Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts



If you have good health, you are young; and if you owe nothing, you are rich.

                                                                                                     - Ruskin Bond

One of the great influencers on my life is Ruskin Bond.  His book  A Little Book of Life which was purchased on a rainy afternoon in November, 2014 had completely transformed my life.

One of the secrets of Ruskin Bond being the happiest man even  is his child-like mind-set.  To become like him, your stars must also cooperate apart from your own willpower.     His another equally power-packed book A Book of Simple Living  - Brief Notes from the Hills  would make you  think simple and unified  with the world, without loosing your individuality.

There is a  world of  difference between  childlike and childish.  What I learnt from the books of  Ruskin is, you should not give up childlike nature though you grow up in age.  This tenderness reflects innocence which keeps you  boundless and eternally joyful.  His argument in favour of imbibing this unparalleled trait must be accepted without a word of dissent :

I have the temper of a child, and a tendency to be mischievous. And I still retain a child-like trust in grown-ups, which sometimes works to my detriment.  But it doesn't matter.    In the long run, the exploiters and manipulators meet with their comeuppances; they are their own worst enemies. Meanwhile, I will continue being an eight-year-old.   Recently, I was feeling a bit low, so I played marbles with the children. They won all my marbles, but I felt better !

The beauty of Ruskin Bond's literature is, you need not require any physical resources to become like Ruskin.  The only prerequisite is  an open mind to embrace the Truth.  With that mind-set, your restlessness dies down slowly leading to good health by which you feel younger irrespective of your physical age.


Reading is like an opium that addicts you! The itching increases with time, but it keeps you sane all through life !

I was born in a family where my father used to read newspapers and magazines with large chunks of time. I could vividly remember that even a waste paper that comes to his way with a snack is not neglected and he takes a curious look at it to find any interesting stuff to read. That habit stealthily entered into my system and stayed there.  May be that is the possible reason for my habit of high dose of reading or you could say, it encoded in my genes!

Latest research on genetics says that you can change your gene activity at any time. It further says that your genes are fluid, dynamic, and responsive to everything you think and do. Scientists say that Earth's 2.8-billion-year-old genetic legacy is present inside each of us right now. They also say that DNA is responsive to everything that happens in our lives. This opens a new a flood of opportunities for self-improvement, and reading is no doubt one such activity that has no substitute !

Joseph Addison rightly says that reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. It means you need to read something on daily basis to sharpen the saw. Honestly speaking it keeps my youthful vigour in tact, even at 50+. This is not self-trumpeting but a naked truth.

In this age of Information Democracy, many of us believe that internet substituted all our knowledge and information needs. But that notion is absurdly wrong. Books continue to have their dominance to inspire and guide our lives.

The reason for the innate need to read is our wish to step into the shoes of other person - writer/ author and gain his/her insights or world view or fantasy world. The more you read, the better would be your world view. My 35 years of reading saga has brought some revolutionary changes in my persona and it never keeps my life dull !

At last count, I find that approx. 150 books are on my conveyor belt and this speaks that I am a self-appointed Reading Ambassador of books of my choice. In fact this term Reading Ambassador is coined by Publishers Association of United Kingdom who requested all book-lovers to become Reading Ambassadors in their communities. They believe that a good book spreads with a word of mouth and the Social Media is our extended mouth!

Generally publishers tend to approach newspapers and magazines to offer book reviews for their newly published books. Marketing the books through a network of bloggers is still an alien concept in publishing industry. I am optimistic that in the coming years, a trend to appoint bloggers as Reading Ambassadors would revolutionize the book-sale business and it would help to grow the booklovers.

If any such opportunity comes to my way, I love to be a Reading Ambassador.

Hope somebody is listening in the publishing fraternity !



      Image Courtesy : My Samsung Galaxy E7 Smartphone  

There is no friend as loyal as a book    - Ernest Hemingway

At 50+, I am not overzealous for material possessions.  I just want my daily life move effortlessly without losing steam.  In the process of maintaining energy and enthusiasm, I rely on   books. 

Books occupy a good part of my life.  Not only   they provide me very valuable information and update my knowledge, they help me to marshal up my inner resources to think differently, creatively so as to live each moment passionately.

With this mindset, I manage not to allow ageing symptoms creep into my system. Though, my body has some signs of it, at mental level, I am much more vigorous than in my 20s-30s.  The credit for this could be attributed to some of the great books I read. 

For five days in a week, it is a virtual sprint in my professional life, leaving little scope to put to pen on thoughts I feel to write.   So when Saturday dawns in, I quickly unlock the Writer's chamber in my mind and live two days there and lock and enter back into frenzy world of toxic emotions for bread and butter.   This  switching of gears needs sturdiness of mind and hope the Almighty is releasing it in abundant quantities in me.

