Friday, 29 April 2011


The mountains, islands, beaches and historic towns around Tokyo provide many weekend travel options for the careworn city-dweller. Every weekend for the past few weeks I have been darting off somewhere, so I thought it would be prudent to temporarily limit these excesses.

With these motives I decided to spend all of yesterday, which was a public holiday, indoors.

The experiment, I was swiftly convinced, does not bear repetition. To such depths of boredom did I descend that I thought of taking a photo of my bookshelf, and blogging about it. Why any reader would wish to see a photo of my bookshelf, much less read about it, is more than I can say. But others have done it before, so why not me? And if I cannot ramble in the mountains, I can at least ramble on my blog.

When I left Calcutta in August 2010, I took only four books with me.

I would have taken two more – the two volumes of Rabindra Rachanavali that contain Lipika and Kshanika. But that would have left an incomplete set at home, which is unacceptable.

The first book I did take was Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel (3) – a parting gift from Myshkin’s friends. They believed – and rightly so – that in the new career on which I was about to embark, in the unforgiving world of commercial law, this philosophical tome would stand me in good stead. The philosophy, such as it is, is summed up in a blurb on the back cover: To err is human. To cover it up is weasel. The Weasel Zone is where your co-workers, bosses, salespeople, CEOs, human resource executives, family and loved ones reside – “the giant grey area between good moral behaviour and outright criminality.”

The second, Ghostwritten (13), is the book I was reading at the time. It is by David Mitchell, but more about him anon.

The other two were books I had read already. I took Europe (15) because it is my favourite travel book in the world. And I took The World of Psmith (28). If I could take only one book with me, I would have chosen The World of Psmith.

The other books have been acquired since then. Some I purchased, some (1, 7 and 11) were gifts and some (17, 19 and 20) were freebies. You can tell that 17 is a freebie because I would never willingly buy a book with a title like that. The sheets of paper sticking out of the book are my Hiragana and Katakana practice sheets.

Many of these books were purchased from Foyles, Charing Cross Road, which narrowly edges out Daunt, Marylebone as my favourite bookstore in London. What Am I Doing Here (6) was bought at a second-hand bookstore in Bath.

Three books (9, 23 and 26) were purchased online. Saha bought them for me, because I did not have a UK bank account at the time. The books were delivered to Saha’s office; his boss saw Species of Spaces and Other Places (26) on his desk, and thought (wrongly) that Saha is an intellectual.

Two of these books have Footnotes: Searching for Order (25) – a history of plant taxonomy from 370 BC to AD 1705, and Modern Legal Drafting (20), which is an altogether more amusing book than the title would suggest.

I could go on to systematically write anecdotes about every book on the shelf, but there is a limit to the reader’s patience (and mine). Not all the books deserve a special mention anyway, but there are two which certainly do.

Last Chance to See (2) made me seriously think about becoming an environmental lawyer. If one day I chuck everything up and take to spending most of my waking moments hugging trees and engaging in similar pursuits, you will know that Douglas Adams is to blame.

And The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (14) by David Mitchell is the reason I am in Japan. Our firm gives us the option to work for six months in one of their international offices, and when I indicated my preferences, I was reading this book.

The preferences I gave were Tokyo, Prague, Amsterdam and New York – in that order. When I showed her my list, a Czech trainee told me, “If you get Prague, and if you go there and tell them it was above New York in your list, they will put up your statue in Wenceslas Square.” Had she told me this before, and had I not been reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I may now have been in Prague.

Funny things, books.


Anonymous said...

No. 16 appears to be titled 'Venice'..Where is the World of Psmith? :(

Sroyon said...

Apologies, it has now been corrected. I am glad I have nitpicky readers. :)

Ravis said...

Bangla boi nei keno ektao? :(

The word verification (myndu) remind me: Why did you feel the need to rechristen Sujaan?

Ravis said...


Spin said...

I read T.S.Spivet recently, found it in a random bookshop in Bombay last year, didn't read it till a month ago. Loved it till he reached Chicago. De railed a bit post. You liked?

The Reluctant Rebel said...

I can't believe you think Foyles is better than Daunt. Daunt is an experience, while Foyles is merely a factory to check out books before you buy them from Amazon.

Sroyon said...

@Raktima: The rechristening is for you to figure out.

@Spin: I am actually reading it now. I have just got to the point where he reaches Chicago, and loved it so far. :)

@Saha: No I buy them from Foyles too, these days. Daunt admittedly has more character but Foyles has a wide range of subjects which I like.

Anasua said...

lipika and khshanika.. you read tagore poems! nice. :)