Congratulations, by the Way by George Saunders

Congratulations by the Way Title: Congratulations, By the Way
Author: George Saunders
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 978-1408859346
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 64
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

It is a small book. It is something that you will perhaps read in half an hour. It is the kind of book though that will remain in your subconscious forever. It is an essay. It is a Commencement speech given by George Saunders at Syracuse University in May 2013. The speech is about kindness, about what it means to be kind and perhaps the only regrets he has ever had have been those when he was not kind to people.

“Congratulations, By the Way” is a book which will make you reflect and wonder about life and its worth. The book does not proclaim to teach you anything and maybe if you want to, you will probably not learn anything from it either. But I also think that kindness is something which is inherent, and yet most of us fail miserably, at being kind.

The book is simply written and is just about being kind to one another and if possible, also to oneself. We also tend to forget sometimes how important it is to be kind to oneself. I will most certainly reread this book and also will recommend it to people – so that we never forget to be kind.

Here is the video of the speech:

What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

What If by Randall Munroe Title: What If? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
Author: Randall Munroe
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 9781848549586
Genre: Non-Fiction, Science, Humour
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

If you’ve heard of “XKCD” and if you also know of their “What If” section, then you do not need an introduction to this book. You know that it will be funny, sometimes hilarious as well, and at the same time informative (that sounded a little preachy, but what the heck!). The book is not your usual comic fare and it is not even meant to be that. If you have gone through the “What If” section of the site, then you know what is in store for you, if not, then please allow me to tell you.

“What If” takes on absurd questions and provides answers to them in the most rational manner, and in the bargain ends up being funny. And then scientific explanations in the book are not difficult to grasp. They are simple and end up providing some good perspective.

The book may interest science freaks and at the same it might also interest people like me who know nothing about science and still aspire to. “What If” attempts to make science fun and it does succeed to a very large extent. There are some fascinating questions like: “What would happen if the Earth and all terrestrial objects suddenly stopped spinning, but the atmosphere retained its velocity?” and “Would it be possible to get your teeth to such a cold temperature that they would shatter upon drinking a hot cup of coffee?”

Most questions were also asked by a lot of readers and the book is a fantastic compilation of what is available on their site. “What if” is the kind of book that can be read from any page and you will definitely break into a guffaw or two.

Affiliate Link:

Buy What If

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Authors: John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN: 9780141346113
Genre: Teen, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I have always believed in the cause of LGBT literature. More so in my country and that is targeted at teens who are confused and need some more perspective and clarity on sexual orientation. It is a pity that that is not the case in India. There are so many teenagers who still struggle with being gay and do not know what to do about it. I also wish that more writers write about what they face with sensitivity and humour as it is clearly done in “Will Grayson, Will Grayson”.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is about two Wills and what happens when their lives converge. They are both in high school and each is facing his own demon. The book is special also because of Tiny Cooper – the gay teen who only wants to spread happiness and kindness and direct the most successful high-school musical of them all.

What works the most for the book is the joint writing by John Green and David Levithan. Both writers have distinct styles and this is what reflects on the pages as well. The writing is overwhelming, funny, and so real in so many parts and scenes. I am so glad that these two writers teamed up for this book. There are some brilliant secondary characters and the writers have made use of technology most aptly in the entire course of the book.

What I loved the most about the book is the honesty with which it is written. The lives of teenagers with all its confusion and chaos are accurately captured without it being over the top. The book has some beautiful moments when it seems that life is so simple and perhaps one can apply the same to one’s life; however that remains to be seen for a later date. “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” is all about being you and carrying on regardless of how life works out in the end.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Will Grayson

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson Title: The Innovators
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781471138799
Genre: Non-Fiction, Computers and Technology, Business and Investing,
Pages: 560
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I remember reading, “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson with great trepidation. I thought I would get bored. I thought I would not be interested in it for long. I thought these things and a lot of other things before I invested time in the book. I loved the book at the end of it, so much so that I thought there was not any need to pick up anything on “Steve Jobs”, since this book was most comprehensive. Walter Isaacson does it again this time with “The Innovators”.

There have been countless books written on the digitized revolution and the Silicon Valley. Walter Isaacson’s book is different in the sense that he takes a complete look at the innovators, the geniuses, the hackers, and the geeks and what they did and did not do to get the revolution going. “The Innovators” is a book which looks at everything – right from the start, to the middle and the future of entrepreneurs and creative geniuses.

“The Innovators” tracks the stories from the 19th century – to Lovelace and Babbage to the Ethernet and Xerox, the Manhattan Project, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs of course and Steve Wozniak. He covers almost all of these people and how their creativity helped them harness not only their goals, but also the clear and visible difference brought in an entire culture of people.

The writing is crisp and easy to understand. There are parts that do drag but one can overlook them in the larger scheme of the theme and essence of the book. The book is written with the view point of ideas. That is the core and essence of the book. The people of course play a very important role, but it is the ideas that take center-stage in a book like this.

Mr. Isaacson tells the story of individuals with brilliant ideas. There is sometimes collaboration of people, sometimes when people work on their own and yet at the end of it all, the reader is left with more clarity on them and the various eras in which different ideas were shaped and formed. One can then use the cliché and say then that the book is “well-researched”. The layout and the hyper-narration at times is perfect. The systematic building of concepts only lends to the overall effect of the book.

At some point, I thought that maybe some people were not included which could have been and some which perhaps did not need inclusion. The narrative is very strong and maybe again why one can see why the author could not have included everyone in the book.

