood-soaked dupatta. It was the only thing she had of her husband. And she gave birth to a son whom she would take to the graveyard every week to visit his father. Can you imagine a dupatta standing in for a person? It is just heartbreaking on so many levels.  The woman had no regret, no malice for people that had done that. She understood that it was circumstance. But the sheer act of picking up the part of somebody else, that’s also one form of an object I suppose.

 

  • What has been the most difficult part of writing Remnants of a Separation? Finding people to interview or waiting for them to unearth memories they’ve buried deep within?

Talking about it. It’s really hard. You know some people have this skill of being able to extract information in an unobtrusive way, and I’m one of those people. When you get to that conversation with a person, it comes quite naturally because you don’t start with Partition. You never start with Partition. You start with all the other things and eventually you get to Partition. I think for me right now the most challenging thing is constantly talking about it.  What happens when you keep talking about something that’s so magnanimous is that the more you talk about it, the more it seems to be reduced to data. It seems like a rehearsed activity that you’re doing all the time. Now the most challenging thing is talking about it again and again. These people are not just people, they are my family. Somebody has opened their life and told me something infinite, you have to respect that. Sometimes journalists have these habits of asking questions and it seems like data.

 

  • Are you working on any other project?

I am working on a novel about an Indian Soldier who fights in World War I in the                Western front. It won’t be out for another two years.

 

(This interview was first published in a monthly newsletter, OfTheNefeli)

 

About the Author:
Aanchal Malhotra is an artist and oral historian, working with memory and material culture. She was educated in Traditional Printmaking and Art History at OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design), Toronto and Concordia University, Montréal. She is the author of ‘Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory’ (HarperCollins 2017) and can be found at The Hiatus Project, Instagram and her website.

Tackling the Big-Bad monster: The Reading Slump

A few tips on how to get out of a reading slump.

If there’s anything readers despise more than running out of cups of caffeine, and books, is getting into a reading slump. What is it, you ask? It’s when the reader has saturated his/her ability to read, and regardless of the efforts, is unable to read. There can be several reasons for this tragedy to befall on you. Maybe you’ve read too much at a go, maybe the book you’ve read was so good that you can no longer drag yourself out of it or maybe a book you’ve read was terrible, and now you want your life back. Whatever the reason, not being able to read can get quite frustrating. But sometimes, getting out of a reading slump is easier than you think. Let’s see how:

  • Rereading: Going back to books that have provided comfort, and are your favorites is the surest way to get out of a slump. The familiarity of the words, the rekindling of love with your favorite characters, and knowing how the story unfolds, helps your mind unravel. Remember, you’re unable to concentrate and pay attention to the story because you’re burned out.  Not having to focus and knowing how the story unfolds helps to get in the flow.

 

  • Shorten the length: Pick up shorter novels. Most of the time the thickness of the book intimidates you. The mere sight of them is enough for you to discard reading anything at all. Go for short stories or novellas or Graphic novels or comic books. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel after finishing these books will encourage you to read more. That’s what we’re trying to achieve here, right?

 

  • Mix up the genres: It’s time to shuffle that TBR of yours. Monotony can be lethal. Step out of your comfort zone and read something you’d never dare to. I’ve realized that reading non-fiction always helps me beat the reading slump. It’s really weird and often baffles me. So if you’re someone who always reads historical fiction, go for a thriller. Not only will you fly through the pages, but you will also discover new genres.

PRO TIP: If you can’t find a particular book you seem to be interested in, I’d suggest reading the first two chapters of different books. Now depending on which one captures your attention the most, start with that one. (I only recently started doing this, and it works. Well, mostly. )

 

  • Listen to the words: Audiobooks are the new cool. In a time where people are always busy and on the go, listening to books has been a life-savior. There are several apps that have free audio-books available. Just choose one that perks your interest, and listen away. My go-to app is storytel.in. Storytel app

 

  • Making reading time fun: The ambiance you’re in plays an important role in helping you get into the reading mood. Make yourself a cup of tea, light a few candles, dim the lights and set some soothing music. You’ll find yourself winding down, your nerves starting to settle, and within no time you’ll be immersed in the book. You can also go to a café or a park to give you some alone time.

