Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

The book started with a great promise. A bunch of Japanese teenagers have found their soul mates and they are the happiest they have ever been. But, everything does not continue to remain swell. Differences occur, the group falls apart. One young man, our protagonist, a colorless, dull (you could say in a manner) passionless, Tsukuru Tazaki is expelled from it and leads an almost normal looking but a solitary life after that. 16 years later he sets out to resolve the mystery of his expulsion and finds out what happened.

The buildup was quite good. Even till the end, one keeps looking for the next answer but the book does not end in a resolution. There is much pondering about loneliness. There are some characters here and there, a venture into mystical, supernatural etc…but in the end, it’s all pointless. It is quite a pointless book.

It was okay to read, i wanted to turn pages but not as often. I dont know but I am not as charmed by Murakami’s storytelling as others seem to be. It’s just an OK read.


Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I finally read the novel by Gillian Flynn. I had been seeing it being hailed for a long time. Eventually, I decided to give in. Took me about two days of intense reading to get through the nearly 600 page novel.

It was interesting. The novel started a bit slow. But I was interested since the psychological exploration which the author does is quite deep and precise. Then there were twists. And the book got very interesting. However, after 400 pages, I started to feel it was a bit longer than needed.
Nonetheless, it was entertaining. Above all, it was the psychological tussle between a couple which I thought was well done. Reading the minds of relationships – that is something which Gillian Flynn has managed to do very well. She said in an interview that her goal was to make couples looks askance and trust me, for a day, I was really affected and upset after reading the book ­čÖé

It’s a book worth a read. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

How to become filthy rich in rising Asia – Mohsin Hamid

I just finished this book by Mohsin Hamid which is a quick read – 179 pages. Took me all of 2.5 hours to get through it.

I picked up the book because I had read Hamid’s reluctant fundamentalist and found it an interesting story which was well told.

This book, however, has left me unmoved and unaffected. The style and the structure of the novel is unique and also attention grabbing for a while but after that the novelty of the style fades as quickly as the strength of the story. It is a decent story, filled with predictable cliched descriptions of poor people living in horrible conditions, defecating openly, having sex when there is no privacy but it falls flat.

It falls flat in the end because there is no character development and there is no motivation or drive ascribed to the central character. We don’t know what fires him or gets him down, we do not know the intensity with which he loves. He is a passive figure and yet he is portrayed as the ambitious underdog who goes on to overachieve. Most of all, the title of the book is completely misguiding.

The language is good. Hamid has a flair for writing, there is no doubt about that but the structure and the storyline of the novel do not serve it very well. For the most part, it seemed to me like a half hearted effort.  

Breakout Nations – Ruchir Sharma

I am sure you must have heard about the great uplifting story of the economic miracle of China – of how India is just behind China and yet another nation which is becoming an economic superpower. You must have also heard about the South Korean manufacturing miracles and African resurgence.

What Ruchir Sharma does in his book is that he takes all these ’emerging’ economies one by one and dissects their economic policies and assesses their basic economic indicators like investment/trade/taxes as a % of the GDP and points out if that indicates good or bad tidings. His analysis is put forth in simple english sentences which is easy to understand and gives a pretty good picture of the nations which are discussed – macro economics wise. ┬áHe places his bets on economies which are relentless in their reformist attitudes and have stable political atmosphere or sound infrastructure in place.

For me the best takeaway from the book was the education about emerging markets and where these nations are placed. I was also able to understand what the actual level of development each of these economies have and what needs to be done to close the gap. I also learnt that even a decade worth of fast track growth does not necessarily mean that a nation will continue to grow. In fact, as a rule, the growth slows down and even reverses some times. It is not as uncommon as one might think. So, the road to become developed is a long one and requires constant innovation, attention to micro signals from domestic and international markets and also that saving and risk taking [in terms of reforms] are better strategies for growth and yield better returns in times of slow down.

All in all, a very informative book and comparatively breezy as compared to others on the same subject. Must read if you are interested in just getting to know about the world and how its economy moves.

The Blue Sweater – Jacqueline Novogratz

Inspiring! What an amazing and audacious journey she has had. All of it has been documented in this wonderful book. Gives a look into the mind and heart of a woman who dares to think of changing the world and not only does she think but actually acts on that in ways one can only think are fit for characters of movies or books. Her efforts have inspired many and changed lives for a large number of people and will continue to do so. If nothing else, one can appreciate the sense of initiative, commitment and daring which Jacqueline has shown all her life. She comes out as a leader who inspires by doing.

Charity for me always has been a topic of great conflict. While I agree that charity has some role to play in the society, I have always felt that the recipient of charity feels less dignified every time. JN’s concept of patient capital – her essence of the social entrepreneurship – focussed more on long term solutions than one time or short term grants is what is required to help those who are disadvantaged. That her organization – Acumen Fund – is making investments in multiple such programs is a great news for the world.

Jacqueline is a woman to emulate and she has told her story well in this book. For all the socially minded people and women who want to make a difference, this is a good book to read!

The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

Given the normal Hindu upbringing that I had, I had grown up hearing and knowing about all the innumerable gods we have. Then, my education in a convent school for a few years of my life exposed me to the┬áChristianity┬áas well and a couple of my friends as well as family friends being muslim showed me that way of thinking too. In short, I knew about 3 religions and how they functioned. I loved the mythology. I loved the stories of Gods – more like superhuman beings. There wasn’t much I questioned early in life. It is when I came in higher class in school – around class X or so..that I started reasoning for myself and found many incompatibilities. It was just flabbergasting to believe what mythologies were saying and what science had actually proved. It did not go together and that is when in the hearts of my hearts I accepted that God – be it any religion – was a superhuman character in an elaborate plotline with earth as center.

The book asserts as much and tries to argue rationally. Dawkins is a charming speaker and a gifted writer and he is very passionate about the subject. It is indeed a touchy topic and he starts by pointing out how religion gains much more immunity than anything else (in terms of offence).

I came across Dawkins and his quest for Atheism when I was in college – 2nd year I think. I have been thoroughly convinced since then, of course but reading this book was just a reassertion of the fact that if one begins to see the world through scientific lens and tries to accept the unknown/fuzziness as such , which is as yet unknown, rather than devising supernatural story plots, there would be so much more beauty to be seen!

Rationality is a gift we all have but the choice to use it is what makes a difference. Sadly, most of us choose to believe in something which is incompatible with rationality, science and evidence.

If you want to give even an iota of a chance to see the argument for not believing in a supernatural – This is the book.