Sunday, December 30, 2012


Author:     Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Published: 1935
Publisher: Hind Pocket Books (39th Edition)
Paperback: 162 pages

Madhushala (The Tavern/ The House of Wine)  is perhaps the most popular work of the renowned poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan (better known to the masses as the father of the Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan).
If I remember correctly, I had bought a copy of this book way back in 1993 but inexplicably never got down to read it cover to cover till this month.
And when I read it I realized what I had been missing all these years.
On surface Madhushala is a collection of 135 quatrains extolling the virtues of a tavern where wines are sold. But each and every verse of this poem has a deep mystical, spiritual and philosophical thought underlying it. The poet brilliantly employs the words - madhu, madira or haala (wine), saaki (server), pyaala (cup or glass)  madhushala, madiralaya (pub/bar) - as metaphors to convey Soul's longing to be united with the Divine.
Really a gem of a collection of verses  which one needs to dive into  multiple times and enjoy its beauty !


[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this summary]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

7 Secrets of Shiva

Author:     Devdutt Pattanaik
Published: 2011
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Paperback: 234 pages

I was really impressed with the author's book 7 Secrets of Vishnu which I  read last year. I have even written a summary of it in this  blog.
So I ordered for this book when one of my Flipkart coupons was about to expire.
This book intends to clarify for the readers the implicit patterns in the stories, symbols and rituals of Lord Shiva.
There are seven chapters in this book.
The first chapter,Lingeshwara's Secret - Imagination makes us human, explains the meaning of the Shiva-linga going beyond its conventional interpretation as a phallic symbol. 
The second chapter ,Bhairava's Secret- From fear comes all corruption, focuses on Shiva's violent disdain for territorial behavior amongst humans.
The third and fourth chapters - Shankara's Secret - Without empathy there is no evolution and Bholenath's Secret - Culture is a human delusion - deal with how the Goddess Shakti, Shiva's consort gets him to compassionately engage with the world.
The next two chapters - Ganesha's Secret - Food alone does not satisfy hunger and Murugan's Secret - Face fear to outgrow it -  revolves around these two son's of Shiva who, through whom he connects with the world.
The final chapter, Nataraja's Secret - Destruction is deconstruction, presents Shiva as the wise teacher who expresses wisdom through dance.

All the legends , rituals and symbols are very well interpreted, though I am not sure whether it is author's own interpretation or whether it is based on his research.
The writing style is more coherent and simpler as compared to the author's other book 7 Secrets of Vishnu.
The book has an attractively designed cover and profusely illustrated. Every alternate page has an illustration of a classic painting  or a calendar art or a temple sculpture. The illustrations are well supported by explanations in call-out bubbles which point to the exact part of the illustration being explained. See below a sample of such illustrations.
A few suggestions for the author and the publisher to be taken care of in the next edition:
  • A glossary for non-English terms used in this book.
  • An index to easily locate the interesting pieces of information.
  • A consolidated list of all the illustrations along with their sources. 
  • A hardcover version of this book with glossy illustrations in color will make this an excellent coffee table book.
I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in religious mythology, spirituality or philosophy. At just Rs. 250/- this book is a real bargain. 

Sample illustrations from this book: 

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this summary]

Monday, December 17, 2012

Life of Pi

[Author: Yann Martel; Publisher: Canongate Books; Year: 2001]

Many a times I sighted  this book in bookshops, but was never interested enough to pick it up and browse through it.
Then last month I happened to see on the TV review of the movie based on this book and the interview with the film's director Ang Lee and the main cast of the movie. They all talked about the underlying philosophy of the book and also the spectacular special effects ( in 3-D) of the movie.
That sparked my interest to read the book and as well watch the movie.

I bought  this book in Kindle format (my second purchase from Amazon Kindle store). 
Pi , a sixteen year old boy from Pondicherry is shipwrecked in midst of Pacific ocean and stranded  in a life boat  with a ferocious Tiger.Yann Martel vividly narrates in first person, how Pi combats through sheer will power and resourcefulness, all the odds stacked against him. This is the main plot which forms the second part of the story.
The first part of the story is about Pi's life with his family in Pondicherry. It is here Pi, develops faith in  three religions - Hinduism, Islam & Christianity. They all help him in equipping him with the mental strength which stands him in good steed to face the ordeal in the sea.

A very inspiring read  for everyone!