“The Innovators” is one of those books that also help us to some extent see what technology could mean in the future and its implications. Overall, I would say that even if you are not a technology buff the book will appeal to you only from the point of view of knowing more about these people and the ideas they thought of. I highly recommend this one.

Here is the video of Walter Isaacson speaking about the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3umNPsKUnzA

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Innovators

And Then One Day : A Memoir by Naseeruddin Shah

And Then One Day by Naseeruddin Shah Title: And Then One Day: A Memoir
Author: Naseeruddin Shah
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 9780670087648
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 328
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

There are times you take stock of life. You evaluate what is there and what is not there. Perhaps one day we will all go through this. It is but eventual I think. While reading Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir, “And Then One Day”, this was my foremost thought. The book of course is written I guess keeping that in mind and at the same time, the tone of Mr. Shah is unique to him – sometimes brash, others haughty, sometimes also hypocritical, at other times contradictory and mostly funny and true. This is probably one of the reasons why I could not stop turning the pages.

“And Then One Day” to me is a mix of both, the man and the actor, after all one cannot separate one from the other, or maybe one can, which I am not aware of. The book chronicles the life of Naseeruddin Shah – from his childhood till his marriage to Ratna Pathak Shah. I think it is the candor with which it is written is what attracts the reader to the book and perhaps the credentials he holds as an actor.

The magnificence of the personality shines on every page. There is the struggle of becoming an actor to unabashedly admitting to roles done because he needed money. I must admit that sometimes I thought the tone was condescending and patronizing even, but the writing was so good that one can ignore that.

While I was reading the book for the first time (yes, I have read it twice), I thought it was ghost-written. However, it is not. The writing is clear, crisp and almost makes you picture incidents as you turn the pages. There are also a lot of times when Mr. Shah indulges in some self-deprecating humour which is also quite brilliantly written.

It is not easy to talk about one’s life. I am sure it is very cathartic and sometimes also brings back memories that you do not want to encounter. At the same time, there is a lot of clarity in the thought process of the writer about this book. Yes, there are times when there is a lot of back and forth between the past and present, but then I also think that this is the only way to write a memoir.

Mr. Shah excels at this book and it does not seem that he does not know how to write, like I mentioned earlier. The book is practical, it is real and it also comes from the heart so many times – especially when he is speaking of his daughter and his relationship with her. “And then One Day” is a book which talks about acting, the actor, the man, the human being and it does so with no holds barred.

Affiliate Link:

Buy And then One Day : A Memoir

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic Title: A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy
Author: Sarah Lazarovic
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780143124719
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 175
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Things are always at the crux of it all, sometimes what we really want and sometimes what we do not want at all and yet covet all of it, especially all of it. Some people want clothes. Some lust after antiques. Some after some other things. The point is that we all want more than what we can handle and perhaps afford. Sarah Lazarovic went through the same. She would buy, and buy and buy some more. There was always either an excuse round the corner or just another whim and fancy that needed to be pandered to. This visual book, “A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy” is a result of the essay written on minimalism and collecting and perhaps buying smart.

The Buyerarchy of Needs

The Buyerarchy of Needs

The book is funny and profound at so many levels. It speaks of what to buy, how to buy and also how not to buy. It is divided into three sections and each section leaves a very deep thought with the reader. I would not classify this book to be a serious read and at the same time it is not a fluffy read either. Sarah’s voice is casual which every reader can relate to. We all have gone down the road the purchase which ends in guilt and sometimes a colossal waste (actually most of the time).

Do the Right Things

Do the Right Things

“A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy” is a book which talks about shopping, consumerism, anti-consumerism and how to curb the urge to shop for everything in sight. It speaks of online shopping and how sometimes we get ahead of ourselves when it comes to buying what we maybe do not even need. The illustrations are magnificently done and weave in seamlessly with the content. I would recommend you read this book, if you, just like me have a problem with buying what you really do not need.

Affiliate Link:

Buy A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy

387 Short Stories : Day 293 : New and Second-Hand by Altaf Tyrewala

Engglishhh by Altaf Tyrewala

Today started with missing home, which I do almost every single day. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Bombay. Not a day goes by when I do think about the sea. And not to forget all the places where I shopped for books and soaked myself in those places.

Today’s story, “New and Second-Hand” by Altaf Tyrewala just brought back those memories – of school and college, when I would scrounge the streets for great literature and not to forget the very famous store, “New and Second-Hand Book Store” at Dhobi Talao (after which this story is named and dedicated to) which shut in 2011.

“New and Second-Hand” is a story of decline of a bookstore. It is the decline of literature and it is most vividly and bitingly told by Tyrewala. The language hits the spot. He speaks of a time gone by and that which is slowly declining. For me, growing up and being a Bombay boy meant to a large extent books being sold on pavements and those shops that one went to every weekend. The story is of a bookstore owner and how he knows that it is all going to end, given the times he lives in. He is bitter, lonely and loves books (contrary to what he says). He wants a companion and has given up on finding one. He lives in despair in Bombay, waiting for the bookstore to be sold.

The story is brilliantly told and I urge all of you to read it. It is a beautiful ode to the city and the times that were. I could not help but cry.

My favourite parts from the story:

“Reading used to be a step away from renunciation. Now it is another excuse to pick up unattractive lovers.”

“Such are the incidental joys of browsing. It takes a particular sort of personality to delight in the unexpected find, to take relish in stumbling upon something while seeking something else. I am sad to report that such a personality, receptive to serendipity, is now on the wane.”

Affiliate Link:

Buy Engglishhh : Fictional Dispatches from a Hyperreal Nation