 

  • Buddy read: There’s no better way to read than to read with your friend. You will get the motivation and encouragement you need. Pick a book you both want to read and plan a reading marathon. To spice things up, hold reading discussions. This will easily help you beat the slump. If you’re the competitive type, you’ll immediately get to work.

 

  • Give yourself some break: It’s important to realize, reading isn’t a competition. It’s one of life’s most simple pleasures, one that cannot be made into a routine. If you feel worn down, take some time off. Bing watch on Netflix, or maybe movie-adaptations of your favorite novels, or go on YouTube and check out what other book tubers are up to. Take this time to journal and write down what’s happening in your mind. Whenever you’re in a slump, take this opportunity and write reviews of all the books you’ve been putting off. Just because you’re not reading doesn’t mean you’re not going to at least talk about it. I recently went on a social media detox that lasted for almost a month. It was refreshing, and I returned with a lot of enthusiasm and eagerness to read and blog.

 

Hope the above tips help you overcome your reading slump. Remember to take it one day at a time. If your reading slump still persists, I’d suggest buying books you don’t need. The guilt will make you do things you never anticipated.

 

 

My Blogging Journey and Celebrating 100 Posts!

Celebrating 100 posts and reflecting on the years gone by.

This is my 100th post.

I don’t know what people write in their 100th post because I sure as heck don’t know. I didn’t think a day such as this one had any possibility of becoming a reality but here we are.

I started my blog when I was in my first year of college. But let’s go back a little further. I started reading a lot more in the 11th standard, and would read in between classes, and on my way to school even though I was always drawn to reading, devouring all the books from the library, and buying books from the Scholastic book fair. But during my late teens, there was this need to read books at all times. I would be lost in the written word, finding solace and excitement and thrill. Naturally, my choices in books were questionable but gradually my reading taste changed and has continued to do so. While in school, I had developed a deep fascination for writing. I also started writing a lot of poems( which were a cringefest) but also short stories. So when I went to college, starting a blog seemed like the right thing to do.

I figured out the logistics (googled it) and created a blog named, ‘The Literary Cat“.

For the longest time, I would write under this blog name and changed it to ‘Books and Teaa’ only recently. I started off with book reviews, short stories, and then slowly went on to writing how-tos, and listicles. However, I was involved in a number of extra-curricular activities in college and my blog wasn’t the highlight at this point in time in my life. Throughout my under-graduation, my posts were sporadic, and all over the place. I didn’t start a blog to make something out of it or to become a full-time blogger—It was created because the thoughts in my head needed a home.

Fast forward to 2016, and I had just finished my post-graduation diploma and was pursuing a Masters degree. At this point in time, two things happened.

  • I was searching for a job, and pursuing an online masters. I had time to spare.
  • I stumbled upon Bookstagram.

Here’s where things started to turn around and by that, I don’t mean I started earning money through blogging. This was never my goal. I always wanted to be known as a writer and someone who likes reading books.

Blogging has been that corner of my life which I can pick up wherever I left. I always write whenever I have an idea that can no longer be contained in my head. Here’s when the words flow smoothly, my mind running at the speed of light spewing idea after idea, and the stories writing themselves.  It’s rewarding and satisfying but at the same time A LOT of work. I still don’t understand how WordPress works and there are so many things I can improve on my site. I would like to be more active, put in more effort, and be consistent. There have also been times where I didn’t want to think I have a blog. To be honest, I still wonder why people read what I write.

If I show you the stats, it’s going to reflect poorly on me, and probably expose me as a ‘fake’ person who only claims to love writing. But wanting to do something and actually doing it are two separate things. I still haven’t figured it all out, I still can’t think of blog post ideas, and I know I will not be able to stay as consistent as I would like to be. But that’s how life is sometimes. I like to think of my blog as a safe space devoid of any obligations. I cannot force myself to do things and I don’t want to make blogging a chore, a checklist I can tick off. And neither should you.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years of blogging, it’s this:

The results are going to be slow. The views on your posts won’t be too high initially, you’ll have to promote your posts relentlessly, and even then you’ll have days where you won’t see any traffic on your blog. It’s going to get frustrating and you would want to give up. But this is exactly when you shouldn’t. The fact that you’re still sitting at your desk, typing away regardless of whether or not anyone is reading the posts is when you’ll know you’re doing this for yourself. And that’s when it won’t matter. 

