To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, November 22, 2013

Books, books, books...

A friend recently asked me about my reads.  Going through my past reads mentally, I realized they are a ‘peculiar’ list of fiction & non-fiction.

On economic/financial topics 
  • I’m a fan of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, one of the most cerebral writers in my opinion (I devoured ‘Black Swan’, read up part of ‘Fooled by Randomness’).  Surprising to know he was a ‘quant’ i.e. a financial market trader!
  • I also read up ‘The Big Short – Inside the Doomsday Machine’ by Michael Lewis on the 2008 US banking crisis, which reads like a thriller! (I also started on 'Freefall' by noted economis Joseph Stiglitz on the same subject but found it too dry!).
  • The World is Flat’ by NYT columnist Thomas L. Friedman, about interpreting the global economic liberalization and ‘connectedness’.
  • Some others like ‘Economic Naturalist’, and ‘Freakonomics’, giving an everyday twist to seemingly complex economic phenomena.  
  • My readings on business topics include books like ‘Execution’, ‘Good to Great’, ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, ‘24 Carrot Manager’,etc.
  • Books on general interest topics like 'Eats Shoots & Leaves' (a hillarious take on incorrect language & punctuation) and by the same author 'Talk to the Hand' (on the prevailing general misbehaviour patterns), 'The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari', etc.

On fiction, during my college/early career days, I used to read authors like
Then, after a longish hiatus, I again took up some classics 
But I also read up
  • Lord of the Rings’ trilogy (after having watched the movies) - (a) found the books contained far more content than the movies, and (b) the allusions to human nature and behaviour were timeless.
  • Almost all of Sherlock Holmes, the cerebral detective of early 20th century London.
  • Quite a few Agatha Christie detective stories, including a large collection of 'Hercule Poirot' and some of 'Miss Marple'.
  • The 2nd and last three of Harry Potters series (have watched the full series of course).
  • Quite a few of Dan Brown’s - ‘Da Vinci Code’ of course, ‘Angels & Demons’, ‘The Lost Symbol’, ‘Digital Fortress’, ‘Deception Point’ - before I lost interest in the genre.
  • Siva trilogy by Amish - I think the last one ‘Oath of the Vayuputras’ was somewhat of an anti-climax, though perhaps in line with the created mythology.
  • A few of the 'Ramayana' (e.g. 'The Vengeance of Ravana') and 'Mahabharata' (e.g. 'The Forest of Stories') series of Ashok Banker
  • Sci-fi series by Isaac Asimov - reading one of the ‘Foundation’ series these days.
  • And Arthur C. Clarke - a couple of the ‘Odyssey’ series, and his ‘Rama’ series which starts with pure science fiction but by ‘Rama Revealed’ metamorphoses almost into theology (the same can perhaps be said of '3001: The Final Odyssey')
  • Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Sea of Poppies’ (which alludes to the Opium Wars around China in 19th century); also started on the sequel ‘River of Smoke’ but couldn’t finish, before I had to return it to my online library)
  • A few of Jhumpa Lahiri's books ('Namesake' - also watched the movie, 'Unaccustomed Earth'), including the Man Booker longlisted 'Lowland'
  • Also Booker winner 'Life of Pi' (recently made into a movie).
  • A few thrillers like 'The Fourth Protocol', the first two of 'The Girl...' millennium series (got put off later) and the first of the Japanese 'Ring' trilogy.
  • Some Indian 'chiklit' novels, including a few by Chetan Bhagat - 'Five Point Someome', 'One Night at the Call Centre', 'Three Mistakes of My Life' (the three made into Hindi movies, with 'Three Idiots' partially based on the first one a huge hit, and 'Kai Po Chhe' based on the last one also a moderate hit); 'The Incredible Banker'.
Apart from ‘series’ books, I’ve read a whole lot of others, for instance
and so on,  which I’ve lost count!

That's for English. I also used to be an avid Hindi reader, though not necessarily established tomes, but in olden times I've read a few of Munshi Premchand.

And in Bangla, I've read up
  • Satyajit Ray's series of 'Pheluda' detective stories - very evocative of the place where the stories are set (for instance, even 20 years later I found Kathmandu to be quite similar to the place described in 'Joto Kando Kathmandu-te'!).
  • Ray's 'Professor Shonku' stories - about the eccentric scientist dealing with strange inventions and phenomena.
  • A few by noted litterateur Bibhuti Bhushan Bandhopadhyay - 'Pather Panchali' (made into the famous trilogy of movies by Ray), 'Adarsha Hindu Hotel', 'Ichhamati' (started) - simple stories but incredibly evocative of early 20th century rural Bengal/Bangladesh.
  • Nihar Ranjan Gupta's 'Kalo Bhromor' stories featuring the intrepid detective 'Kiriti'.
  • And Sharadindu Bandhopadhyay's detective 'Byomkesh Bakshi' (made into a popular TV series and also a few movies recently).
  • Stories of well-known Bangla novelist Sunil Gangopadhyaya (including the ones serialized in 'Desh' magazine).
These are the ones I can recall right now.  Doubtless, there are countless other books I'd have read over the years and lost track of.

When my interests 'bent' towards a certain direction, I started with 'Autobiography of a Yogi' (an international bestseller) and a host of other books by the same author (including interpretations of Bhagwadgita and 'Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' which come up with quite surprising insights).  But then that's a completely different journey...

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