Book Review: The Book Thief

the_book_thief

What a book! The book thief by Markus Zusak is a story of a 9 nine year old girl Liesel in Germany during the time of World War II. Strangely the book is narrated by ‘death’. Initially it sounds a bit strange and creepy to see the world from the eyes of death whose job is to collect the souls of the dead. This is what it had been doing since forever. It is tired of doing so and wants a break. But then there is no substitute of death.

I knew about the WWII partially. But this book presents the actual life of the common peasants during those time. One can feel and visualize the hardships faced by the people. Scarcity of basic necessities. Ill treatment of the Jews. Concentration camps. Marches and parades. Horror dreams of the survivors. Watching near and dear ones die in front of one’s own eyes. War times. Death describes how war was very difficult time for it, as it had to collect so many souls of the dead…

The story is about Liesel who is abandoned by her parents to a foster family as they are unable to take care of their children. On the way Liesel watches her brother die and this memory haunts her for a long time. Her foster mother is a short tempered, talkative woman. There is a very beautiful relationship between her foster father and her. He patiently teaches her to read and write, which plays a major role in her life ahead. He is like a pillar of strength and support for her. She is friends with a neighbourhood boy Rudy and they have great times together. Numerous happenings of her life are described like.. Her school life. Football games in the evenings. Helping her Mama in the daily chores. And food of her life – reading. Sometimes the story seems so normal just like a regular day.. But then suddenly there is bombing and war. Probably that’s how even our life is… most of the part is routine life filled with happy and sad times in between..

The main thing which keeps Liesel sane in difficult times is her love for books. Papa teaches her to read and write initially. The progress is slow. But Liesel loves reading and very soon picks up. Together they read the same book multiple times every night. Her passion for reading is so strong that she starts stealing books and is thus called a book thief. Later on she writes her own story in the form of book which ultimately saves her life during WWII. This book shows the power of words on individuals and masses.

The book is about 550 pages. All the charecters are describes so well that they almost come to life in our minds. There is not much of suspense as readers can foresee some of the events (mainly deaths). Still the overall story builds up nicely. I would recommend reading it in a day or two to get the complete feel of the narration. It will make one think about life, death, friendship, love, challenges, hardships, inspirations and much more. More importantly how to find and then hold on to ray of hope in grim times.

“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this.”

Book Review – The Power Law of Information

the_power_law_of _information

How many times have you read a non-fiction book and you were left amazed with reality ? Well, “The Power Law of Information” is one of those books. We are all so busy with the day-to-day happenings in our life that sometimes we fail to see how some things affect us so powerfully and literally change our lives. One of those things is “information”. 2.7 Zetabytes of data exists in the digital universe today and it is growing at a very fast rate. Earlier information was not available so easily and effortlessly.  But today the easy availability of information has transformed our lives. This book shows how the huge availability (and sometimes the unavailability) of information affects us in different ways.

The book has been written in lucid and easy-to-understand manner. For the technical people, there are mathematical equations and lots of graphs for a better and in-depth understanding. However the best thing which i liked was that, even if one is not familiar with the mathematical stuff, one can easily get the gist of what the author wants to convey. There are lots of practical, real life examples and anecdotes. There are some case studies to validate the point. All this makes the book an interesting read and an eye-opener about the impact of information in our life. This book can be specially useful for the people who are intrigued by the Internet, the world wide web, the social networks or about information in general

Earlier it was believed that information networks are similar to physical or material networks. However it is clearly shown here that information networks have unique and different properties like information can be reused, it can be easily replicated etc which are not found in the material network. Information follows the power law, i.e. a small number of entities have a high value and a large number of entities have a small value. It is such a unique and important property that it has its place in the title of the book. Information networks are non-linear since people in the network interact with each other and may be connected in loops. It is also friction-less since the feedback fully affects the information network. Studying and predicting outcomes in such networks can be extremely complex but that’s the way reality is !

In this book, ‘information’ has been analyzed from all the perspectives. Firstly information itself and its properties and how it affects us is discussed. Various parameters which affect information and different ways to model information are studied. Also how we as humans can make beneficial use of this information despite our fallacies, biases and bounded rationality makes an interesting read. Other social factors like herd mentality and satisficing behavior are analyzed with some interesting examples. Money is also in some sense, information. The book concludes on the topic how money affects the world. There is a detailed bibliography and further reading for the interested readers. Overall it’s an amazing book filled with lots of practical examples and a great read over the weekend.