P.S. - I watched the movie while I was in the midst of reading this book. The movie is technically brilliant as it manages to successfully recreate what is narrated in the second part of the book and is a Must Watch. But the philosophical musings (see some of my favorite quotes below) and sense of humor of Pi which forms such an integral part of the book gets lost in the movie.


Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
(Thanks to Kindle, I did not have to type them at all. Just did a cut and paste from the shared online notes)
  • Reason is my prophet and it tells me that as a watch stops, so we die. It’s the end. If the watch doesn’t work properly, it must be fixed here and now by us. One day we will take hold of the means of production and there will be justice on earth.
  • To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
  • Escaped zoo animals are not dangerous absconding criminals but simply wild creatures seeking to fit in.
  • Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims. 
  • Every element lived in harmonious relation with its neighbor, and all was kith and kin. I knelt a mortal; I rose an immortal. I felt like the center of a small circle coinciding with the center of a much larger one. Atman met Allah. 
  • There are always those who take it upon themselves to defend God, as if Ultimate Reality, as if the sustaining frame of existence, were something weak and helpless.
  • These people fail to realize that it is on the inside that God must be defended, not on the outside. They should direct their anger at themselves. For evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart. 
  • Technology helps and good ideas spread—these are two laws of nature. If you don’t let technology help you, if you resist good ideas, you condemn yourself to dinosaurhood!
  • Why do people move? What makes them uproot and leave everything they’ve known for a great unknown beyond the horizon? Why climb this Mount Everest of formalities that makes you feel like a beggar? Why enter this jungle of foreignness where everything is new, strange and difficult? The answer is the same the world over: people move in the hope of a better life.
  • People move because of the wear and tear of anxiety. Because of the gnawing feeling that no matter how hard they work their efforts will yield nothing, that what they build up in one year will be torn down in one day by others. Because of the impression that the future is blocked up, that they might do all right but not their children. Because of the feeling that nothing will change, that happiness and prosperity are possible only somewhere else.
  • Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it. 
  • When your own life is threatened, your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival.
  • You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did. And as a result I perked up and felt much better. We see that in sports all the time, don’t we? 
  • Oncoming death is terrible enough, but worse still is oncoming death with time to spare, time in which all the happiness that was yours and all the happiness that might have been yours becomes clear to you.
  • Some of us give up on life with only a resigned sigh. Others fight a little, then lose hope. Still others—and I am one of those—never give up. We fight and fight and fight. We fight no matter the cost of battle, the losses we take, the improbability of success. We fight to the very end. It’s not a question of courage. It’s something constitutional, an inability to let go. It may be nothing more than life-hungry stupidity.
  • I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life.
  • You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.
  • You must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.
  • Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.
  • There’s nothing like extreme need to give you resolve.
  • Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time.
  • What was the point of plotting a course if I could not act on it?
  • I cannot think of a better way to spread the faith. No thundering from a pulpit, no condemnation from bad churches, no peer pressure, just a book of scripture quietly waiting to say hello, as gentle and powerful as a little girl’s kiss on your cheek. 
  • Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love—but sometimes it was so hard to love.
  • The worst pair of opposites is boredom and terror. Sometimes your life is a pendulum swing from one to the other.
  • Only death consistently excites your emotions, whether contemplating it when life is safe and stale, or fleeing it when life is threatened and precious.
  • Life on a lifeboat isn’t much of a life. It is like an end game in chess, a game with few pieces. The elements couldn’t be more simple, nor the stakes higher. Physically it is extraordinarily arduous, and morally it is killing. You must make adjustments if you want to survive. Much becomes expendable. You get your happiness where you can. You reach a point where you’re at the bottom of hell, yet you have your arms crossed and a smile on your face, and you feel you’re the luckiest person on earth. Why? Because at your feet you have a tiny dead fish.
  • It was an awe-inspiring spectacle to sit in a tree and see giant waves charging the island, seemingly preparing to ride up the ridge and unleash bedlam and chaos—only to see each one melt away as if it had come upon quicksand. In this respect, the island was Gandhian: it resisted by not resisting.
  • High calls low and low calls high. I tell you, if you were in such dire straits as I was, you too would elevate your thoughts. The lower you are, the higher your mind will want to soar.
  • It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.
  • Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer.
  • Reason is excellent for getting food, clothing and shelter. Reason is the very best tool kit. Nothing beats reason for keeping tigers away. But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater.
  • The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ashoka - The Search for India's Lost Emperor

[Author: Charles Allen; Publisher:Little Brown; Hardback482 pages ]

Ashoka , also known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled over almost the entire  Indian subcontinent from  269 BCE to 232 BCE. He was a pioneer in forging India into a single nation welfare state, espousing the concept of non-violence and the spread of Buddhism in Asia.
Every Indian knows about his symbols - the Ashok Chakra which adorns the Indian national flag and the Lion Capital which is India's national emblem.
It  came as a surprise to me as I read this book tha, Ashoka was all but forgotten for  nearly two thousand years after his reign ended.
From the late 18th century onwards monuments and rock edicts of Ashokan era began to be discovered. 

