Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: Tall Poppies

Tall Poppies Tall Poppies by Louise Bagshawe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started reading Louise Bagshawe's books only recently and have liked them. They have strong women characters and a good story which moves fast.

This is a story of two women with very different backgrounds – Nina Roth comes from poverty but is determined to make it, while Elizabeth Savage is from a rich family who just want her to get married. Their paths intersect at Dragon Corporation which is owned by Tony Savage, Elizabeth's dad. He is domineering and also manipulative.

Elizabeth is keen to work and contribute to Dragon much against her Dad's wishes who sends her off to school in Switzerland. Elizabeth turns to skiing and surprises everyone with her skill to emerge a top rated skier with hopes of a gold in the Olympics.

Nina works her way to Dragon the hard way. Her go-getter attitude sees her rise steadily. Elizabeth meets Nina her at Dragon when she comes to work there during a break and the women grow to hate each other.

Difficult times strike both of them and their relationship changes then on.

While the book has a good story, it is still fairly predictable. The first 75% of the story could have been crisper, rather more space could have been devoted to the events in the last sections of the book.

Nevertheless, still well worth a read..

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: The Power of Myth

The Power of Myth The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you were to read only one book in your lifetime, what book would you want that to be? Well, that is certainly an unfair question since it is difficult to make that choice. However, if I was given the option of choosing only 20 books to read in my lifetime, “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell would certainly be on that list.

This book is about popular myths from different cultures leading up to present day beliefs and practices. It is much more than that as well – it is about life, purpose and what we can be if we can learn lessons from myths and the universe. The book is in a Q&A format based on interviews of Bill Moyers with Joseph Campbell.

I read Joseph Campbell’s “A hero with a thousand faces” a few years back. I found it a difficult (and hence a slow) read with its references to various cultures and legends. The scholarly nature and importance of the work was evident though and since then I have read several passages of his work, which have always been insightful and inspiring.

Joseph Campbell very easily picks stories from several cultures of the world and how they share common patterns. He is respectful, at the same time gently advising on the kind of lessons one must draw. Rather than being literal with myths – we need to understand them as metaphors to deeper truth and lessons. He describes how many rituals evolved as a way to reinforce outlook to life. A large part of that is now lost and people tend to live at the surface missing the depth of the metaphors. The examples are all excellent. For instance - viewing marriage from the perspective of myth makes you view it in a healthy longer term perspective rather than as a love affair (which is always temporary and will end).

There are interesting discussions on divinity, femininity, rituals, practices, non-duality. There are insightful passages on how - many of the myths encourage you to look inward to find yourself, and follow your bliss.

A book which is expansive, profound and inspiring, at the same time engrossing – strongly recommended as a must read!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse The Lighthouse by Alison Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a different and unusual book. The primary character is Futh who goes on a tour, intending to walk a lot after being separated from his wife. He then runs into Carl on the cruise and later Ester at a lodging. The story shuffles between Futh & Ester's past with Futh being the primary character. The story of his childhood, experiences with his father, how he fell in love with his wife Angela and finally things went to a point of them being separated.

Futh ambles along on his tour, walking around and finally returning to the hotel run by Ester and her husband just a day before he is to return back home. At this point, things get murky with Futh's behaviour.

This is small book and for the most part it just moves along steadily building background and narrating every day experiences. Shuffling between the past and present while interesting in it's own way does reduce the pace and flow of the story. The events building towards the end of the story are not really interesting and the book would have been better off with a different ending..

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Review: The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All

The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All The Carpenter: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All by Jon Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute little book which exudes a very genuine feel good sentiment. It is written as a story. A carpenter who saves a life and teaches about his success principles. The "Love - Serve - Care" philolosophy is outlined in simple terms. There are good short stories and anecdotes to support the principles. Certain aspects are elaborated including the need for living by love and not fear, talking to yourself rather than listening, having a focus to serve others one at a time and importance of sharing success.

