Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: two books

September 7, 2018

Finished reading Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention and half way through Flow: the psychology of optimal experience.  Both are very interesting and recommended.


Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

June 13, 2018

At least one review called it the finest novel of Smith so far. I would not go that far. I still think White teeth is the best novel. But, Swing time is a very good read indeed.

T M Krishna’s Reshaping Art

June 6, 2018

A very good read. It evokes strong responses and at times does make you uncomfortable. Whether you agree with Krishna or disagree, it is thought provoking throughout. The book is also a call for reforms — and, like all reforms, it both starts with the individual and pans out and starts with the society and reaches the “self”: Krishna has some interesting examples of the second kind based on the responses of participants and volunteers of the Urur Alcott Kuppam Vizha. Strongly recommended.

Elizabeth Strout’s My name is Lucy Barton

May 5, 2018

After the last collection of short stories of Elizabeth Strout I read, I wanted to read this novel. It is a very satisfying read — extremely well written and very enjoyable! Here is Guardian Review, for example. Strongly recommended!

William Glassley’s A wilder time

April 21, 2018

William Glassley’s A wilder time: notes from a geologist at the edge of the greenland ice is about the field work that Prof. Glassley did with two of his colleagues over a long period of time in several lengthy stretches. The book is primarily about the geological aspects of the work. But, it is also about the reflections, meditations and ruminations of Glassley about wilderness and the greenland-ian (arctic tundra) landscape. For want of a better word, this is the closest one can get to “spirituality” in a science book.

Glassley’s writing flows lucidly and smoothly. He captures the sights, sounds as well as the feelings they evoked in him accurately and poetically. Here is an example passage from the book:

For the first time in my life, I felt as though I understood, to the extent I was capable, how utterly incomprehensible that world was for me. Nothing existed separate from any other part of the whole, and the whole was the entirety of the universe, from its very beginning. And there, in the quiet of the Arctic valley, one manifestation of that unity resided.

Time did not exist. The only difference between past and future is the interceding mind, which contemplates and describes and details differences, identifying species, speaking as though they are fixed in time and separate, when, in fact, they are incessantly, furiously changing — temporary, creative, individually unique and yet part of the indivisible whole. Humanity was simply one more experiment conducted by something so immensely incomprehensible that the outcome of the experiment had no importance.

And yet, in that great loneliness, the world was saturated by the beautiful. What surrounded me was stunning in its newness and harmony. Color, texture, form, and pattern flowed from one expression to another without incongruity. There was nothing familiar except the grossest of concepts (rock, water, air, cold); everything challenged comprehension.

Loneliness and cold made is uncomfortable to stay longer. As I stood, I surveyed the scene, trying to capture some pieces of it that I could share with Kai and John, but I realized I did not have the words to convey any of it.

Strongly recommended!

Anything is possible by Elizabeth Strout

April 8, 2018

A very good read. Picked up on Maureen Corrigan’s recommendation. I am happy I did. And, hardly ever I seem to disagree with Corrigan’s judegements!

An English Murder by Cyril Hare

April 3, 2018

Good read. Recommended. Found the book based on BBC 4, Good read podcast recommendation. By the way, I strongly recommend this podcast hosted by Harriet Gilbert for book lovers. In the past couple of months, I got at least a few good reading recommendations from the podcast.

Political freedom and London

March 2, 2018

London supplied answers without asking questions. There were no restrictions on who could come into the country: no passports or visas required, no need to prove that you had means of support. Nobody could be forced into military service. Nobody could be jailed merely for saying or writing something against the establishment. Nobody got extradited on political grounds. Freedom turned London into Europe’s beachcomber, collecting refugees washed up by waves of political change: (…) Britons took patriotic pride in the country’s role as “an asylum of nations,” a beacon of liberty.

Maya Jasanoff in The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a global world. I am aware of the contribution of immigrant scientists to the growth of American scientific establishment during the second world war. I was not aware that Britain has its share of immigrants too.

Tamil: a biography by David Shulman

February 27, 2018

Recently, I have seen that Princeton university press has been publishing biographies of texts such as Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali yoga sutras. So, it is not surprising to find the biography of Tamil. If texts have a life of their own, so are languages. And, if anything, as the biography of Shulman shows, probably, languages have a more varied, interesting and complex lives.

The book has been reviewed by the other Tamil scholar I like and respect, A R Venatachalapathy; see here. Having read the book, I see that Venkatachalapathy is bang on. When it comes to Tamil modernity, even though some of the points that Shulman makes are valid and probably worth pursuing, the Tantric origins that Shulman tries to identify seem a bit far fetched to me too — even though, such Tantric colours can indeed be seen in some of Thi Ja’s works. Having said that, I do see why Shulman wants to structure his piece like a kriti; and his piece does indeed make marvelous music! And, like any good singing, more than once, I felt that Shulman could have elaborated a little bit more!!

Like any master piece, Shulman’s book is full of ideas and concepts and more than once made me go looking for some of the texts — especially, also because I hate reading Tamil in English with diacritical marks — in fact, if I have one suggestion for improving the book, that would be to give at least the poems quoted also in Tamil script — it would have made the reading experience so much more better. The book also derives its values in giving an hitherto unseen perspective and, at least for me, in introducing some texts that I have not known at all (such as the Tamil translation of Soundarya Lahari by Kaviraja Pandithar).

Overall a remarkable read and strongly recommended.



Bird by bird

February 17, 2018

By Anne Lamott is a book about creative writing. A good read! Recommended if you are interested in books, reading, writing and writers!