Rohit's Realm - Book Reviews

// / archive / category / books

May 31, 2004

Rohit Reviews: Dude, Where's My Country?

I just wrapped up my first book of the summer. Well, actually, that's a lie. I've now read three books since summer started last week, but Dude, Where's My Country? is the first one I've read that I hadn't read before. I actually purchased it last year, when I saw Michael Moore speak in Berkeley, but I only found time to read for fun last week. My impression of the book is similar to my response to his speech: mixed feelings.

September 07, 2005

Rohit Reviews: Life of Pi

Life of Pi, the international bestseller by Yann Martel, first came into my sights a few years back when someone I knew recommended it to me as the book that would make me re-evaluate religion. My own religious views aside, that statement is a very powerful one and I was immediately intrigued by the novel. However, classes and work always occupied my time over the last few years, and moreover, I prefer the classic to the contemporary, so it was only now that I actually had a chance to pick up a copy and get through it. Did it make me re-evaluate religion? Not really. Was it an amazing novel? Absolutely.

February 15, 2006

Rohit Reviews: As I Lay Dying

In what may be deemed a rather curious coincidence, I finished up William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying yesterday morning prior to work, just in time for Valentine's Day. A disconcerting novel from start to finish, As I Lay Dying vacillates almost imperceptibly between dark comedy and even darker tragedy, and as I was reading, I was often hard-pressed to know whether to laugh or cry.

January 22, 2007

Rohit Reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Over the holidays, I had the chance to read John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hitman, a purported exposé of America's shady economic dealings with developing nations in the post-World War II era. In a narrative that reads like fiction—maybe it is—Perkins weaves a tale linking his own work as an economist at a strategy consulting firm into a conspiracy theory encompassing most major geopolitical events of the past sixty years; everything from the Iran hostage crisis of 1979–1981 to the 1989 Panama invasion makes the cut.

January 24, 2007

Rohit Reviews: The Brothers Karamazov

Nearly one year after first diving into Fyodor Dostoevsky's last, longest, and perhaps greatest novel—The Brothers Karamazov—I finally finished it today. Though an unquestionably long read that takes quite a lot of motivation to get into (then again, what Russian novel does not?), I would venture that it is simultaneously one of the most prolific that I have had the opportunity to complete.

May 24, 2007

Rohit Reviews: The Age of Reason

Though I did almost meet my soulmate last night coming home from Omaha, I would argue that my greatest accomplishment of the trip had to be finding the time to finish up a book that had been on my reading list since March: L'Âge de Raison (The Age of Reason, in American), the first novel in Jean-Paul Sartre's famed trilogy Les Chemins de la Liberté (The Roads to Freedom). Though often extremely weighty (sometimes unbearably so), the book went by for me rather quickly (I finished half of it on the flight to Omaha, and the other half waiting at the airport to return), and moreover, left me disquieted in a way that only truly despondent novels (and authors) can.

May 29, 2007

Rohit Reviews: After Dark

Considering my predilection for reading (and writing) about such dour and oppressive subjects as Russian literature, William Faulkner, and existentialism, it may come as no uncertain surprise to many readers that I simultaneously possess a consummate, almost inexplicable affinity towards Magic Realism. And yet, since my earliest exposure to the genre with El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba in high school—incidentally in the original Spanish—and later, Cien Años de Soledad in college (this was in English translation), both by famed Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, I have been fascinated by the manner in which stories in this genre combine both the intensely real and the utterly fantastic to weave a truly hypnotic tale of human existence. As such, one can imagine the excitement with which I picked up Haruki Murakami's (one of the few contemporary authors I read—thanks nrt for the introduction) latest book, After Dark, after reading a review in the Economist, and only a few weeks after its U.S. release.

July 27, 2007

Rohit Reviews: 1984

About a month ago, I wrote an entry about Schrödinger's Cat (among other things) in which I argued that the people who do end up making especially prescient observations distinguish themselves in a way that we should allow people to be distinguished. No where is that statement more relevant than in discussing George Orwell's (the nom de plume of Eric Blair) prophetic dystopian vision of totalitarianism: 1984.

