Sunday, August 31, 2014

Books 10+10

As the Facebook fads go, mostly useless social bandwagon type, I really have little respect for the fads or the faddists. But there is one, which, I felt, is worthwhile (and a little beyond) for obvious reasons - it talks about the books! So three of my Facebook friends (Bishakha Majumdar, Saroj Pani, and Amit Virmani) asked me to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way. Now, since Vivek Kaul, another friend, had listed 10 poor books he had been through, I thought why not make two lists of 10 + 10, the good ones that stayed with me and the bad ones too that stayed with me.

And whence I made the lists, I wanted to enlist the reasons also, which made the Facebook post so longish (and also, I'd lose it soon in the myriad pile of posts), so I decided to post it on my blog. And also, I was a bit afraid because people think I am well-read and despite liking their perception, I don't agree with that. Anyhow, here it goes:

The 10 good books that have stayed with me in some ways:

  1. Shrimad Bhagvat Geeta - I read it in the worst phase of my life and the depth expressed with such simplicity gave me a new kind of philosophical insight towards calmness.
  2. The Outsider - Albert Camus (Original French: L'Étranger) Another one that I read in the same phase and the deep commitment of Meursault affected me deeply, besides attracting to many more works of Camus.
  3. Preeti Katha - Narendra Kohli A casual short-novel for the uninitiated, a book of philosophy for the seekers. Two long-lost classmates meet after 20 or so years, spend a day together, and part ways. The novel is their conversations, quirky discussions, and nostalgia.
  4. Godan - Prem Chand I had read almost all of Prem Chand's stories in Mansarovar collections and was mighty impressed. However, reading Godan in high school days was a shock to my urban sensibilities. In a sense, Godan was my first window to the rural India and differences in concerns.
  5. Smokes and Mirrors - Pallavi Aiyar An Indian in China, teaching English and reporting for two premier newspapers, observing and comparing the two nations on so many facets in so many academic, non-academic ways! This was the book that initiated my interest in China.
  6. The Ascent of Money - Niall Ferguson A Harvard Professor tracing the evolution of money and monetary systems across the western world. Initiated my interest in economic history. I'd have loved it more if India, China, and West Asia were given due thought.
  7. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams If sarcastic, absurd, and improbable can be so binding and beautiful!
  8. Ujaale Apni Yaadon Ke - Bashir Badr The first book of ghazal, from which I learnt the ghazals and the discipline of Urdu poetry.
  9. Diwan-e-Ghalib - Ali Sardar Jafri (ed.) The poetry of Ghalib, with contextual explanations and meaning by Ali Sardar Jafri, the great flag-bearer of Urdu research in indpendent India. This was where I got initiated in Urdu.
  10. Sharat Samagr - Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay The collected volumes of Sharat Chandra's work, translated from Bangla to Hindi. I've read them and re-read them so many times - Devdas, Grihdaah, Charitr_heen, Majhli DIdi, Baikuntha Ka Daanpatr, Shrikaant, and so on. If I understand human psyche a bit and respect women, a major share of that credit goes to Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. 

There are many more, by Prem Chand, Shivani, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Shivaji Sawant, Rahi Masoom Raza, Acharya Chatursen, Asrar-ul-Haque Majaz, Gulzar, Ernest Hemingway, Bill Watterson, Bill Bryson, Anupam Sinha, Gopal Godse, Michel Danino, and so on...!

The 10 poor books that have stayed with me in some ways:

