The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank

Genres – Autobiography

The Diary of a Young Girl

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to read a book and this time, I decided to try something a bit more common. A book that a lot of people had read and recommended, but one that I hadn’t quite gotten around to starting for some reason. I read The Diary of a Young Girl because I thought it would be illustrative of the historical aspects of the Second World War. Instead, it focused a lot more on the personal aspect: the feelings of ordinary people, their fears, hopes and their overall state of mind when they were forced to abandon their old lives and go into hiding. The book was enlightening, not for the reasons I had previously thought, but in many other deeper ways.

The Diary of a Young Girl is the story of Anne Frank, a teenage Jew who lived in the Netherlands during World War 2. When her country was captured by the Germans, her entire family went into hiding with another Jewish family and an elderly neighbor to avoid detection. They spent almost 2 years in hiding, aided by some heroic friends on the outside. The book is a noteworthy historical record of the War and the horrors inflicted on the Jewish people in that duration. While reading it, I could broadly divide the book into 3 major parts, each of them decided by marked changes in Anne Frank’s behavior and writing style.

Before I begin, I’d like to clarify. Anne Frank was an incredibly brave teenager whose strength of spirit and patience cannot be questioned. The review I’ve written is of the overall experience I had while reading her diary. It is in no way a judgment on the life of Anne Frank.

I’ll confess, the book was kinda dull when I was reading it. The first part of the diary is basically just a child complaining about how her old life had been snatched from her. Anne Frank seems a bit ungrateful about the fact that she’s alive while other Jews in the Netherlands are all being killed, although this can be attributed to the fact that she was holed up in an attic. Her comments about her fellow inmates are rude and funny at the same time. The most surprising was her relationship with her mother for whom she claims she has no love at all. The first part of the book is depictive of Anne’s childish nature. Her innocent and carefree childhood and the subsequent abrupt transition to the attic, where she was suddenly plunged into a world where she would have responsibilities and the slightest mistake could mean certain death for her and all her fellow inmates are portrayed here. Anne Frank reacts as any girl her age would. She shuts herself away from everyone, convinces herself that no one understands her and stays sullen.

Somewhere around the middle, Anne’s focus changes. She now concentrates on Peter; another Jew around her age who was hiding with her. This part was also a bit dull as Anne Frank’s every moment was spent thinking about Peter and she didn’t stop writing about him in her diary. In a way, it was sweet: a teenage girl in hiding, finding hope in one of her companions and getting infatuated by him. For the reader, however, it was repetitive and mind-numbing and I was waiting for the story to move forward.

The last part of the book was delightful and it made up for the first two parts. The invasion of German-occupied territories begins. Furthermore, an amazing transition takes place, and Anne suddenly seems a lot more mature and philosophical in her last few diary entries. She’s more understanding of the other people around her and this character development is truly enjoyable for the reader. It seems even more amazing when you consider the fact that this was a real person who was captured by the Nazis at a completely unpredicted time. She had no idea she was going to be captured but before she was, she underwent a transformation and turned into a character with whom the reader sympathized.

The book is narrated in the first person, and the diary entries are greatly varied. At times, they’re abrupt rantings and at times, they are filled with vivid descriptions of life at the Annexe. The style is quite authentic and readers realize that this wasn’t a book written by a professional whose job it is to write. This gives the book a somewhat personal feel; not particular spellbinding and gluing readers to the pages, but still charming in its own way.

I’d say, read this book if you want an insight into World War 2. Not just World War 2, it could be for any war in general. The plight of the prosecuted, the waiting for everything to be over, the bad food and many other aspects of war are all presented very nicely in The Diary of a Young Girl. A must-read for anyone who glorifies war.


The Spy

The Spy-min

By Paulo Coelho

Genres – History, Politics, Biography fiction

“When we don’t know where life is taking us, we are never truly lost.”

It’s been about a month since I’ve read a book and I decided to complete a somewhat shorter novel this time. The Spy is a pretty engaging read, hard to put down once you’ve begun and let’s face it. Paulo Coelho? The man is a master storyteller who drops amazing pieces of advice from time to time when the reader is least expecting it. I’ve personally made it a habit to try and remember the page numbers where I find motivational quotes (I don’t really like folding pages. I’m sure a lot of you can relate) and somewhere near the end, I lost count. That’s how good this man is.

