Red or Blue? Pick a Pencil on Coloring Book Day

Coloring Books, a History

The first coloring books were painting books for children. The first popular coloring book in history was the Little Folks Painting Book. It was a publisher called the McLoughlin Brothers who popularized coloring books among children. The nineteenth century opened up printing and changed the approach to education. All this influenced the rise of the coloring book as an affordable educational tool for children.

A book called Antique Automobiles (1970) was the first adult coloring book.

Coloring Books in the Twenty-first Century

Come 2015 and Johanna Basford revolutionized the coloring book industry, selling 21 million copies of her coloring books (Worlds of Wonder and Enchanted Forest among others)! Watch her talk about her inky evangelism and going analog.

A blogger called Jenny Fenlason even started a coloring book club!

Coloring books at the Store:

Books on the Kargil War on Kargil Vijay Diwas 2021

Kargil Vijay Diwas observed on 26 July commemorates the victory of the Indian soldiers over the infiltrating Pakistani troops. On the 22nd anniversary of this landmark day, we have identified a couple of books that deal with the Kargil War and patriotism.

Kargil: Untold Stories from the War by [Rachna Bisht Rawat]Kargil: Untold Stories from the War by Rachna Bisht Rawat

Rachna Bisht Rawat interviews Kargil war survivors and martyrs’ families. Her earlier books chronicle war as well but in this book, since Kargil is so close to home, she is able to provide a crystal clear picture of the captains, grenadiers and brave soldiers who participated in the war effort. The book is a testimony to the bravery of our troops and provides a bird’s eye view of conflict.

Kargil: From Surprise To Victory by General V. P. Malik

General V.P. Malik, former Chief of the Army Staff, analyses enemy action and surveillance hiccups in the mountainous Kargil region.  His detailed account throws light on war strategy and the heroism of the Indian Army.

“Neglect of the military history of the nation reflects a weak strategic culture and a lack of military confidence.”

A Ridge Too Far: War in the Kargil Heights, 1999 by Amarinder Singh 

A deep dive into the battles that were fought in the Kargil Heights and a military analysis of what actually happened in the mountains in 1999, starting from what led to the conflict, the build-up of the Army for the offensive and the battles fought by ten heroic infantry battalions in extremely hostile terrain.

Kargil: Turning the Tide by Lt. General Mohinder Patel

An objective account of the operations of 8 Mountain Division in their efforts to evict the enemy from the Drass-Mushkoh Sector during Op Vijay. Lt Gen (then Maj Gen) Mohinder Puri led the division during the operations and is the author. The Kargil war had a high casualty count and multiple gallantry awards were distributed.

The Kargil Girl: An Autobiography by Gunjan Saxena

Gunjan Saxena was part of the Operation Safed Sagar launched by the Indian Air Force. She  informed the army of key enemy positions, even narrowly missing a rocket missile attack.



We identified a couple of military narratives at the Store that you could check out.

Vikram Chandra: India’s Trailblazing Scribe

Vikram Chandra was born on this day in 1961. He studied in the US and today lectures at the University of California, Berkeley.

His first book Red Earth and Pouring Rain revolved around James Skinner, an Anglo-Indian soldier. This was the beginning of accolades. He won the 1996 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. He was also recognized for his short story collection Love and Longing in Bombay. He always had his pulse on the plot and worked on film scripts in Bollywood too.

What Vikram Chandra is loved for is his voluminous work Sacred Games featuring the Mumbai underworld and peopled by characters like Sartaj Singh and his Ganesh Gaitonde who jump of the page. His magnum opus is about Mumbai and the layers of possibilities that it has laid on its characters. Sacred Games took Chandra eight years to write and it was later adapted as a popular web television series by Netflix. His non-fiction book Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty  was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

He’s also the founder of Granthika, a great author resource. Since Chandra faced many hurdles while trying to keep track of his characters and their complicated timelines in a setting like Mumbai, an almost living entity, he wanted to find an easier way to digitize narration and simplify the author’s work.

Happy b’day Vikram Chandra!

Novels and the Numbers Game on Pi Approximation Day

Pi Approximation Day is celebrated on July 22 (22/7) and Pi Day on March 14 (3/14- US date). The Pi concept dates back to 4000 years- Euler popularized it in the eighteenth century.

