Sunday, November 21, 2010

Neti, Neti - Not This Not Thiis

Author:       Anjum Hasan
Published:   2009
Publisher:    Roli Books Pvt. Ltd.
Paperback: 288 Pages
Readers in India:

I have hardly read any  contemporary Indian Fiction, except for  the novels by Chetan Bhagat and  Upamanyu Chatterjee's English August. So it is time I make amends by reading more  books in this genre. Stories about the characters and the places which I can relate to better as compared to those in English novels I have been reading all these years.
With such an intention I picked borrowed this book from the circulating library Just Books (one of the best things that has happened for book lovers in recent times) - mainly for three reasons - a) the blurb said that story is set in Bangalore, my home town for three decades; b) it had been longlisted for a couple of literary awards (that probably assures a minimum level of quality) c) The title words "Neti Neti" is from Vedantic literature, which is close to my heart.
The story is about Sophie Das a young girl from Shillong who has recently moved into Bangalore and works for a BPO company. While coming to terms with the fast-paced life in Bangalore, she experiences a sense of lacuna and hollowness in her life and decides to go back to Shillong for good. However she does not find the fulfillment even in Shillong where her home is. So she is back in Bangalore and her life moves on. She accepts the reality and tries to make the best out of it.
The story  seems to be a realistic portrayal of Generation Ys in Bangalore (I am not sure about this though,I am GenX !) and the city as such (with all its traffic jams and malls etc.) . A few interesting characters like Baba Sampige ( who I guess is modelled on a few Godmen in and around Bangalore) and Bhatt (the landlord of the flat which Sophie had rented) who lend a touch of humor, have also been thrown in.

A coincidence:
I was reading  this book while commuting to my office and I came across these lines:
".....they came up to Trinity Circle and joined the cars swarming excitedly in every direction...." and that very moment I looked up and realized that my car was too in Trinity Circle !

The punch line:
Swami, Sophie's boy friend who has managed to buy an expensive car on loan, says "The only problem we'll have in life from now on is the problem of where to find parking space."

This punch line in my view sums up the complete underlying philosophy of this novel !

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Speeches that Changed the World

Compiler:    Alan J. Whiticker
Published:   2010
Publisher:    Jaico Books
Paperback: 288 pages
Readers in India:
 This book is a compilation of over 40 speeches delivered over the last 100 years by leaders who swayed the public opinion , through their power of persuasion. 
The leaders featured include Lenin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Stalin, Churchill, Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Indira Gandhi, Mikail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela .  I am surprised by the inclusion of  George W. Bush and  Arundhati Roy  in this list !
The themes covered in this collection are - politics and diplomacy, war and peace, freedom and justice, civil rights and human rights. The background and aftermath of each speech is briefly explained along with a short biographical note about the speaker.

A well compiled book  at a reasonable price , which will be of great interest to anyone interested in Public Speaking. 
What makes this book a real bargain is the accompanying free audio CD - Great Speeches of the World.

About the Speeches in this Book:
 Some of the well known speeches in this book: 
  • The Only Thing We Have To Fear is Fear Itself  - F.D. Roosevelt
  • The Jewish Question - Adolf Hitler
  • Our Finest Hour - Winston Churchill
  • Quit India - Mahatma Gandhi (Very inspiring, but did not find the phrase "Quit India" in the text. Not sure whether it is an extract of the speech or whether Gandhi never explicitly uttered "Quit India" )
  • D-Day Address - George S. Patton (I liked the earthy , colorful and rustic but in a no nonsense manner it has been delivered)
  • I Have a Dream - Martin Luther King (Very emotional and inspiring !)
  •  I have AIDS - Ryan White (Very touching !)
  • Dissolving the Soviet Union - Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Release from Prison - Nelson Mandela
  • Eulogy for Diana, Princess of Wales - Earl Spencer (Probably you may have seen this moving speech by Diana's brother which was telecast life on the occasion of her funeral)
About the Audio CD- Great Speeches of the World

This is a compilation of 13 speeches. 
You can hear original broadcasts of the inaugural addresses of  3 U.S. Presidents (F.D. Roosevelt, Kennedy & Barack Obama) and also the great inspiring speeches of Churchill (Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat) , Martin Luther King (I Have a Dream), Ronald Reagan (The Berlin Wall) in their own voice.

