Monday, November 13, 2017

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne (Translator:Mendor T. Brunetti)

French naturalist Professor Aronnax joins a task force to rid the seas of a monster that is terrorizing shipping lanes. 
But the Professor's mission takes an unexpected turn when he falls overboard and is rescued by the 'monster' itself-the Nautilus, a man-made submarine built by the mysterious Captain Nemo. 
At first Aronnax is thrilled to see the unimaginable wonders of the oceans-the reef of coral that formed a cemetery, the ice floes of the South Pole, the huge oyster and its priceless pearl, the lost land of Atlantis-but soon he realizes that his host's motives may be more sinister than he realized. 
This triumphant work of the imagination shows the limitless possibilities of science and the dark depths of the human mind. 
 [Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 3.87 out of 5 ( 151864 Ratings; 4777 Reviews  - As on November 13 2017)
My Rating  3 out of 5
My Comments:
Fairly interesting. Dragging and stretched out at some places.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Introduction to Machine Learning with Python by Andreas C. Muller & Sarah Guido

Machine learning has become an integral part of many commercial applications and research projects, but this field is not exclusive to large companies with extensive research teams. 
 If you use Python, even as a beginner, this book will teach you practical ways to build your own machine learning solutions. 
With all the data available today, machine learning applications are limited only by your imagination.
You’ll learn the steps necessary to create a successful machine-learning application with Python and the scikit-learn library. 
Authors Andreas Müller and Sarah Guido focus on the practical aspects of using machine learning algorithms, rather than the math behind them. Familiarity with the NumPy and matplotlib libraries will help you get even more from this book.
With this book, you’ll learn:
  • Fundamental concepts and applications of machine learning
  • Advantages and shortcomings of widely used machine learning algorithms
  • How to represent data processed by machine learning, including which data aspects to focus on
  • Advanced methods for model evaluation and parameter tuning
  • The concept of pipelines for chaining models and encapsulating your workflow
  • Methods for working with text data, including text-specific processing techniques
  • Suggestions for improving your machine learning and data science skills
 [Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 4.55 out of 5 ( 11 Ratings; 0 Reviews  - As on October 30 2017)
My Rating  4 out of 5
My Comments:
A very good introduction to machine learning concepts. 
Systematic organization of the topics,  and  ample examples provided makes it a worthwhile read. 
Several important algorithms have been discussed along with their pros and cons with minimum use of advanced mathematics.  
Much much better book to start with Machine Learning as compared to the "Machine Learning for Dummies" book which was pedagogically horrible.
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Wonder by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Man has always wanted to know more about life. 
This intense quest has caused all the progress humanity has made day and yet there still remain many unanswered questions.
In this book Sri Sri takes questions while interacting with gatherings all over the world covering eclectic subjects - 
the mundane and the profound, the physical and the metaphysical, 
the personal and the universal, some philosophical and 
some even irrational, answering them this characteristic simplicity, playfulness and depth of wisdom

[Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 3 out of 5 ( 1 Ratings; 0 Reviews  - As on October 27 2017)
My Rating  3 out of 5
My Comments:
A good compilation of answers by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to the questions put to him by his devotees. The answers are classified under following chapters - Ancient Wisdom, Dispassion, Divinity, Duality & Non-duality, Ego, Enlightenment, Faith and Devotion, Guru, Health, Karma, Love, Mind, Miscellaneous.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson

Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most arresting and celebrated landscapes in America. 
At the age of forty-four, in the company of his friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here nor There), Bill Bryson set off to hike through the vast tangled woods which have been frightening sensible people for three hundred years. 
Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and - perhaps most alarming of all - people whose favorite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack. 
Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.

[Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 4.05 out of 5 ( 269,057 Ratings; 14,591 Reviews  - As on October 20 2017)
My Rating  4 out of 5
My Comments:
An adventure travelogue written with a great sense of humor. Vivid characterization of people and picturesque description of the places on the renowned Appalachian Trail. A must read for every travel and  adventure buff.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Machine Learning for Dummies - John Paul Mueller & Luca Massaron

Machine learning can be a mind-boggling concept for the masses, but those who are in the trenches of computer programming know just how invaluable it is. 
Without machine learning, fraud detection, web search results, real-time ads on web pages, credit scoring, automation, and email spam filtering wouldn't be possible, and this is only showcasing just a few of its capabilities.
 Written by two data science experts, Machine Learning For Dummies offers a much-needed entry point for anyone looking to use machine learning to accomplish practical tasks.
Covering the entry-level topics needed to get you familiar with the basic concepts of machine learning, this guide quickly helps you make sense of the programming languages and tools you need to turn machine learning-based tasks into a reality. 
Whether you're maddened by the math behind machine learning, apprehensive about AI, perplexed by preprocessing data—or anything in between—this guide makes it easier to understand and implement machine learning seamlessly.
  • Grasp how day-to-day activities are powered by machine learning
  • Learn to 'speak' certain languages, such as Python and R, to teach machines to perform pattern-oriented tasks and data analysis
  • Learn to code in R using R Studio
  • Find out how to code in Python using Anaconda
Dive into this complete beginner's guide so you are armed with all you need to know about machine learning!

[Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 3.59 out of 5 ( 32 Ratings; 0 Reviews  - As on September 30 2017)
My Rating  2 out of 5
My Comments:
At the best this is a OK sort of reference book for people who already have a fair exposure to Machine Learning. 
Definitely not for dummies as the title of the book proclaims. 
The authors may be experts in this field but certainly don't know the ABCs of how to teach absolute beginners. 
The content is badly organized and jargons are thrown around with gay abandon all over the place thus overwhelming the newbies.
Most of the readers  who start reading this book to learn Machine Learning may give up soon and switch over to better books available in the market.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Animal Farm by George Orwell

'All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.' 
Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. 
The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. 
Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all those who walk on four legs. 
But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. 
And something new and unexpected emerges . . . 
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell-author of 1984, one of Britain's most popular novels-is a brilliant political satire and a powerful, affecting story of revolutions and idealism, power and corruption. 

[Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 3.87 out of 5 ( 2,006,569 Ratings; 36,083 Reviews  - As on September 27 2017)
My Rating  4 out of 5
My Comments:
A hard hitting  political satire written in 1940s even today reflects the authentic picture of  political scenarios of many countries ! A must read.

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Games Indians Play - V. Raghunathan

Why we are the way we are 
In a rare attempt to understand the Indianness of Indians—among the most intelligent people in the world; but also; to a dispassionate eye; perhaps the most baffling—V. Raghunathan uses the props of game theory and behavioural economics to provide an insight into the difficult conundrum of why we are the way we are. 
He puts under the scanner our attitudes towards rationality and irrationality; selflessness and selfishness; competition and cooperation; and collaboration and deception. 
Drawing examples from the way we behave in day-to-day situations; Games Indians Play tries to show how in the long run each one of us—whether businessmen; politicians; bureaucrats; or just plain us—stand to profit more if we were to assume a little self-regulation; give fairness a chance and strive to cooperate and collaborate a little more even if self-interest were to be our main driving force.
[Book Description Source: ]

India is blessed with many intelligent minds.
Most Indians are more adept at maths and logic than people around the globe.
However, as a nation, we are still falling behind.
Our collective naiveté might be to blame, but how is it that we boast equal parts intelligence and naiveté?
In this book, the writer explains that Indians mistake talk for action. He tries to help readers understand why this happens and how we can change this.
He uses game theory to explain the behaviour of Indians and tries to combine these explanations with concepts of behavioural economics.
The author also presents his twelve points on the fallacies of Indians, explaining that our low trustworthiness, private smartness and public dumbness, fatalist outlook, over-intelligence, lack of public hygiene, self-regulation or a sense of fairness, reluctance to penalize wrong conduct, mistaking talk for action, deep-rooted corruption, inability to follow systems, a sense of self-worth and a propensity to look for loopholes in laws.
He helps readers understand how to break this vicious cycle and how to bring a change in the image Indians have around the world.
This is a definite read for all Indians who are trying to understand what is keeping them one step behind in the rise to success 

[Book Summary Source:]

Goodreads Rating - 3.45 out of 5 ( 507 Ratings , 78 Reviews  - As on September 16 2017)
My Rating  3 out of 5
My Comments:
Interesting analysis through Game Theory of the typical behaviors observed in the Indian society with a nice touch of humor and food for thought.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

Published first in the year 1999, Interpreter Of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories that revolve around the lives of Indian Americans, and their struggle to blend in with American culture.
The first story, A Temporary Matter, revolves around the crumbling relationship between an Indian couple, Shukumar and Shobha. 
Their relationship begins to disintegrate due to the passing away of their baby, which causes a change in Shobha’s personality and makes her aloof. 
With time, the distance between them increases, and they soon receive a notice about a power cut that would occur for one hour at night daily. 
Each day, they would spend that time talking about a number of dark secrets, which they never shared before, which got more, and more controversial, indicating the end of their marriage. 

The main story of this book, Interpreter of Maladies, is based on Mr. and Mrs. Das, who were NRIs visiting India. 
They meet Mr. Kapasi, who serves as their tour guide, and has a day job as well, which was that of an interpreter in a doctor’s clinic. 
Mrs. Das and Mr. Kapasi begin to feel a strong attraction towards each other, and she shares a highly personal secret with him about herself, which could place her marriage in jeopardy.

Another story in this book, Mrs. Sen’s, revolves around an 11 year old Eliot who begins to stay with Mrs. Sen, whose husband is a university professor. 
She spends her time with Eliot, telling him about her life in Calcutta, and how she terribly missed living there. 
One day, she drives to the market without her spouse and meets with an accident, after which Eliot stops living with Mrs. Sen.