  1. The Alchemist - Paulo Cohelo A story that has been repeated umpteen number of times from Panchtantr to Chandamama, devoid of any moral or intelligence value, runs a story of 6 pages to 180 pages, and repeats every useless word about 18 times over in different ways. The only good thing is it was full of quotable quotes, which is again pointless due to sheer pain the process inflicts.
  2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki Started reading, read some 60 pages, realised that it is repetitive with promise of a life-changing idea at the end, closed the book, never to pick up again. The essence of the book is this - invest in a portfolio with robust profile. Why do you require 400 pages for that - because nobody will pay for expressing in 10 pages what first textbook of finance explains.
  3. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin Sharma Read 80 pages in a single shot, never picked up again, regretted reading even that much. It may be a good book for Americans, born in the middle of brazen consumerism and materialism, trying to find some solace in simplicity. Poor choice for Indians, at least till my generation. 
  4. Lajja - Tasleema Nasrin Finished the whole book to understand reasons of banning and burning. The book is unnecessarily dense and dark. It could have been a lot better, if one can delete some 100 pages out of 150 or so. 
  5. Kufr - Tahmeena Durrani Nauseating, full of gore, unsettling, and most of all, exaggerated for that effect.
  6. Awara Maseeha - Vishnu Prabhakar A biography of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, a landmark book in Hindi literature, and yet, so apologetic and justifying on behalf of Sharat Chandra. Trying to force a messiah image on the author, who never claimed it for himself. 
  7. My Experiments with Truth - Mohandas Gandhi A poor and weak account of author's mistakes, justifications, and explanations. The book just reveals the frailty of his character and intolerance to criticism, so much so that he has to issue a detailed account of justifications. 
  8. India After Gandhi - Ramchandra Guha Collect newspaper snippets, put them in order, insert your biases, and call that history. Such a poor, biased, and apologetic record of post-independence India, where brazen biases of the author ooze out.
  9. Connect The Dots - Rashmi Bansal How long can you keep stealing Steve Jobs phrases and juxtapose them with weak stories and poor language!
  10. The Seventh Secret - Irving Wallace Hitler survived the WWII and spent his days in peace in Latin America, had children, and even conspired over generations. Excellent construction of a pathetic idea.
There are a few more, mainly by so-called historians, best-selling authors, and self-proclaimed philosophers but well, let that be!


Dipti said...

You failed to mention any historical books in your 'best 10' but have mentioned a few in your 'least 10'.
I don't know if its the subject that you dont like or you genuinely failed to like those books
If you had to list down a few good books based upon historic events and people from the past which ones would they be?

Sid said...

Thank you for your patience of reading and analysing the lists.

I am not sure whether you wanted to ask about history books or historical books. I've listed Ascent of Money, which is about history of money and banking. Awara Maseeha is a biographical book, hence, history. And so on... anyhow, I love history related books. However, there are very few good and unbiased books. Sadly, those didn't make the cut of top-10.

And I'd list the following good ones:
1. India: A History - John Keay
2. China: A History - John Keay
3. Works of Michel Danino
4. Works of Sanjeev Sanyal
5. Works of Tom Holland
6. Works on economic history by IMD Little, Rahul Mukherji, TN Srinivasan, Dietmar Rothermund
7. Works of Dharam Pal
8. Fall of Mughal Empire - Sir Jadunath Sarkar

This is what I can immediately recall... may be more.

Dipti said...

Thank you. I would definitely look forward to reading those someday.
Considering you're an economist with an exceptional background and excuse me to have to ask you this question here but I'm a recent law graduate and a soon to be practicing Lawyer myself and perpetually in pursuit of knowledge. I've been having difficult times recently understanding economics with respect to governmental policies and other related areas such as effect of such policies and legislation made by government which would in turn affect economies in future. I've had a short tryst with economics in my academics but not much in depth relevant to our field. In such case which would be the few books, authors or blogs you would recommend to expand knowledge in that area. Economics has always intrigued me and I've been wanting to read further on it but the literature i usually come across I believe becomes to heavy, especially the heavily tangled 'economic concepts'.
Awaiting your reply.
Thank you in advance.

Sid said...

A serious understanding would take more than blogs. I need to know the exact purpose, profile, and level etc before recommending books.
If you wish, drop me a mail to discuss the same.

Dipti said...

What would be the appropriate source to get your e-mail id from?

Sid said...

1. Click on my profile on this blog and see the side panel for e-mail link.

2. Ask Google. He knows me well.

3. If nothing else works, mail me at sidissid at gmail dot com


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