Good Books Lift You!

Good Books Lift You!

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Year in Books - 2016

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I read fewer books than last year and the year before. This is a good thing though as I planned for this, having introduced some more activities (other than work) into my schedule which included more walking, amateur image editing, scrips, blogging, mindfulness meditation. True balance is difficult but a good attempt was made.

I chose to be selective in my reading, though I still read quite a few books on impulse. I also decided to rate books more carefully rather than based on how I feel at the end of the read. I might read fewer books next year with more scrutiny on quality.

The stand-out books of the year for me have been:
  1. The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell
  2. The Presence Process – Michael Brown
  3. Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
  4. Making Time – Steve Taylor
Each of these had great new insight, learning and were thought provoking. While all of these are non-fiction, I did read a fair amount of fiction as well. The new fiction authors I read this year were Rick Yancey, Alison Moore, Nadeem Aslam, Paula Hawkings, Sophie Kinsella, M.J. Arlidge, Ravi Subramanian, Louise Bagshawe. I found Louise Bagshawe's books very good to relax with – the stories move very fast and have strong characters. Her books somehow took the place of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series this year which used to serve a similar purpose for me.

The other good books which I read this year and worth a mention are:
  • Originals – Adam Grant
  • Pop goes the Weasel & Eeny Meeny – M.J. Arlidge
  • The Vital Question – Nick Lane
  • The Devil you Know, Desire, Sparkles, Toll Poppies – Louise Bagshawe
  • The Sialkot Saga – Ashwin Sanghi
  • Man's Eternal Quest - Parahamsa Yogananda 
  • Kundalini - Om Swami
  • When Breath becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
  • What If – Randall Munroe
  • Top Business Psychology Models – Stefan Cantore

As always I found that books and reading provided me with a fresh new outlook in many aspects of life. Do books do that to you?

Goodreads link: My year in books 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“When Breath Becomes Air” is a very moving account of Paul Kalanithi’s life, especially since being diagnosed with cancer. Paul has a very promising career – at first he does a Masters in English and then moves on to neurosurgery. He explains this well – he has a deep rooted interest in seeking true meaning and suggests that it has to be at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences. He later forms the opinion that despite the hard nature of the work, neurosurgery places him nearest to his quest.

Paul is diagnosed with lung cancer in his thirties, after he shows symptoms of weight loss and body pain. His life changes totally after that, and he now sees life as a patient. The metamorphosis from a doctor to a terminally ill patient is a very revealing experience for Paul. There are also many unknowns and decisions to be made – can he get back to neurosurgery ever, how much time does he have and how should he spend it, how he should be secure his wife Lucy’s future. After considerable debate, he and his wife decide to start a family.

The treatment shows promise initially and the cancer does not progress. Paul gets back to neurosurgery, and gradually almost maintains his earlier busy schedules with sheer willpower. After a few weeks, though, his health suffers setbacks with more tumors and the line of treatment proving difficult. The birth of their daughter is a joyous moment which Paul cherishes.

The writing is extremely good – almost poetic, and if only time had allowed Paul to write more. The afterword by his wife Lucy is very touching as well. As she says – Paul maintained his composure and dignity at all times and faced death bravely. He was never broken, and his life offers lessons for others. This is also a story of a strong family with Paul’s parents, brothers, his wife Lucy and daughter where death visited the person they loved dearly, much too soon. For his daughter Elizabeth Acadia, it is a poignant record of the remarkable person her dad was – deeply intellectual and very human.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control it

Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control it Making Time: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control it by Steve Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has some genuinely new and though provoking material on how we can make the most of our time on this planet. This is less about being more productive with work, but more about using the time we have in a holistic and satisfying manner. It starts by stating pscyhological time experience laws including – time speeds up with age, time slows with new experiences, time speeds with absorption & the reverse in non-absorption, and the most important being time slowing with ego suspension.

Each of these are discussed in detail with some references to research and documented experiences. It is important that we link these with our own experiences. I do find much of what is stated to be what we all experience in life. I was not really comfortable or convinced with the theories and cases suggested for premonition though. However, the way we perceive time as a linear march is unlikely to be correct either, nor is it backed by science.

The last two chapters which deal with how we can make the most of time with new experiences, finding balance, limiting absorption, changing how we see the world with mindfulness & meditation cover excellent life enhancement methods, which logically backup the earlier material on time passage and quality.

Overall, a very good book for the interesting material it has, though each one has to apply the methods in their own way.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review: The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization

The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization by Jacob Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The future of work discusses how the nature of organizations and the way we work is changing. The book starts with broad trends – changing people expectations, technology, new generation workforce, and globalization.

The changing roles and expectations from employees and managers is discussed at length. There are several examples quoted of organizations who now allow their employees to work from home, design their own work, and work at their preferred times. Such trends will only grow stronger. Managers needing to listen more, empower more and serve as guides rather than command and control. Freelancers are becoming more common is emerging as another growing trend.
Technology trends such as use of cloud, social media, collaboration tools, and robotics is covered in summary. I did like the mention that though robots will take over some jobs, some mundane jobs were designed for robots in the first place!

The book does well to provide a view of what many leading organizations are doing or trying out today. However, the disappointment is that these are current trends and do not really discuss at any length the future even 5 years later. For instance, the impact of technology especially robotics and how people’s jobs will change, what technologies are expected to become mainstream etc.

I would still recommend the book to understand general trends, and understand what practices are seeing early adoption.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: The Presence Process - The Art of Presence

The Presence Process - The Art of Presence The Presence Process - The Art of Presence by Michael Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Presence Process is an exceptional book – has the right intentions and is very practical. The problem with many self-help books is they take a random thread from ancient philosophy and blow it up into an entire book filled with fanciful jargons with little or no practical value. Some are also risky as they tend to promote delusion and false hope with unproven techniques.

The core premise of Presence is very similar or even identical to the philosophies of Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism. However, the book steers clear of terms used in religious texts. And hence the book is about experiencing your oneness with presence, with an experiential process.

Time plays an astonishing influence on our minds. When we live in time, we see life as a challenge to be overcome rather than experiencing it for what it is. The reasoning mind is in a constant evaluation mode trying to relive the past and leap to the fears of the future. Most of us know this is bad – but it is a habit we cannot break free of. The presence process does offer a workable way to be free.

The approach with a weekly plan of action is gradual and eases you into the core philosophical aspects with excellent conceptual introductions to each chapter. The process of self discovery moves on to the higher goal of eliminating the illusion of separation from everything else in the universe.

I did not follow the week wise plan and read through the book, digesting the concepts. I did initially consider sticking to the plan but since I have practised mindfulness since some time now - I decided to read through the book. I do intend to follow the week wise plan with a second read shortly. Even in the absence of following the plan, I still know that the process will work since I practice much of the experiences described in slightly varied forms, and it has worked for me.

The only suggestion I possibly could make for the book is that the author could have explored and outlined other & more advanced meditation techniques. However, it might have detracted from the simplicity of the book which anyone can read and practise in it's current form.

This is a book I would strongly recommend to everyone. It is in fact invaluable to those relatively new to mindfulness.

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