Book Review: A Life on Our Planet

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A Life on Our Planet by Sir David Attenborough

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by David Attenborough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book like this can only be written by someone like Sir David Attenborough. He has not just written about the things elaborated in this book, but he has actually lived and experienced it. And this lifelong vision brings up long-term big picture which is clearly evident in this book.

The key takeaway of this book is that we humankind as a whole are close to the tipping point of long term sustainability and survival. If we continue to act in the way we have in the past with massive deforestation, melting snowcaps, ruining oceans, increasing global temperatures and more, the future is bleak. However, we are smart and innovative and have solved grand challenges in the past and we are capable of doing that now. It is an urgent need of the hour to work in ways such that we can sustainably coexist on the only place we know, our planet Earth!

The book is wonderfully organized. It starts with a section on the experiences of Sir David Attenborough around the planet, of his journeys around the world capturing wildlife on camera so that we could watch it from home. It is like reading NGC / Discovery! However, the adverse effects of exponential unsustainable growth are evident and presented with real-life examples. The next section looks at the future and predicts what will happen if we proceed to act as though everything’s fine. And the picture is definitely scary! Next section is how we the mankind can take steps in order to move towards an alternate version of a more sustainable future with a lot of biodiversity and where everyone can coexist. And it is presented in very well defined indicators. It is almost like a dashboard of key factors on which our survival depends which is called the doughnut model. Final section highlights how building a sustainable future is the greatest opportunity for our generation indeed! We can together build the future we imagine!

Major changes are required in many aspects of our lives, like adopting a plant based diet, recycling every thing that is used, using clean energy, minimizing carbon footprint and in general empowering everyone around the world. And it won’t be sufficient if just some people do it. We need to build a system where it makes sense and is possible for everyone to adopt such lifestyle. Thus everyone including the government, agencies, regulatory bodies and individuals need to come together will a common initiative to build a future we want.

Only when we give back more than we take, can we bring back balance in the ecosystem. In the past, drives for saving a specific species have worked, now it’s time to take steps for the “whole natural world”. We are not “saving the Earth” but rather “saving ourselves” by building a sustainable future.

Profound and highly insightful book! One of my best reads of 2020!

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Book Review: Cities and Canopies

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Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities by Harini Nagendra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fun and informative book with details of not just the trees of Indian cities but with lots of childhood memories, historic events, poems and recipes interleaved! Reading this book feels like talking with fellow nature loving friends. Although it is an easy read, it is well researched and has been written by authors who are expert ecologists and researchers in this area. I throughly enjoyed reading this book and came to know of many interesting facts which I wasn’t aware of.

Some of the most common trees like banyan, peepul, tamarind, palm among others are covered. Apart from the usual facts, there are references to different events which happened in context of trees, references of some of these trees which can be found in our scriptures, how they have evolved over time to become part of the system, poems written by some famous poets around trees and also fun dishes which can be made using parts of these trees.

Along with trees, overall ecosystem around the trees is also discussed. From birds and insects which reside on trees, the effect of trees on environment, how tree plantations and grooves were protected by the commons in the past, movements to save trees, positive effects of having trees around to medicinal properties of parts of trees, everything is are covered.

This book also took me down the memory lane. While reading the authors’ stories of games played around trees I was reminded of the great times I had with friends around trees. From climbing trees and riding it as ships, playing hide and seek among trees, collecting raw mangos and guavas, collecting caps of eucalyptus flowers and many more memories.

This broad perspective with respect to trees makes us aware and ponder on trees around us. It highlights how important and urgent it is to have trees specially in the concrete jungles of cities. I’ll definitely be more cognizant of trees in my future walks. Almost everyone likes trees, but this book can rekindle our love for trees and a green surrounding in general! Hoping for a second part of this book covering more trees (specially mango tree) and more stories and events around trees!

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Book Review – Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever thought of a comic book about maths, philosophy and logic? Well that’s what this is! It’s a fun and cool comic based on the life of Bertrand Russell which is almost close to reality. We see how the foundations of logic and maths were laid by eminent people during that time amid war and strife. Overall it’s an interesting read with some pretty nice graphics! Also it’s a quick read. I guess it is even more fun if one has read or studied some of the concepts discussed here atleast at a high level. Would love to read more books like these which depict science stories via comics!

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Book Review: The Midnight Library

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The Midnight Library by
Matt Haig

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, it’s an amazing book with a very unique storyline!

In the beginning, it is a bit slow and glum, and I’m happy I didn’t leave the book at that point. Actually the story is just building up initially.

The lead of the story, Nora, is just tired of her life and her life is filled with regrets. On a particularly bad day when a lot of things turn out badly for her, she just loses hope and meaning to live and decides to take her own life.

However, there’s a twist and that’s where the book begins. Between life and death, she reaches a library, where there are infinite books where every book is a version of her life from the current point onwards. She can choose any book and try out a different life! And come back to the library when a particular life is too much for her and try another one.

This part makes an interesting read and we understand many aspects of Nora’s personality and life, like her dreams and ambitions, her family and friends, her personal and professional life. And while experiencing multiple Nora’s lives, even we have many lessons to learn on the way. It highlights the importance of following one’s dreams rather than someone else’s dreams. It shows that a life with name, fame or money might not always be how we thought it would be. Sometimes how small and insignificant things in our opinion, might turn out to be so important. It shows the importance of meaning, direction and hope in life. And finally, most importantly, that we are the sailors of our life and we can always change the direction where we are heading! We might not always get what we expected but we have the power to choose what we should do next.

The book has some nice lines, which are quote worthy, some of my favorites are:
* “Sometimes the only way to learn is to live.”
* “And there is no right way to play; there are many ways. In chess, as in life, possibility is the basis of everything.”
* “If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you.”
* “In becoming everyone, you are becoming no one.”
* “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
* “We don’t have to do everything in order to be everything, because we are already infinite.”

Also, it has a great ending!

Overall, it’s a thought-provoking book which makes us ponder on our lives. Ofcourse it has some sadness and despair but it also highlights the transformative power of being oneself! It touches on #MentalHealthAwareness so well!

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Book Review: The Book Thief

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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.”

Are you free ?

Free time can be fun. So many things can be done like …

  • Surfing
    This is the most common thing we do when we have an internet connection. Just surf the net and hours fly by. From music, games, information to social networking everything is at the fingertips (sometimes simultaneously going on in different tabs 🙂 ).
  • Reading
    Reading books is one of the best things that can be done in free time. Reading broadens one’s outlook, increases vocabulary, teaches new things and thus it is one of the most fruitful things that can be done.
  • Thinking
    Yes funny but true. 🙂 In free time you can think. Think about the past or dream of the future. It is one of my favorite things done in free time.
  • Doing Nothing
    Even this is one of the things which can be done in the free time. Just relax and do nothing at all.
  • Sleeping
    Some people love sleeping. I have seen people who can sleep 12-15 hours continuously. So give them some free time they doze off 🙂 !
  • Listening to music
    If you are free then plug in your earphones and enjoy. Listen to calm or rock, jazz or pop, classical or western music. The choice is all yours !
  • Playing a game or going for a walk
    Play a game like badminton, tennis, chess, carrom or anything else that you enjoy. If you have no partner then just go for a walk. Take a  stroll and feel the freshness.
  • Talking
    Talk to someone close or else try talking to stranger :D. Spend some quality time with your loved ones.

These and many more things can be done in free time ! So what do you do when you are free ???