Posted in <3 for books

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

This one came as a total surprise to my perception of Dan Brown’s Books.
The story revolves around Freemasonry and a hidden secret. Robert Langdon tries to decipher the hidden secret that has been guarded for generations by a family of Masons. The story starts off introducing a fierce villain and how he manipulates Langdon into believing and deciphering the hidden secret. The secret has the potential that can lead to “apocalypse”. Dan Brown creates a plot that sound very real and so very believable. He brings in interesting artifacts like Durer’s painting, Franklin Magic Square that are used to solve puzzles. The novel is thrilling and delivers an edge-of-your-seat suspense until you read two thirds of the book. But as you approach the end, when all the missing parts are explained, it just doesn’t seem to fit together.

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

As the story unfolds, the hidden secret which could potentially end the world if revealed, turns out to be something very obvious. The author doesn’t justify the necessity of hiding the secret, which is so easily accessible, behind unbreakable codes and protecting it through ages. However, he takes a lot of time proving that the secret could actually lead to disaster if fallen into the wrong hands. That was quite unconvincing.

The positive aspect of the novel is the plot that sounds so real. The Author uses the thin line between fiction and reality. His efforts in studying the elements of Freemasonry, The Architecture of Monuments, Holy books etc. bringing them into the story are commendable.

I truly enjoyed Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. May be it’s hard to write a series in the same genre. It is obviously not so easy to make a novel sound so real and at the same time make it a thriller. May be one’s expectation goes sky high after reading a good book like Da Vinci Code. You expect nothing less. However, I did have a great time reading as much as two thirds of the book and that is all that matters!

Posted in <3 for books

Immortal India – Amish

Amish begins his first non-fiction book by quoting a poetry by Allama Iqbal (translated):
Greek, Egyptian and Romans all vanished from this world, but we are still here,
There must be something special in us,
That we have not been erased from existence,
For the whole world has been against us for centuries.

Amish has picked some of his articles and speeches for this book. They are classified into History, Religion, Social Issues, Mythology (much expected!) and his Musings. He never fails to give a whole new perspective, this time on the issues bothering India at the moment. Be it on Caste-ism, Religious Violence or Corruption, he compels to take a step back and look at these issue in a simplistic, deeper way.

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I am quoting some of my favorite lines from the book:

First one being, his take on ‘Faith’:
When Amish was asked “At what stage does Mythology become Faith?”, his startling answer was “when you stop questioning!”. How true!

Another is from “Why I write”, where he talks about his motivation for writing. He recalls something his mother once told him:
If you find that your work itself gives you pleasure, and failure doesn’t fill your heart with sadness, and success doesn’t fill your mind with pride – that is when you know you are working in consonance with your soul’s purpose, your own “swadharma”.

Overall, it is a nice read, though you may not agree with some of his opinions, he does make you think! This being Amish’s first non-fiction book, it looks more like an experiment. Probably he should pick up the right subject, given that he is a great story-teller. All the three books I have read so far – Immortals of Meluha, Secret of the Nagas and Oath of the Vayuputras are extraordinarily brilliant!. What I discovered newly from this book is that, he is not just good at writing about mythology but is also great at describing his own life experiences. Giving preference to Passion over an ongoing career and making it work is actually a great thing in itself.

Posted in <3 for books

Walking Towards Ourselves – Catriona Mitchell

A highly underrated book in my opinion! This book contains excerpts from books of 20 different women writers. All these stories broaden our perspective and gives a new look at life. At least one story will definitely trigger some memories from the past. I would categorize this book among those you miss out a lot in life if you haven’t read it.

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My personal favorite is ‘Beyond Memories’ by  Salma, a Tamil poet and writer. She starts with a touching poetry (translated to English by Kalyan Raman)

“The monkey, sitting placidly on the tiled overhang with her sagging, distended belly and scratching her head, isn’t at all nervous about having to to find her own food, about the safety of the burden in her womb, or even about whose child it might be.”

