Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga

Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga Adiyogi: The Source of Yoga by Sadhguru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about Shiva – the first Yogi who transmitted the knowledge to disciples, many centuries back. The book has several things going for it: the descriptions have an intensity and it is almost as if you can feel the magnetic pull of Shiva as you read. The myths which are included are all exceptionally good, though many are common knowledge in the Indian culture. Sadhguru’s perspective of Shiva as one who can take you to the depths of yourself – destroying all that is impermanent and make believe is interesting There are also fresh perspectives and insights at many instances while the myths are discussed - on Shiva’s practice, valor, balance, compassion and selflessness.

While the mythology makes for great reading, the pseudo-science which figures especially in the initial stages was entirely avoidable. The writing style is variant – there are sentence constructs which are repetitive and detracts from the narration – for instance every 10 sentences in Section 3, you will find a phrase about Sadhguru laughing. While the last section also purports to raise several questions, many are left unanswered. However, that may also be because each person has to find his own way.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi Mahatma Gandhi by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a big fan of Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s writings and wisdom. He brings a level of depth to his philosophy which is rare, as also spiritual insight with his exceptional knowledge of various traditions in the world.

That said, this book is less about Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s writings – it is a collection of essays of eminent personalities on their impression of Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan’s is one of the best written pieces. The early part of the book (around 2/3rd) was written when Mahatma Gandhi was alive and India had not yet won freedom. Dr. S Radhakrishnan had presented this to Mahatma Gandhi on his 70th birthday as the first edition. He wanted to add more content and present a second edition to Mahatma Gandhi on his 80th birthday, but that was not to be. The later part of the book has tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and also a few of his speeches and writings.

Mahatma Gandhi continues to evoke interest to this day. While there have been a few critical pieces recently, the point is that he never claimed perfection and would have been most happy to hear other viewpoints. His conviction in seeking truth, uncompromising attitude to ahimsa / non-violence, his reinforcement of the oneness of life – man or animals was unwavering though. This finds consistent mention from all writers, as also his humility, simplicity and concern for the underprivileged. Many writers also touch upon his fearlessness and selflessness – putting himself at significant risk many times and getting arrested frequently.

What makes the book interesting is the detailed discussions it ventures into on complex life matters. And the writers make the effort to point out areas they do not entirely agree with Mahatma Gandhi. His steadfast belief in non-violence is one such – would this have worked against opponents who did not have much of a conscience and were brutal – eg: Nazi Germany. His attitude with respect to factories is discussed – while he was made out to be against modernisation, that was not entirely right – rather he simply wanted a sustainable village economy as well. There was also a concern that his practice of fasting could be adopted by others for inferior motives – what if it is used for coercion to obtain wrong concessions. Yet, all acknowledged that with Mahatma Gandhi, it was a matter of inner conviction and principles. And his fasts many times did bring about peace, in very troubled situations.

As mentioned in one of essays – Mahatma Gandhi operated at a plane where the best of all religions meet. As a result, he was very comfortable with reading, understanding and practising methods from any tradition. Many of the western writers felt he was demonstrating how Christ’s teachings should be applied in every day life.

Much of what Gandhi preached is what we need to revisit today – non-violence, concern for the environment, sustainability, inclusive growth and open-mindedness. He is a role model like none other in recent times.

This is a book I strongly recommend – it is very inspiring and a reminder of the positive change one individual can bring about.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts

Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts Prithviraj Chauhan: The Emperor of Hearts by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book of Anuja Chandramouli that I have read after "Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son", and find her to a very credible storyteller of Indian historical and mythological fiction. The characters while still great heroes, are also very human with some self doubt and weaknesses in situations. The characters grow on you as you read on based on a string of episodes in their lives which add layers to their characters gradually.

Prithviraj Chauhan's is a great story in any case - a tower of strength in the face of invaders seeking to conquer, subdue and plunder. He is thrown into conflict very early in his life and a domineering mother and a complex relation with his wife Padma add to the early challenges. He later falls in for Princess Samyukta and very soon tragedy strikes them both in different ways. In the end Prithviraj Chauhan his head high, upholding his honour and self respect knowing what the decision would mean for him.

While the story follows the broad contours of popular accounts of history, there is great depth of detail which is built around the characters and their history.

The initial stages of the book has a number of characters being introduced which can be a bit confusing, and a character index would have helped. And there is a great deal of focus on war - but then I suppose that is what those times were about - especially in the face of great dangers.

If Indian historical and mythological fiction interest you, this is a book you will love.

I received a free copy of the book so as to be able to provide an honest review.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark Matter is a very imaginative and different science fiction book. And you should read it – as soon as you can! Now with that done, let us get to the rest of the review.