In this fascinating book, the author narrates the story  of reconstruction of India's lost Ashokan history through diligent and painstaking  efforts of British archaeologists, Oriental scholars and their associates
It is  profusely illustrated with photographs  and sketches dating back to the timewhen these works were in progress.
An account of the life and times of Ashoka put together based on the evidences uncovered through archaeological findings and research is given at the end of the book.

There is also an appendix consisting of translated versions of the Ashoka's edicts inscribed on  pillars and rocks which shows how unique and far-sighted his views and principles were.

A very well written book, which could have been made even better if the author had provided a timeline chart of all the discoveries made. There are far too many mentions of names ,places and artifacts which made it difficult for me recall the previously discussed material while I was reading this book.

A must read for all history lovers ! 

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Head First - Software Development

[Authors: Dan Pilone & Russ Miles ; Publisher: O'Reilly; Paperback: 516 pages]

The software development approach described in this book is primarily based on Agile development principles and the Scrum framework (though not explicitly mentioned as such). It also introduces the concepts underlying technical practices like Test Driven Development (TDD) and Continuous Integration (CI) in a very elegant manner using a single case study , code snippets, illustrations and exercises. Pure Agilists may disagree with some of the points made in this book for e.g. definition of velocity , suggestion of a separate QA team for team for testing.
Read the extended summary of this book in my business blog.

Monday, October 29, 2012

False Impression

[Author: Jeffrey Archer Publisher:Pan Books , Paperback:  464 pages ]

Read a book by Jeffrey Archer after a long long time. Can't remember when I read him last.

Fenston is an an unscrupulous New York based investment banker whose strategy is to  drive his debtors to bankruptcy and also get them killed if it serves his end.
Fenston who is also an art collector is desperate to acquire one of Van Gogh's highly valued painting - Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear from his debtor Lady Victoria Wentworth after getting her killed. How his former employee Anna Petrescu  and the FBI agent Jack Delaney foil his plans is what the story is all about.
Though not one of Jeffrey Archer's best books (I liked his Kane and Abel the best), still it is a fast moving page turner and keeps you interested throughout.



I appreciate Western Art, so I have compiled the following list of Paintings mentioned in this book. I will be providing links to their images one of these days.
  • Turner -  Sunset Over Plymouth
  • Van Gogh - Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, Geishas in a Landscape, Sunflowers, The Red Vineyard, Reapers in the Field
  • Degas-  Dancing Class with Mme Minette, Dancer before a Mirror, The Dancing Instructor
  • Warhol- Black Marilyn, Shot Read Marilyn
  • Michelangelo- Study of a Mourning Woman
  • Romney-Mrs Siddons as Portia
  • Stubbs-Actaeon Winner of the Derby
  • Picasso - Guernica
  • Monet - Willows at Vetheuil
  • Renoir - Madame Duprez and her Children (The Reading Lesson),
  • Manet - Dinner at the Cafe Guerbois
  • Rembrandt - The Polish Rider, The Beresteyn Family, Titus - The Artist's Son
  • Raphael - The Madonna of the Pinks
  • Munch- The Scream
  • Matisse - View from the Bedroom
  • Caillebotte - Street Sweepers
  • Carvaggio -The Marriage at Cana
  • Tintretto-  Perseus and Andromeda

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Map

[Author: T.S. Learner, Published:  2012, Publisher:Sphere , Paperback:  608 pages ]

August Winthrop has come into possession of an ancient Jewish scroll and has been tasked with a mission to return it to the descendants of its author.  August who had been an Oxford Classic scholar becomes fascinated by the mysterious Kabbalistic writings in the scroll which provides clues about the whereabouts of a great treasure - a great mystical gift that could change the future of mankind itself. He is relentlessly pursued by spies and secret agents who want to lay their hands on the scroll and acquire the treasure. The book is all about how August gets to solve the puzzle of the great treasure.
The book's plot had all the potential of turning out to be a great thriller and mystery novel. Narration is fast moving and fairly interesting too.
Unfortunately the desultory writing style with too many loose ends and no clear-cut description of the clues in the scroll (ala Dan Brown's da Vinci code) does not allow the book to rise beyond an average thriller.  Sort of an OK read.