This is a small, simple and genuine book which is worth a read, though it is simplistic and may not offer too many new things. It would have been good if there were more stories and anecdotes.

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Review: I Will Go With You: The Flight of a Lifetime

I Will Go With You: The Flight of a Lifetime I Will Go With You: The Flight of a Lifetime by Priya Kumar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had earlier read Priya Kumar's book "I am another you" by chance and really liked it. I happened to chance upon this book of hers recently. The abstract seemed to indicate that the story borrows from the tragedy of the MH 370 flight which is still to be traced. This did make me a little uncomfortable considering that there is a sense of unease and lack of closure associated with flight MH 370. I did go ahead with the read with my previous experience of her book in mind.

This book does use a flight situation as the background. However, this setting is used as a philosophical setting by some of the passengers to explore their inner most feelings around their loved ones, problems, achievements, and indeed life's meaning itself. The pilot is depressed and is considering ending his life. He accidentally sets off a chain of horrific events on the aircraft. The book is simple and unpretentious - and that is what I liked about it the most. The philosophy borrows from Indian beliefs and some liberties are taken.

For people who have already read more deeper Indian religious and philosophical work, the book does not provide anything very new. However, a flight story and the stress of the passengers and the pilots makes this book an easy. I certainly recommend it - it is a feel good book with the right messages

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Review: We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe

We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe We Need to Talk about Kelvin: What Everyday Things Tell Us about the Universe by Marcus Chown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“We Need To Talk About Kelvin” has a unique storytelling approach to covering some of the deepest concepts of the universe. It starts with an everyday observation - taking it to its logical conclusion with step by step reasoning.

A very good example is the view from the window out into the street during the night. You can see into the lighted shop opposite the window; and you can also see your own reflection partially in the window. This leads to the discussion of the quantum theory of light. The unpredictability associated with the probability of reflection. There are then deeper discussions on quantum theory, atoms and the universe.

There is a very interesting discussion on why the night sky is black (Oblers paradox). In a universe with millions of stars, why do we not see a more lighted sky? Marcus Chown mentions that as many as over 90% of astronomers get the reasoning wrong for this. This relates to the observable universe, speed of light, the finite age of the universe and its expansion. The reasoning leading up to the conclusion is very good. There is an easy, fast paced and fun style of narration which keeps you hooked till you read all of it.

Another starting point for a discussion is the amount of iron we find on Earth, ultimately leading to the conclusion of where and how it was condensed on Earth from. The discussion on how the sun is as hot as it is, is also fascinating. There were various theories and considerable work done on this before an acceptable reasoning was arrived. The section dealing with spin of sub-atomic particles like photons is an engrossing read as well.

In fairly simple language the book certainly simulates interest, prompting you to read more about the universe! Well worth a read and recommended. Marcus Chown’s enthusiasm about discussing the universe will carry you through the book very quickly.

Interestingly the other book of Marcus Chown which I read The Universe Next Door is unique in detailing very different non-mainstream theories (some make the head swim) about the universe (all put forward by scientists!).

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The title of the book says it all - the science is well researched and there are serious answers to a variety of hypothetical (and largely irrelevant considering their feasibility). At times the science gets to be a little too detailed for casual reading.

There is a touch of humour which runs through most of the questions which make for great reading. For instance, to a question on what would be the consequences to Earth in case the sun dies - Randall launches into a detailed explanation of all the positives, and finally ends by saying that we would all be dead though and not in a position to reap any of the mentioned benefits.

There are a number of interesting questions such as - when would facebook have more dead people than living, what happens if you are caught up in lightning, what would happen is extremely powerful earthquakes and also very feeble ones, can we get rid of the common cold if we all stayed away from each other for 2 weeks, is it feasible to move all of mankind off Earth....etc.....A few of the questions selected for detailed explanations could have been better though.

Overall, a great book, it is fun reading if you like science!

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