The Spy is a tale of an enigmatic woman, Mata Hari who moves to Paris before the First World War. Near the end of the war in 1917 however, she is accused of espionage. The novel is based on a true story and primarily describes Mata Hari’s life; her struggle, her fame as a dancer, the lavish life she led and finally, it briefly touches on the manner of her downfall. The book isn’t simply a narrative of this woman’s life, however. Paulo Coelho uses subtle hints to portray the hypocrisy of human beings and governments, and he also shows his readers how men and women alike feel threatened by a famous and beautiful woman who has worked hard to achieve success in life.

Paulo Coelho’s books aren’t what I’d call mainstream novels. Sure, everyone’s reading them nowadays, but there’s always something different about them. I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what sets them apart. It could be that they are all translated from a different language. It could be the connection Coelho forms between his characters’ lives and ours. It could be his unique way of narration. Or it could be a combination of all three.

The narration is in the form of 2 letters written by Mata Hari to her lawyer and vice versa. The book’s pace seemed a bit rushed to me. There were instances when I felt a bit unclear as to which event happened where. The ending was also rather abrupt, albeit full of literary genius. But come to think of it, that may have been the initial objective of the author. I’ve noticed this sort of pattern before in Paulo Coelho’s novels. The main purpose doesn’t really seem to be story-telling. It’s to narrate a set of events and drop philosophical quotes in between these. The attention to detail is pretty non-existent. The surroundings are rarely described and even the characters have very vague descriptions. I hadn’t been able to form a picture of Mata Hari in my mind by the time I finished the book.

In spite of all these deviations from the classical norm of story-telling, I did enjoy the novel. I can’t exactly explain why though. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, I guess? The book was extraordinary and the profound wisdom of the author really caused a lot of mind-fuck moments. If you want to try something new and enjoy reading about philosophy, I’d definitely recommend this book to you.

P.S. – I’ve stopped rating books on a scale after reading this one. I’ve realized that you can’t really set a bunch of parameters to describe how much you’ve enjoyed reading a book. I’ll rate books very occasionally from now on.
Also, it was a bit difficult deciding the genres of this book because Coelho said it was based on a real woman, but had been slightly dramatized. Biography fiction seemed the safest bet.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

Genre – Classic, Historical fiction

Cliché choice of book? I couldn’t agree more. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that has been read by a lot of people, whether as an assignment in school or because a friend suggested it. Personally, I don’t know why I didn’t read it a long time ago. This book had been suggested to me countless times and I finally decided to see what all the hype was about. Spoiler: The book does live up to my expectations.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a book set in the 1930s in the southern United States. It describes primarily, the adventures of two children – Scout and Jem Finch as they go through life and learn about human nature. Their father Atticus, is a lawyer and is known to the entire town as an extremely honorable man. He’s one of the role models in the story because of his values and principles. The story mainly revolves around Atticus’s decision to defend a black man, Tom Robinson accused of raping a white girl, and how the lives of the Finch family change due to his decision.

The story is narrated from the point of view of Scout Finch, in the first person. The book spans three years of her life from the age of 6 to 9. Various events take place during this time, and as the story moves forward, we see Scout and Jem mature through the years. The change is so subtle, that the reader doesn’t really notice it, but it is present nonetheless. For instance, in the first year, their pastime is mainly playing in the yard and recreating the life of their neighbor Boo Radley. However, by the third year, they start attending Tom’s trial with all the other adults of their town. Harper Lee also shows us certain irrationalities of the adult attitude as seen through the eyes of a child. She portrays how at the end of the day no matter how civilized we are, no matter how learned we are, we are still human beings with the basic flaws that all humans have – prejudice, hypocrisy, and violence.

The story has multiple themes which Harper Lee brings out by introducing various characters. Atticus Finch and Mrs. Dubose are symbols of bravery. Scout’s teacher Miss Gates is representative of hypocrisy. The list goes on, and a lot of characters are introduced at various points in the book, all of them unique and interesting. A character I found interesting was Mr. Underwood (Atticus was a bit naïve in my opinion). He doesn’t have much of a role in the book, however. He openly admits that he has a dislike for blacks but he still defends Tom’s right to a fair trial and this is what I admired about him. A human being can have his/her own personal prejudices against someone or something but shouldn’t allow those biases to come in the way of the law.

Personally, I found the book to be a very accurate representation of human nature and society. The fact that it was a young girl narrating the story made for a different sort of reading. Young children notice little details that adults tend to overlook. A child’s analysis of racism and her inability to grasp its meaning is a message to the readers, a message that is important even in today’s world. Harper Lee is indirectly advocating the need for a free and fair world, where everyone is treated equally.