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Newton and his Falling Apple

Author:         Kjartan Poskitt
Illustrator:     Philip Reeve 
Published    2011
Publisher:    Scholastic
Paperback:  192  pages

Any school student would have definitely come across - Newton's Laws of Motion, Newton's Law of Gravity, Newton's Law of Cooling, Newton Rings and so on.
But how many of us know the man - Newton - behind these laws that have given sleepless nights to so many students  while they prepared for the exams. How they  wish that Newton was never born !
This  little book meant primarily meant for students (that includes me too an eternal student , though I am over ....well never mind!) is a delightful humorous, illustrated biography of Newton. I came to know many facts about Newton which I was not aware of.
Want to know more about this book ? Well get hold of a copy  and read it. Too good to be missed !
4 out of 5 !


[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Understand Psychology

Author:        Nicky Hayes
Published    2010
Publisher:    Hodder Education
Paperback:  480 pages

For effective interactions with  people we meet in our day-to-day life understanding their psychology is very essential.
This well-written, easy to understand and systematically structured book serves as a great introduction to the subject of psychology.
I particularly liked the sections  Insight and 10 Things to Remember found in each chapter.
See below for the chapter wise summary of contents.
Though it seems slightly dated (psychological aspects of internet, websites, net surfing  not being covered ) it is surely the first book anyone should read on this subject.
I rate it  4 out of 5 !


Summary of  Contents
Chapter 1 - Introducing psychology : Understanding the mind,levels of explanation,areas of psychology.
Chapter 2 - Self and others: The first relationships,the self-concept,cultural and social influences.
Chapter 3 -Understanding other people: Co-operation , compliance and obedience,social representations.
Chapter 4 - Emotional living: Emotions, negative emotions, stress and coping,positive psychology.
Chapter 5 - Consciousness and the brain:  Biological rhythms, drugs and consciousness, sleep and dreaming
Chapter 6 - Motivation: Physical motives, behavioural motives,cognitive motives,social motivation
Chapter 7 - Cognition: Thinking, perception, memory
Chapter 8 - Evolution, genetics and learning: Evolution, genetic mechanisms,levels of learning
Chapter 9 - Learning and intelligence: Forms of learning, social learning,intelligence
Chapter 10 - Childhood and adolescence: Childhood,adolescence
Chapter 11- Adulthood, retirement and ageing: Adulthood, retirement, ageing
Chapter 12 - Working life: Why do people work, human resource management,organizational culture
Chapter 13 - Leisure: Watching television, computer games,sport psychology
Chapter 14 - Education and health: The psychology of teaching and learning.counselling and therapy, health psychology
Chapter 15 - Living in the world: Proxemics and privacy, sources of environmental stress, disasters and accidents
Chapter 16 - Developing psychological understanding: What do psychologists do,developing psychological knowledge, conducting psychological research

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sea of Poppies

Author:        Amitav Ghosh
Published   2008
Publisher:    Penguin India
Paperback: 528 pages. 
This fascinating historical fiction takes you back 175 years ago around the time when the British East India company transported  Indians in ships from India  to Mauritius to serve as a laborers (coolies as they were called) in their plantations.
Ibis is one such ship where we have a motley crowd consisting of a  - widowed village woman, a bankrupt Raja now a prisoner framed for forgery, a half-white American, a Bengali Babu, a French orphan girl  among  others, all heading towards  their destiny in the distant Mauritius, either by choice or due to compulsions.
This book forms the first part of the Ibis trilogy and almost four-fifths of the book describes the circumstances in which these people landed up on Ibis.
Even though there are too many characters, each one of them is vividly and realistically portrayed. We are able to empathize with them though there are shades of grey in their characters.
There are several humorous narrations too especially revolving around Babu Nob Kissen who somehow has got into his head that the American Zachary is reincarnation of Lord Krishna.
The only drawback according to me in this book is that it ends rather abruptly in the middle of Ibis's voyage at a very interesting turn of events. However that leaves the readers something to look forward to in its sequel "River of Smoke".
Sea of Poppies is a well researched book which is based on the writings of many 19th century scholars, dictionarists, linguists and chroniclers. It runs through over 500 pages in small print,
yet it is a fairly fast read without compromising on literary merit anywhere. After all the author Amitav Ghosh has earned a doctorate from Oxford.
This book was also shortlisted for  the Man Booker Prize 2008.
An engrossing read right from the page one till the end !