 

 

 

 

Am I happy?

What is happiness?

For the longest time, I believed happiness to be a place where if I enter once, I’d never come out of; like a pandora’s box, a candy shop that never runs out of candy or an endless supply of my favorite things. Little did I know, happiness would be fleeting, coming and going; sometimes staying for days maybe even months, and other times just brushing me by like the winter breeze. It’s hard to describe what happiness means. Everything I know of life has been experienced through trial and error, and everything I knew of happiness has been felt after a series of ups and downs. Happiness does not come from an isolated place. It’s either accompanied before or after sadness, sometimes devoid of emotions. After all, that’s how you really understand what it’s like being happy. When your heart flutters and dances, when the moon looks more beautiful and when your shoulders don’t feel heavy.  If you look closely, it’s just an absence of sadness. So do I look happy? I don’t know, it depends on how you look at it. But do I have happy moments in between moments of nothingness? Of course, I do. I’ve found happiness in the mundane. It doesn’t take much effort but this happiness isn’t conditional. It’s forever giving. And for now, that’s all I need.

Do you want to start a Bookstagram? Here’s a step-by-step guide with useful tips from my all-time favorite bookstagrammers.

Complete guide to starting your own bookstagram.

Bookstagram is an online community of passionate readers who click aesthetically pleasing pictures on Instagram. You might remember that time when food blogging was the only form of social media done on IG. Long gone are those days. With fashion and beauty blogging rising in trend, Bookstagram is equally gaining the attention it deserves.

Needless to say, posting a book review on IG is easier and faster as compared to traditional forms of blogging (WordPress, medium, Blogspot etc). Not only do you get to play with your creativity, but it also helps you gain traction if you’re a budding photographer or writer.

I stumbled across Bookstagram one fine day and was blown away by this corner of the internet. Before this, I used to (and still do) blog on WordPress but coming to terms with BG was like opening a Pandora’s box. It’s been more than 2 years since I joined this lovely and accepting community, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Books and Teaa

Here’s a shot of my account.

If you’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a bookstagram, you’re in the right place. Here’s how you can create one and be consistent:

  • Picking a username: Once you have created an account, the journey begins. Choosing a name for your account is harder than picking baby names, not that I have any experience in this arena, but I’m giving you a heads up. Just a suggestion, go for a name that would be pleasing to the eye and easy to remember.
  • Bio: It’s crucial for you to introduce yourself. People want to know your name, where you’re from, and whether or not you’re a potential serial killer. If you visit other profiles, you’ll see a lot of bloggers have put up the number of books they’ve read or their current read. You can do whatever floats your boat but remember to make it interesting.
  • Device: Let’s make things clear once and for all. You DO NOT need a high functioning camera or need to be a photography wizard to start a bookstagram. Any smartphone with a camera is all you need. I started off BG with a normal phone camera, and after a few tries understood what works best for me. However, if photography is your niche, then please go ahead and invest in a DSLR. But your creativity and review is the only thing that’s going to help you create an impact.
  • Props: Here’s where the fun starts. Creating an aesthetic for your picture is the best way to unleash your inner artist. Take a white bed sheet or a white chart paper, place a few books, and maybe a cup of tea, and there you go. You have a picture. You can also use your bookshelf or nice graffiti wall or your sofa as the background. The idea here is to play around with whatever is around you. We don’t do anything too extravagant and fancy, because we believe in making magic out of simple things. Leaves, candles, dead flowers, and even borrowed human arm can make for an excellent prop. Don’t expect to get it right at the first go. If I show you the pictures I clicked when I started out, you’d want to throw up. But heyyy, that’s how you learn, don’t you?

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I decided to become a prop because my two brain cells believed it was a good idea.

  • Lighting: Pictures come out the best when taken under natural lighting. When the sun’s shining like the brightest star, you should turn into a ninja and go on a picture clicking spree. Keep a stock of pictures that would last you a week so that you can stay consistent and ahead of the game.

 

  • Participate in readathons and reading challenges: Readathons and challenges help you explore your reading taste, and find people who like the same books as you. Not only do you get to read more, but you also push yourself out of your comfort zone. It helps you increase your engagement on your posts, and get more brownie points.

