October 24, 2016
by Neelima

Closed Doors and Serial Killers @ BYOB Party in September 2016 (Part 5)

Now for some non-fiction.

behind-closed-doorPujan got a non-fiction book called WWII Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees. For a war buff, this book is a treasure trove as the author delves into classified data with panache. The choices made by leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin are unraveled. While the war was being fought and soldiers world over sacrificed their lives, the political games leaders played catered to a very different reality. Roosevelt, for instance, was not overly fond of the idea of the British Empire and minced no words with Stalin about this. To understand more about those troubled times, check this out: http://documentaryheaven.com/world-war-ii-behind-closed-doors/

The conversation veered to the whole idea of empire and whether the British leaving India twenty years later, had Churchill stayed on, would have made any difference. The book Farthest Field  by Raghu Karnad was mentioned. The Indian army was the largest volunteer army that fought the World War and now their service is an embarrassing memory for both sides.

Sankharshan was immersed deep in the work in progress of a friend that revolves around the Indian constitution. He came across some interesting discoveries. It’s easier to get books about Ambedkar the man than writings by him. The conversation moved to politics in the US and the impressive political TV series Veep.

serial-killersSunny, the host of the party, got a book called World Famous Serial Killers by Colin Wilson and Damon Wilson that delves into the psychology of serial killers. The book has been written by two police officers who present various case studies in an objective manner. Sunny spoke about many horrific cases of unsuspecting murderers, including a child murderer. The descriptions were scintillating for Criminal Minds fans but disturbing for others. A brilliant book Lolita was mentioned. The strange thing about the book is that the writer Nabokov’s first person narrative is so bewitching that the reader so easily slips on the shoes of the wrong doer and forgets the criminality of the protagonist.

On that dark note, the party came to an end.


October 20, 2016
by Neelima

Why do We Love Some Books More Than Others? @ Link Wanderlust

In Books for Life by Adam Gidwitz talks about the secret appeal of some books. Why are some books always on the bestseller lists? We now have algorithms that can predict how well a book can sell and what kind of stories need to be written, but technology can never really pin down what makes a book so dear and why it is recommended by word of mouth so that sales increase exponentially. In the same way, why do you prefer a particular book when you are a child? The book you love as a child says a lot about as a person. The author talks about his favorite book and it makes the reader wonder what story is a favorite and what does it say about me?

Going back to the books that make it the bestseller list, the author talks about the most popular fairytale in the world- Cinderella, a trope that he thinks JK Rowling plays on in the Harry Potter series. He also reinvents 1984 with an interpretation of this dystopian fiction that didn’t strike me at all when I read it which explains why 1984 is so popular among teenagers. The story is about how Winston, the protagonist of the novel, becomes the system he so rebelled against. He becomes one of them, the way every teenager gives into the system that he so wants to break. There is no way one can escape it.

This is a very fascinating article. Read it.

October 17, 2016
by Neelima

Luck and Objectivism @ BYOB Party in September 2016 (Part 4)

At the BYOB Party in September, we dealt with autobiography and sci-fi. Now for a bit of self-help and fiction.

13-steps-to-bloody-good-luckRajeev Moothedath is an HR professional and author of the book Straight from the Heart. The book he talked about is Ashwin Sanghi’s first non-fiction book 13 Steps to Bloody Good Luck. Sanghi believes that there is one percent of what is called bloody luck and it turns out that luck is created by other factors like recognition and response. Sanghi has a business background himself and probably did not anticipate being a bestseller author in India. His book is a collection of anecdotes and some simple guidelines in the line of self-help.

Pramit Pratim Ghosh who holds the distinction of having been president of Toastmaster’s International had a tough time choosing between two books that he wanted to talk about. He finally settled on Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

atlas-shruggedThe book was Ayn Rand’s last book and her longest. This story is set in the US in an unspecified future time. The protagonist Danny Taggart is the Operating VP of a railway company. Rearden is a steel magnate and John Galt, Taggart’s love interest and the hero of the book.

“There are two kinds of people- the capable ones or the prime movers and those who are not capable but get ahead by treading on other’s toes,” Pratim said. In the story, corruption prevents any real progress. When skillful people disappear one by one, Danny Taggart goes in search of them only to find herself in a utopia where creativity is rewarded and not shunned. This book expands on Ayn Rand’s own philosophy of Objectivism where Rand promotes selfishness as a virtue and calls altruism evil. If everyone works towards their own benefit, the world would be a happier place. Her work is a Bible for Capitalists. To understand her philosophy, a visit to this link would be a good idea: https://www.aynrand.org/ideas/overview.

the-light-of-his-clanJaya got a book called The Light of his Clan by a contemporary author Chetan Raj Shrestha. The story is about Kuldeep Chandanth, an ex-Minister of the Sikkim government, whose power is fast becoming a thing of the past.  The narration is matter of fact and tongue in cheek. The sense of entitlement that Chandanth has and the subtle satire that runs throughout the book makes it worth a read.  The beauty of the book lies in the fact that Sikkim is the backdrop, without any obvious saying so. The journey traced is one of every politician from the heyday of his power to the unpleasantness of  fading away.

Some books about politics like P.V.Narasimha Rao’s The Insider and Through the Corridors of Power by P.C.Alexander also came to mind.

More books in Part 5.

October 13, 2016
by Neelima

Rejections and the Writer @ Link Wanderlust

If you are hesitant about sending your work out there, Kim Liao says to think again in her essay Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year. A writer friend of hers illuminated the path when she gave her counsel to have rejection goals, for if you are rejected in various places, chances of acceptance also simultaneously increase like a mathematical rule.

She rightly says that rejections bruise your ego in just the right quantity. She quotes writers like Anne Lamott and Stephen King to make a point about the beauty of being rejected. When she becomes an editor herself she starts navigating through the slush pile and sees rejection as not just a slap in the face, but a kind of conversation between one reader and one writer.

It’s easy enough to get published these days. But the idea of rejection and acceptance can take a writer a long way in improving her craft, resolving ego issues and receiving more acknowledgement in the writing industry.

Does rejection frighten you?

October 10, 2016
by Neelima

The Extraterrestrial and Time @ BYOB Party in September 2016 (Part 3)

Science was not far behind in the BYOB Party this time.

threebody-problemSudharsan read the book The Three Body Problem by Chinese author Cixin Liu . It’s sci-fi or end of the world dystopian fiction, part philosophy, part fantasy, he decides. The book deals with the ultimate sci-fi question: What happens when humans come into contact with the extraterrestrial or the opposite. What happens when extraterrestrials come in contact with humans? The primary characters in the book are Ye Wenjie, who has a haunted past, and Wang Miao who is swept into a virtual reality online game. The book requires a lot of focus but once you get into the flow of things, it becomes a compulsive read. It has been translated by Ken Liu, a writer of a popular book series himself.

a-brief-history-of-timeChaitanya brought along the bestseller A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking, a bestseller science book that has sold nine million copies and been translated into forty languages. This book also has the dubious distinction of being one of the books that everyone starts and no one finishes.

This book introduces the reader to the theory of relativity, quantum physics, particle physics, gravity and the fourth dimension. He also explores how  Einstein’s ideas changed physics forever. The book is written very simply, Chaitanya confirmed, and there are no equations to put off the mathematically uninclined. The book brought alive a discussion about the Matrix and the role of man in a world where he is merely a pawn.