What is Pi?

  • Pi (π) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter – it’s an irrational number.
  • Pi(es) are tasty and good to eat.

On this occasion, let’s look at a couple of mathematical books and a book on pie, some of which were discussed at our Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Parties.

A Beautiful Mind by [Sylvia Nasar] Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography of John Nash, a mathematical genius suffering from schizophrenia. This Nobel Prize winner beat the odds to make fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry, and the study of partial differential equations.


The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman

Biography of Hungarian-born Paul Erdos, eccentric genius mathematician known for his social practice of mathematics using collaborators. He also loved to create jokes and was christened by Time Magazine as The Oddball’s Oddball.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadia, Christos H. Papadimitriou

This is a book we learned about at one of the BYOB Parties. Logicomix is an anomaly in the mathematical book space. It’s a fun-to-read mathematical graphic novel.  Logicomix tells the story of Bertrand Russell’s life and by way of this character, Doxiadia describes the 1920s, the golden age in mathematics when the foundations of truth and logic were laid. Russell interacts with characters he would not have been able to see in real life.

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin

Mathematicians like Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing are famed for their eccentricities and mathematical contributions but in this book Janna Levin described as one of the ‘chillest astrophysicists who ever lived’ examines the mental health issues these mathematicians faced.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This is probably the only famous book by an aunt-niece duo, Mary Ann Shaffer’s only book. She was encouraged to write the book by those who knew her at a book club. Though the book is remarkably ‘English’ as in British English in its tone, the authors are American. The story starts with an author who is struggling to write not her first but her second book. She receives a letter from Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a town under German occupation. Her correspondence with a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society leaves her intrigued and asking for more. The letters hold the stories of the German occupation and the remarkable courage that individuals display in times of moral ineptitude.

What books on mathematics and pies do you love?

9 Chess Novels on International Chess Day

July 20 is International Chess Day the day that the International Chess Federation (FIDE) was founded way back in 1924. Here are some chess-inspired fiction and non-fiction novels for this occasion.

Buy The Queen's Gambit: Now a Major Netflix Drama Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Queen's Gambit: Now a Major Netflix Drama Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis 

We know the Netflix show but have you read the book by Walter Tevis?  The story delves into the  angst, psychological trauma and introspection of a chess champion.  Tevis was known for his pool hall movies but after a bout of alcoholism that lasted for two decades, he turned to chess and from that obsession came The Queen’s Gambit.


Buy Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Book Online at Low Prices in India | Chess Story (New York Review Books Classics) Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inChess Story by Stefan Zweig

Chess lovers on an ocean liner, a chess champion and a chess player recovering from a nervous breakdown. The book is a translation of The Royal Game by Austrian author Zweig who died by suicide after sending the book to his publishers.



Buy Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Book Online at Low Prices in India | Birth of the Chess Queen: A History Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inBirth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom 

A non-fiction book that tells the story of how the Queen came to be. Five centuries ago, the Queen didn’t even exist in this game and this piece grew out of the medieval rise of the female sovereign. Marilyn Yalom, a pioneering scholar in gender studies and a leading cultural historian, has also researched and written about how marriage morphed from religious duty into what it has become today and the perceptions of the female breast in human society.

Buy The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Queen of Katwe: AQueen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers 

The inspiring story of a nine-year-old from the Kampala slums in Uganda who with a mentor’s help masters chess. Within a short time, she travels to Siberia to compete in the Chess Olympiad, the world’s most prestigious team-chess event. The screen adaptation by Mira Nair is a must-watch. Tim Crothers is the former senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

Buy All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything Book Online at Low Prices in India | All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and RuiningAll the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything by Sasha Chapin

A chess memoir that starts in the bylanes of Katmandu. Chess is a world game and the author Sasha Chapin follows his tribe across the globe in search of pure love of the game. Listen to what he thinks about uninhibited creativity here.


Buy Grandmaster: A Novel Book Online at Low Prices in India | Grandmaster: A Novel Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Grandmaster by David Klass 

A father-son relationship with chess at its core. The protagonist Daniel Pratzer doesn’t know that his father was a chess prodigy who vowed to never play the game again. Thirty years later, he needs to break this promise. David Klass is a Hollywood screenwriter and author of several YA novels.


Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time: Edmonds, David, Eidinow, John: BooksBobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds 

Cold War intrigue at its peak and two chess players- Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer meet in a high-voltage chess match.  The author is a philosopher and a radio feature maker at the BBC World Service.



The Sin Eater (The Nell West and Michael Flint Series Book 2) by [Sarah Rayne]The Sin Eater by Sarah Rayne

A malevolent chess set makes for a riveting suspense thriller: “thirty-two carved figures believed to possess a dark power, but shut away in the forgotten library of a tumbledown Irish castle for many decades.” Sarah Rayne is the author of psychological thrillers and haunted house books.


Buy The Defense Book Online at Low Prices in India | The Defense Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.inThe Defense by Vladimir Nabokov

When chess enters the mind,  a player hears ‘combinations like melodies’. Nabokov’s third novel, The Defense, like all his books delves deep into the protagonist’s mind and obsessions. Nabokov himself had an obsession with creating his own chess problems.



Have you read any novels or essays featuring chess? Do share in the comments.

The Book That Vindicated The Rights of Women

On this day, the Seneca Falls Convention, which launched the woman suffrage movement in the United States, was held in 1848 at Seneca Falls, New York.

The road to enfranchisement of women has been long. By the early twentieth century, women had won the right to vote in New Zealand, Australia, Finland, and Norway. WWI sped up the process. Full suffrage for women was introduced in India only by 1949.

The road to woman suffrage began with a book called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft, an enlightened philosopher of the eighteenth century.

Her ideals were shaped in the home- she was born into wealth but her father squandered it and this eroded his character. Her brother’s needs and education were always taken care of and this troubled Mary as she had a keen mind, designed for intellectual pursuit. This is perhaps why the idea of fraternity that was the battle cry of the French Revolution appealed so much to her.

She believed that equality bred virtue and education was the foundation of self-reliance. She was heavily influenced by Lockean ideals and Unitarianism.  She transformed from a dissatisfied governess to a writer who clashed pens with Edmund Burke, a thinker who disapproved of the French Revolution. Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men in response to Burke and A Vindication of the Rights of Women followed.

This treatise deals primarily with the need for women’s education not just in domesticity but in rational thought. Since a woman like a man would face hardships, she could not live her life as the weaker sex, dependent on conduct manuals. Nowhere in the treatise did she mention suffrage although her ideas became the bedrock of feminist movements later on.


Reader Alert! Lessons From How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

This is a book that Pothidotcomers are familiar with. It’s come up over coffee and at the Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Parties. There are how-to books about everything under the sun but how do you read a book? Do you really need a manual for that? An avid reader would not agree but once you read How to Read a Book by Adler and Van Doren, you will change your mind.

Kinds of Reading

There are four kinds of reading:

  • Elementary- The basics.
  • Inspectional- The book browsing/skimming kind
  • Analytical- Going into details
  • Syntopical- Reading books related to the book you are reading

Reading Rules:

  • Classify the book according to its subject matter.
  • State what the whole book is about with utmost brevity.
  • Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation.
  • Define the problems the author is trying to solve and see whether he has solved them.

So a reader has to sweat over the sentence like the poor writer has or to put it in a more positive light- a reader needs to be more demanding.

How to Read Books of Different Genres

There is a way to read every sort of book from mathematics to philosophy. For instance, reading imaginative literature and reading a mathematics treatise is very different indeed. You can afford to be less analytical while reading War and Peace than when you attempt Euclid’s Book I of Elements. Similarly, a poem is not unreadable if you follow these steps- read it through in one sitting, preferably read it aloud, find the unity in the poem and discover the conflict of images. A poem requires work, but like all other kinds of literature, you must try to glean something from it.

This section of the book is sure to change the way you approach different kinds of books.

Bonus Points

There is a list of recommended books at the end of How to Read a Book– a comprehensive guide of what to read in Western Literature and Exercises and Tests at the four levels of reading in the book.


Wole Soyinka- Doyen of Drama Who Dons Many Roles

Wole Soyinka “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence” won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. He was the first Nigerian, the first African to win this distinction. His life is a lesson to journalists and writers across the world. Wole Soyinka has never been afraid to speak his mind and he speaks not with the grating cynicism that we find on social media these days- all his speech is tempered with reason. You can watch him speak here.