August 22, 2007

Rohit Reviews: The Audacity of Hope

I picked up a copy of The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama in February 2007, about six months after it had been released. Prior to even opening the book, however, I was besieged by the breathless reactions of those around me: the best book ever; or shameless propaganda announcing his bid for presidency. It seemed that despite all his efforts to temper partisan hysteria—to see the proverbial other side—Senator Obama's own undertaking had become part of that vitriolic game of tit-for-tat, good versus evil, black versus white, that necessarily seems to consume national politics in the U.S., now more than ever in recent memory. My own response to this book is dramatically less frantic.

September 10, 2007

Rohit Reviews: Cocaine

Given my top ten placement on Google for the phrase cocaine chic (in relation to this 2005 article) as well as my 2004 postulations about drug trafficking, you, dear readers, might very well be forgiven for assuming (erroneously, of course) that with this entry I hope to review (my own personal use of) cocaine; unfortunately (for all involved), this entry will not be that salacious. However, I will say that Dominic Streatfeild's 2001 undertaking, Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography, is easily the most interesting and compelling non-fiction book I have ever read, period. Lofty claim, I know. But then again, it's a lofty subject.

August 21, 2008

Rohit Reviews: In Cold Blood

Capote, In Cold Blood

Considering that my taste in books in recent years has tended towards dense and depressing, I thought I would take a break this summer for some lighter reading. Truman Capote's In Cold Blood was probably not the best way to accomplish my goal.

The novel, which incidentally was the subject of the 2005 film Capote, is often described as a masterpiece. I would not necessarily go as far, but I do not know that I can articulate why. Certainly, it was good, and after a slow start, I got so into it that I finished it in one marathon sitting this past Sunday. And as all reviews are want to do, I too can (and briefly will) gush on how it paints a vivid portrait of the men who perpetrated a senseless crime that ended the lives of four very sympathetic people. The manner in which Capote portrays the killers—without condemnation, almost sympathetically—is truly a masterful accomplishment.

So why the hesitation at describing it as a masterpiece? I think, in the end, it is not a reflection on this novel, but only that I have read others which I found to be better. That said, I would still recommend it to all but the most squeamish. It is well-written, quickly read, and if nothing else, brings to life a horrific true story from forty years past. Four stars of five.

March 26, 2010

Redemption (Part One)

Earlier this week, I set out a goal for myself: read two books for fun by the end of the week. If I was an optimistic person, I might have taken the numerous responses I received to that entry to sympathize or discuss books as a sign that reading is still alive and well amongst a populace inexplicably hypnotized by the abomination of reality television. But I am not an optimistic person, and a more likely explanation is simply that I am stuck in an bibliophilic echo chamber with others who pride themselves on not knowing, understanding, or caring of the ways of the (much loathed) unwashed masses.

Regardless, I am happy to report that as of today, I am 75 percent of the way to completion. In this entry, I will review my first book (which I completed earlier this week), and in next, I will discuss the one I'm making my way through this weekend.

August 26, 2010

Redemption (Part Two)

Ghost Wars

Redemption, it seems, does not come easy. About five months ago—March 22, to be exact—in an acknowledgment of how far I had fallen during my time in law school, I set forth a rather unambitious goal for myself: read two books—for fun—by the end of [] spring break. Given the steady rate of book consumption during my restive pre–law school days, this should have been no big deal.

But it was. After making quick progress with the first, A Tale of Two Cities, I bogged down. Maybe it was the interminable paper I was writing that week, or maybe I picked a book that was too long (usually not a problem for yours truly), or maybe the fact that it was nonfiction made it move slowly. For whatever reason, though, I didn't finish a second book that break. I didn't even get close. And I wouldn't for the next five months. With the whirlwind race to graduation during spring, and then the awful summer of study, reading for fun was hardly a priority. But though the indelible stench of unmitigated failure may consume me, the aura of incompleteness does not. In this post, I review Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll. Better late than never.

September 16, 2010

Rohit Reviews: Pale Fire

Pale Fire
We who burrow in filth every day may be forgiven perhaps the one sin that ends all sins.
—Charles Kinbote

Having only very recently returned to the literary world after an absence that is as staggering as it is embarrassing, I have finally achieved a pace of reading that I once maintained for years on end. (But we shall see how long this lofty pace shall last; I am, as you all well know, no stranger to all-consuming failure.) Today I review Pale Fire, the heavily analyzed and criticized 1962 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. This is the third Nabokov novel I have completed, though the first I have reviewed. The other two—the immaculate Lolita and the intensely dark Despair—I completed before I had taken to writing about books on this most dreary and dreadful of sites.