Book Review – Half a Rupee Stories

Half-a-Rupee-Stories-by-Gulzar

Half a Rupee Stories is a book written by Gulzar and translated by Sunjoy Shekhar. If you have ever heard a song written by Gulzar then i am sure you must be his fan ! He is a world renowned poet, lyricist and director. The language used by him is simple and easy to understand and most of all it has the power to touch the heart.

Half a Rupee Stories is a collection of 25 short stories. I will say that it is a collection of 25 gems. Each story touches the heart and leaves a message for the soul. It has real life lessons learned after years of experience. Some stories are filled with suspense and thrill while others highlight the various issues faced in life in a unique way. It has real life stories of Javed Akthar (his nick-name is Jaadu :)), Sahir Ludhianvi and Kuldip Nayyar. Many locations of the stories are located around the border regions. There are also some stories of  Mumbai. The best thing which i liked about this book is that it shows us how to find a bigger and higher meaning from our daily experiences. It shows how to look at life from a broader perspective. Thus i will say that this book is a must-read !

All the stories in a line –

  1. A story based of faith, trust and miracle.
  2. How 100 rupees changed someone’s life !
  3. A story of friendship.
  4. A story of slum for the perspective of the people living there.
  5. Rain and flood.
  6. A boat-cleaner can also be a king.
  7. A glimpse of the life of the people who live on the footpath.
  8. Connection across LoC.
  9. “Over”
  10. All for a ram fight !
  11. Hilsa fish and the newspaper headline.
  12. How wars affect lives and souls !
  13. Story from paradise-Kashmir.
  14. A freedom fighter’s life.
  15. A swayamwar.
  16. “Half a Rupee”
  17. God is a superman.
  18. Love story between a bird and a kite.
  19. Lessons from an orange.
  20. Earthquake.
  21. Shortcut, an accident, fate.
  22. The biggest pickpocket.
  23. Grandparents love.
  24. Grandpa’s love for grandchild.
  25. The transformation.

Book Review – The Fountainhead

Since a long time i was planning to read The Fountainhead. But my final semester exams, the thickness of the book and its small font prevented me from reading it earlier 🙂

But it was worth the wait. It is an awesome book. Ayn Rand the author has described all the characters of the book to such a minute detail that they literally come alive in front of the eyes.  It is a 1943 novel but almost all the scenarios described in it are valid even today. It is a bestseller and millions of copies have been sold all over the world in many languages. The book is mainly based on the life of two architects who compete, struggle and fight with each other to get success, money and recognition.

I specially loved the character of Howard Roark who maintains his individualism till any extent. He gives a speech in the end which is superb. Roark is an example of the type of person, a person should. Thus we can say that he is an ideal. His friend and college mate Peter is the opposite of him. He can fall to any extent to see himself good in others’ eyes. A term which i liked in this regard which has been coined in this book is second-hander i.e. a person who does everything to please others and is nothing by himself. Dominique’s speech in the courtroom again makes an awesome read.

This book has been added to my favorites 🙂 I just could not leave it once i started reading it. All the human sentiments from love, anger, revenge, jealousy, sacrifice … are filled in this book. Do read it when you get time. Its amazing ! I finally got how a bestseller should be 😀

Book Review – Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is a true story of Elizabeth Gilbert or ‘Liz’. This book motivates us to face all the challenges of life boldly, not to give up, to listen to one’s heart and most importantly to make ourselves content and happy. The book has been written in a very beautiful way. No doubt it is a bestseller.

Liz is married and has everything in life one can dream of. But she is not happy. So after struggling a lot she ends her marriage. After divorce she is filled with sorrow. She can’t see what is happening in her life. And thus she goes into depression. It is one of the most difficult phase of her life. She loses a lot of weight and thinks of self-destruction. Finally she realizes that no one else can make her happy. So she will have to make the efforts herself.

She always wished to learn Italian language. It had no specific reason but she just wanted because she liked it. Secondly through a friend she came to know about a spiritual guru whom she made her guru. She wanted to visit her ashram in India. Finally a few years back a medicine man had read her hand and told her that she would come back to Indonesia and he would teach her everything.

108 is considered to be a good number. So this book has 108 chapters. The book is divided into three parts each of 36 chapters. So Liz decided to take a one year break and spend 4 months each in Italy, India and Indonesia (3 I’s).

EAT
This part describes her stay in Italy. She learns Italian from a person there and teaches him English. She has a great time in Italy. She make a lot of friends. She spends most of the time eating 🙂 in Italy. Every day she visits new restaurants and enjoys a variety of sumptuous food like pizza and pastries etc. Slowly she starts feeling good and regains the lost weight.

