Book Review: The Innovators

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Author: Walter Issacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN13: 9781471138799
Genre: Non fiction
Pages: 560
Source: Flipkart

A few decades ago, the very thought of having a world of information at our fingertips was unimaginable. The Internet and computers have changed the world forever, bringing a technological revolution with them to sweep us into the twenty-first century. However, the conception of these magnificent creations was a long process. It took the minds of geniuses whose ideas had the potential to turn heads and garner attention. These men and woman shaped the world into its current form with their ideas and inventions. Walter Isaacson begins with the story of Ada Lovelace, the woman who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He goes on to tell the stories of others like her, giants such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J. C. R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page.

The Innovators is an appropriately modest title, because many of the problems solved seem tiny on their own: a different configuration of electrodes, putting a film on a silicon wafer. Much of this is home cooking, solving everyday puzzles with the tools at hand. The story moves from science to the military to management, and the book is half over before the first lawsuit appears, after which they proliferate. The story also tends to travel from East to West. A subtheme is the overthrow of authoritarian chief executives and their besuited courtiers. The casualizing and revaluing of the business world by Silicon Valley cowboys is a founding myth of the tech industry, even as its CEOs grow ever more powerful.

In The Innovators Isaacson identifies several virtues that were essential to his geeky heroes’ success. The digital pioneers all loathed authority, embraced collaboration and prized art as much as science. Though its lessons may be prosaic, the book is still absorbing and valuable, and Isaacson’s  narrative talents are on full display. Few authors are more adept at translating technical jargon into graceful prose, or at illustrating how hubris and greed can cause geniuses to lose their way.

Walter Isaacson is an American biographer known for his books Kissinger: A Biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Einstein: His Life and Universe and Steve Jobs. He graduated from Harvard University and during his stay, he was President of the Signet Society, a member of the Harvard Lampoon and a resident of Lowell House. He later went on to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, reading Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). He has also served as the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the Managing Editor of Time.

The Innovators is about how a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. Its a must read for anyone and everyone looking to be inspired.

Rating 5/5

Book Review: Under Delhi

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Author: Sorabh Pant
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350098097
Genre: fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Flipkart

Under Delhi is a story of Tanya Bisht, a girl from Delhi who works as a sales executive with a construction company. Her regular day job doesn’t stop her from having a very exiting night life. That with a twist. She is a vigilante With the help of a faceless person simply known as Soniaji, she gets at the men who have wrongly gotten off from the law. Tanya is our very own desi aversion of cat woman, with out the suit and the whip. The story cruises through the dark alleys of Delhi, revealing more about the protagonist and her tryst with being a woman in the capital city.

The plot in simple and the narrative uncomplicated. Being a master of satire the author expects you not to just read the lines but also between them.  He takes no prisoners with his hilarious flair shooting at wise politicians and holy men who say girls who are raped are merely “asking for it”. He even has the president’s son in his line up, for giving out fashion advice to women so they can avoid getting raped. The best shot is taken at a white bearded man who came up with the fail safe of calling your would-be rapist bhaiya which will lead to him being  filled with brotherly remorse, letting you go.

Sorabh Pant is an Indian stand-up comedian and writer. He is best associated with his comedy specials: Pant on Fire and Traveling Pants as well as for founding The East India Comedy, a company which recruited some of India’s best known stand-up comedians. He has also written a fictitious and comic novel on life after death in his debut: The Wednesday Soul.

The book is a light read. In keeping with Sorabh’s style it hold your attention to the cause with a dash of humour added to taste.

Rating: 3.5/5

P.S. If you haven’t had enough of Sorabh Pant with this book, you can watch him in  “Men are from Bars” on 15th November 2014 at the NCPA Mumbai.

Book Review: Shikhandi: And Other Stories They Don’t Tell You

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin And Zubaan
ISBN13: 9789383074846
Genre: Mythology
Pages: 179
Source: personal copy

 

Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You Book Review : Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik, is about the presence of homosexuals,  lesbians, queers, transsexuals, eunuchs and middle genders in the Hindu mythology. These are the stories that are untold, even when homosexuality was appreciated and accepted in those times. Queerness isn’t modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. Take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife, Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver his devotees child, Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband, Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend, and many more. The harmony of queerness in the Hindu culture is the highlight of each of the thirty stories. “Patriarchy asserts men are superior to women. Feminism clarifies women and men are equal. Queerness questions what constitutes male and female.”

In the first half of the book, Devdutt establish the context of Queerness from the global mythological sphere bringing stories from Vikings, Egyptian Gods, Bibliographic readings and Chinese legends. In the second part, he brings stories that challenges our preset perception on sexuality. Every incident the book shares as indicative of the presence of a middle gender or a non-heterosexual conduct comes from various ancient sources such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, present folklores, texts of South Indian authors & sages, Sangam Literature, Jain Texts, Buddhist Texts etc.

