Monday, 29 December 2014

If my library burned down?

I like to read a lot of non-fiction, mainly scientific or technical books. Now I am in the process of reading two books simultaneously, one of which is Finding Moonshine by Marcus du Sautoy. The book is about symmetrical objects in mathematics, and perhaps this blog is not the right medium to discuss the book in detail. What I am more interested in today is a remark the author makes in a certain context in the book. He quotes someone saying which book that person would pick up if his library burnt down. And that got me thinking. Which book would I pick up, if my modest library at home burned down for some reason?

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Book Review: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This is a beautiful book. Beauty-full.

Yes, that is exactly how I would describe writer-cum-social activist Arundhati Roy’s 1997 Man Booker Prize winning novel, The God of Small Things. Ms Roy’s brilliant interplay with words gifts the reader entry to a different world that he can see and feel - and that is where the beauty lies. The reader can play the scenes in his mind: the lucid writing ensures the he is seeing the things and not reading about them. The story is not a surprise; the characters could be the ones out of any Hindi prime-time soap that we are so familiar with. Yet, something makes her book different: she creates the extraordinary out of the ordinary.

221B Baker Street

I would gladly barge in this address, and nothing would please me more than being greeted by a man in his trademark deerstalker cap, pipe and cape-backed overcoat. He would then proceed to tell me (although never having met me before that day) what I did for a living, and probably deduce why I was there to see him. I would be surprised, yes, but that would not be unanticipated, for I would be talking to none other than Sherlock Holmes, perhaps the greatest detective ever created in English literature.

The Boy Who Lived

For me, these words are nothing less than a magic spell: these books created for me my own land of enchantments which eventually turned out to be only a portal to a more exquisite kingdom. As a nine year old, I remember my mother telling me about a writer who had had phenomenal success writing books for children. Until then, I was acquainted with only Enid Blyton and this new author, J. K. Rowling seemed immensely interesting. After that began a journey that has been fulfilling like no other. It has lent to my childhood memories I shall forever cherish. This is not about what happens in the books. This is only an accolade to the sheer magnitude of the impact it has had on me and undoubtedly on thousands of other readers as well. Apart from the delightful fact that I share my birthday with Harry Potter, there other niceties that make these books much more than books for me.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Is String Theory Correct?

The following is a very old blog post that was posted in an old blog. The post was written on 2nd of January, 2012. I am posting it unedited.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno is Dan Brown’s latest offering in the thriller/adventure genre. This is the fourth novel featuring the famous Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon as he tries to save his life as well as the world. If you are expecting the Da Vinci type fireworks, then you will be hugely disappointed. The book is good, but it is far from great. The reader will be tested in many places with a narrative that seems quite opposite to gripping. There are long instances of just historical ramblings which anyone with an interest can get from an encyclopaedia. But still, Brown does create some magic in certain places and carries forth a very important message for everyone in this book.

Book Review: The Oath of The Vayuputras by Amish Tripathi

Amish’s latest offering in his Shiva Trilogy, ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ has been an absolute let down. With high hopes after reading the first two in the set, the seasoned reader is almost sure to feel tragic. The first 200 pages of this unnecessarily long book were boring, to put it mildly. The rest of the 350 pages were made unnecessarily long where a few things could have sufficed. In fact, there are many gaping mistakes and oversights in the whole book, that the reader is left to wonder whether at all the book was edited or not. The first two books ‘The Immortals of Meluha’ and ‘The Secret of the Nagas’ were thrilling and fast paced, where the reader is never allowed a chance to come at a plausible guess, the plot was strong and the characters seemed natural. But the third volume has nothing of that sort. Although Amish has improved his writing capabilities but his work has diminished.

Book Review: The Company of Women by Khuswant Singh

Mohan Kumar is a very rich person who has a single vice- women. He is crazy about them and is willing to spend lavishly to get their company. It started when he was in the United States attending college and then took a new turn after he divorced his wife and felt lonely without a women in his life, more specifically without someone to share his bed with him. This is in essence the story of the book that is the subject of the review, ‘The Company of Women’ by one of India’s most well-known and widely read authors, Khuswant Singh. Singh is well-known for his bold portrayal of the truth and in this case he has not let any stones be left unturned. He has very succinctly and beautifully said what men like Mohan Kumar can and will do if given a chance. However, he still shows the pitfalls of all these by ending Mohan’s life due to the deadly onslaught of AIDS which let him to commit suicide, lest the society and his family know about the truth of his somewhat clandestine affairs.