 

  • Hashtags: Do I even need to explain this? We live in an era of hashtags and it’s not surprising that one needs to be at the top of the hashtag game to get the most out of a post. Your hashtags should be relevant to what you have posted. If you’ve posted a book review the hashtags could be #bookreview #reviewing. Hashtags are essential in gaining more traction. You can use several other hashtags that are related to your niche, in this case, books. A few examples are: #bibliophile #bookshelf #currentread #bookdragon. IG allows us to use up to 30 hashtags, so put your thinking caps on and be as creative as you can.
  • Tags: It’s always polite to tag the publisher whose book you’re reading. It adds context and helps you get exposure in case the publisher decides to repost your picture on their feed. You can also tag feature accounts to garner likes and engagement.
  • Originality: Taking inspiration from a particular account you admire is one thing but blatantly copying their style is plagiarism. Nothing good comes out of shamelessly calling someone else’s work your own. Challenge yourself to come up with innovative ideas. A little dedication goes a long way and in no time you’ll create pictures you didn’t expect you could.
  • Consistency: If you’re ready to commit a considerable amount of your time into clicking pictures, writing reviews and posting on a regular basis alongside working or studying, then welcome aboard. You will see slow but longlasting results only if you’re consistent. Schedule your posts on the weekends so that you have ample stock to use during the weekday.
  • Interaction: Start following people whose pictures you really like or are inspired by. It’s super-important to engage with your followers and TALK to them about books. Leave a thoughtful comment on their posts, and spread the love for your favorite books. Advice: Don’t be creepy. No one likes creepy.

A few add-ons:

  1. It’s NOT important to have a theme. The whole idea is to explore your creativity and expand your horizon. If you can work around a theme, excellent. If you’re finding it hard to maintain a theme, then abandon it. Life’s too short to waste time on things you don’t enjoy.
  2. IG stories are a great way to maintain interaction with your followers. Even if you’re not posting regularly on the feed, you can always just put up a few stories talking about your recent purchase to that lovely coffee shop to a general life-update.
  3. Your captions should be crisp. They should not be a thesis essay. Ensure that they are interesting or funny. The idea is to make people stop and listen to what you have to say.
  4. Breaks are important. I recently took a 15-day break because we’re millennials and burnout is inevitable. Clicking pictures or reading felt like a chore, and I didn’t want to hate the very thing I’m passionate about. So, I went on a hiatus and came back fresh as a daisy. Don’t feel guilty for not reading or posting as much. Remember, blogging isn’t a game and one shoe doesn’t fit all. Find what works for you and stick to it.
  5. Remember to enjoy the process. It’s not about followers or likes but about sharing the love of reading with everyone. If your sole purpose is to be Instagram famous then you’ll get bored of it very soon.

 

I spoke to some of my favorite bookstagrammers who have been inspirational to me in ways more than one, and I am always in awe of how dedicated and kind they are. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Aritri Chatterjee (@liquidsunset):

BG has always been a very welcoming community and that is one of the things that pushed me to continue despite being a newcomer here.
The key to starting a BG account is to be excited about discussing books. Beautiful pictures and funny captions definitely count but if your love for books doesn’t come from within then promoting those books will be a difficult deal.
When you are new, try to interact with people on their stories and posts because people here wouldn’t already know you and communicating with them will help them know what kind of a person you are. Also, try and be consistent in your posts and interaction so that the people who follow your account have something to look forward to. Most importantly enjoy the process and if you ever feel like it is becoming a burden then take a step back and allow yourself to be ready again for BG.

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Aritri was the VERY FIRST person I spoke to when I joined BG, and we’ve connected over books since. Love how her feed is a perfect blend of her life and books she’s reading. Also, the curator of #femmemarchfest. I love a powerful woman. 

You can follow Aritri here: theliquidsunset

  • Aayushi (@_penandpapers):

When I joined BG, I saw many people with 20k+ accounts having gorgeous flat lays and I tried to be like them, which never happened. So, I came up with my own unique style of my feed. You don’t have to play the theme game if you think you’re not good at it, post random pictures. There are many BG accounts that I love who don’t do themes. Just don’t be a sheep. You need to understand that there will be times when your posts won’t get expected engagement (but you are sure that your post is great), don’t panic and don’t delete that post. Start working on the next one. Stop worrying about getting followers. You’re here to talk about books and not increasing followers. One day they’ll eventually increase. As I say, Grow a bookshelf or a garden instead! Always click pictures in good lighting and write catchy captions.