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Krishna Key

Author:         Ashwin Sanghi
Published    2012 
Publisher:    Westland
Paperback: 485 pages. 
I had read good reviews about Ashwin Sanghi's previous  novels - "The Rozabal Line" and "Chanakya's Chant" and was planning to read them soon. And then  last week  BlogAdda offered to send his latest book "The Krishna Key" for my review. I could not resist the temptation even though their expectation to submit a 500-word review is no less tougher than meeting a project deadline at work. Fortunately, I received the book on a Friday and I managed to start and finish reading this book over a weekend. It was a time well spent.

The plot is strikingly similar to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and the Lost Symbol. And we even have a Robert Langdon like main character in form of the historian Ravi Mohan Saini in this 460-odd page thriller.

While Dan Brown in his fictions explores the mysteries and secrets surrounding Jesus Christ and Biblical themes our  Desi Dan Brown, Ashwin Sanghvi, has chosen Lord Krishna and  Mahabharata for this book. But then it is always nice to read about things closer to home.

Here is the plot of the story.
The whereabouts of a jewel called Syamantaka Mani, which was once in custody of Lord Krishna is now shrouded in secrecy. Varshney a famous symbolist is the only person who has got clues to unravel this secret. Fearing a threat to his life he  distributes these clues among four persons whom he trusts most viz; - an archaeologist Dr. Nikhil Bhojaraj , a nuclear scientist Prof.Rajaram Kurkude, a genetics expert Devendra Chhedi and the historian Ravi Mohan Saini. There is a gang which is in wild pursuit of Syamantaka Mani, which is actually a philosopher's stone that turns iron into gold. Mataji an ex-school teacher and a key member of this gang has brainwashed her student Taarak into believing that he is the tenth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu i.e. the Kalki Avatar. In order to secure the clues she convinces Taarak  to eliminate Varshney, Bhojraj, Kurkude, Chedi and Saini. Tarak kills all of them except Saini, our hero who manages to survive. After many twists and turns , Saini manages to outwit Tarak and his gang and solve the mystery of Syamantaka Mani.

The plot  may seem rather run-of-the mill. But the highlights of the story are the theories, puzzles, clues and mysteries woven into it. And they are all pretty interesting though some of them are purely fictitious and outrageous. To mention just a few examples - Sumerian civilization being founded by people who migrated from Indus Valley; significance of the number 108 in Hindu philosophy; the design of modern nuclear power stations having a striking resemblance to Shiva linga; Mohd. Ghazni the Afghan invader who looted Somnath temple being a descendant of  Lord Krishna's clan - the Yadavas.

The book is profusely illustrated with pictures, maps and diagrams of clues and symbols to explain the details within the story. In fact, the author advises us in the beginning not to flip through the book prematurely since it may  result in unintended viewing of these pictures that could act as spoilers.

The writing style though not of great literary merit is racy, down-to-earth and kept me fully engaged throughout the weekend. And I am impressed by the research the author undertook to weave the mind-boggling clues within the story plot. He has provided an exhaustive list of 135 references to books, articles, blogs and You Tube audio/videos that he referred to while writing this book.

This book has served as an appetizer  for Ashwin Sanghvi's earlier novels which I plan to read soon.

All in all a very entertaining read for all mystery and thriller lovers !
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
[This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!  ]

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Understand Calculus

Author:          P. Abbott & Hugh Neill
Published    1992 
Publisher:     Hodder Education
Paperback:  400 pages
Over the last decade and a half I have not got enough opportunities to exercise my grey cells that are responsible for solving mathematical problems. I was concerned that I may eventually loose the skill which I had painstakingly acquired through almost  20 years of maths education. Hence I picked up this book on introductory calculus when I saw it in a library and read through it like a novel. Well that's not exactly how you go through a mathematics book . You need to actually do the exercises given in the book. But then the purpose was served. I was able to refresh many differentiation and integration concepts and techniques which I had struggled with during my college days.
Though I felt the treatment of integral calculus could have been better, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning or brushing up the fundamentals of calculus.

