ManBooker 2016 Shortlist and Manbooker Review-thon

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ManBooker 2016 shortlist has been announced today. The winner would be announced on 25th October 2016. Which means that I have a selection six of the best fiction books published this year on our reading list and around six weeks to read all of them, review them, and predict the winner (before the final prize is announced). Exciting six weeks ahead!!

Here is the shortlist –

PS: slightly disappointed not to see any Indian names in the list.

PS: It has been more than one and a half years since I wrote anything related to books/reading/literary stuff. I always know that I have been neglecting blogging, but, somehow, in my mind I never assumed that the gap is more than few months, a temporary phase and I will pick up again very soon. Also, I completely missed blogging about Manbooker 2015 (I wrote a lot about Manbooker 2014 and Manbooker 2013). What to say, life happened when I was busy making plans for this blog. Hopefully, would be more regular now.

 

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Good Stuff I read This Week – May 17 2015

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Just a collection of some interesting/useful/informative stuff I stumbled upon this week!!

Do you know your wrecking crew? – I think everyone should read this article, and then, for once, thank their “wrecking crew” – people in your team/office/organization who work in the background, largely unnoticed, rarely appreciated, but are extremely critical for smooth execution.

Also, see this documentary if possible. See Trailer below:

What’s the point of a professor? – A very good article on how “the being nice” phenomenon is probably ruining the education system. Ability to give and receive negative feedback is a universally accepted attribute for a successful professional life. However, we as a society are getting less and less comfortable with the idea of our teachers being brutally honest about our performance. Is this making grads “unfit for job”?

Quotable Quote: In 1960, only 15 percent of grades were in the “A” range, but now the rate is 43 percent, making “A” the most common grade by far.

The Last Day of Her Life – A heart warming story of Sandy Bem, an Alziemer’s patient who decided to end her life with dignity, rather than surrendering herself to the gradual degradation of her mind and body by the disease. I think the extent to which we will be affected by Alziemer’s and how ill-prepared we are to deal with it is the most scary thing about the future.

Quotable Quote: With Alzheimer’s disease, she would write, it is “extraordinarily difficult for one’s body to die in tandem with the death of one’s self.” That day at Mapstone’s office, she vowed that she would figure out a way to take her own life before the disease took it from her.

Note to Self: Being Alice is still unticked on the “to-Watch List”

Ending this post with this tweet.

As soon as I read this, my memory was flooded with names of people who needs to be told this.

Good Stuff I Read This Week – May 10 2015

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Just a collection of some interesting/useful/informative stuff I stumbled upon this week!!

The Behavioral Revolution the internet has solved the “Information Problem”  you want to know how to do stuff – that information is available at the click of a button. Will solving the behavior problem be the next revolution. Very interesting and thought provoking article by David Kadavy. Another reason why inter-disciplinary education in Technology and Behavioral Sciences would be an awesome thing to have.

Quotable Quote: As we learn more about why people behave the way they do, the knowledge for a behavior revolution is being transferred from advertisers and big business to individual entrepreneurs. This transfer may create the economic force necessary to make a behavioral revolution possible.

The Twitter Fiction Festival The 2015 Twitter fiction Festival, a five day virtual writing contest held entirely on Twitter, is starting next week (May 11 to 15).What? Fiction on Twitter? For those who don’t know, it is the newest literary fad, writing stories using a single or a series of tweets. The fad is new, but the universally acknowledged best twitter fiction was written many years before the medium even existed – this master piece by Hemingway

For sale: baby shoes, never worn

The Value on (Financial) Controllers – Bean Counters? Necessary Evil or Strategic Partners?

The story of a Clean Real Estate Company in India its visionary founder and young CEO on Twitter. among other things, how a founder placed trust on a young talent and groomed him as his CEO.

To end this week’s post, this is amazing, like science fiction: “How to control someone else’s arm with your brain”

Good Stuff I Read this week – May 03 2015

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Just a collection of some interesting/useful/informative stuff I stumbled upon this week!!

