Category Archives: Books
My interests ! Books are our guides! Books are always an addiction!….I have tried to review the books i read…. Writing down the review comments helps in two counts – one, to ensure that my memory overflow is handled (rather, to avoid rereading a book) and secondly to track on how my reading taste has changed over a timeline!!
- Author – Paulo Coelho
- Eleven minutes – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Coelho
- Category – Non Fiction
- My rating – 4 on 5
So, why did i pick this book up ? I want to believe that it is another incident where the soul of the universe always shows the path … when you seek answers, you realize that the answer seeks the seeker!
I have been thinking about what is right & wrong relationship and what works & fails in human relationships - result of few counselling assignment at work - I end up listening to the younger generation’s complex personal relationships when it overlaps with professional environments - complex relationships with the first circle of family, relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbours - how relationships change over time and why relationship is all about how you feel about the other person - why everything is fair in love and war – and why there are no rights or wrongs – and why the most important thing is related to heart and not to anything physical – and why the society needs a framework in which physical relationships had to be given more importance over everything else!
At the outset, from my perspective, it can be a bit of a sticky book to refer in a conservative society (it can be even offensive to some!) - this book uses”not-so-conservative” but realistic characters/ situations to explain relationships. If you appreciate Paulo Coelho’s spiritual perspective, you will find those all over this book - you will believe that there is this universal soul which each one of us are part of and the answer seeks the seeker. The story revolves around the life of a young women who seeks answers - this book will resonate with those who have the ability to appreciate the human nature and the universal fact that both right and wrong co-exists, both evil and good co-exists and the final realization that there is nothing called right or wrong and nothing belongs to us.
Few of the quotes which i want to remember…
- She also noted that she associated love with the person’s absence than with their presence
- Freedom only exists when love is present
- The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly
- The great aim of every human being is to understand the meaning of total love. Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But in order to do that, we need another person
- She knows this love was impossible, and yet expecting nothing, she could nevertheless have everything she hoped for from that particular stage of life
- Does the world want me to take “no” risks, to go back where I came from because I did not have the courage to say YES to life?
- Sometimes you no second chance and that it is best to accept the gifts the world offers you
- Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realise that nothing really belongs to them – And if nothing belongs to me there is no point wasting my time looking after things that are not mine; it is best to live as if today were the first (or last) day of my life
- Dreaming is very pleasant as long as you are not forced your dreams into practice.That way, we avoid all risks, frustations and difficulties and when we are old we can always blame other people – preferably our parents, spouses, children – for our failure to realize our dreams
- The true experience of freedom – having the most important thing in the world without owning it
- Time exists in two dimensions – it can be so quick or so slow – depending on one’s state of mind
- I will at last have gained one happy day in my life, considering the way world is, one happy day is almost a miracle
- The universe only makes sense when we have someone to share our feelings with
- Passion makes a person stop eating, sleeping, working, feeling at peace. No one wants their life to be thrown into chaos. That is why a lot of people keep that threat of passion under control (Keeping passion at bay or surrendering blindly to it – which of the two attitudes is least destructive?)
- Desire is not what you see, but what you imagine
- Could I buy back a few hours of my life? We keep putting up with horrible people,waiting for that right moment to arrive, postponing the realization of dreams
- When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being whom I am, I found myself. When I experienced. humiliation and submission, I am free
- What thrilled her about the bird was his freedom, the energy of his wings in motion, not his physical body
About men and women
- All girls are looking for one of the three things – adventure, money or husband
- I was unfaithful and.so were they, just like any other normal couple
- Resonates with any woman – there are three inside any women - innocent girl, femme fatale and understanding mother
- Men always take fright when a woman says “I need you” (i think it works the other way when it comes to patriarchical society - men want women to be dependent??)
- Author – S.G. Raja Sekharan
- Category – Non Fiction
- My rating – 4 on 5
I do realize the importance of managing personal finance– drawing the financial wall in my life model is a result of this appreciation.
At the same time, in the recent past, I hardly could keep my attention on any self-help books – call it getting impatient with preaching pals! And I still go with the view that RICH is a very relative term – Being Happy and at Peace with one-self is Being Rich for me (do people under the same sun sign think this way? I was stumped when I heard a similar definition from the same fellow disguised alien who told me about Moneyball)
Nevertheless, I picked this book with lot of enthusiasm and pride – the author, Rajasekharan had been my colleague in his past corporate avatar and is one of the key enabler of the monthly early morning long walking sessions for a bunch of walking enthusiast like me. And this is the second time one of my friends have published his writing – It was Anitha just last year!