November 26, 2010

Rohit Reviews: The Nine

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court

When I moved to New York several weeks ago, I decided to impose a moratorium on the purchase of new books. With my bookshelves weighed down with unread (or worse, half completed) books acquired during the harsh winter of law school, I saw no point in foolishly adding to this pile. Last night, I made some headway in eliminating this backlog, finishing Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. My review follows after the jump.

February 06, 2011

Rohit Reviews: The Devil in the White City (and Others)

The Devil in the White City

By now, the lament over what I deemed law school casualties has grown so loud on this site as to almost overwhelm what are and remain its principal messages: existential despair and all-consumed misanthropy. But ever committed to my pursuit of redemption, I shall again today eschew the tried and true topics of loneliness, contempt, and despair, and instead turn my attention to books—in this case, books about Chicago.

As with The Nine (which I reviewed here), The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson was a book I picked up in the fall of 2007, and it too became a casualty of my 1L year, remaining painfully half-read for three years thereafter. What had piqued my interest then was that it was a story about where I had just moved, but after my realization that I hated Hyde Park, completing the book became difficult. During my 3L year, however, I took a fantastic Greenberg Seminar on crime in the city of Chicago. In the course of that class, we read five books on famous Chicago crimes and criminality, and then discussed them in a small group over wine and beer. That experience prompted me to finally complete Larson's book, and today I review it, along with brief notes about the other five read in the seminar.

May 15, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies

As the long and largely gloomy list of books I have reviewed on this site over the past seven odd years should make clear, I am not a person particularly enamored with contemporary literature, and certainly not short stories. Indeed, the last short story collection I read was probably Anton Chekhov's Stories for an English class at Cal back in 2003. Less justifiably, I think, I am also not a person who frequently reads works by female authors, though I had never given it much thought until it was pointed out to me by a friend who noticed a dearth of such works on my bookshelves. It was that same latter observation that prompted my friend to gift me Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, among others, which I completed today.

I was of course familiar with Lahiri from The Namesake, a book which I had long been meaning to pick up but to which I had never gotten around. After completing the Interpreter of Maladies, I think it will be one I will be picking up sooner rather than later (though the question of whether to purchase a paperback or Kindle version continues to vex).

July 16, 2011

Rohit Reviews: The Idiot

The Idiot

One need not know me well to know that I am rather fond of Russian literature. The frequency with which I reference it, both on this wretched site and in a real life that is far more wretched still, is exceeded perhaps only by the seemingly unending obscure allusions to The X-Files (like this, for instance). That I would choose to pick up The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky back in summer of 2008 so soon after finishing Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in 2007 (review here), therefore, should come as no surprise. Nor should it shock anyone that, like most things in my life, The Idiot too would fall victim to law school's vice-like grip on my time, becoming yet another law school casualty. Although I had been more than 150 pages in when I left New York that summer, I was forced to start all over when I picked up the book again this spring, finally determined to finish it. Today I accomplished that task, bringing to a close another half-completed remnant of my law school years.

July 17, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Franny and Zooey

Franny and Zooey

It has been a long time since I posted twice on this loathsome site in as many days—almost two years—and far longer since I sat down and read a book in a day. And for that matter, I don't think I have ever published two book reviews in a row. Inspired, however, by completing a major Russian work that had long been lingering on my bookshelf, I went on what I yesterday deemed an ill-advised book buying binge. (Ill-advised because I have a long backlog of purchased but unread books to work through at the moment, and certainly none more are needed.) Of the four novels I picked up, JD Salinger's Franny and Zooey was the shortest, which made it an excellent candidate for my next book, seeing as how I had been suffering under the dense endless prose that accompanies most Russian novels for many months. I was expecting to kill it over the coming week and had only intended to start it when I picked it up late last night; it went by a lot quicker than even I expected.