Finally, I’d like to say just this. To Kill a Mockingbird is an extraordinary book. It has received countless accolades and rightly so. I’m not going to rate this book right now like I’ve done in my previous reviews, because I think this book goes a lot deeper than what I’ve understood. I feel like I’d need to be a lot wiser to be able to fully grasp the hidden messages in the book. However, it does make for an interesting read and I’d not hesitate before recommending it to anyone.

A quote from the book which I found interesting – “It’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.”


By George Orwell

Genre – Fiction, Classic, Dystopia


I read 1984 for the first time back in grade 8, about 6 years ago. Back then, I was awed by the book if nothing else. At the time, it was one of the darker novels I’d come across and I was rather awed by the concept of an authoritarian society. At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to read the book a second time. And just so you know, I don’t regret that decision at all.

1984 describes the world of Oceania, a world in which Big Brother is always listening in. Big Brother is the symbol of the dictatorship and the fabled leader of the “government” in Oceania. People are under surveillance 24/7 inside their own houses, through telescreens which are basically two-way TVs. They aren’t allowed to have any rebellious thoughts or individualism, or they will be prosecuted by the Thought Police. All forms of literature, art and music are banned. Oceania is constantly at war with one of the two neighbouring countries and the “Party” constantly propagates fear and hatred for all foreigners. Concepts like doublethink, two plus two equal five, reality control and thoughtcrime are introduced at various stages in the book. The Party also constantly alters historical records to reiterate the belief in people that everything which the Party predicts eventually comes true.

Sound scary? It sure is. Novels like these make me realize the importance of freedom and the benefits of living in a democratic society. I’ve read very few dystopian novels before this, a few of them being Divergent, Animal Farm and the Hunger Games series and I can easily say that 1984 tops the list. The book focuses on a very key aspect of our lives. Freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. To have this freedom stripped away from us is to no longer be human. To touch on a topic like this (on which multiple books already exist), and to have such a profound impact on the reader requires nothing less than a literary genius. It’s this very book which sets George Orwell a class apart when it comes to dystopian novels.

The novel is written from the point of view of Winston Smith, a middle-class Party member in Oceania who despises the dictatorship. The pace of the novel is just right and it always seems like something or the other is happening. Throughout the novel, there wasn’t a single instance when I felt bored or fatigued. The story was a bit depressing, I’ll admit but that just goes to show how good of an author George Orwell actually is. It’s truly praiseworthy when the author can make you connect with the character. When he can make you feel like the events are happening in your own life. When you feel that your grief at the characters’ misfortune is justified because it’s happening to someone familiar.

However, the most impressive aspect of the book wasn’t its style. It wasn’t George Orwell’s creation of a terrifying world, the horrors of which we can barely fathom. It was the fact that the book encouraged the reader to think. The policies of the Party, their slogans and their prosecution of “thought criminals” all seem to be mysterious and a bit stupid in the beginning. The reader begins to think George Orwell got a bit carried away in his creation of a terrible world. However, near the end of the book, all of it is justified and the reader is left with no doubt as to why the Party does what it does. The reader understands the way the top Party members think and all the pieces fall into place.

In conclusion, I have no words which will do justice to the literary masterpiece that is 1984. The book is remarkable to say the very least. I’d give it 4.7/5 because it compelled me to think and because it takes a great deal of creativity to come up with a new world altogether. Read it, I say. Just read it.


Okay, so a few people have asked me to explain my rating system and the parameters I use to rate books. I’d like to clarify that although my rating of books is subjective, I do use certain parameters to guide me. These parameters are as follows

  1. How interesting the book is (3 points) – I rate books out of 3 on this parameter. 1 point if I have to force myself to go through the book. 2, if the book manages to get my attention. And 3 if I can’t put the book down at all and have to finish it so that I can know the ending.
  2. Narration of the book/Descriptions used in the book (1 point) – Is the narration clear and flowing, or does it seem forced and random everywhere? Did the author pay attention to detail, or did they just keep jumping from one event to the next?
  3. Did I learn anything from the book (1 point) – One of the reasons people read books is to learn about new things and broaden their knowledge of the world. New cultures, places or maybe just plain and simple motivation. Did the book offer me any of this?

These are some of the questions I ask myself while rating a book. Mostly, at the end of the day, after all these questions are done, I ask myself one simple question. Did I enjoy reading the book? If yes, the rating is positive. Otherwise, not so much. I hope this clarifies things. More reviews coming in the next few days! Stay tuned. 😀

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

By Jules Verne

Genre – Science Fiction, Classic

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is an intriguing read. That’s the best word I can find to describe it. Intriguing. The book features an eccentric professor who decides to go on a journey to the center of the Earth (too obvious? Perhaps). He is accompanied by a rather unwilling nephew and an Icelandic guide, who quite frankly doesn’t even seem human to begin with. When I started reading the book, I had only one objective in mind. I wanted to find out how Jules Verne would convince readers that humans would be able to survive a journey thousands of miles underground. However, the book soon became interesting and I eventually did finish it.

