Monday, November 16, 2015


Oh! This could have been such a good book. Such a waste of an idea. I guess an idea is only as good as its execution. Anyway, the book 'Things Fall Apart', set in the 1890s, portrays the clash between the Nigeria’s traditional culture of the indigenous Igbo people and colonial British. From the reviews I read online, it is said that Achebe’s intention was to shatter the stereotypical European portraits of native Africans. He intended to portray the complex, advanced social institutions and artistic traditions of Igbo culture prior to its contact with Europeans.

Well, that is what he did but a lot of things went wrong mid way I guess. First of all, the writing. The author has referred to a lot of terms in his native language without even bothering to explain what those mean. How did he exactly plan on reaching the global audience? I have no idea. Second of all, when you say things like your clan leaves twin babies in the 'Evil Forest' to die just because they are twins, or people with incurable diseases like leprosy are also taken to the 'Evil Forest' and left to die there instead of giving a proper burial, how can you expect people to respect your traditions or sympathize with you?

Very less is written about the aftermath of the European's arrival into Africa and over 70% of the book just goes on and on about their traditions which is mostly blind superstitions and rituals. After reading the book, I just learned how backward the natives were during those times with no signs of development whatsoever instead of learning about the horrors the Europeans brought and evoking any sympathy for them.


Did you even know that the Shawshank Redemption movie was from a book written by Stephen King? I wouldn't have guessed that in a million years. I mean who would have thought that Stephen King wrote such novels. Anyway I picked it up as soon as my friend told me it had Shawshank Redemption.

Different Seasons is a collection of four Novellas, each story representing one of the seasons in an year. Shawshank was the first. It was actually a short one but was mind blowing. The fact that you might have watched the movie like a hundred times before might spoil the suspense but it is still totally worth it. Despite knowing the complete story, it is so well written that you will read it as if you are reading it for the first time. Adding to the good writing is the image of Morgan Freeman doing the narration. That's like the best combination ever. Anyway this one is really good. Must read even if you have watched the movie. And yes, I must say that the movie has done excellent justice to the book.

The second story is a longer one but a very dark one unlike Shawshank which was about hope and perseverance. This one is a gripping novel which will not leave you disappointed. What disappointed me were the last two stories. I really don't have much to say about them. Read the first two if you get a chance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

WHY NATIONS FAIL - Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson

"Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property right, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few and that fail to protect property rights or provide the right incentives for economic activity"

There you go. This is all the authors have to say for the theory part. They give a LOT of examples from our history to prove this concept which is probably the only good part about this book. So ya, you will get to know a LOT of history. Other than that its not like the authors have solved the big mystery of why nations took different paths since the beginning of time and are the way they are now. The theory behind which some fail and others prosper will be somewhat obvious to readers who are aware of current affairs even at a basic level.

That said I think the book misses the following:
  • According to this book, Inclusive and Extractive institutions are THE ONLY reason for why the world shaped out this way. I am sure there were other variables at play as well. They talk about this one theory so much over and over again that in the end it will make you go "Ya ya I get that".
  • The book explains the critical junctures in the histories of various countries which caused them to take different paths along the way but it does not explain why different countries reacted differently to the same catalyst at the same time. For eg, During the black death period, which the plague hit the whole of Europe, Western Europe came out of the Absolutism but Eastern Europe went deeper into it. Why? the book does not explain. When the Atlantic trade boomed, England adopted Inclusive institutions but Western Europe did not. Why? the book does not explain. Basically there might have been some thing else behind why things turned out the way they turned out like maybe the culture of people or religion but the book does not delve deeper and instead just dismisses other factors like culture and geography completely.
  • I think it could have been better if the authors took one country at a time and explained the history in one go and in the end explained how this ties to the theory proposed by them. Instead they kept jumping from one incident in a particular country at a particular time to another in a different country in totally different era so much that after a while you will be just lost.
Definitely worth a try. It is a simple read and definitely not boring. If you are a history lover, you should give it a try only for the history part. Otherwise don't expect to learn anything new and fascinating.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

DAVID & GOLIATH - Malcolm Gladwell

"A person smaller in size but very skillful may win over a bigger person", "One can take risks in life when one has nothing to lose", "A person who is blind will have an enhanced hearing sense", "Not everything in life fits into a linear graph", "Forgiveness, and not punishment can reform a person, "Power without trust/credibility is not sustainable" etc. are some of the takeaways from this book which in my opinion are very well known by everyone in some form or the other.