Book Review: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Every now and then you come across a story that has to be shared, that is so extraordinary that you feel the emotions of the protagonist as the story goes along. One such story is that of Prof. Randy Pausch, now deceased due to pancreatic cancer. Prof. Pausch was a distinguished man of science; he was a professor of computer science and a consultant to various companies like Google, Disney, etc. His was a charming and dynamic personality that enthralled everyone who met. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with a serious disease and given a few months to live. Instead of brooding about what he could have achieved or what his family would go through, he decided to devote his remaining time on this planet to plan how his kids would remember him, how he could leave behind a solid legacy for them to follow, and tried to execute his plan, which he did admirably. The book under review, ‘The Last Lecture’ was the result of all these plans.

Book Review: A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

I have read Jeffrey Archer in the past but this is the best I’ve come across so far.I haven’t read ‘Kane and Abel’ which is proclaimed to be his best novel but if you’re a reader who swears by crime-detective genre of fiction,you’re bound to love this one!

Book Review: The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

The Krishna Key is supposedly a thriller that will keep you engaged and will be a delight for conspiracy theorists. Well, it is almost all that it claims to be, but just a bit shy of being there at the very top, The book is incredibly well researched and tells the tale of a modern man’s illusion into trying to find Krishna’s great legacy left behind to mankind. In that process emerges a hero, Professor Ravi Mohan Saini who is an expert on Lord Krishna. It is upon Saini that falls the onerous task of trying to save the world from the clutches of a mad man who is falsely led to believe that he is the tenth and final avatar of Vishnu. The rest of the plot of the story is a topsy turvy turn of events where Saini is falsely accused of murdering his best friend and then falls into a trap which he realizes much late. But as even best laid plans may fail, Saini miraculously survives everything that is thrown at him and comes out the winner eventually.

Book Review: Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer’s third volume of his Clifton chronicles contains very little surprises, and would have been considered a great hit had it been penned by someone less illustrious than Lord Archer. Considered to be one of the most talented and extraordinary story tellers alive, this book has at some points let down the reader who expects a lot more from Archer. The book takes off from the point where its predecessor ‘The Sins of the Father’ left. The old characters return and the story of Harry Clifton and Emma Barrington along with Emma’s brother, Giles Barrington takes off with the numerous twists and turns of any Archer classic. The storyline is as usual great, but it becomes too predictable at some points, where the readers anticipates much of what is to come.

Book Review: Doctors by Erich Segal

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like if you were a doctor? What it takes for a person to tick in the time of distress? What does it feel to cut open a human being’s body and then sew it back as perfectly normal? What it takes to have compassion and a sense of duty at the same time? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you should definitely make it a point to read the book “Doctors” by Erich Segal. Even if you have a negative response to each and every question that I asked, then also you should read that book. The reason is simple. It’s a classic!

Book Review: The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

The recent band of Indian writers in English was joined by Amish Tripathi, an IIM-C graduate who works with the IDBI Bank in 2010 with his smashing hit debut novel “The Immortals of Meluha”. The book is a historical fiction and is part of a 3 volume “Shiva Trilogy”, the second of which was released a few months ago “The Secret of the Nagas”. The book “The Immortals of Meluha” is
based on the imaginary land of Meluha, an Indus valley civilization. It traces the heroic rise of a nomad, Shiva into an almost impossible Godlike stature.

Book Review: The Sins of The Father by Jeffrey Archer

The name of Jeffrey Archer is synonymous with bestsellers, and he is the only author to have been on the best seller list in the fiction, non-fiction and short stories section. Archer combines a tenacity and zeal for writing and storytelling that has not been surpassed by anyone probably since the great Alexandre Dumas. However, the latest offering of Archer titled, ‘The Sins of The Father‘,the second instalment to his Clifton Chronicles fails to amaze us or think that a master story telleris at work. The plot is quite uninteresting as many parts of the book can be guessed by seasoned Archer fans. This is the third time that Archer has disappointed me (the first time when he went to prison and the second time when he wrote Cat O’ Nine Tales). However, in spite of this lacklustre performance there are certain positives of the book. Archer has a sense of characterization that can be sometimes called haunting. In terms of sheer beauty of the scenes recreated probably there is no living equal.

Book Review: Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman

Can an extraordinary scientist be at the same time a really funny man? Can he be a trickster of the highest degree? Well, after reading Richard P. Feynman’s series of biographical anecdotes titled “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”, I am sure everyone will agree to it. Feynman was one of the greatest theoretical physicists of the 20th century who got the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Apart from being an excellent physicist, Feynman was at the same time an extraordinary teacher and a passionate human being. Feynman had a charm and wit that made the world seem so real, so easy. His rugged looks and an extraordinary sense of self-confidence made him a natural with anybody to talk to. This book is a collection of written our taped conversations that Feynman had with his long-time friend Ralph Leighton. The style of the book is not at all autobiographical, but we do see a trait of an autobiography in it.

