Its been one and a half month since the dawn of new year. It takes efforts as well as patience to type the characters on the keyboard-be they meaningful or meaningless. While I was writing this post at home, my roommate asked if I were writing a novel (ah, that’s quite an impression I must sayJ). In fact I have the plot for the novel, but it will take patience and devoting time for writing from the hectic schedule (that’s another way of saying I am too busy myself with work or lifeJ).
So here is a review of books I read in the year 2009 and those which are in the pipeline to be completed in 2010-
1) You are Surely Joking, Mr. Feynman
This is a biography of Richard Feynman-a Nobel Prize winner Physicist. This book entertained me. I had fun reading it, enjoyed it, and at the same time taught me some of the theories, principles and experiments in Biology and Physics, among others. This is a short sketch of Feynman’s life, a short sketch indeed. He was also known as a prankster, juggler, safecracker, and a proud amateur painter and bongo player. He is famous for his Lectures on Physics. Bill Gates bought the rights of his lectures and made them available through project named Tuva. More at https://siddheshabhivyakty.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/microsoft-project-tuva-feynman-lectures-available-online-for-free.
2) Maharashtrat Swami Vivekananda (Marathi)
Authored by Swami Videhatmanand, translated by Manoharrao Dev and published by Ramakrishna Math, this book sheds some light on Swami Vivekananda’s (henceforth referred to as Swamiji) visit to Maharashtra during his ‘Bharat Bhraman’. The book describes Swamiji’s voyage in Maharashtra and his meetings with Maharashtrians. This includes famous trip by Swamiji with Lokmanya Tilak, the then first class educationist, freedom fighter, social reformer and a prolific writer. I have read a few pages of Gita Rahasya, which L. Tilak wrote twice-once in the Mandalay jail and then again after his release from the jail (as the first copy was destroyed by the jail officials). This highlights his perseverance and sharp memory. L. Tilak had particularly studied Veda in depth. Had he not been actively involved in freedom struggle, he would have been a first class analyst and critique on Indian mythology, especially in Vedas.
The one thread which brought both these intellectuals together was their interest in Vedas.
The book also covers Swamiji’s acquaintance with other famous Maharashtrians of that time. Swamiji got an opportunity to read Sanskrit books particularly in his visit to Mumbai. Swamiji was in Maharashtra in 1892 and in Goa in October 1892 for some days. Swamiji met Khaprumam (a famous table instrumentalist) in Goa. Swamiji was interested in the history and philosophy of Christian religion. This visit did help him during the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
Such was his aura and charisma, he would say, “Give me 100 energetic young men and I shall transform India”.
Ramakrishna Math has published extensive books on the life, teachings and preaching of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Those interested in these books can buy them at nominal prices from the agencies of Math across India and overseas.
3) Sherlock Holmes – The complete stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes needs no introduction. This is a 2 volume book consisting of all the detective stories showing the skillful use of observation and deductive reasoning by Mr. Holmes to solve the cases which came to him.
Although Arthur Conan Doyle has written other novels and stories, he is better known for the fictional character Sherlock Holmes. None other fictional character has achieved so much fame than Sherlock Holmes. Every story has a different plot and I was amazed to see a facet of crime investigation portrayed by the author. Each story engages readers and they kept me glued to the chair. I have read around 3/4th of the first volume. Every story has a different plot and it engages reader by arousing curiosity of what will happen next; how will Mr. Holmes unravel this plot!
A study in Scarlet is the first story in which Dr. Watson (the narrator in first person) gets acquainted to Sherlock Holmes and his science of deduction. The plot of the sign of four which covers America and Europe, is a meticulously woven story and ended with graceful climax. Following the publication of The Sign of Four in 1890, the author left medicine (yes, he was a doctor without which the characterization of the detective would not suffice) to devote himself to writing. While he wrote many other stories of adventure and historical romance, it was his detective fiction that brought him fame. In fact, when Doyle tire of the character and killed off Holmes in “His Last Bow”, published in 1893, he was forced by public demand to restore him ingeniously to life.
The character of Sherlock Holmes did remind me of DD program featuring Captain Vyom (played by Milind Soman).
4) My Experiments with Untruth
The title of the book sounds similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography-My experiments with truth. That’s where the similarity ends. My Experiments with Untruth is a must read political satire written by Gyan Jain. Read more here.
5) The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
As a child I dreamed of becoming a soldier and did not miss any TV serial related to patriotism and in particular related to army. But as we grow up, our innocence gets diminished and rationality plays a vital role in our day-to-day life. How many of us are happy in our life? And to be specific ‘Am I happy now?’ Ask this question to yourself and see if you could achieve your childhood dream.
Randy gave his Last lecture titled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’ in Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 shortly before his death. The book is based on this lecture. Go, read about him on Wikipedia. The Last Lecture is a memoir, a celebration of life, and a testament to the power of childhood dreams. But it is also, perhaps most of all, a book of lessons.
Books in the pipeline–
1) Hasare Dukh – a Marathi biography of Charlie Chaplin by B. D. Kher.
2) Lajja by Taslima Nasrin (in Marathi)
3) Decolonizing the Hindu Mind
This book by Koenraad Elst objectively takes a fresh look at the ideological dimension of Hindu revivalism without being biased by secondary sources including Indian and foreign electronic and print media. The book is based on his doctoral thesis. He used the primary sources for the analysis and thesis writing. He wrote his first book on the Ayodhya conflict and became interested in India’s culture, politics, religion and history.
Dr. Koenraad Elst has meticulously used the secondary sources (and quoting them there off) to strike out two points:
a) How these sources (including electronic and print media) are politically incorrect and many a times the described situations are diametrically opposite to the reality.
b) They are biased and deduce their opinions /conclusions without knowing the hard facts.
This book is a serious read and keeps the reader engaged. This book is a must read for political leaders, students of political science, Hindu revivalists, opinionaters of religion and the citizens of this country as a whole. Koenraad Elst blogs at http://koenraadelst.blogspot.com.
4) My experiments with truth – the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi.
5) The three musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
I had read about the musketeers during schooldays and the mention of the 3 musketeers’ name in the movie Slumdog Millionaire aroused my curiosity. So I bought this book from Landmark. BTW, the three musketeers were Athos, Porthos and Aramis, and their leader was d’Artagnan. The era and the characters are based on historical fact, but the imaginative romance and fast paced action is a perennial delight for the readers.
6) Are we deceiving ourselves again? The lessons the Chinese taught Pandit Nehru but which we refuse to learn by Arun Shourie
Every time I took any book authored by Arun Shourie, he has not failed to amaze me with his depth of study, investigation, and the presentation. (I don’t know why but this reminds me of Sherlock Holmes.) This book delves into the assumptions and mistakes done by Pandit Nehru and which we continue to make today about China and its policies.