What I like in this book
- Caters to a large audience reference book – If you are 20+ and starting your career, you just start your financial planning with this book. If you are middle aged and still have another 15-20 years of salaried service, you still can get inputs to get rich. If you over the middle age hump-this can still be a quick ready reference in matters of India financial market
- Weaving general leadership principles – “Inaction is costly”, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, “planning is like painting, the more valuable it becomes with more finer details you put in”, “ financial planning is like going to gym - got to be regular and long term” (knowing Raj and his love for Stephen Covey, this is not a surprise!)
- Excellent clarity
- Definition of rich – if your passive income equals your expenses
- Focus on basics - Long term financial planning is the basis of getting RICH
- Simple and easy language
- Super simple control diagram charts - which says what is RICH and sticks on to your head
- Good content flow -
- Part one: makes the reader appreciate and define what RICH means at that individual’s level,
- Part two covers the why and how of long term financial planning followed by
- Part three which explains the various investment options in India and how to choose them to get an ROI of 15-20%
- Though it sounds like a self-help book, Raj has clearly established that each individual’s needs are very different based on their perspective of life – unique is the way he puts it candidly that it is all his views based on his experience
- The thorough details on various investment options –Debt, equities, mutual funds, insurance policies, gold, real estate. The case of Asian Paints is well handled to enable even the beginners to understand and appreciate the intricacies of equities market
What I look for in the next edition
- Soft version of all the reference tables (a CD with the book)
- Consolidation of all questions at the end of each chapter
- A followup workshop based on this book - I had the opportunity to be present in Raj’s book promotion session and I felt he can build a workshop based on this which will help many
- Hard bound cover - this is a book which can stay in the reference section for years to come
- Some more proof reading
It has been a long time since i picked a fiction to read - I have been reading lot of non-fiction books – I have not completed reading even one single non-fiction book in the last few months (Reason why the last couple of my book reviews are fiction books), have been jumping from one to another!. So, I surprised myself when I picked up this fiction and completed over a weekend in-between my busy weekend house chores! Obviously, the motivation is to make sure that I read the two short stories written by AM is also published in that ….and the feather on the cap is that the collection is named after one of her short stories heading “City of Gods”
This collection of short stories from various Indian authors (was it dominated by south Indian authors?) had a mix of all genre of stories – love, horror, humor, humanity …..all 22 had different flavors - some of them were very impactful, few were very flowery - lot of descriptions and less of story. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read - here is a short review of few samples as I looked at it
1.Stranger Anxiety by Vrindha Baliga : Very realistic and emotional. I can relate to the father daughter relationship and the father granddaughter chemistry…..and the advent of facebook into the lives of older generation!
2. The pullover by Thomas K Abraham: A short episode clearly brings out the feelings of children who are in boarding school - will dosa tree grow from a dosa? though it was laced with slight humor, this story left me remembering my childhood - to discipline my brother and I, my father use to threaten that he will put us in a boarding school if we miss to behave well - we truly believed he will do so and were terrorized at times!
3.The Death of a Martyr by Dhiraj Kumar Deka: Sad story of a father losing his son on the India border while he was saving our India. The story made me think of the many jawans who laid their life saving our mother India. Inspiring and also emotional!
4. The Holiday by Anitha Murthy: A very pragmatic approach - what kind of adjustments every individual makes to go with the choice of brain Vs the choice of your heart?? Anitha is indeed a captivating story teller.
5. The Betrayl by Vibha Batra: Story set in pre independence period and captures the interpersonal challenges in the bigger picture of country and politics - what is saddening is that even today, (65 years post independence) these challenges exist all over.
6.Maya by Tripta Roy – A very touching emotional story - how much does an individual need to comprise if they have to prioritize the joys of motherhood…. I am sure there are crores of women/men around the world who make these comprises to be a good parent - whether it is a good decision or a bad decision is something which is always debatable - it may sometimes be better to stick to reality and let the children understand it?
7. Rage by Shiva Viswanathan: Very convincing justification on why a teenager ends up as a destroyer - RAGE captures it all.
8. The Master by Shalim M Hussain - A story on North East India’s struggle - For some reason, I could not make myself read this story - do not know if the current NE exodus episode in India had made me get an overdose of NE struggles.
9. The Fix by Saritha Roa Rayachoti - Finally a romantic story - a story which gives the positive changes brought in by discovering one own self. Coffee was just a reason though!
10. The strings by Nandini Rao - Another story which I could not read beyond couple of paragraphs - there were more and more of descriptions and me being a non scholastic English reader, just had to skip it. Not my cup of tea.