Jason Dessen is a professor in Chicago. He has a good life with a wife (Daniela) and son (Charlie) he dearly loves. There have been choices he had to make, and so also his wife. They had go slow on their own careers for making the family work. They are at peace with it over time.
One evening Jason is off to a party arranged by his friend Ryan Holder who has just won an award. And as he leaves the place, he is grabbed, beaten and dragged to an unknown place. And very soon he finds himself in a place he has never been before. Nothing seems to make sense – while people recognize him, he doesn’t and seems not to understand what is going on.

That is as far as I can go without spoilers in my review.

The book packs tremendous pace, and you just wish to go on reading. The science/physics is decent for the plot to make the story credible and interesting. What also adds to the charm is the subtle philosophical inserts in the story – we all have to make our choices, and live with the consequences.

At the end, I had a feeling that just maybe the last 10 pages could have been different. And yet, it was the most logical way to end the book.

It is long since I read a book as fast paced and engrossing as this. A must read!

After you have read the book, you might just like to take a look at a short story I wrote over 4 years back "The Intersect"

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: Competing Against Luck

Competing Against Luck Competing Against Luck by Clayton M. Christensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I have read about Clayton Christensen’s theory on disruption and also his work, this is his first book that I read. After wanting to read his work for long, I have finally got to it.

The book discusses how innovation need not be about luck. There is a way to innovate and most companies can find. This is where “Jobs Theory” comes in – innovation is not about asking the customer what they want or the problems they face, more importantly it works when you understand what job the customer is trying to get done and considering hiring your product for. The book starts off with a simple example of a milkshake people buy in the morning and drink while they are driving. It helps them pass the time with it’s thick consistency, other that being filling. Milkshakes in the afternoon would serve an entirely different purpose.

Customers “hire” a product from a vendor to get a job done. If they find that there are better ways to get the job done, they will move away from the product. There are numerous examples through the book on how the “Jobs Theory” can be applied. The case studies are all extremely sound and do reinforce the theory. Thinking in terms of the outcome the customer wants is far more powerful than in terms of features and functions.

The material in the book is not entirely new and there are parallels with concepts such as design thinking and outcome based services. Yet the book deserves credit for simplifying the framework and presenting it in a form which can be put to use quickly. And the examples in the book all help to think of similar situations which might exist in other organisations.

Experience, which is such a big theme in product success today, however, finds far less coverage than I think it should in the book. Also it relies on customer behaviours being somewhat unchanging. A key question is whether a product can significantly cause customers to change their behaviours and look to get entirely new jobs done. I believe some products have done that.

This is an important book for business executives to read. It is thought provoking and scores by outlining the concept in simple language backed by exceptionally good case studies.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son

Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son Kartikeya: The Destroyer's Son by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love reading mythological fiction. Being a fan of Joseph Campbell - I believe the metaphors in mythology are rich and have a lot to offer for learning and growing to us. And this is a good period to read mythological fiction - there is especially a great selection of it (especially based on Indian mythology) coming out in recent years.

Kartikeya is the story of Shiva & Parvathi's son - retold with considerable new background and a largely untold story line. Kartikeya's character is well developed - a very balanced, sensitive and strong individual who has Shiva's power, Parvathi's sensitivity and a sense of responsibility for uploading Dharma. The story of Kartikeya's birth as told in this book is very unusual and different (and also quite odd). He rises to protect and save the Devas who face great dangers from Taraka and his brothers. While Kartikeya is strong, he is also extremely compassionate - never using his strength to crush his opponents. Indra's characterization in the book is out of the usual as well. Kartikeya's relation with Devasena and later Valli are developed very well in the book and make for good reading. Some of the violence is quite graphic, and I personally felt unnecessarily so at times. This could have been toned down and the characters spiritual sides could have been lent more depth; and the relation between Shiva and Parvathi could have been treated differently though it ties up very well at the end.

Overall a much recommended read if mythological fiction interests you. As you close the book, you will better appreciate Kartikeya and this book is sure to surface in your thoughts as you enter any Kartikeya temple.

I received a free copy of the book from the author to provide an honest review.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review: PINK: The Inside Story

PINK: The Inside Story PINK: The Inside Story by Gautam Chintamani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pink was certainly a remarkable movie - bringing alive the situations women face and attitudes men hold about them. The movie was brave and tackled the subject in a way which made it clear that the last excuse which shifts blame away from the crimes of men must be brushed aside to see the truth as it is. And yes - the movie laid bare such attitudes which continue to be widely prevalent.

The book covers the history behind the movie - how it was conceptualized, actors cast, and funding arranged. It has some interesting material on the movie story and screenplay evolved and the thinking behind some of the most impactful court scenes in the movie.

Though there is a good amount of interesting material, it still falls short in my opinion of deeper insight and opinions of all involved. There is also a good amount of public information included. The later part of the book has the screen play of the movie (in transliterated Hindi). There is little purpose served in this inclusion.

While there are sections of interest, this book could possibly have been packaged along with the movie DVD without the screenplay portion.

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