While he has written extensively combining European and Yoruba tradition- plays, poetry, novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and screenplays, he is also an activist and has spent a large part of his life fighting corruption, racism and injustice. While he has won various prizes for his writing and has taught at many prestigious universities, he has also been incarcerated for his firm stand. His propensity for satire flourished in the arts but was not appreciated across the political spectrum in his home country.

Death and the King's Horseman (Student Editions)Myth, Literature and the African World (Canto)Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on EarthCollected Plays: Volume 1: A Dance of the Forests; The Swamp Dwellers; The Strong Breed; The Road; The Bacchae of Euripide...The Lion and the Jewel (Three Crowns Books)

Soyinka has produced nearly 30 plays and this is what stands out the most in his legacy. He combines traditional pantomimes, ritualistic practices and dance with the idea of independence and regeneration.

Happy b’day Wole Soyinka!

Textbooks, GST and South Asian Writers @ Lit Browser

What’s happening in the writing and publishing world in India right now? Found three stories related to this sphere.

There are around 10,000 publishers in India today, with textbooks owning a large chunk of the business. The managing director of the publishing house S Chand group is one example. Founded in 1939 in Old Delhi, the S Chand Group has raised its IPO in April 2017. They’ve come a long way for a company that publishes textbooks. To know about the textbook business in India, read this Forbes story by Paramita Chatterjee.

 text books oc students semester GIF

Another story I stumbled upon is about the GST book connection. The good news is that there is no GST on books but the bad news is that making a book has just become a bit more expensive. So the raw materials that are required to create a book including paper and glue and the cost of employing freelancers have all gone up.

“But why will publishers not get the same benefit that other industries will get? As with the older Value Added Tax, the GST also includes the concept of Input Tax Credits (ITC). Put simply, this means that the seller of the final product has to pay GST at the prevailing rate, but can claim credits on all the GST already paid by his suppliers. In this scenario, the publisher would have been able to claim ITC on the GST paid its suppliers – had there been a GST on the books it’s selling.”

For more analysis read this essay in the Scroll by Jaya Bhattacharjee Rose.

 i dont understand GIF

On a more positive note, writers from neighboring countries are finding the Indian publishing industry a better bet with a large number of manuscripts from Pakistan and Sri Lanka adding to the South Asian quotient. Why is this happening? Several reasons have been mentioned including rejection at the homefront owing to fear of controversy and censorship. Some writers also feel that India has a diverse enough audience to accommodate fiction from another country. More about South Asia’s publishing haven by Somrita Ghosh here.


Vodka, Vikram Seth and Indian Literary Mags @ Lit Browser

If you have missed the author Vikram Seth, you will appreciate this article called ‘A Suitable Girl’ is coming. What was it like to read Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ 24 years ago? on Scroll by Devapriya Roy. The exciting news is that Vikram Seth is on track with A Suitable Girl and he writes about a new India, a far cry from the India Lata inhabited in his magnum opus published in 1993. There is also a link to a video conversation where Seth fans will get to meet the man himself and his cat, Vodka.


I also stumbled upon an interesting story about the inception of The Indian Quarterly, a literary magazine in India. The birth of the magazine was triggered by the horror of 26/11. The idea was to create a perspective through ‘art, poetry, photography and cinema’.  Thus came the birth of the shelfie:

A magazine or publication with staying power unlike those which transit momentarily in our homes before going to the kabadiwala.

What is interesting about this article is how it throws light on how little we know about the story of magazines. The author delves into the genesis of the little magazine founded by so many philosophers and thinkers in Europe and the US. The author narrates the peculiar story of the literary magazine Encounter who was backed by a group hard to guess.  I suggest you read the article to find out more.

The author is optimistic about the future of literary journals though he is aware that this space too is fast disappearing. What about India? Are there any literary magazines of note here?

The Lalit Kala Akademi used to publish a Lalit Kala Contemporary journal. Marg, a quarterly magazine founded by late novelist Mulk Raj Anand in 1946, is still going strong.

Many magazines have shut down and turned into collectibles. But The Indian Quarterly has long-term plans. Read the article by Madhu Jain here: From Selfie to Shelfie.