11. The writer by Revathi Siva Kumar - A very depressing story line. the short fiction itself was very well written and delivered and the characters were in front of my eyes . I felt it was a seasoned writer’s creative writing - it was author’s victory to make the reader feel for the characters in the story. Good work.
12.Role Play by Aruna Shenoy - Very pragmatic theme and well written - every day dilemma of young Indian working women and how they conquer it - Role play is A grade!
…….a good collection for the intelligent readers…. and thank you Anitha!
- Author – Chetan Bhagat
- Category – Fiction – tailored for Bollywood!!!!
- My rating – 3 on 5
One look at the cover page - you have the entire story - love (three angles), corruption and ambition. Feels like Chetan wrote this with the inherent plan to make it a straight Bollywood masala - I can actually imagine the actors in the lead roles to be Neil Nitin Mukesh (good guy), Amy Jackson and Shah Rukh Khan(extremely good bad guy)……………
Chetan can do much better - even his newspaper articles have more thought and effort from Chetan than this! Am not discounting that it is a good masala with the right mix of all required ingredients for a commercial Bollywood movie, but then……..Chetan can have much tougher goals? The ramblings on AIEEE and IIT JEE is getting a bit too much after all his earlier novels……..so is the standard love story theme….!!
Now that Chetan has covered the first five numerals - One night at a call center, Two states, The three mistake of my life, R2020 (add the twos to make it four) and Five point someone……….time for him to breakaway and handle different subjects!!
You will read and like it if you like masala fiction! Entertaining!
- Author – Amish
- Category – Fiction mixed with history/mythology
- My rating – 3.5 on 5
I bought this book only at the third try -
First time, when I spotted it in Crosswords at Bangalore Airport, it was the cover which captured my attention – I glanced through the summary and the review on the back cover – When I read the two line review in the back cover from Business world “Amish……. is well on his way to becoming the Paulo Coelho of the east…”, I started contemplating – Should I drop the already selected “I have a Dream – Rashmi Bansal” and go for this book - I may get time only for one book during the travel…..!!! Given that Rashmi Bansal was already recommended by Shiva himself (it is my friend’s name, pun intended though!), I decided for her book.
Second time, I got an offer from a blog community to review the two books of the Shiva Trilogy (second one is “The secret of Nagas”). If I agree to review and post the review in my blog, the blog community will ship those two books to me free of cost. I was tempted but there was a catch - they wanted the review to be completed within 15 days…I just dropped this offer, given that I do not even know if I will like this book to make me read the second one ….and 15 days is too short for my speed!!
Third time, we were in Landmark and picking some books on my kid’s birthday…while both the kids were skimming through the rows of book, I was doing my rounds and saw this book again…the cover continued to seek attention…and then I saw this 3 for 2 offer in landmark………..and this came as the third one…..though it is reasonably priced at Rs. 195/-, getting something free makes a feel good factor……and finally I got it.
Given that I got it over a weekend, I started reading it immediately and at the middle of first chapter, I WAS HOOKED. Not sure if it was the influence of the review comparing Amish with Paulo Coelho OR it is the effect of living in a Temple town of Siva for a considerable part of my life and being in the family of shiva worshippers, I took to fancy this setting. The story is set in 1900 BC, what is the era of Indus valley civilization. The settings are very familiar if you know the history and geography of North India - Mansarovar lake, Mount Kailash, Srinagar, Hariyuppa (Harappa), Mohan jo daro, Karachapa (Karachi?), Devagiri, Ayodha, Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Yamuna, Sarayu, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Narmada. The characters are again very familiar for all who would have heard Indian mythology - Siva, Sati, Daksha, Nandi, Lord Ram, Brahaspathi, Veerabhagu,….
So, what is new?
I think it is the way Amish has treated the subject - he has the right mix of action, love and adventure which is required for a fiction, used facts from religion and folklore and has the right mix of mythology and history, and then……….the messages for the reader, through the all-powerful character Shiva (which probably gets an edge of advantage over other characters) ….every passage is open to interpretation………and makes it interesting to contemplate on the facts - Few of the notes from this book depicting the interesting mixture…
SPIRITUALITY: Siva himself advocates that, God is everywhere. When asked about his belief in God, Siva responds “I don’t believe in symbolic Gods. I believe that the real God exists all around us. In the flow of the river, in the rustle of the trees, in the whisper of winds,. He speaks to all of us all the time. All we need to do it listen.”
“His burden did not feel any lighter. But he felt strong enough to carry it.”
“They are not evil. They are just different.”