Salma writes about different stages of her life, under the subheadings: My father, Preparing for marriage, The library and the cinema, A poet is born, Betrothal, Writing in secret, Betrayal and then, Freedom. 

Have women really attained freedom to make their own choices? If yes, are they making the right choices? The authors give you some perspective.

This book is a kaleidoscope of reflections of those in Bollywood to marital homes to survivors of cyclone in the Sunderbans. What is it like to walk in their shoes? What is it like to be a woman in India? The book tells you this and more.

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Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murthy

This is my third book by Sudha Murthy (after ‘Something Happened on the way to Heaven‘ and ‘Gently falls the Bakula‘) and this is the best, so far!

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The book is more like a travel down the memory lane along with Sudha Murthy. Most of them left me feel nostalgic and live my childhood again.

The book has eleven sections, each narrating a unique experience she cherishes. It starts with the meaningful impact of her work in the devadasi community. The shortcomings she had to face before the people of the community were convinced of her good intentions, shows the bent of mind and perspective necessary in order to understand the society. Helping 3000 Women come out of the devadasi practice and lead a normal life is commendable. Yes, the title of this book is derived from here.

There is also a whole section dedicated to Indian cinema, especially how people around the World adore Bollywood movies and songs. Most of her trips to a foreign land ended up with someone mentioning a Bollywood movie or a song.

I was unaware that lot of the vegetables we cook this day are not of Indian origin until I read this book. Many were actually brought in by travelers and traders years ago. Sudha Murthy speaks of the situation which lead to her discovering their origins. She also narrates many mythological stories about Akshayapatra, Trishanku Swarga. Her childhood memories living with her grandparents in Shiggaon, a town in Haveri District of Karnataka, her College days at BVB, Hubli and her journey since then is inspirational.

The one thing that this book will always remind me of, is her father’s strong Value system, his compassion and goodwill. The book is truly about Ordinary People leading Extraordinary lives!

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Home Front by Kristin Hannah

This book is about Love and War! It is about the hardships a woman serving in the Army undergoes. About balancing the needs of her family and the demands of her job.

When I was first recommended this book and I happened to read the synopsis, it didn’t really sound very extraordinary. But once i read about 10 pages i couldn’t put the book down. Kristin has a really charming way of taking the reader through the plot. Within no time I had started associating with the characters in the book.

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The book talks about war and about what the soldiers in the US Army went through, both at war and after returning from the horrors of the battle at Iraq. Kristin seems to have done her research to understand the plight of these soldiers in coming back to normal life after returning from war. She also addresses Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, and the kind of help needed upon their return from duty.

The story is about a couple having two kids who have lost their way over 12 years of marriage. The Author gives equal regard to every Point of View perfectly. Only a lot of research could have justified the characters to this extent and no doubt Kristin, being a lawyer by profession, has done a great job at it.

Kristin rightly says “It requires as much commitment and honor to hold a marriage together as to go off to war”.

A great book that everyone can relate to!

Posted in <3 for books

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor. E. Frankl

This book is about the Author’s journey out of a Holocaust! He talks about his struggle in the Nazi concentration camps. His experiences help in realizing the real meaning of life which may have got blurred in the shortcomings of everyday routines.

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What could be the Real meaning of my Life? There cannot be a better answer than Viktor Frankl’s.

Viktor Frankl writes:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We need to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly.

‘Life‘ does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and each situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situation in which a man finds himself may require him to shape his own fate by action. At other times, it is more advantageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemplation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes Man may be required simply to accept fate!”

He further writes that the best way to deal with life is to accept the situation and do the best you can, to turn it into something constructive. The following words are truly inspiring.

“saying yes to life in spite of everything” presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable. And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive. What matters is to make “the best” of any given situation!

Overall, the book is worth reading, mainly for the inspirational perspective of looking at Life and also for remarkably expressing the experience of living in the Concentration Camps. This book also contains a separate Chapter on Logotherapy which is another significant mention.