Every day I get this same DM: How to receive free books? First, they’re not free. If a publisher sends us a book, we have to review it. It’s barter system here. Secondly, don’t worry about that. You’ll get ARCs and proofs when a publisher notices you or you can just drop them a formal DM or email. Lastly, never stop reading and binge buying books!

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Aayushi is the queen of flatlays, and if you look carefully, you’ll see how she has a theme and has kept it casual. She’s been highly influential in making me pick up classics and her recommendations are always on point. 

You can follow Aayushi here: _penandpapers

  • Padmaja (@thebookishtales):

When I was starting out, I had no idea of asking for review copies, how to click good pictures and writing reviews. You have to create your own niche and make your account unique. Interaction is the key. People on BG are very supportive and friendly. The more you interact, the more people will notice you and your account. Click pictures with good lighting. I would advise clicking pictures in natural light. You can use more or fewer props, but lighting is important. Work hard on your blog. Think of creative blog posts and write posts which start discussions. Focus on quality instead of quantity.

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Padmaja’s feed always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling because she has the ability to incorporate the mundane and make it look beautiful. If there’s ever a problem, I run to Padmaja. We have way too many favorites, and are always making a dent in each other’s pockets with endless book recommendations.

You can follow Padmaja here: thebookishtales

  • Ruqaiya (@ruqkish):

Every bookstagrammers account is a labor of insane hard work and passion. It’s not easy but I’ll say that it’s worth it. Well, to grow your account you do need props, and you do need a lot of books but you don’t need that to start. I started when I had 20 books on my shelf and literally, the only props I had was a white chart paper and a cup of coffee. I won’t lie, I hated my pictures for a long time but I didn’t give up. I kept posting and reading and reviewing until I found my own style and got comfortable with it. One thing I’ve learned with my experience is that you have to be yourself unapologetically, it’s your page, you are entitled to post anything you like. Don’t try and please people with your reviews or pictures, it gets suffocating after a while. And as far as getting review copies are concerned, don’t go around asking every publisher especially if you’ve just started out. The best way to get noticed is to read a lot, review a lot, post great pictures and never forget to tag the author and publisher. Well, that’s how I started. It worked for me, so I am certain it’ll work for you too.

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Ruqaiya’s feed is all kinds of goals. Hers is a perfect example of how to maintain a theme and capture your attention. Bonus: Her captions.  Easily one of the best people to talk to and interact with. Smart, funny and oh-so-relatable. 

You can follow Ruqaiya here: ruqkish

  • Nupur Lakhe (@nupur_flipaleaf):

Although I am not much older in this Bookstagram community, I did figure it out and made my way through it.
Because we are talking about tips to start Bookstagram, I would like to mention first and foremost that Bookstagram requires time. Not only is it just about clicking pictures and posting content but it is also about interaction. The things that I learned in my stint of last one year were : do not write anything that you don’t believe in, be it a review or talking about a book casually, pictures and content go hand in hand; pretty pictures will not let you compensate for a dab content and lastly, it’s your feed, your gram! Do it just like you want to. The important thing is to stay humble and grounded.

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Nupur’s pictures make me want to live inside them. Her props and their placements are quite clever and aesthetic. I almost always grab a cup of Tea after looking at her pictures. I love how Nupur plays with words, and it’s always a pleasure having a writer buddy. 

You can follow Nupur here: nupur_flipaleaf

 

 

Now that we’ve let all our secrets out, it’s time for you to step up and join in. May 2019 be the year you jump onto the Bookstagram bandwagon because we’re eagerly waiting for you! 🙂

 

If you have any more questions or a topic you’d like me to talk about, feel free to comment down below. I’d be waiting!

The Great Smog of India by Siddharth Singh: A detailed account of the rising Air Pollution in India, its causes and what it entails for us.

Understanding the national crisis that is Air pollution and learning how to combat it.