Unlike the author's other book "Outliers" this book does not reveal anything new or shocking. It is a very light short read, consisting of only about 280 pages which talks about people with disadvantaged background who succeeded in life against all odds and the author tries to explain why. The answers to most of it is nothing but what I have mentioned in the first sentence of this review. Like I said you will not find any new interesting insight in this book which is already do not know of. If you already have the book by mistake, read it. It is an easy short book anyway. Else just skip it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

QUIET - Susan Cain

I read this book for the same reason most people read this book - I am an Introvert. And I must say Thank you Susan Cain for making this world a less confusing place for me. You have not made my life easier but I understand my problems better.

Being an introvert in a cut-throat management industry where everybody is desperate to "climb to the top" I have always been at the back seat. People all around me just talk, all the time, most of the time just rubbish but they talk and in the end get noticed. That has been the case everywhere, school, college, Group discussion, work, parties, everywhere. I have always struggled and am still struggling to "fit in" to be precise.

This world has always been pro-extroverts and introverts have suffered unless they found the perfect place and profession for them. The book for the most part only explains and acknowledges and craze for extroversion in this world. It also explains the cause of it and to some extent the way out of it. Well actually there is no way out of it. The world is this way and there is nothing you can do but adapt to it by pushing yourself every now and then and also giving yourself some space and time for yourself to recharge, basically to strike a balance. If you are an introvert and struggling to fit in then this book is a must read for you. It will not help you but it will validate your thoughts about it. Here are a couple of quotes for you from the book:

"Don't think of introversion as something that needs to be cured...Spend your free the way you like, not the way you think you're supposed to.” 

“There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” 

AS THE CROW FLIES - Jeffrey Archer

After reading Kane and Abel who wouldn't be interested in Jeffrey Archer. And a few of my friends spoke very highly of this book. But in the end I was downright disappointed. Its a typical Jeffrey no doubt but the story line was very err... how do I say it?.. predictable good versus evil drama saga..Phew!!

I always thought pure good versus pure evil stories were only in fairy tales for children but I was wrong. Apparently adults love it equally. The good are just too good and the bad are just too bad with respect to everything - courage, honor, morals, success, sacrifice, character, and basically everything else in life.

This book is the saga of Charlie Trumper who, after his grandfather's death, takes over the running of his vegetable cart business in the streets of London during the first few years of the 20th century. The book follows his progress from the small cart, to owning all the shops in Chelsea street after his service in World War 1. It is obviously not going to be easy because of the bad guys who want to see his dream squashed (even though he has done nothing wrong to them).

I wouldn't recommend it at all if you are looking for a quality book and not just some light read. This plot is just too predictable, unrealistic and boring in my opinion.

RICH DAD POOR DAD - Robert T. Kiyosaki

For all those who are wondering what on earth this title "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" means, here it is. The authors real dad is a college lecturer and risk averse in general. Hence he is considered poor "financially". His school friend's dad on the other hand is a big businessman and hence considered rich, again "financially". It was really sad of him to demean his father for wanting a stable life but that is what the book focuses on - 'trying not to play safe in life'.

One very good thing about this book is that it doesn't tell you to be materialistic, rather it only tells you how to free yourself from being a slave to money. The book doesn't encourage you to drive the most expensive cars or buy the biggest diamonds on earth. All it tells you to do is know how much a normal living would cost you every month or year and ensure that you have that much money flowing in without any effort. OK so what is the universal mantra? Well the book doesn't reveal a big secret but what it does is provide a direction you can start thinking in. In the beginning of the book, the author tells us to work hard initially to an extent that you have enough money which you can put to work and then indirectly earn more money out of it without you putting any further effort. Obviously the part where you make your money work for you is not that easy which is what the rest of the book is about.