Table of  Contents
  • Functions
  • Variations in functions; limits
  • Gradient
  • Rate of change
  • Differentiation
  • Some rules for differentiation
  • Maxima, minima and points of inflexion
  • Differentiating the trigonometric functions
  • Exponential and logarithmic functions
  • Hyperbolic functions
  • Integration; standard integrals
  • Methods of integration
  • Integration of algebraic fractions
  • Area and definite integrals
  • The integral as a sum; areas
  • Approximate integration
  • Volumes of revolution
  • Lengths of curves
  • Taylor's and Maclaurin's series
  • Differential equations
  • Applications of differential equations

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Revolution 2020

Author:         Chetan Bhagat
Published    2011 
Publisher:    Rupa Publications
Paperback: 304 pages. 
Generally Chetan Bhagat's books have a mass appeal, especially among youngsters. He connects well with them and provides light, entertaining and thought provoking reads.
I have read all his other novels (except The 3 Mistakes of My Life) and enjoyed them (especially the 2 States & Five Point Someone).
But this is probably the most frivolous fiction he has ever written.
First of all the title of the book itself does not gel with the story-line. Its sub-title "Love. Corruption. Ambition." is more apt.  Secondly the plot is a much hackneyed Bollywood theme. Two friends - Raghav and Gopal love the same girl - Aarti. But Aaarti chooses Raghav.
Raghav is an  idealist who wants  to root out corruption and  bring about a positive change in the society through his newspaper "Revolution 2020". Ambitious Gopal joins hands with the corrupt system to establish a private engineering college and gets rich. He is able to wean away Aaarti from Raghav. But towards the end Gopal realizes his folly and makes a typical filmy sacrifice by contriving a situation that puts-off Arati who goes back to Raghav.
Probably the worst book Chetan Bhagat has ever written. But still it has its good moments especially his humorously satirical narrations of how IIT coaching institutes and private engineering colleges are established and run in our country.
Overall a passable feather weight time-pass read !

[Please feel free to leave your comments below or bookmark/share this post]

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beautiful Teams

Editors:        Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene 
Published    2009 
Publisher:    O'Reilley 
Paperback: 510 pages. 

This book provides deep insights into what makes a good team tick, and what one can do to make a mediocre team better.
The industry experts share their experiences, viewpoints, inspiring and interesting stories in form of articles and interviews. Their contributions cover a wide spectrum of industries and areas of interest.
Every contributor has something interesting, important, and, most significantly, useful to say about teams: how they work, how to build them, and how they break down.
Though several of their ideas are conflicting they have all worked well in different situations because all projects are unique and all teams are different. This reinforces the fact that there is no One Correct Way to form and manage teams.

A must read for every Project Manager and Team Member !
For chapter-wise summary of this book, visit my professional blog.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

At Home - A Short History of Private Life

Author:       Bill Bryson
Published   2010
Publisher:   Transworld Publishers
Hardcover:  548 pages. 
  By from  
We take many common place things around us in our homes for granted. How many of us are really curious to know the history behind them ?  The author Bill Bryson was one for sure.  One day as he looked around in his house he was "startled and a little appalled" to realize how little he know about the domestic world around him. He started wondering about the reasons underlying  many trivial things - why of all spices in the world only salt and pepper are found on every dining table? Why a fork has four prongs not three or five ? Why suit jackets have a row of pointless buttons on every sleeve? When people talk about paying for board and room, what is that board ? The house was suddenly a mysterious place for him.As he wandered from room to room in his house, he realized that rooms in any house are intimately connected to the history of private life. For e.g. bathroom would be a history of hygiene; the kitchen of cooking, the bedroom of sex and death and sleeping. This realization inspired him to write this book.
While doing his research for this book he was surprised to find that "whatever happens in the world - whatever is discovered or created or bitterly fought over - eventually ends up, in one way or another in your house". So houses are not refuges from history but a places where history ends up.
This book covers the commerce, architecture, technology and geography that have shaped homes into what they are today, told through a series of "tours" through an old rectory in Norfolk that quickly digress into the history of each room for e.g. the hall, kitchen, drawing room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom and the things found in these rooms. There is a chapter dedicated to each of these rooms and the summary of these chapters can be found in the Wikipedia entry about this book.
A very interesting , educative and entertaining book written with ample doses of wit and humor. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading Bill Bryson's more well known book viz; A Short History of Nearly Everything