Book Review: Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer

The latest volume in the mammoth Clifton chronicles by Jeffery Archer was launched in India recently, and I was lucky to read it within 3 days of launch. The book, like all other Archer novels was unputdownable. The story revolves around the second generation Cliftons now, and slowly focus shifts from Harry Clifton to his son, Sebastian Clifton and his life, first as a teenager and then as a young man trying to make his mark in the world.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Book Review: The 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat

After reading the latest offering of Chetan Bhagat ,"The 3 mistakes of my life" only one word comes to my mind-mesmerizing!After giving two back to back bestsellers Bhagat must have been under a lot of strain to produce anther one and I think he has done that with much omph and grandeur. Dubbed by the New York Times as the biggest selling English language novelist in India's history, Bhagat writes in am amateurish way, mainly projecting today's youth through his books.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sherlock Holmes

Part-I


Holmes, who first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first story, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. The character grew tremendously in popularity with the beginning of the first series of short stories in Strand Magazine in 1891; further series of short stories and two novels published in serial form appeared between then and 1927. The stories cover a period from around 1880 up to 1907, with a final case in 1914.

Store Review: Papyrus, Guwahati


Papyrus

When people ask me what my hobby is, I almost always tend to reply that it is reading books; not just fiction or the course work but also non-fiction. What I don’t mention is that I also like buying books. Well, that can be an unusual hobby-buying books. But yes, its an old hobby of mine. I normally buy books meaning to read them, but due to lack of time, effort and energy most of them are still lying unread. Someday I will read them all, I promise myself. In this pursuit of buying books I always scan any new places for bookstores and over the years I have been to numerous places and have visited some amazing stores. In the recent days, Flipkart.com and the Tata Book House at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras have been my favourite for the amazing discounts that they offer.

Book Review: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

There are only a few modern books which have enjoyed the cult status that was achieved by “The Godfather” immediately after it was published in 1969. As soon as it was published Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather began setting sales records, becoming the fastest selling book up to its time. Its enormous popularity increased in 1972 when Francis Ford Coppola’s movie version was released. The movie won several Academy Awards, and became one of the highest-grossing movies of all time and is frequently cited by critics as one of the greatest American movies ever made The novel has since then consistently stayed in print and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

There are books that inspire and make you want to do something, and there are books that instil in you a spirit of doing and racing with life. The Alchemist is such a book. Although written over two decades ago, its approach is still fresh and the reader gets a chance to connect with the protagonist. The Alchemist details the journey of a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Santiago, believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, decides to travel to the pyramids of Egypt to find treasure. On the way, he encounters love, danger, opportunity and disaster. One of the significant characters that he meets is an old king who tells him that “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” And this is the core philosophy and motif of the book.

Book Review: The Secret of the Nagas by Amish Tripathi

The recent blend of Indian authors writing in English has seen a new hero- the 36 year old Amish Tripathi, a guy in financial services turned full time writer now. Amish’s debut novel “The Immortals of Meluha” went on to become an overnight national bestseller and has propelled the author into instant stardom. The Immortals of Meluha was a part of a three book series called the Shiva Trilogy, based on the life of the Hindu deity Shiva. Recently the second book in that series was released, “The Secret of the Nagas”. Like his first book, this book too has become an instant hit with pre-release sales, nearing that of almost the amount of first printing. There can be no doubt that Amish Tripathi is here to stay and that too in style.

Book Review: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

Hello folks, welcome to the summer months of sweat, heat and hopefully a few more books. When Tinam asked me to write a book review, I thought for a while which book to review. The last few books that I have read are fairly technical and hence FE wouldn’t suit them, so I decided to review a book that I had read a few years back. Now don’t think that romantic novels are turning out to be my favourites because the last one that I reviewed here was also a classic romance. “PS, I Love You” is quite a different kind of novel. The first novel by the author, Cecelia Ahern, it carries with it all the woes and surprises of a first work.

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Love can be a very dangerous thing, but the lust for revenge is by far the most dangerous thing in this deceitful world.That is the adage that the classic book “The Count of Monte Cristo” by the master story teller, “Alexandre Dumas”, tells us. Described by many as an adventure novel, this book since its publication in the mid 19th century has enjoyed a status that is the envy of all writers. Made into a brilliant Hollywood movie, this novel by Dumas stands out as a very well crafted human document, alongside his more famous work, “The Three Musketeers”.

Book Review: And Thereby Hangs a Tale by Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer has a knack of delivering one bestseller after another with his pristine writings. And this time was no different. The latest Archer offering “And Thereby Hangs a Tale” of 15 enticing and very tasty short stories served right in your plate can hardly be ignored mush less given a cursory glance. Archer proves once again why he is one of the greatest living short story writers of our times; and it would be highly unfair to compare him with anyone else.