Given that the book was written in the 1800s, I think it’s fair to say that Jules Verne could possibly be one of the first science fiction writers ever. He uses half-baked scientific facts to try to convince readers that the interior of the Earth doesn’t necessarily have to be hot, even though most of the evidence points the other way. The thing to keep in mind is that this may not have been so inconceivable to the general public who lived during that time. The scientific inaccuracies, however, aren’t a big deal because this book is a work of fiction.

The book was very exciting, and it had numerous ups and downs. The professor and his nephew are relatable characters, the guide much less so. Throughout the journey, there’s always something that seems to be happening. There isn’t one dull moment in the book and this makes for a very compelling read.

The narrative style is really good and the entire book is written from the viewpoint of the professor’s nephew. There are a few instances where we find subtle sarcasm in the book, and it’s interesting to know that it existed in the 1800s. However, the most prominent feature of the book was the descriptions. Jules Verne painted a really vivid picture of the interior of the Earth, and the attention to detail was commendable. There was one aspect that was somewhat interesting for me, as a reader. While reading about the initial phase of the journey, I felt this sense of déjà vu, that I couldn’t explain at the time. A few hours later, it struck me. The description of the caves in the initial part of the journey, with the stalactites and the worn away rocks, held an uncanny resemblance to a cavern described in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Both books were written in the 19th century and apparently were published only a few years apart. Go figure.

If I had to rate the book, I’d give it a 4/5, primarily because of the descriptions and the fact that I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. Overall, it’s a really great book. If you’re thinking of starting classics, this is definitely one of the books to begin with. I’d also recommend it to anyone who has an interest in science-fiction.

The Spy Chronicles. RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Authors: A.S. Dulat, Asad Durrani, Aditya Sinha

Category: Non-fiction, history, politics


When I first heard about the Spy Chronicles, my first reaction was, “That’s not possible! A book like this couldn’t possibly exist.” The idea that two ex-chiefs of the RAW and the ISI had gotten together and co-authored a book about the relationship between India and Pakistan seemed impossible. For people who don’t know about the rivalry between these two agencies, it is somewhat comparable to a book being written by a collaboration between the CIA and the KGB during the Cold War.

As it turns out, not only does the book exist but it’s also pretty informative. The fact that Aditya Sinha managed to get ex-heads from both agencies is what sets this book apart. Sometimes, in a conflict, it is necessary to look at the issue from both viewpoints, and the Spy Chronicles does exactly this. The entire book is divided into chapters, where each chapter is in the form of a dialogue between these two men.

If you’re someone like me, you’ll probably be disappointed in the beginning. Nowhere in the book have either of the spymasters revealed any confidential or classified information. But then again, why would they? The book covers a vast range of topics from the beginning of the Kashmir problem to recent events like the surgical strikes. Both the men put forward their views and try to be as frank as possible. Well, as frank as you could expect two spymasters to be. They provide an insider’s view on a lot of issues, and this makes for a pretty interesting read.

The India-Pakistan relationship has undergone numerous ups and downs in recent years. It was refreshing to see two cold analysists, sitting together, speaking about the dynamic based on pure facts. At certain points in the book, a noticeable feature was that whenever a topic came up which could cause embarrassment to one side, that person became extremely diplomatic. For example, when Asad Durrani was asked about the terrorist Hafiz Saeed and why the Pakistani government wasn’t taking action against him, he retreated behind a number of rhetorical questions and tried to sidestep the topic. A.S. Dulat didn’t press the issue. Both the men talked about “choreographed responses”, agreed that the enmity between the countries was promoted by their respective media and that politicians on both sides thrived on this animosity.

The last few chapters of the book were dedicated to an idea of “Akhand Bharat” or undivided India, comprising of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Both of the men presented ideas on how to bring this about, the potential problems and how it would benefit both sides ultimately. Frankly, I found this idea to be excessively optimistic. Both the viewpoints were based on the idea that if one side did the other a favor as a sign of goodwill, it would be reciprocated. However, this is highly improbable.

The book is fairly interesting to read. However, people who don’t know about the politics and history of the two countries will have a tough time keeping up. I’d give this book a 3.8/5 because the book does get a bit dull at certain points. Overall, it’s a pretty decent book and I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in world politics.