The sheer amount of research done by the author makes the book a masterpiece. Devdutt Patnaik is a Doctor. He worked in the Pharma Industry for 15 years. After that he became an author. With more than 50 books and 500 articles under his belt, Mr. Pattanaik writes about Mythology in the light of today’s times. All his books are illustrated by him too.

I am a big fan of the ace mythologist. He effortlessly manages to throw a new light on stories that have been told and retold time and again. Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You Book Review : Shikhandi by Devdutt Pattanaik is another addition to that list.

“Time for empathy, and expansion of the mind. Appreciate the stories of sensuous men and women, celibate men and women. More importantly, appreciate the different context in which celibacy was celebrated and the different context in which the dance of the enchantress was celebrated. Even more importantly, appreciate the vast volume and diversity of India, where things have never been static, where things are never static, where the past and the present coexist simultaneously, the liberal coexists with the conservative, the wise next to the most unfair.” says Devdutt.

I say touché!

Rating 4.5/5

Book Review: Runner

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Author: Patrick Lee
Publisher: Penguin UK
ISBN13: 9781405914994
Genre: Fiction/ Sci fi
Pages: 464
Source: Flipkart

Runner by Patrick Lee is a chase thriller surrounding a young girl and a soldier who was in the right place at the wrong time. Sam Dryden, retired special forces, lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Southern California. While out on a run in the middle of the night, a young girl runs into him on the seaside boardwalk. Barefoot and terrified, she’s running from a group of heavily armed men who are trying to kill her. After Dryden helps her evade her pursuers, he learns that the eleven year old, for as long as she can remember, has been kept in a secret prison by forces within the government. But she doesn’t know much beyond her own name, Rachel. She only remembers the past two months of her life and that she has a skill that makes her very dangerous to these men and the hidden men in charge.Dryden, who lost his wife and young daughter in an accident five years ago, agrees to help her try to unravel her own past and make sense of it, to protect her from the people who are moving heaven and earth to find them both.

The author has written a very exciting science fiction thriller. It is a fast paced story, with characters that you connect to and immediately like. You want to see Sam and Rachel get through this together. There is plenty of high-speed action, so the book is a fast read. There is no time to take a breather, its like you are running with the characters. The only thing going through your mind then is DON’T. GET. CAUGHT. which also happens to be the tag line of the book.

Patrick Lee  is the author of three previous novels – The Breach (A New York times best seller), Ghost Country and Deep Sky. This is the first book in the Sam Dryden series.

Runner is a perfect blend of action, science fiction and drama. A great read for anyone who likes thrillers. The twist and turns in the plot hold your attention and leave you with a adrenaline high. Recommended for everyone who enjoys that flavour.

Rating 4.5/ 5

Book Review: Lethal Spice

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Author: Swati Kaushal
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350097694
Genre: Fiction/ Crime Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy

‘Lethal Spice’ is a crime thriller set in the backdrop of a reality cooking show. It is October in Shimla. The air is crisp the mist is rising and the stakes are sky-high as the finalists of “Hot Chef” are pitted against each other in a live shoot at the historic gaiety theatre. A hundred-year-old stage steeped in tradition. Six contestants with a world to gain and everything to lose. Three judges who stand between them and their dreams. The spices are ground the fires are lit the knives have been sharpened. Then things start to go horribly wrong. Mala Joseph, judge and former winner of the reality show dies on stage. Shimla’s superintendent of police Niki Marwah is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of a perplexing mystery.

This is the second appearance of Niki Marwah in Swati Kaushal’s books. She is one of the very well etched characters. A confident police officer who commands the respect of not only those working for her, but also her superiors is a perfect protagonist. She stands out distinctly even when the other characters are very well written. Each of them is described in detail. From the personalities of the contestants to the emotions flowing around, the author has done a brilliant job at descriptions. The second half of the book twists before it ends, ticking all the right boxes on the crime thriller check list. The pace at which things happen is what keeps you hooked. Its just apt. Any faster and it would over speed, any slower and the reader would lose interest.

Swati Kaushal is the author of three best selling novels ‘Piece of Cake’, ‘A Girl Like Me’ and ‘Drop Dead’. An alumni of lady Sri Ram College, New Delhi and a MBA from IIM Calcutta, Swati has worked with Nestle India and Nokia mobile phones, India. While her home is in Connecticut, she is more often to be found wandering the secret gullies and mohallas of a good book, a cup of elaichi chai in hand.