It is great that the  winter  brings tremendous joy to the writer in me.   I don't wish Heaven should come to my way.  I just wish to have trouble-free solitary walks to properly stack my thoughts to churn out some good prose or verse.  While choosing the places, I lay more stress on those locations which are near to Nature. 

A few years ago during my stay in Delhi, one day, I chose the above foot-over-bridge in South Delhi for my reading saga.  The reason was  that the place was more vibrant with roaring traffic below the bridge and  walking  on that bridge on that balmy evening brought me so much joy and I spent a good one hour in reading a book.

While I was deeply immersed in my reading, one foreign woman tourist approached me with a smile and asked me to take my snap.   When I asked the reason, she told me that it was very strange to find someone reading in public places in India.   My reading on that bridge with the aid of street light might have triggered her to approach me.  During exchange of words, she further narrated her own story of how her dad inspired her to read books in her childhood that helped her to build a personal library. 

Meeting  like-minded people gives a joy of its own sort.   My brief interaction with a book lover on that evening  gave  a tremendous joy to my heart.



Competition, success are now-a-days more synonymous with Private Sector where the employees need to hone their skills to fight everyday battles of professional life. You need to adopt thousands of tricks to impress the customer. The sales professionals work day is very draining and unless they show up the results at the end of the day, their survival in the organization becomes questionable. For people of such background, this book is a minefield.

His expertise lies in sales, leadership and entrepreneurship skills. He is a known corporate trainer whose target work is productivity enhancement.

Santosh's 11 commandments are as under:

1. Declare your expiry date
2. Be a possibility thinker
3. Rock the boat in the middle of the sea
4. Be autonomous, declare your constitution today
5. Declare that every resource around you will be maximized
6. Declare your thoughts, words, and deeds
7. Declare to be a leader for life
8. Say goodbye to Emotionally Draining Distractions
9. Be ready to be a loner
10.Declare that you will be 'forever alive'
11.Live a life that is difficult to duplicate

Santosh in the Preface of the book says that he started his life as a salesman 29 years ago and chose to be a Meaningful Specific which comprise only 5% in the world. In this great book, he culled out his knowledge and experience from ground zero and wrote this practical book which is a rare of its kind.

The author says that this book is only for those who want to live, learn, love and leave a legacy behind. So investing some bucks for this book is not a bad deal, provided you are willing to raise your bar!


Investing rupees hundred on this book more than a decade ago introduced me to Carnegie's literature and thereafter ignited me to read more self-help books of West.

The principles underlined in this best seller is known to everybody, but the implementation part differentiates a successful man from that of failed lot . In fact, this book is a compilation from the two great books of Dale Carnegie : How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

Carnegie wrote these books in 1930s, but the ideas and strategies he recommended remain unchanged as there would be no change in human dimension. It is only the context that changes but the thinking remains same in any age. New technologies may give new comforts but man's explorative mind don't alter with time.

In the Foreword, Dorothy Carnegie says that you already possess hidden assets within yourself that can make your life glorious. All you need is the determination to uncover and use them.

When it comes to the contents of the book, it has all the necessary stuff one needs to tone up his inner world. It has four parts :

- Part One : Seven Ways to Peace and Happiness.
- Part Two : Fundamental Techniques in Handling People.
- Part Three : Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking.
- Part Four : Ways to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Each part has 4 to 7 chapters each with sub-headings with strategy to be adopted to a particular dimension of problem in life. Those who want to improve in life must keep this book on their bed-side!


India is a land of rich culture and traditions. It's civilization flourished when the western civilizations were in the nascent stage. To know what India did in the past centuries, you need to revisit the history and you could not find a better book than Sheila Dhar’s "Children's History of India'' published by Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India (ISBN 978-81-230-1872-0)

The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru in his Foreword to the book on 1st August, 1960 said that ''I have looked through this little book and have liked it. We lack good books on the history of India, more especially for children. This book fills a vacuum and fills it well. The language is easy and suited to young boys and girls.''

Though, it was mentioned that this book is meant for children this books also serves elders as well. The interesting part of the book is all dates were given at the end of the book for reference purpose. The author says that the aim of the book is more to stimulate interest in the study of history than to present a comprehensive survey of facts.

The book is a lucid narrative of history of India in a sequential way. It is a book you need to keep in your personal library to come back and forth whenever necessary !



Folk wisdom demands a book review of only new books being published. But sometimes an exception needs to be drawn to some timeless classics of older times.