HEALTH AND SCIENCE: When Amish shares the Oxygen/anti-oxidants theory (refer “Radical Proposal” by Kathryn Brown in Scientific Americana) it gels so well with the story and the context …. “ What keeps us alive? Energy is a fundamental thing to keep us alive. We use energy when we do anything. This energy comes from food we eat. Food stores energy, which we can expend in our body. The conversion of food to energy in our body is done by the air we breathe. Oxygen in air helps to release energy from food. The very thing which keeps us alive is also what causes us to age and eventually die. When oxygen reacts with food to release energy, it also releases free radicals called oxidants which are toxic. Any fruit left outside rot as the oxidants react with it. We also rust from inside out and age and die. Body stores food/water – you can survive without food for few days or few days of thirst will not kill you. But body does not store oxygen, the most crucial component of staying alive. The explanation is that body realises that despite being an elixir, oxygen is also a poison.
LOVE: When Daksha says “Man has the intense desire to impress the person he loves most”, it is justified why he is hoping Siva will marry Sati.
WOMAN: This is a stunner …when even experienced intelligent souls are struggling to understand woman, this simple definition really fits the requirement well – if only all men understand this secret….”The most powerful force in a woman’s life is the need to be appreciated, loved and cherished for what she is”
SOCIETY: This is in line with what I went across my mind in the context of marriage Vs Osho’s suggestion. Amish consolidated it well “What any successfully society needs is “Flexibility with Stability”. Flexibility is required because every single person has different dreams and capabilities. Flexibility in a society allows change3, so that all its members have the space to discover their true selves and grow to their potential. And if every person in a society achieves his true potential, society as a whole also achieves its true potential. Society must remain stable so that we don’t put each other in a situation of having to fight for survival. People can pursue their dreams only when they are living in a society where survival is not a daily threat.
The lengthy description of some of the events could have been more crispy and would have helped to keep up the tempo……………..Nevertheless, a decent book to read!
- Author – Paulo Coelho
- Category – Non Fiction
- My rating - 4 on 5
Honestly, this is the second time i am reading the book. I read it five to six years back and just remember that it was a DIFFERENT book. I remember that i did not completely get deeply into the book, but read it and felt it had something which i was not able to relate.
Again, when i picked up this book this time, it really made me read some pages again and again – the depth of the concept was amazing. I am not telling that my grey matter has become much heavier in the last 6 years :). I think i have become more open to see others views – more patient to see the world as it stands and that makes me understand this book much better than what i did the first time. I somehow also get a feeling that in another five years i may get to understand these books much differently than what i do now.
Today, this book evokes in me a unexplainable peace, a confidence on self, a confidence on life -reinforcement that things will go as we want it to go (sounds like James Allen‘s “As a man thinketh“). It reinforces that every small thing / person in this world is part of a bigger scheme. As individuals, we need to listen to our heart and when we honestly make a try to reach towards our destiny, all the things fall in place and make us reach our destiny.
The book can be a looked at as a guide in management training, self-development, and what not?
It reiterates the importance of Love in everyone’s life – loving the world is more important for oneself . Betterment in Love is a great concept. “When we love, we always strive to become better than what we are. When we strive to become better than what we are, everything around us becomes better, too”
The book is a short story – this is how i looked at it 6 years back. The book is still narrating a story, after all. But the pearls of wisdom in the story are for the reader to pick and cherish.
It goes with my belief when Coelho talks about the “Beginner’s luck” and Principle of Favourability. He says “When people are young, they know what their destinies are. People are capable at any time in their lives of doing what they dream of.” He also says “Every search begins with the beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victors being severely tested”.
Many similar thoughts when it came to the analysis of fear..
- There is only one thing which makes a dreamimpossible to achieve – the fear of failure.
- The fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.
- Courage is the quality most essential to understanding the language of the world
- People need not fear the unknown if they are capable of achieving what they need and want.
He reiterates the fact that we are all part of a bigger scheme of things – “All things are the manifestation of one thing only. Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life, where the histories of all people are connected and we are able to know everything because it’s all written there”
The importance of living in present (FISH is a good book to read on this) is covered well ……..
If you concentrate always on the present, you will be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a great festival because life is the moment we are living right now.
The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to present, you can improve upon it. And if you improve on the present what comes later will also be better. When we strive to become better than what we are, everything around us becomes better too. When we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”
I am leaving this review open as I strongly believe that I have more to learn in this short book with the years to come.
Reading – made a joy! God bless!
Author – Spencer Johnson
Category – Self Help
- My rating - 3 on 5
For me, parenting is a mixture of science and art - and you never end being a parent irrespective of whatever age your kids are!! This short book from Spencer Johnson (author of many “one minute” series) reinforces that there are still few facts out there about parenting which can be put to use effectively in day-to-day parenting.