Other notable great speeches in this CD  read out by professional actors are:
  • Apology - Socrates (read by Christopher Cazenove)
  • Give me Liberty, or Give me Death - Patrick Henry (read by David Birney)
  • Gettysburg Address - Abraham Lincoln (read by Burt Reynolds)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Information Security Management Principles

Authors:         David Alexander,              
                     Amanda Finch, David Sutton
Editor:           Andy Taylor
Published:      2009
Publisher:       The British Computer Society
Paperback:    216 pages
Readers in India:

This book is aligned to the syllabus of the CISMP (Certificate in Information Security Management Principles) exam conducted by the British Computer Society.
It consists of following four chapters:
1. Information Security Principles: Here the basic principles of Information Security are covered and specific terminologies are defined. The relationship between Information Assurance management and the environment in which it operates is also discussed.
2. Information Risk: In this chapter the basic terminology of risk is introduced. This is followed by discussion on potential threats, vulnerabilities  and the processes for understanding and managing the risks associated with Information Systems.
3. Information Security Framework: The basic principles for establishing and managing an Information Security Framework in an organization are covered in this chapter. The role, use and implementation of  policy, standards and procedures, Information Assurance governance, security incident management in this framework are then discussed.
4. Information  Security Controls: Here the controls implemented to protect against the security incidents are discussed in details along with the process of detection, prevention and mitigation of such incidents.

A simple and realistic case study with relevant exercises runs throughout the book. These exercises will give the readers some guidance on how to apply the Information System Management principles in real life situations.

The layout of the book could be better. The inside  pages have a  monotonous and soporific look being  densely packed with text with very few illustrations and almost indistinguishable section headings.

But overall a fairly good and concise introductory book on the subject.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The 60 Second Leader

Author:         Phil Dourado
Published:     2007
Publisher:     Wiley India Pvt. Ltd.
Paperback:    180 pages
Buy from Flipkart

Is it possible to compile quotes, concepts, references on leadership in a book without making it look like a dictionary or an encyclopedia ? Yes it is and that's what the author Phil Dourado a leadership consultant has precisely done.
He has dived into  oceans of books, theories and courses on leadership to extract 30 pearls of leadership wisdom and offers them to the readers in a very concise (less than 200 pages) book.

The book is divided into five sections, each having a chapter dedicated to one essential element of leadership.
  1. Personal (Self) Leadership: 
    • Failure, Intuition, Decision, Connection, Luck, Optimism.
  2. Leading the Organization:   
    • Strategy, Competition, Action, Execution, Management, Change.
  3. Leading People:
    • Questions, Attention, Stories, Motivation, Engagement, Targets.
  4. Distributed Leadership: 
    • Innovation, Culture, Leading from the middle, Customers, Frontline leadership.                                                     
  5. Great Leadership:
    • Ego, Humility, Fear, Love, Presence, Legacy 
Each chapter contains the gist of  the views of several leaders (mostly business leaders) regarding  the element discussed, recommendations for further reading and an appropriate leadership story. 

Most of the chapters also have a precise definitions of useful  concepts like - The Tripping Point, Thin Slicing, OODA Loops, Network Leadership,  System Dynamics,  Epiphany, The Attention Economy,  MBSA (Management by Storying Around), The Law of Great Expectations, Goodhart's Law, The 360 Degree Leader, Transformational Leadership, Presencing etc.

If you are too busy to read everything you need to read on leadership, this is the ONE BOOK which you should read !

To get a feel of what lies in store for you between the covers of this book, you can visit the following link maintained by the author at his website (  Sample extracts from The 60 Second Leader  

I borrowed this book from a library but I intend to buy it at the earliest (at less than  Rs 200/- (about $4) it is a  real steal !) so that I can have a handy leadership advisor whom I can consult from time to time.