Dr. Alexis Carrel's book "Man the Unknown' falls under this category. It is a book that delves deep into understanding complex human system. This book is one of the three favorite books of  Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the former President of India who shared it in his book 'My Journey - Transforming Dreams into Actions (published in 2013). In Dr. Kalam's own words, the book is a description of the human body - how it is an intelligent, integrated system - is explained clearly and brilliantly. He recommends the book for everyone, especially for those whose aim is to study the medical sciences.

Dr. Alexis Carrel is a Nobel laureate in Physiology/ Medicine in 1912. He spent his life promoting spiritualism. When this book was published in 1935, it became an instant best seller, because he cleverly separated the known from the unknown.

What he crystallizes is the existence of unknown and the unknowable. What he said more than eight decades ago still holds good, because we are still in no way nearer to the understanding of basic tenets of life which is self-organizing and also in perfect symphony with Nature.

In fact, the development of science and technology has deepened the mystery of our own existence. Still we don't know where our memory is stored. According to Harvard Medical School professor Rudy Tanzi who is one of the world's foremost experts on the causes of Alzheimer's ( a disease of memory loss) says that we don't know where memory is stored at cellular level though we know that it is conjured up inside the brain.

The book is an interesting journey slowly unraveling truths of human system which is author's long labour and patient research.

Happiness is not a pill we can administer to a person. On this count, Dr. Carrel says that we can not artificially give any individual the formula for happiness.

His insights say that men of genius are not tall. Mussolini is of the medium size and Napoleon was short. While answering the science's most puzzled question, Dr. Carrel says that we don't know the relationship between consciousness and nervous processes. It is still a mystery today to scientists how certain chemical reactions at sub atomic level in the body give the feeling of I'ness or subjective experience - qualia which they term it as 'hard problem'.

Dwelling on the significance of exercise, Dr. Carrel says that certain exercises appear to stimulate thought. For this reason, he relates that Aristotle and his disciples were in the habit of walking while discussing the fundamental problems of philosophy and science. With regard to beauty, he says that the sense of beauty does not develop spontaneously. It exists in our consciousness in a potential state. On the importance of books, Dr. Carrel says that school teachers and university professors, as well as libraries, laboratories, books and reviews are adequate means for developing the mind. Even in the absence of professors, he says that books could be suffice for this task.

The most striking advice from Dr. Carrel is 'work is more effective than alcohol'. The more a muscle works, he says the more it develops. Activity strengthens it, instead of wearing it out.

While analyzing the personality, Dr Carrel says that the richer the personality, the greater would be the individual differences. As he peels off man, he finds vast unknown regions whose potentialities are almost inexhaustible. Equilibrium, he says is obtained in a large measure by intelligence and self control. Dr. Carrel wraps up the book with this exhortation : " We must liberate ourselves from blind technology and grasp the complexity and wealth of our own nature"

A must read book for a holistic approach towards understanding the man who is the crown of creation.


Great lives give great inspiration.

If wisdom of ages is properly archived, it would definitely help to the succeeding generations.

The book Light from many Lamps, edited by Lillian Eichler Watson' is a perfect blend of wisdom of East and West. It is a storehouse of inspiring quotes with caricature of world’s renowned personalities.

This book is a result of long labour by Watson in culling out the wisdom of past centuries. As the cover flap truly suggests, it is a book of infinite richness and abiding values.

This book is not meant for casual reading. It is a book which you have to come back and forth to endure your sufferings and lift your spirits.

Reading this prose will change the trajectory of your thoughts. The starting page itself is a minefield of timeless wisdom . "Who is a wise man ? In reply, Talmud says that ' He who learns of all men'. The contents of this book is broadly divided into interesting chapters like 'Happiness and Enjoyment of living' and "Faith and inner calm etc . The labour involved in writing a book is better explained by Samuel Johnson ' A man will turn over half a library to make one book'.

While reading this book, the reader gets an opportunity to know the lives of some of the greatest philosophers of past centuries. These immortal words of Charles Kingsley would inspire anybody : " Thank God every morning when you get up that you have something to do which must be done whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best, will breed in you temperance, self-control, diligence, strength of will, content and a hundred other virtues which the idle never know' and "Faith and inner calm etc.

The book also has chapters on Rome's best known philosopher Seneca. America's best known President Abraham Lincoln finds place twice in the book. It has chapters on Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Shakespeare, Hippocrates, ST. Paul, Confucius and many more epic personalities.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam in his book "My Journey : Transforming Dreams into Actions" mentions this book as one of his three favourite books. Befitting to its tile "Light from many Lamps", truly gives you 'Inner Light' !


It is exactly over a century ago in November, 1913, a man with flowing beard and sweeping robes of India brought the first Nobel prize for his masterly work called Gitanjali (Song offerings) which is nothing but a loose translations of his Bengali poems.