The book is designed to be a short story where an young mother-to-be goes in search of the secrets about good parenting. She meets with an elderly woman who is the “one minute mother” and her daughters to collect the wisdom of being an effective mother. The basics of human psychology are established when the author says ”Children who like themselves like to behave themselves”. This is followed by the sharing of the three communication secrets which helps to be a “one-minute-mother”.
- One minute goals (Goal is a dream with deadline)
- One minute praising (Catch them doing something right)
- One minute reprimand (Feedback is the breakfast of champions)
As a parent, it makes lot of sense to develop the sense of responsibility in our children and help them reach their full potential. It takes lot of effort and will to persevere through the challenging situations in parenting and keep our sanity. Johnson highlights the importance of being in balance when he writes “The best way for a mother to keep her sanity is to keep her sense of humor”. Can’t agree more here
While the following tips hold good for any interpersonal relationships and mentoring, Johnson highlights and fits them rightfully into the parenting tips
Teach children to like themselves and to like to behave themselves. Enjoy yourselves in that process
Set goals and praise and reprimand bad behavior ( tell them they are good, their behaviour was bad)
Speak simple truth and express feelings clearly
Hug your children and laugh often and show them you love them
Encourage children to do as you do (be a living example)
Pay attention to many little things that make life more enjoyable
It is more important to start right away the right things than is to wait until we think we can do it right
We become what we think about
All things are ready if our minds be so
Anxiety is fear of unknown and fear immobilizes people
The crux of the book remains in the fact that good parenting is ensuring that your children become independent and do right things by themselves. “When the children are caught doing something right, they want to do something right again (one minute praising). It makes them feel good about themselves. And children who like themselves like to behave themselves. So, instead of behaving for their parents, they do it for themselves”
Given it is a short book (100 pages +) and written like a story, it is worth spending some time to read through it – helps young parents and also the veteran parents (to revise the facts!!).
- Author - Chetan Bhagat
- Category – Fiction
- My rating - 3 on 5
It took me three unfruitful visits to the nearest book shop – “stocks are over, please come after two days!”. While I was getting disillusioned and decided to make the visit to the largest city book store, my colleague lent the book.
Given that all Chetan’s books had been easy reads, i started reading this. Ok, now you can skip the next paragraph, as I just copy and pasted the previous book’s review as it suited this book review (i am getting influenced about taking easy routes!!)
As always, the typical Typical Chetan Bhagat story – starts with a scene where he gives a first hand narration – brings the feel that the author is sharing his experiences with us – immediately makes us feel that we are part of it….well used technique! And of course, he has the right mixture of the popular ingredients - love, family, corporate world, sentiments and finally, the established well accepted climax of “they lived happily ever after”!!…………what else you need for connecting to the mass of India!! I got connected!! It was an easy read – not much of a challenge for an average English reader, simple vocabulary
But, should i say “Chetan did it again!! Recommended!!”……………….but i want to take a minute…..
There was something in this book which did make me feel that it could have been handled better -
Having read all his published books, i strongly felt that Chetan probably is much more intelligent than just to handle this subject by taking a dig at particular community and their ways of life….sure, he did apologize mentioning that he loves south Indian, but i closed the book with a feeling that he took an easy route…he did not put enough efforts to bring out the best of both communities and highlight the cultural gaps!!! Not sure if it is the expectation which was built within me after his previous books OR the repeated “stock over, come 2 days later” inputs from the book store OR the fact that this book already went into multiple reprints OR the fact that this book is rated as ‘No 1 fiction’ in the book seller’s stand - BUT, THERE DEFINITELY IS A DISAPPOINTMENT!
Nevertheless, a good read! We expect more from you, Chetan!!
- Author – Chetan Bhagat
- Category – Fiction
- My rating - 3 on 5
Typical Chetan Bhagat story – starts with a scene where he gives a first hand narration – brings the feel that the author is sharing his experiences with us – immediately makes us feel that we are part of it….well used technique! And of course, he has the right mixture of the popular ingredients – cricket (passion of India), patriotism, the religion fervor of Indian politics, love, sentiments and finally, the established well accepted climax of “they lived happily ever after”!!…………what else you need for connecting to the mass of India!! I got connected!! It was an easy read – not much of a challenge for an average English reader, simple vocabulary (may be the most difficult word in the whole story was the word “agnostic!” and Chetan is so mass-reader-friendly, that he ensures that the meaning is also shared in the story!)
Chetan did it again!! Recommended for a light reading!!