Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A R Venkatachalapathy’s “Thamizhk kalakkalanjiyaththin kadhai”

March 6, 2019

This short and very readable biography of the Tamil encyclopaedia is very good. A review of the book by Perumal Murugan is in Kalachuvadu here.

I enjoyed the book and have no hesitations in recommending it to anybody who can read Tamil. However, at some points, I could not help but feel that A R Venkatachalapathy was a bit unfair. One example is the way Kalki is credited. Apparently Kalki suggested the chief editor’s name; but ARV attributes the credit to choosing Thooran as editor to Avinashilingam Chettiyar. Apparently, Kalki also suggested the Treasurer who swindled. But, in this case, ARV is silent about Avinashilingam Chettiyar’s ability in identifying the right person for the right job. There are similar comments about Ma Po Si and  S A P Annamalai which I thought were less than charitable. These are minor quibbles though.

As Perumal Murugan has suggested in his review, a more detailed book or an expanded edition will be very welcome and the current version is certainly a good placeholder till that happens.

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A couple of books!

February 25, 2019

Kingdom of the blind is the most recent from Louise Penny. Louise Penny does not disappoint — as usual. However, having read the other books in the series, some of the surprises (about Amelia for example) was not a surprise for me at all!

Gene machine by Venki Ramakrishnan is a great read — especially, for early stage researchers and PhD students. It is a book that I have been enthusiastically recommending to colleagues and friends, and, will probably go back to re-read at some point. Strongly recommended!

A few recent reads

February 13, 2019

The order of time by Carlos Rovelli is a must-read. I bought it since it made to the top 10 of the Physics World book list. I am glad I did. Thoroughly enjoyed — it is technical (physics), poetic and philosophical at the same time. Strongly recommended.

Achuvai Perinum by Arunn Narasimhan; this is the first fiction of his I read; enjoyed it.

An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism: Growing Up Muslim in India by Neyaz Farooquee is a good read too!

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.