Rabindranath Tagore is a multi-facet personality of India He is a poet, novelist, playwright, painter, essayist and music composer. He is the first non-European Nobel laureate in literature. His poetry stands aside from the mainstream poets of English world. His open minded reasoning is a celebration of human freedom. Humanism and universalism are the underlying threads of all his literary works.

Gitanjali is a culmination of his accumulated wisdom. This child prodigy churned out his first verse when he was 13.

Gitanjali is a timeless classic that centers on man’s eternal quest. It is a spiritual poetry of 103 beautifully weaved verses in an orderly fashion. Through his work, Tagore shows the path towards the ultimate freedom.

Generally, we are attracted to poetry of rhythmic sounds which is not seen here. What matters here is sophistication of ideas and Tagore poured out his heart in simple lucid prose.

Had the Gurudev not translated Gitanjali into English, perhaps, his poetic beauty might have limited to Bengal only. By doing so, he gives large audience an opportunity to devour his poetry.

When you read Gitanjali, you could say that he became voice of India’s spiritual heritage. When, he was awarded the Nobel prize, vanity did not come on his way. This telegram he flashed on 10th December, 1913 for banquet speech of Award ceremony is strewn with spirituality “I beg to convey to the Swedish Academy my grateful appreciation of the breadth of understanding which has brought the distant near, and has made a stranger a brother”.

His poems are rhetorically simple with philosophical gravity. He left a heritage which no fire could consume, says the noted Bengali film director Satyajit Ray in his documentary on Rabindranath Tagore made in 1961. Ray terms his literature as heritage of words, poetry of ideas and ideals.

The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats who himself was Nobel laureate in 1923, in his Introduction to Gitanjali says that ‘though these prose translations from Rabindranath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian traveler will not tell me.’ Yeats made a sweeping remark that ‘We write long books where no page perhaps has any quality to make writing a pleasure, being confident in some general design, just as we fight and make money and fill our heads with politics – all dull things in the doing – while Mr. Tagore, like the Indian civilization itself, has been content to discover the soul and surrender himself to its spontaneity'.

Gitanjali makes a fiery start with THOU HAST made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fills it ever with fresh life. At some other place, assuming himself as little flower, Tagore earnestly pleads Almighty “ PLUCK THIS little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust.

The cornerstone of Gitanjali is this verse which could well-up your eyes with a sense of gratitude “My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.’

While advising contentment in life, Tagore says that “Day by day thou art making me worthy of the simple, great gifts that thou gives to me unasked – this sky and the light, this body and the life and the mind – saving me from perils of overmuch desire.” Many more such soul-stirring verses in Gitanjali are the nuggets of wisdom which takes your soul to new heights.

The real tribute you could pay to this master poet is to read Gitanjali in its entirety and try to grasp its inner dimension which is sublime, musical, mystical and thought provoking!


If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.

                                                                                      - Isaac Newton

Some books come to us by divine intervention. Some years ago, I came across a translated version of Bharati's works authored by Prema Nanda kumar. In fact, that book was published by Sahitya Akademi and I tried to buy the same, but could not procure as it was out of print. I searched for other scholarly translation and immediately I was landed up in Usha Rajagopalan's - Everyman's Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati.

The book offers the treasure of information about the life of Subramania Bharati. He is one of the 20th century's greatest Tamil Poets. He was a child prodigy. Bharati was his title conferred on him at the age of eleven which means ' one blessed by the goddess of learning'.

His works are philosophical. When you read, you get a feel of reading Indian Ancient Texts : Vedas /Upanishads. His poems are devotional and catching his imagination on Nature is difficult to fathom.

Some of my favourite lines of Subramania Bharati are :

The hand opens a lock,
Wisdom opens the mind.

The mind controls the breath,
Right action shields the body.

I came across a baby fire,
I kept it in a tree hollow,

The forest charred and cooled.
Fire Power - is it young or old ?

Whoosh, crackle, snap, sizzle.
May we reap quickly the fruits of our effort.
May we earn wealth and joy, fame on earth.

( credit: Usha Rajagopalan's book: Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati )

His poem 'The Goddess of Beauty' is very touching. His other poem on the greatness of 'worker' is equally inspiring. His poem on 'Awake, Mother India!' helped in strengthening Independence Movement from British.

History reveals that great people have not lived fully on this planet and they came only for a short sojourn but during that short period, they made ripples. Bharati who moved India with his fiery poems also died at the young age of 39 much like Vivekananda who also left his mortal frame at the same age. 

Hope these stalwarts continue to inspire succeeding generations !