Book Review: Chandra by Kameshwar Wali

We have all heard about Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar-the man who got the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983. However, only a handful knows the legend of Chandrasekhar and almost of all them are from the scientific field. And it is in fact a tragedy that no one at all seems to know the man Chandrasekhar. So, it comes as a pleasant surprise to find Kameshwar C. Wali’s excellent book “Chandra”, a biography of the legendary astrophysicist quite a pleasant read. This book is an enthralling human document. It seems even more remarkable when we see that Wali has managed to write a book on the life of a physicist who is known for mathematical terseness without a single
mathematical equation.

Book Review: Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track

A perfect book is a blend of rare joy, charm and wisdom. And a book that I recently read fits the exact description. “Perfectly reasonable deviations from the beaten track” is a collection of letters written to and by the Nobel Prize winning American theoretical physicist, Richard P. Feynman. The book also contains some articles written about Feynman. Meticulously edited and introduced by his daughter, Michelle Feynman, this book for the first time gives a peek into the human world of a person revered throughout the world for his scientific works.

Book Review: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal

Ever wondered what’s the success story of naukri.com or for that matter Sintex? How does an entrepreneur manage to make his dream everything in his life and how he can walk that extra mile to make his dreams a reality? If you have wondered about these and many other similar questions then “Stay Hungry Stay Foolish” by Rashmi Bansal is the book for you. The book, whose title is borrowed from the words of one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs Steve Jobs, is about the inspiring stories of 25 IIM graduates who choose to travel a path carved by them rather than following the road usually taken by many such young men. Published by the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE)of IIM, Ahmedabad this book aims at fostering innovation driven entrepreneurship through the stories presented therein.

Book Review: A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

How many of us, who are not practising mathematicians or mathematics students know about any mathematician? The number would be very small. It has got nothing to do with the fact that mathematicians are not very famous, but its because there is a general perception that what mathematicians do has got nothing to real day to day life, its as abstract as anything in this world can be. Yet another thing can be the lack of biographies of great mathematicians. In this aspect Slyvia Nasar’s excellent book “A Beautiful Mind” later made into a movie of the same name starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Conolley is indeed a great boon.

Book Review: Losing my Virginity by Sir Richard Branson


I am usually very fond of biographies and autobiographies, especially involving scientific or mathematical people. However, when, at of the spur of the moment, I decided to buy “Losing My Virginity”, the autobiography of Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group; I was not sure whether I would like it or not. Even at the Airport when I was sitting and waiting for my delayed flight, I thought perhaps it would be a waste of my money and time. But how wrong I was! When I started reading the book, I found I liked it a lot. Quite unexpectedly, that book has left me with a new sense of direction in my life. I am more resolute about a few things which I had never ever felt so deeply before. It truly is a remarkable document showing the path of a man driven by passion.
 

Book Review: Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

The latest offering from international bestselling author, Jeffrey Archer is “Only Time Will Tell”, the first installment of a five part series of “The Clifton Chronicles”. As the book mentions, this is indeed Archer’s greatest attempt at story telling in his 40 long and illustrious years of being a bestselling author. Like all of Archer’s books, this book too doesn’t fail to create the magic that only a master magician like Archer can create. However, this book is In a sense different from all his other works because of the ending. Although almost every book by Archer has a somewhat unusual ending, but this book beats the rest. However. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and talk about the ending when we have 386 more pages to talk about.

Book Review: Love Story by Erich Segal


Ah, I had taken a nice little break from reviewing books here, and took the time out to read a few books. Now, they were a mixed collection with a few being romantic novels, a few thrillers and the occasional non-fiction lot too. So, when I was thinking which book to write a review for, there was no question that it had to be “Love Story” by Erich Segal. The book, as the title says is just that, a unique short and at times sweet love story. To be frank enough, I am not much of a ‘romantic novel’ fan, and so it was with trepidation I read the book. But by the time I finished this short novel of 133 pages, I was mesmerized. I am now an Erich Segal fan, and am waiting eagerly to read more of his work.

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The art of writing a scientific biography is a very difficult one and has been mastered by very few writers so far. The task becomes all the more difficult if the subject is somewhat controversial and non-conventional. However, all these factors didn’t deter Rbecca Skloot in her fabulous attempt at telling the story of an unsung hero of modern science, Henrietta Lacks. The name of Henrietta may not be so popular with us, but if you abbreviate her name to HeLa, then she becomes something which every biologist and every medical professional has not only heard about, but moist probably seen. HeLa is a cell line that was taken from Henrietta’s cervical cancer without her knowledge or consent. The book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Skloot tries to tell this story of wonder, deception, anger, science and miracles.