I picked up Lethal Spice with a “I know the butler did it” kind of a mindset, but it ended up making my weekend perfect. Its a very well cooked spicy story with a brilliant after taste.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: Sita, An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana

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Author: Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143064329
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 328
Source: Personal Copy

Ramayana is one of the two mythological Indian epics that have been told and retold over the years. It is the story of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha. He was the heir to his kingdom, an empire. Yet, due to the malice prevalent in the palace, the Prince was exiled for fourteen years. The Ramayana is all about obeying the rules and laws of Dharma, even at the cost of personal loss and unhappiness. She plays a prominent role in the epic, but is a very quiet and restrained character. Her abandons her in the end because of the persistent gossip among his subjects about Sita’s fidelity. Sita remains quiet, does not lose her composure, and does not vocally demand retribution. Sita’s silence is not the silence of the weak. It is the silence of the ascetic, who knows the truth, and so is patient. She knows her husband loves her, and she is indispensable to him. Moreover, she knows she is the Goddess who makes him the God, the woman who makes him the whole man.

The book explores the enigma of Sita and explains her real strength of character. “The journey to discover Sita makes you realize that the Ramayana is not a book, as most people assume, but a vast tradition manifesting itself in written, oral and visual traditions. And for some reason, children of India have been kept away from it. Yes, we are told of the Valmiki Ramayana, but we are not told that there are several versions of this original story itself a northern version, a southern version, an eastern version, which have barely a third of the verses common between them. Then there are Sanskrit plays written by dramatists like Bhasa and Bhavabhuti where Ram is a great hero, not necessarily God. Then we find Ramayanas of the Jains, the Buddhists as well as from South East Asia, which retell the same story but with a very different emotion. From the tenth century onwards we find the Ramayana in each and every Indian language, written by several authors, in different scripts, with different styles, all deeply immersed in bhakti. It is through these regional narratives, not the Sanskrit ones really, that ideas related to love, valour, fidelity and wisdom spread to every corner of India.” says Devdutt Pattanaik  in an exclusive article for Flipkart

Devdutt Pattanaik is a doctor who became a writer. Other books by this author include Business Sutra: A Very Indian Approach to Management, 7 Secrets of Vishnu, Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata, The Book of Ram, and Hanuman’s Ramayan.

Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana is a brilliant read. The illustrations add character to it. It makes you rethink the pre-set social norms of right and wrong. Devdutt is a master story teller. With this book he gives detailed insights about stories that have been told for ages. Yet again he effortlessly manages to makes you fall in love with mythology.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Sita’s Curse, The Language of Desire

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Author: Shreemoyee Piu Kundu
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN13: 9789350097809
Genre: Fiction/ Erotica
Pages: 344
Source: Personal Copy

It is the story of Meera, a middle class housewife, her life and sexual longing. A girl who is burdened by the weight of a dead marriage. Struggling between her own sexual needs and the non existent affections of her husband, she tries to hide her feelings and desires, managing to survive on her memories and fantasies alone for fifteen years. However, she cannot take the pain of her lusty, sensual body going to waste as her husband cannot make love to her. Her constant search for fulfilment leaves her unsatisfied every time. Until one cataclysmic day in Mumbai, when she finally breaks free. Bold, brazen and defiant, Sitas Curse looks at the hypocrisy of Indian society and tells the compelling story of a middle-class Indian housewifes urgent need for love, respect, acceptance and sexual fulfillment.

The plot is explicit and detailed. Erotic from the prologue itself. The authors weaves, lust, desire, sex and sexual frustration neatly around the narrative. she evokes emotions from the reader. You feel the need, want, sorrow and hatred the characters feel in the book. It makes you sad sometimes, but soon brings you back with a hint of hope.

The author takes up some of the things that are considered as taboo, those that are not discussed and that are usually not looked at or given a thought to like the sexual longings of a woman, impotence, and marital rape. She has also incorporated the Mumbai deluge in the plot. The ugly face of the society is brought up front, and in very ironic manner.
The books makes you sit upright and take notice of things around you. It challenges the everything that has been taken for granted. Faith, Love, marriage, sex and desire are all dragged to the questioning.

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is an Indian erotica writer. She has also written under the alias of Aranyani. A former Lifestyle editor and PR head, she has also written: A Pleasant Kind of Heavy and Other Erotic Stories, You’ve Got The Wrong Girl and Cut!. She is currently working on her next book, a political tragedy entitled Rahula.

Its about time that erotica makes its presence felt on the bookshelves in the land of Kama Sutra. Sita’s Curse is erotica with the classic Indian flavour being one of the foremost there. The book needs to be read not only with open eyes but also with an open mind.

Rating: 3/5