Its not like you will be a changed person overnight or that the book reveals anything new which you already don't know about but like I said before it will give you a direction and I think that is pretty good for a start if you are serious about it. Its a small book anyway so no harm in giving it a try in my opinion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

MY SON'S STORY - Nadine Gordimer

Well, its like a poem, just a very very very long one. But don't listen to me. I mean come on, the author did get a Nobel Prize for Literature. The book was no doubt great. Just that I lost my patience after a while.

Before I get to that, let me tell you what the book is about. Its about this South African "Sonny" during the pre-independence era, who is educated, intelligent and a freedom fighter and who has an affair with a white social activist "Hannah". The book is  about the rise and fall of Sonny: his upbringing, his political struggle, his affair with Hanna, his relationship with his wife Aila, his favorite child Baby and son Will, before and after the affair, all mostly from the eyes (and heart) of his son. The story is short but very strong. It interweaves extremely sensitive topics like family and extra-marital affair with political struggle against racism and it is done beautifully.

The book keeps alternating between sections written from the son's point of view and those written from a third person's point of view. The sections shown as if written by the son mostly go on and on about how he is disgusted and feels betrayed by his father whom he once used to admire and idolize. It was good for a while like i said but then I eventually lost my patience and found his ramblings repititive. The rest shown from the third person's angle were about pieces where the son wasn't present or sometimes from the father's point of view as well which I found interesting.  The transition between the sections happen all of the sudden and might get you confused. The writing isn't simple also because of the usage of complex sentences by the author.

If you ask me, I think its definitely a must read, mainly for the story and the characters (Strong and intriguing personalities, each one of them I must say) in it. Just ensure you are prepared for a young boy's rant about his father's betrayal.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Well, the usual collection of short and simple stories which are more than just that. Each story (barring a couple of them maybe) is meaningful, well thought out, extremely well written, catches your attention, and at the same time talks about one of the many social evils that existing during those days in India.

The book includes stories written famous personalities like his own grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, Premchand and Rabindranath Tagore. The book opens with with a powerful story Devi, which showcases the blind faith people had during those days of reincarnated gods. There is one about a working wife who earns and travels more than her husband and how her in-laws speak ill about her despite her struggles to manage both work and home. Another one about two ex-lovers with their feelings for each other still fresh, who meet by chance years after the girl is forcefully married off to someone else. Another small but heart touching one called the Postmaster.

What I really appreciate about the stories is that they were so forward thinking even in those days and they dared to question the blind faith and the traditions followed by the society. The stories are really great for a light read and a great follow up thing to do would be watching all the movies which were later created by Satyajit Ray.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Hmm, So heres what I think, point wise:

1. Mr. Pausch, You have lead an amazing life and may your soul rest in peace.

2. Most of the lessons given by the professor are not generic. Most of them are very specific to his life, career and surroundings. For eg: his lesson on how to teach the students to be a good team player isn't really relevant to my life.

3. It may sound a bit unrealistic. Specially when he sounds like he achieved every single "specific" dream of his childhood. On the hindsight everything can be correlated. May be I was dumb as a kid but when I was little and would see a superhero movie, I would dream of being the superhero and not the person behind the special effects. I never knew kids were so matured. I might be wrong though.

4. And finally, with each chapter when you read how the professor lead such a perfect life achieving every single dream of his, You might get a feeling that he is bragging and that he is not down to earth. In his defense, he admits he is like that. I liked the honesty though.

Well that's about it. This book is not similar to the book "Tuesdays with Morrie" which is more about life in general. This one isn't. Although there a few good lessons but they are the usual ones like dream big, work hard, live life to the fullest, show gratitude, etc. You can skip this one since you won't find much you can relate to.