Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stop Sleep Walking through Life

Author: Devdas Menon
Published: 2004
Publisher: Yogi Impressions Books Pvt. Ltd. 

All of us want to be be happy. But a vast majority of us believe that happiness lies in objects or events external to us and make all efforts to acquire and change them. But it is actually we who make a choice between happiness and unhappiness. It is all in our mind.

The author echoes the message of eminent philosophers and saints of the major religions of the world that self-awareness is the key to happiness , contentment and peace of mind.

In this invaluable little book he questions the way we lead our lives. His questions are rather uncomfortable but serve a great purpose. When we ponder over these questions we get convinced that our constant endeavor to acquire something or to become something, our continuous dissatisfaction with present and dwelling in past or future are the root causes for our unhappiness and discontentment and a restless mind.

Having raised these questions, this book does not provide ready made prescriptive answers like in many of the self-help books available in the market. This I think is the uniqueness of this book. The sole purpose of this book is to shake you awake and make you realize the necessity of developing self-awareness.But each one of us have to find our own way which suits us ,as the protagonist in the Herman Hesse novel Siddhartha does. One hat size will not fit everyone. And I congratulate the author for not trying to impose his views on developing self-awareness on the readers. Rather he has given pointers to different sources which the readers may refer and make their own decision.

The book is written in a very simple and lucid style. It has 9 chapters each one expanding on a theme based on the beautiful thought provoking quotations from Rupert Brooke, Anthony de Mello, Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton, T.S. Eliot, Brihadarnyaka Upanishad, J. Krishnamurthi, Li Po and William Blake.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is feeling restless in life and is sincerely seeking peace of mind, happiness and contentment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Q & A

Author: Vikas Swarup
Published: 2005
Publisher: Doubleday
Amazon Link: Click Here

This book is in the news nowadays because the hollywood blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire is supposed to be based on this. I have not seen the movie yet, but having read its storyline in wikipedia, I think this book is anyday better than the movie. But I do admit that all the hype surrounding the Slumdog Millionaire was the reason which made be buy this book from a second hand book vendor on the streets of Bangalore for just Rs. 70 (approx. $1.5)

The book is pretty good though I won't call it an exceptionally great read. I would say it is rather a collection of good short stories which are describe incidents in the life of the main protogonist Ram Mohammed Thomas. The experience from these incidents helps Ram to give correct answers and win a quiz show. But he is suspected of fraud and gets arrested. To know what happens further you need to read the book.

Most of the incidents narrated in this book and also the main storyline has a Jeffrey Archersque twist in the end. Also the author writes with a good sense of dry humor.

If you read this book without any great expectations, you will enjoy it.

Update (March 13 2009): Since writing the above post I saw the movie Slumdog Millionaire. It is well made but the script has been changed. I still stand by what I wrote - book is more interesting than the movie. Bowing to commercialization the name of the book is now changed to "Slumdog Millionaire" ! I don't see what was the need for this !

The High-Performance Entrepreneur : Golden Rules for Success in Today's World

Author: Subroto Bagchi
Published: 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books India

The author is a well respected personality in Indian IT industry. He is one of the founders of Mindtree.
This books gives several useful dos and don't s for entrepreneurs , starting , building and nurturing a successful company. This is certainly a "must read" for any budding entrepreneur who wants to build a high-performance organization. However the scope of the book is limited to author's views and experience with Mindtree which is an IT company.
If you want to read about different entrepreneurial view points, case studies drawn from several industries, I would recommend "Stay Hungry Stay Foolish" by Rashmi Bansal. This book has inspiring stories of 25 IIM Ahmedabad graduates who chose an entrepreneurial route to success.

My Bondage and My Freedom

Author: Frederick Douglass
Published : 1855
Free Download : Click here
Amazon Link: Click Here

This is an autobiography of Fredrick Douglass, a slave during first half of 19th century. He later on gained his freedom and went on to become one of the most prominent figures in USA, as an orator and social reformer. He was precursor to the likes of Martin Luther King Jr..
In this book he narrates his experiences as a slave and later about his work as an abolitionist.
The book also contains extracts from his speeches.

It is a moving account of hardships suffered by slaves as the result of cruelty inflicted upon them by the slave owners. Even after he became a free man , he faced racial discrimination. Several times he was thrown out of railway coaches meant for whites even though he had paid for his ticket. This reminds me of the experience Mahatma Gandhi had in South Africa almost 50 years later. Not sure whether Mahatma Gandhi ever read this book. But I am sure he would have liked it.