Daily Archives: September 20, 2011

Book Review: Beyond the MBA Hype: A Guide to Understanding and Surviving B-Schools by Sameer Kamat

Title: Beyond the MBA Hype: A Guide to Understanding and Surviving B-Schools
Author: Sameer Kamat
Publisher: Harper Business, Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-9350290781
Genre: Business
Pages: 200
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Sameer Kamat’s “Beyond the MBA Hype: A Guide to Understanding and Surviving B-Schools” comes as a welcome addition to the world of books. The reason I say this is while growing up we didn’t have such books to refer to. There was no hand-holding so to say. You were thrown in the big bad world and you either swam through or drowned. There was no direction.

MBA has been an integral part of the Indian Education System (or so it seems on the surface). Parents have always encouraged their children to pursue Master of Business Administration as “that’s where the money is”, and with education being turned into a battlefield everyone jumps on wearing their armour, assuming that they are ready for battle. However, it is a total different ball when the applications are turned in. The very optimistic and confident students are baffled when they don’t get accepted. Questions swarm the mind: Where did I go wrong? What could have been done better? What was wrong with my essay, so on and so forth.

Sameer Kamat’s book tries to provide direction to how to get into a B-School and understand its working. He lists down the essentials needed to impress the admission committee: What is it that they want? They do not want someone who knows business like the back of his hand, but the basics are needed. The necessary GMAT Score is much needed and wanted by B-Schools. They tend to gauge the candidate’s 50% of brain power through this.

Communication skills are the next thing they look for. The essays are the crux at this stage. What should it contain? What should it convey? How should it be written? All of that and most importantly the clarity and the length of the essay. Last but not the least what is required is Creativity. The ability to do things differently as the cliché goes.

Sameer Kamat does a wonderful job of explaining the nitty-gritties of getting in though I feel that it could have been fleshed out better. The list of common clichés is well laid out and will exactly tell the candidate what not to do. I found the book to be an effective handbook of sorts to gear the candidate and may be to a certain extent also gives hope for that entry into a B-School.

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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Publisher: Harvill Secker, Random House UK
ISBN: 978-1846555244
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I am not the one who would willingly read novels from the fantasy genre. Somehow fantasy and I don’t go together. However, when I received a copy of The Night Circus, I knew this book was unlike any other fantasy book. In fact, I would say it charmed the pants off me. The Night Circus is a breath-taking book and I cannot help but gush and rant about it. It is that brilliant.

The story follows Marco and Celia, two young children pitted against each other by their older and clearly vaguely amoral guardians. A game is set up, a game to which the rules are unclear and the winner can take decades to determine.

These two young people are raised unconventionally, studying magic under their tutors’ philosophies, all the while knowing there will be a competition between the two of them some day. Enter impresario Chandresh Lefèvre, who has imagined something wondrous. He explains:

“More than a circus, really, like no circus anyone has ever seen. Not a single large tent but a multitude of tents, each with a particular exhibition. No elephants or clowns. No, something more refined than that. Nothing commonplace. This will be different, this will be an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses. Theatrics sans theater, an immersive entertainment. We will destroy the presumptions and preconceived notions of what a circus is and make it something else entirely, something new.”

Their arena? But of course the Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams). But the plot focuses on more than just the battle between these two (which involves snow gardens, wishing trees and mazes) it looks at the dynamics of all the relationships that exist as a result of this game; and the effect the game has on the wellbeing of the characters.

Some characters flourish within the confines of the circus whilst others go decidedly downhill, struggling with the concept that their lives do not fully belong to them, that they are being manipulated in ways they could never have imaged. Poppet and Widget were by far my favourite characters, children of the Night Circus, they are gifted and not entirely what you would expect from normal children. I loved the way Bailey was fitted into the plot; it was subtle and very elegant.

The circus, it is said, “arrives without warning.” Not so this novel. There have been all kinds of pre-pub buzz and hype for this title. There’s a reason; this book is so special that almost all who read it take note. Ms. Morgenstern’s tale transcended the page and brought true enchantment to my oh-so-ordinary life. As it happens, one of the characters could be speaking for the author herself:

“I find I think of myself not as a writer so much as someone who provides a gateway, a tangential route for readers to reach the circus. To visit the circus again, if only in their minds, when they are unable to attend it physically. I relay it through printed words on crumpled newsprint, words they can read again and again, returning to the circus whenever they wish, regardless of time of day or physical location. Transporting them at will.”.

It’s amazing that this is Morgenstern’s first novel, the writing is haunting and fanciful; befitting of such an enigmatic circus. She handles the descriptions of the various circus tents and acts beautifully, it is never monotonous hearing about the circus, in fact, I wish she’d publish a whole separate book outlining each and every detail. She ties all the elements together with a grace that seems effortless.

Some have compared The Night Circus with Audrey Niffenegger and yes, I can see slight similarities given that both authors are visual artists. Others mention Alice Hoffman and yes, I can see some elements in common but Erin Morgenstern has created a unique world with the Cirque de Rêves and for those who are on the right wavelength she has provided a pathway to a singularly enchanting universe, one in which my inner child revelled. Highly recommended for all “reveurs”/dreamers.

Here is the gorgeous book trailer:

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Book Review: Hiding Out by Jonathan Messinger

Title: Hiding Out
Author: Jonathan Messinger
Publisher: Featherproof Books
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN: 978-0977199235
Pages: 183
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Hiding out is a weird book – a happy weird book. It makes you want to read more stories like the ones in the book, but in vain! One has to wait for the next Jonathan Messinger to be published. I am a total and huge fan of the short story form. I honestly believe that every living writer should follow and apply the craft of short story writing before venturing to the novel form. In my opinion it only is needed to hone and work on the craft of writing. To make it more lucid and sketch better characters and plots. It is after all not easy to encompass an idea or a thought in four pages and emerge a winner at the end amongst the readers.

Hiding Out by Jonathan Messinger is one such book. It took me a while to get into the book. The way it is written is radically different and a regular reader may take some time to absorb and get familiar with the style. Having said that, once that happens, then it would be very difficult to tear the reader away from the book. The book is about stories centred on people – regular people who are avoiding the consequences of their poor decisions – their unknown errors and now they do not want to face the outcome and trying to connect at the same time, which on one hand is quite ironic and on the other, it is as real as they come.

A jilted lover dresses as a robot to win his ex back. A man builds a time machine to embrace the identity he always denied (This holds true for so many of us). A zoo has a latest addition – a man-eating wolf. A teenager finds the key to everlasting life in a video game. It is as though the characters do not somehow have a life of their own.
Jonathan’s writing is crisp and to the point.

The short stories do not occupy more than three pages and yet as I reader, I wanted to read more of a couple of stories. The rhythm to the writing is easy and does not change. The stories on the other hand will surprise you, make you laugh, cry and shock you as well. The range of emotions will be experienced and will leave you wanting for more. The stories are just more than thought provoking, they just make you reflect on your life at some point as well.

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Hiding Out