July 27, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Emma


You may be forgiven, dear readers, if you were slightly aghast upon examining this latest blog post's title, for it is not often that I, purveyor of all that is somber or melancholy, deign to engage anything—let alone literature—that may be considered happy, much less romantic. Rest assured, however, that my decision to read (not to mention review) Jane Austen's 1815 romance and comedy of manners, Emma, was not taken in a fit of lovesick idiocy which I decried as recently as this past weekend. On the contrary, my reasons for choosing this book (part of my binge a couple weeks back) were quite deliberate. First, after a year-to-date of mostly melancholy or downright depressing tales, it was time for a change. Even I have my limits when it comes to despair. Second, and perhaps equally as important, I needed to introduce some variation into my reading repertoire; one cannot simply alternate between Russian and (God forbid) American literature forever, after all.

Emma satisfied both these conditions quite well. For one, Pride and Prejudice is a favorite and it remains one of the few books I have ever read that made me laugh out loud, a feat for which I have much respect for its author. For another, I knew what to expect from Emma, if for no other reason than having watched Clueless (more than once, I am not afraid to admit); there would be no soul-crushing ending here. Lastly, I was told by a reputable source that this was the better novel vis-à-vis the other Austen I might have considered, Sense and Sensibility.

August 15, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

My summer binge of books continues unabated, it would seem. Today, I got through Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, or more precisely, Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, the first of three stories published in the Norton Critical Edition I purchased in my ill-advised book-buying binge some weeks ago. The other two—Through the Looking Glass and The Hunting of the Snark—will have to wait another day, however, as the 99 pages of nonsense provided courtesy of Alice was quite enough for me for one summer.

I chose to pick up Alice in Wonderland last month for several reasons, but none of them were because I was particularly excited to read the book. Children's literature, as you might guess dear readers, is not and was never really my cup of tea. I did, of course, once upon a time read children's literature, given that I had little choice in the matter in my early years; and to this day have fond, if hazy, memories of the Berenstain Bears, Boxcar Children, Hardy Boys, and of course, most stories authored by the prolific Roald Dahl. But before I was ten, I had moved onto Crichton, Grisham, and Clancy—popular and contemporary stories, without doubt, but hardly children's stories. And in high school, college, and beyond, I would abandon contemporary fiction entirely for the classics—a trend from which I have yet to deviate even today.

What compelled me to pick up Alice, then, was a combination of feeling that this was a book I should read given its literary and cultural significance and wanting a change of pace from the melancholy of recent titles such as Interpreter of Maladies and The Idiot. And on those fronts, it did not disappoint—I can now say I have read it, and it certainly was not melancholy. I must admit, however, that ultimately I don't think I really got the book.

December 24, 2011

Rohit Reviews: Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children

After an inspired spell of reading over the summer, the autumn again brought the twin (self-imposed) malignancies of overwork and ill-conceived travel that have long plagued me (and this site). Naturally, as a consequence, the feverish pace at which I had been consuming books ground to an unseemly halt. But as I had quietly committed to finishing the four books I bought in an ill-advised book-buying binge in July before the end of the year, I spent the last few weeks in a mad dash to finish the last—and by far, the longest and most difficult—of the lot: Salman Rushdie's 1981 Booker Prize winner, Midnight's Children. We are nothing, after all, without our entirely arbitrary commitments to ourselves. (I might be nothing regardless of my entirely arbitrary commitments to myself, but that's a story for another day.)

December 27, 2011

Rohit Reviews: This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise

Only a few days ago, I lamented the slowing of my reading pace caused by what I deemed the twin malignancies of overwork and ill-conceived travel. The holidays, however, have brought some spare time and today I wrapped up the first of four new books purchased in yet another ill-advised book-buying binge last week in Brooklyn. Compared to Midnight's Children, F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise was a breeze of a read that I could most likely have finished in a day had it not been for other commitments. Having read and enjoyed The Great Gatsby a couple times (once in high school and again in college), I had rather high expectations for Fitzgerald's 1920 foray into the literary world at the tender age of twenty-three. Unfortunately, the novel ended up being somewhat of a disappointment.

January 02, 2012

Rohit Reviews: Notes from Underground

Notes from the Underground

I am a sick man . . . I am a wicked man. An unattractive man. I think my liver hurts. With those opening sentences, Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1864 novella Notes from Underground joins the pantheon of books with awesome opening lines, alongside such masterpieces as Anna Karenina, A Tale of Two Cities (review here), Pride and Prejudice, and Huckleberry Finn. And like its compatriots just mentioned, Notes did not disappoint beyond its opening lines.