Siddharth Singh in the first chapter of his book gives us a chilling statistic, “In sheer magnitude, air pollution kills over a million Indians every year- albeit silently. More residents of Delhi are killed, silently, every week than have been killed in terrorist incidents in the past decade. More Indians are killed every week by air pollution than have been killed in all India-Pakistan wars put together since Independence. Again, silently.” The book has come at a time when the city grapples with poor air quality, failing health conditions, and our refusal to change our lifestyle.

With air pollution rising with increased force every passing minute, the author has attempted to give us a clear account of the cause behind India’s decreasing air quality, the factors contributing to it and how human health is affected while exploring what pollution stands for and it’s origination. The author goes on to articulate and compare how other countries tackled their air pollution crisis; whether it was a success or not, and further delves into the administrative issues that have hindered policies, and action.

We’ve all witnessed the air quality in Delhi deteriorating, adding to major health risks, accidents, and overall discomfort to the citizens. It’s like the city is swallowed whole by a layer of black smoke. Singh says, “Air Pollution is a structural issue in the region, one that spans several states and countries. Particularly in the winters, a haze encompasses the entire northern Indian region.” The situation is far worse than what meets the eye but the people are so used to it, and no longer take it seriously. During Diwali, despite severe warnings, people stepped out wearing masks to burn crackers. It’s alarming how we’re ready to ignore the health risks and continue being in denial.

Singh talks about the impact economic disparity has on healthcare. Those belonging to affluent and upper-middle-class families can afford private healthcare, while those who can’t, have to deal with government hospitals that are ill-equipped, and understaffed and have little to no experience in treating patients. The dilapidated condition of the hospitals is not a myth. When working on a series, Vidya Krishnan, the health and science editor at The Hindu newspaper had to visit a government-run-hospital in Old Delhi. What she saw was alarming and terrifying. Not only did she spot cats roaming about in it, but they were also collecting placenta and biomedical waste to eat. If you think the horror ends there, you’re wrong. The urinal was placed inside the maternity ward. When she expressed her concerns to a doctor, she was dismissed and asked to mind her own business.  The poor continue to suffer, and with India’s rising air pollution, the future looks bleak.

It comes as no surprise that children are facing the brunt of air pollution the hardest. There several ongoing studies both in India and other countries. One such study revealed negative impacts on language and mathematics skills measured in fourth-grade children due to particulate pollution. Naturally, the productivity of the working force is affected, which in turn affects the economy.

The book ends with the author giving us a summarized version of The Great Smog of India, the factors leading up to it, and the solutions to combat the issue. It is commendable how much research has gone into the making of this book; it’s extensive and can be understood easily.

All in all, this book is a concise guide on understanding and learning about the big monster, air pollution, that has been looming and seems to only grow powerful.


Author: Siddharth Sing

Publisher: Penguin India

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Format: Hardback

Pages: 199

Blurb:

Air pollution kills over a million Indians every year, albeit silently. Families are thrown into a spiralling cycle of hospital visits, critically poor health and financial trouble impacting their productivity and ability to participate in the economy. Children born in regions of high air pollution are shown to have irreversibly reduced lung function and cognitive abilities that affects their incomes for years to come. They all suffer, silently.
The issue is exacerbated every winter, when the Great Smog of India descends and envelops much of northern India. In this period, the health impact from mere breathing is akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. The crisis is so grave that it warrants emergency health advisories forbidding people from stepping out. And yet, for most of us, life is business as usual.
It isn’t that the scientific community and policymakers don’t know what causes air pollution, or what it will take to tackle the problem. It is that the problem is social and political as much as it is technological, and human problems are often harder to overcome than scientific ones. Each sector of the economy that needs reform has its underlying political, economic and social dynamics that need to be addressed to make a credible impact on emissions.
With clarity and compelling arguments, and with a dash of irony, Siddharth Singh demystifies the issue: where we are, how we got here, and what we can do now. He discusses not only developments in sectors like transport, industry and energy production that silently contribute to air pollution, but also the ‘agricultural shock’ to air quality triggered by crop burning in northern India every winter. He places the air pollution crisis in the context of India’s meteorological conditions and also climate change. Above all, and most alarmingly, he makes clear what the repercussions will be if we remain apathetic.