This Was A Man

The finale of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles came out in the first few days of November and I finished it in four days flat. Then I went on to my next book, Retire Inspired and totally forgot to review the book here. I got an SMS from Crossword yesterday that Archer was visiting the Kemps Corner store yesterday at 6 PM. Work at the bank meant that I could not go to Kemps Corner to meet him. 😦 But, it reminded me that I had to write the review on my blog.

This Was a Man is the last in the series of the Clifton Chronicles. The book was a disappointment for me as a finale. The rest of the series was full of twists and turns and was much more fast paced. Many episodes running through the Chronicles find closure but the book seems to slow down as Harry Clifton ages. As a whole, the series is wonderful.

If you love Jeffrey Archer and his brand of writing you have to get this book and the whole Chronicles.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

You would not think that you need a book to learn how to tidy up. When your mother asks you to tidy your room, you tidy the room. When you think back, you had not paid enough attention to remember how you learnt to tidy the way you did. You either picked it up from here and there – mostly from your parents and then improved over the years if you paid any attention or it became worse.

I picked up the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing from the Kindle store after watching a couple of videos of it’s author, Marie Kondo. I first saw the video on Talks @ Google and two NHK videos featuring her work with two clients(#1 & #2).

The English translation of the Japanese book is a pleasant easy read. The book takes you through all the steps in a clear and concise manner, if you want to try the method for a few days. I read the book in totem before deciding to try it out. My parents had just moved out of home and left it to me and my wife.

After reading the book, I spent the afternoon explaining KonMarie’s whole process to my wife. We disposed a lot of clothes and began to try folding clothes as explained in the book. My wife though, kept tidying the way she always went about doing it. After a few more tries, I reverted as well. I think the book is best read by someone who actually tidies the home. It’s probably good to watch the #1 or #2 video that I pointed above to you before reading the book. Else it’s just another book read this year and you keep tidying the way you always did.

 

 

The Bestseller She Wrote

It had the bestseller she wrotecompletely skipped my mind that Ravi Subramanium’s latest book would be out in mid-October. As soon as I saw that his latest book was available, I boug
ht it on my Kindle and finished it in less than 3 days, as I have the other books that he has written.

I have enjoyed his writing style from the second book that he wrote. His writing is pacy while engaging. You begin the book and with his short chapters, there is immediate reading progress that you enjoy. In these short chapters or bursts he develops the broad sketches of the outline of his story and continues in the same speed till almost the very end. Then he begins slowing down and his finer strokes make their appearance and then the string weaves through all the threads to complete a beautiful fabric of a story.

To this, he adds a set of contemporary characters and events that makes his work easier to relate to to a contemporary audience.

His storytelling is a way of unravelling that I can enjoy once in a while. To me, it offered a nice change in pace and subject and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ravi Subramanium’s latest offering.

DROP

dropOver the whole of last week I was watching a set of videos posted on YouTube of talks given by the brahmacharis of the Chinmaya Mission. This Dusshera, Dhanya and I visited the Chinmaya Mission campus in Powai, Mumbai. It was from the bookstore there that we picked up the novel, DROP. Dusshera is about dropping your negative qualities and attachments, picking up positive qualities and then fortifying it all with knowledge, as per one of the videos I watched. This was perhaps in the back of my mind as I picked up DROP.

The book was written by a group of Chinmaya Yuvaveers and weaves a story around a journey that a bunch of young people take as they travel “within”.

I liked the book as a whole and would definitely recommend that other people read it as well. It comes bundled with a sort of workbook that I am yet to go through.

I think the book has a Hinduism under-current that I am not sure if the authors were trying to fight against in some stage and were trying to glorify in certain stages. Weaving together principles of Hinduism, facts and fiction is a very tight rope walk and I think that these Chinmaya Yuvaveers have done it pretty well.

The book offers a nice parallel between the journey inwards and the outward journey one along the banks of the Ganges to it’s source.

To the Brink and Back

In December, I finish 3 years working in the banking sector. I spent my teenage years reading books about the history of science. I always had an interest in understanding the reasons for why things are the way they are.

For some time now, I have been looking for some book on the historical facts behind the Indian economy. I have been reading Mint for a year and quite a few of the columnists there made references to the significant events that happened in India in 1991. It was there that my interest in learning about 1991 was piqued.

I first picked up the book by Gurcharan Das, India Unbound. The book, however, turned to look at the consequences of the events of 1991 and had fairly little to offer on the 1991 events themselves, where my interest lay. It was an interview in Mint with the author that got me to this book, To the Brink and Back.

The book is by Congressman, Jairam Ramesh and the book does have a fair amount of a biased narrative. I think Ramesh is quite frank about this. The book is about the political action taken in 1991 by Dr. Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh to take India through a transition period.

The first thing this book taught me was that the reforms was one in a series of reforms measures that had been carried out since 1966. To be sure, there are many books suggested for reading in this book which make quite a handsome list. These measures were seemingly not effective or did not work out. The break from the past that 1991 created seems to be visible more as we look back at it 25 years on with changes still unravelling, as though we opened a Pandora’s box. I did not see many books on the changes that 1991 wrought written by economists and am on the lookout for the same.

The book is one of the first accounts that I have read and Ramesh does a good job of it politically. He has also been promoting the book with the political angle that one of the most revolutionary economic changes that helped India propel into the 21st century was the unshackling of the economy and asks his fellow Congressmen to wear it as a badge. The Congress, though, still requires some unshackling of its own. The book is a good read and I think Ramesh has been quite frank and eloquent in the presentation of his books. I also loved reading his footnotes and annexures which are as good a read as the book itself and hence, don’t give that a miss like you usually do in other books.

 

Book Review: Governance and the Sclerosis That has set in

I haven’t read non-fiction as a genre for quite some time. Picking up Sidin Vadukut’s book recently re-ignited my interest in the genre. I have also been working up an interest in learning about recent Indian history. Books about this era starting from post-liberalization have now been emerging for quite some time now.

Arun Shourie is one of the authors who has written about India’s post-liberalization era. He was also a cabinet minister in the Vajpayee government. He covers three broad areas in this book – bureaucracy, environment and immigration. He shows through examples how the thinking within the government is not directed at solving the issue at hand but in ensuring that one is not held responsible for any errors in the resolution of such issues.

To be sure, some of these issues are complex. He also faces the same difficulty that his predecessors had in resolving the issues at hand. He tends to defend the delay caused during his own regime in the various Ministries whilst not really defending the actions taken by his predecessors in the same Ministries.

The book, otherwise, is a wonderful collection of reflection and insight into the working and the thinking inside the Government towards the end of the twentieth century and that in transition from the license raj to liberalisation. It is also a pretty breezy read despite being a book that cites a lot of correspondence and timelines to back up his assertions and observations, which are few, short and sometimes satirical to drive the point through.

Strangely, there were a lot of Arun Shourie interviews that got aired around the time I was reading this book. Again getting access to the government will hopefully push him to write more books that will help Indian citizens understand the issues with more clarity and depth.