Considering that Notes is often regarded as the first existential novel, it has, unsurprisingly, long been on my list of books to read. But for whatever reason, it never was a priority, and given the length and density of other works of Russian literature (including a few by Dostoevsky himself), the almost absurdly short Notes, which clocks in at only 131 pages, always seemed to fall by the wayside. That is, until my second ill-advised book-buying binge of 2011. But length can be deceiving: despite its rather skimpy appearance, the novel still packs a rather impressive intellectual punch—and this time, without the 200 pages or so of exposition usually endemic to Russian novels.

March 12, 2012

Rohit Reviews: War and Peace

War and Peace

For the benefit of those who have not had the insurmountable displeasure of interacting with me in person of late, I must admit that I have become somewhat fixated in recent months upon the so-called Mayan apocalypse and the prospect of world coming to an (unlamented) end on or about December 21, 2012 (the winter solstice). That's not to say I believe the world is coming to an end in nine months, because only lunatics and buffoons believe in such rubbish, but only that this prospect has caused me to contemplate the meaninglessness of life (alone and in the dark, of course) and consider the extent to which I have accomplished nothing more than I normally might. One natural question that follows from this line of thought is as follows: what would I regret not having accomplished if when I perished along with the rest of the wretched mass of humanity that torments this miserable planet like a biblical plague? The answer shouldn't be too hard to guess: I would regret having not gotten to Leo Tolstoy's 1869 epic, War and Peace.

And so, with heady thoughts of the world's end consuming me, I set out on January 1st of this year to accomplish at least this one goal in a life otherwise riddled with and downright failures. Last night, I accomplished this goal, some nine weeks after I began, and below I briefly summarize some of my impressions on this vast, towering novel.

March 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Nausea

Well, dear readers, it's been a while. I hope you didn't miss me too much over the past few months. (It's hard to imagine the scenario in which anyone might miss me or this dreadful blog, but hey—the world is full of strange and dreadful phenomena. Who am I to judge?) In any case, I wish I could tell you that I emerge today full of spirit and motivation to begin writing again, but that's simply not the case. I have, however, gotten through several books since I last wrote here, and will hopefully be reviewing a few of them over the next couple week. The first of the set is Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which I finished on a plane from Los Angeles to New York last Christmas. To put it mildly, it was definitely not a merry read.

Sartre's first novel, and purportedly his best, Nausea takes the form of the diary of Antoine Roquentin, a listless French writer who has moved to the small (and fictional) town of Bouville to research the subject of a biography he is writing. Fixated on and horrified by his existence, however, Roquentin spends much of the novel documenting his feelings and sensations as he goes through his daily routine and interacts with both animate and inanimate objects. And while certain other characters do make appearances, including an ex-lover (Anny) and a local acquaintance (the Self-Taught Man), the novel is largely a collection of Roquentin's (actually, Sartre's) thoughts on consciousness and the meaning of life (or the lack thereof).

August 24, 2013

Rohit Reviews: Demons


I would say something about my long absence from this loathsome affair, but is there even a point any more? You, dear readers, should know not to expect anything of me—I told you as much last year.

I return today to this miserable site to review Demons, Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1872 novel about political intrigue and revolutionary conspiracies in nineteenth century Russia, which I finished while traveling through India earlier this year. This being the last of Dostoevsky's major works on my reading list after Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamozov (review here), The Idiot (review here), and Notes from Underground (review here), I was expecting to be somewhat disappointed—how could this novel possibly match up to those awesome works of literature? Instead, I was rather pleasantly surprised.

October 02, 2016

Rohit Reviews: Light in August

Light in August

As I briefly observed in my review of Demons some years back, the order in which one approaches a particular author's catalog (oeuvre, for the pretentious among you) often influences one's perception of his or her individual works. And so was the case when I read William Faulkner's 1932 novel Light in August.

I was first exposed to Faulkner in high school (The Sound and the Fury), and since then, have made my way through two of his other major works—Absalom, Absalom! (for an English class in college) and As I Lay Dying (review here). In each of those instances, I recall enjoying the read but also struggling to make my way through it. The distortion of time, the dense, unpunctuated prose, and varying narratives all required tremendous focus to follow. Light in August was different.