PRAY
The next part of the story leads to India. She stays in an ashram near Mumbai. She learns meditation. In the beginning it is very difficult for her to meditate and concentrate. But slowly she learns everything. She discovers tranquility and peace within herself.

LOVE
The last part leads to Indonesia. There she again meet the medicine man. She helps a lady to buy a house for herself by asking all her friends to contribute. And finally she finds love again. She meets Felipe and both fall in love with each other. Since both are divorced they are not ready to marry immediately however both are ready to lead a happy life together.

To know more what happened after Eat Pray Love the author has written the book Committed. Overall EPL is a good book. You will enjoy reading it. And at some points you can easily relate with Liz. Happy Reading 🙂

Here’s the trailer of the Eat Pray Love movie –

 

Book Review – The Immortals of Meluha

It’s a page turner. If you have even have a little bit idea about the Indian mythology then you will surely enjoy it. Otherwise also it is good. Although i don’t judge a book from its cover, but its cover is impressive as the content itself. It very well depicts Lord Shiva with the strong well-built body, Trishul his weapon, his matted tresses, the string of Rudraksh beads on his hand and finally the backdrop of the mountain Kailash across the Mansarovar.

It is the story of Lord Shiva. His power, his strength, this courage, his sheer brilliance, everything is clearly portrayed by the author. The best thing that i found about this book is that i could actually visualize the complete narration (mostly i can do it :)). Another good characteristic about this book is that is has every emotion from thrill, love, adventure to suspense in the correct amount.

This book shows how a common man “Shiva” inspires and motivates the people and thus becomes their “Mahadev”. People have more trust in him than he has in himself. But he is able to live up to their expectations. The Indus valley civilization has been portrayed in an excellent way in the book. We can easily imagine the perfect society which existed thousands of years before the present day.

But the story does not end here with this book although a major phase is completed. It is continued in the second book by the same author titled “The secret of the Nagas“. Now i am eagerly waiting for some free time to read this book as well ! 🙂 I will add its review when i read it. I hope it will be as good as or better than this one 🙂

Book Review – I Dare

I Dare by Kiran Bedi

Recently i read I Dare by Kiran Bedi, and i can say that it is one of the most inspiring books (a biography) i have ever read. It is the complete story of the life of the first and highest ranked woman IPS (Indian Police Service) Officer of India. Kiran Bedi is the role model of numerous people. And through this book we can understand how she was able to win the hearts of millions of citizens of the nation.

The book begins with the family history of Kiran Bedi. Her parents were much ahead of the times. They sent all their four daughters to the best schools and encouraged them to participate in sports like tennis for their all round development despite the resistance from the elders in their family. Kiran Bedi won many awards in tennis. An important lesson which can be learnt from her is time management. She used to have a fixed schedule and never ever wasted a single moment. All her focus was on her studies and tennis practice.

She was the first woman IPS of India and was allocated the Delhi cadre. She lead the Delhi Police Contingent on Republic Day, 1975 and the then PM Smt. Indira Gandhi was impressed and called her for a breakfast meeting. She was impartial and never favoured anyone, whatever their rank or position. She towed the car of the PM which was parked in the no parking zone.

She worked in Delhi, Goa, Mizoram and Chandigarh. Everywhere she implemented her unique style of work. Always her main focus and the top most priority was the welfare of the citizens. She devised new ideas and methods to carry out the work effectively and efficiently. Thus she won numerous national and international awards. She always inspired her juniors to fulfill their duties towards the nation by working wholeheartedly.

Her work in the Tihar Jail won her the prestigious Magsaysay Award. The jail which was earlier a terrible, frightening place was converted into an Ashram. The prisoners were treated with a human touch. Classes were held by the NGOs where they could new languages, soft skills etc. Festivals of all the religions were celebrated with same fervor. Smoking was banned and thus the health of the prisoners improved. All this happened in a short duration and was possible due to the efforts put in by Kiran Bedi.

She was appointed as the ‘Cop of the World’ at the United Nations. She travelled a lot and grained a global perspective. When she came back she was expected to be appointed as the Police Commissioner. But the people inside always hated her and were jealous of her. So despite she being the highest and the most deserving candidate for the position, she was not selected for that post. As a result she resigned and took voluntary retirement.

But it did not stop her work but rather increased it. Now she works by herself without any pressure from anyone. She has started two foundations Navjyoti and India Vision Foundation which are doing some great work for the society. Currently she is an active member of the team Anna which is trying to get the Lokpal Bill passed in India.