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Writing Book Reviews for City Journal

Posted by RB Kollannur on July 15, 2012


It has been a slow blogging year for me, but a hectic work year. The tough part of being self employed is that you need to be on your toes all the time. Luckily for me I used to be a sprinter in school and we are adept at being on our toes. Continuing the racing analogy, I always used to be a slow starter. It was more fun to overcome your opponents than lead them from front. So, I spend the past year studying my family business, laying the groundwork for future and having systems in place. Fortunately for me, because of price hike and stable demand, we managed to increase our turnover by 40% with a similar increase in the bottom-line. Unfortunately for this year, most of the price hikes have been reversed and we are now lying with a large pool of excess cash in the business.

More on that later.

For the past three months I have been writing book reviews in a local English newspaper – City Journal. The circulation is limited to Thrissur, my hometown in Kerala, but it is a welcome change from the usual drab of the Malayalam newspapers. Incidentally, I am the third generation from my family to be published in this paper. One of my grand uncles used to draw the editorial cartoon when the paper was launched a year ago and a cousin of my dad’s used to contribute the Saturday OpEd.

Our family has had a long tradition in writing and newspapers. In the fifties, one of my grandfather’s siblings used to be a regularly published poet in the Mathrubhumi magazine which used to bring the best of the Malayalam literature in those days to every household in Kerala. He also briefly edited the first newspaper in Thrissur – Gomati. In the sixties, my father, then still in his teens, used to run a printing press with another of his uncles in the attic of our ancestral home in Patturaikkal. Another grand uncle won the prestigious Kumkumam award for short stories in the seventies and used to edit another Thrissur based newspaper – Express. My father had continued his tryst with the media when he went to Gulf by drawing illustrations to many of the Keralite based magazines there. Back home in Kerala in the nineties as a successful entrepreneur, he used to contribute for many of the trade / business magazines in the state, eventually writing his autobiography in 2002.

I, unfortunately, lack the artistic fervour of my Y gene. So don’t expect any classy literary reviews from me a la The Hindu Friday Review or New York Review of Books. And since I review a book every week and more often than not these are books I own, I review new books only rarely. Many have already been mentioned in my annual book review posts. I also have to keep in mind the audience of newspaper while writing these reviews.

1)    God Save the Dork  by Sidin Vadukut – Published on 13/02/2012
2)    The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – Published on 23/02/2012
3)    From the Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple – Published on 16/03/2012
4)    The Siege by Ismail Kadare – Published on 30/03/2012*
5)    34 Bubblegums and Candies by Preeti Shenoy – Published on 13/04/2012
6)    The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – Published on 21/04/2012
7)    Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Heylar – Published on 28/04/2012
8)    Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston – Published on 05/05/2012
9)    Litanies of Dutch Battery by NS Madhavan (Translated by Rajesh Rammohan) – Published on 12/05/2012
10)  The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino – Published on 18/05/2012
11)  In the Name of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy – Published on 26/05/2012
12)  V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd– Published on 01/06/2012
13)  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller – Published on 10/06/2012 [Possible Spoilers]
14)  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Published on 16/06/2012
15)  Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – Published on 23/06/2012
16)  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – Published on 30/06/2012
17)  The Ghost Writer by Robert Harris – Published on 07/07/2012
18)  The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – Published on 14/07/2012
19)  The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy – Published on 21/07/2012
20)  The Day of the Barbarians by Alessandro Barbero – Published on 28/07/2012
21)  Jem by Frederik Pohl – Published on 03/08/2012
22)  Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons – Published on 10/08/2012
23)  A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke – Published on 18/08/2012
24)  The Enemy at the Gate: Hasburgs, Ottomans and the Battle for Europe by Andrew Wheatcroft – Published on 26/08/2012
25)  Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis – Published on 02/09/2012
26)  Ice Station Zebra by Alistair McLean – Published on 09/09/2012
27)  The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien – Published on 16/09/2012
28)  Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson – Published on 22/09/2012
29)  The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Published on 29/09/2012
30)  Along Came a Spider by James Patterson – Published on 06/10/2012
31)  A History of South India by KA Nilakanta Sastri – Published on 13/10/2012
32)  The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton – Published on 20/10/2012
33)  The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov – Published on 27/10/2012
34)  Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – Published on 03/11/2012
35)  Imperium by Robert Harris – Published on 10/11/2012
36)  Satyajit Ray’s Feluda Mysteries: Danger in Darjeeling by Subhadra Sen Gupta & Tapas Guha – Published on 23/11/2012
37)  The Bonfire of Vanities by Tom Wolfe – Published on 01/12/2012
38)  The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – Published on 08/12/2012
39)  The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester – Published on 16/12/2012
40)  Dr Bloodmoney by Philip K Dick – Published on 22/12/2012
41)  Who Let the Dork Out? by Sidin Vadukut – Published on 02/01/2013
42)  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Published on 13/01/2013
43)  The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie – Published on 20/01/2013
44)  Nightfall by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg – Published on 27/01/2013
45)  Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer – Published on 04/02/2013
46)  The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara – Published on 11/02/2013
47)  The Popes: A History by John Julius Norwich – Published on 26/02/2013
48)  Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk – Published on 04/03/2013
49)  The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock – Published on 11/03/2013
50)  In Xanadu by William Dalrymple – Published on 20/03/2013
51)  The History of the Church by Eusebius

I had to halt the column in April 2013 since I had to spend more time on my business.

* My review of “The Siege” was published during a newspaper agents’ strike. It was later republished on 14/06/2012

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One Response to “Writing Book Reviews for City Journal”

  1. AK said

    That’s quite an achievement. Very well done and good to see your talent reaching a wide audience.

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