Interpreters of Maladies has been greatly appreciated by readers worldwide, and fetched Lahiri the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This book has sold more than 15 million copies across the globe.
[Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 4.12 out of 5 ( 125,603 Ratings , 8174 Reviews  - As on September 03  2017)
My Rating  3 out of 5
My Comments:
I liked it. Nothing exceptional though. Her novel 'The Namesake" was better.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Two Saints by Arun Shourie

Speculations Around and About Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi 

The life of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ‘enables us to see God face to face’, Gandhiji wrote. 
Similarly, when someone in his circle was distraught, the Mahatma sent him to spend time at the Ashram of Ramana Maharshi. 
Such was their stature and influence.

The Paramahamsa and the Maharshi have been among the greatest spiritual figures of our country. 

They have transformed the lives of and have been a solace to millions. Moreover, in our tradition, words of such mystics are regarded as conclusive.
They have evidentiary status: if they say there is a soul, there is; if they say there is life-after-death or reincarnation, there is. 
Their peak, mystic experience is what we yearn to have, even just once.

But what if several of the experiences they had - the feeling that someone higher is present next to them, the feeling that they are floating above their body, looking down at it; the ‘near-death experience’; the ecstasy; the visions - occur in other circumstances also? 

Should we think again about their experiences when these occur as points in the brain are stimulated with an electrode during surgery? 
What if they can be recreated in a laboratory non-invasively? When they occur to ordinary persons placed in extraordinary circumstances?

Did the experiences occur from some ailment? 

As was alleged in the case of Sri Ramakrishna? 
From some ‘madness’, which he feared he had? 
From the fits that Sri Ramana said he used to have?

What of the experiences of devotees? 

Seeing the Master where he wasn’t? 
Seeing the Master, feeling his presence, after he had passed away? 
Are these hallucinations?
Or do they testify to the Master’s divinity? 
How would conclusions about their experiences affect their teaching? 
That the world and everything in it is ‘unreal’?

In the light of their pristine example, how should we view and what should we do about the godmen and gurus who control vast financial and real estate empires today, to whom lakhs flock? 

Are they the saints they set themselves up to be or just marketers?

With the diligence and painstaking research that mark all his work, Arun Shourie probes these questions in the light of the recent breath-taking advances in neuroscience, as well as psychology and sociology. 

The result is a book of remarkable rigour: an examination - and ultimately reconciliation - of science and faith as also of seemingly antagonistic, irreconcilable worldviews.

[Book Description Source: ]

Goodreads Rating - 3.8 out of 5 ( 10 Ratings , 1 Review  - As on July 20 2017)
My Rating  3 out of 5
My Comments:A rather convincing scientific explanation of the mystic experiences of the two saints - Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana Maharshi -  without doubting their sincerity and the solace they brought to their countless devotees. 
The explanation is supported by very scholarly and dry details of the neurological studies conducted on the mind by various scientists.
 Unless read with an open mind, this book may hurt the sentiments of some hard-core devotees of these saints.
I would have rated this book higher if only the narration was more interesting and understandable. 
I found it rather boring and abstruse in many sections. 
Inspite of this shortcoming, I would recommend this book to everyone who are curious to know why mystical experiences happen in some people.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata's--and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra's--attempts to find a suitable boy for Lata, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. 
Set in the early 1950s in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. 
A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

[Book Description Source: ]

 The book covers an engaging story that is set in the post-independence India. 
The story unfolds through four middle class families—Mehras, Kapoors, Khans and Chatterjis. 
It also describes India's caste system that has four main classes, which are further based originally on personality, profession and birth.
However, the main plot of the novel revolves around Lata Mehra, a university student, who is under pressure of her mother Rupa and brother Arun for getting married. 
Her family is looking for a ‘suitable boy’ who could meet the standards set by her family.
The novel highlights how marriage in India becomes a family affair, where all members of a family play considerable parts.
It also focuses on typical problems that were faced by India soon after independence. 
Some of the major issues mentioned in the book are tensions between Hindus and Muslims, empowerment of women and the zamindari system.
Divided into 19 parts, each chapter in the book is about different characters which keep inter-relating the stories and, at last reach, to one conclusion. 
The author has beautifully explained and intertwined the lives of all the characters in an extraordinary manner.
Regarded as one of the classic examples of Indian Literature in English, A Suitable Boy, at around 1500 pages, remains to be one of the lengthiest novels ever published in English language in a single volume.
 [Book Description]

Goodreads Rating - 3.97 out of 5 ( 35,300 Ratings , 1702 Reviews  - As on July 20 2017)
My Rating  4 out of 5
My Comments:Most probably the longest book I have ever read in my life (almost 1500 pages). Yet it kept me hooked throughout. Not a single boring moment.
An excellent portrayal of the characters from educated middle-class families, set in the times of newly independent India.

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