The Importance of Respect (Strategic Finance Magazine) – Cannot agree more with this article. Respecting your team members and colleagues is the more powerful and impactful than anything else you can do to be professionally successful.

Quotable Quote: Why is respect important? Because it is an essential qualification for a successful career and is sought after as you progress through various stages of leadership and responsibility. It’s something that you want to earn and something that you want to bestow.

Inside Automattic’s Remote Hiring Process – An inside view on the hiring process of the company with the most unique office set-up (100% remote).

Quotable Quote: A) never interview anyone that I’m not confident will make it to a trial, and B) never offer a trial to anyone who I’m not fairly confident will make it to a final interview.

Most Common Biases that effect business decision making

A very interesting case study on the struggles of a whistle-blower – Scary how difficult it is to fight big corporates. Immense respect for Tony for not giving up!!

Most productive ways to disagree across cultures – a very relevant read for anyone working in a cross cultural environment

On a lighter note, these 27 new words are insanely funny!!

Also, another fail from Microsoft –  they have this age guessing site, which is almost always wrong.

And to end this post: tech troubles in Marble Universe

2014: My Year in Books

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Last year was an eventful one for me. A lot happened this year – which can be summed up in three simple words – I changed jobs. More than half of the year, I was occupied with stuff related to new job, new profile, new company and its culture, new coworkers, etc. etc. Reading really took a backstage. However, when I look back at 2014, I am glad that I was able to read 24 awesome books this year too. (same as 2013). The difference between this year and last year is that I was able to review a much lesser number of books (just four)

Some books I read in 2014

2014 Books Collage

2014 Books Collage

My thoughts on my 2014 reading list:

Well begin is half done

I started the year with Hercule Poirot – The Complete Short Story Collection. I really loved the television show Agatha Christie’s Poirot (starring David Suchet), and it was this show that prompted me to read this book. I am now a die-hard Poirot fan and hope to read some more Poirot stories in 2015 (esp. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which, as people tell me, is the best Poirot novel).

Rediscovery of Gabriel García Márquez.

This year we lost him, and as a tribute, I re-read some of my favorite novels by him. Most notably – A Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera (this is one of the best love story ever written – I you haven’t read this –  drop everything else and grab a copy)

Man-booker 2014

Of the six books shortlisted for Man booker 2014, I read three: To Rise Again At a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris (which I absolutely loved – it is an awesome book – see my review here), The Life of Others by Neel Mukherjee (a wonderful book, but a bit too long), and We are Completely Besides Ourselves by Karen Joy Flowler (I did not like it very much).

Other Books by Authors who impressed me

If I like a book, I generally try to read other books by the same author. This is how I selected the following books to read:

  • The Unnamed By Joshua Ferris (Selected after reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour) – hailed as ‘the first great book of the decade by GQ, I think it is one of the best books about marriage. See my review here
  • Malice by Keigo Higashino (selected as I liked The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint) – Not as good as other works by the same author. See my review here
  • Summer Home with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (selected as I liked The Dinner) –  again not as good as The Dinner

Non Fiction

Just one non-fiction this year – Flash Boys by Michael Lewis – good book on algorithmic trading, but somewhat technically dense – not for everyone.

Indian Sherlock Holmes

This year I discovered Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall – also called as the India Sherlock Holmes There are four novels in the series – The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri 1)The Case of the Man who Died Laughing (Vish Puri 2)The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (Vish Puri 3) and The Case of the Love Commandos. Not literary master pieces, neither as intelligent as Sherlock Homes series or Poirot series, but good enjoyable reads.

Some more Jack Reacher

Somehow, I find Jack Reacher series by Lee Child a very good travel/vacation Companion. I read three of them this year – Personal (Jack Reacher 19), The Affair (Jack Reacher 16) and The Visitor (Jack Reacher 4), taking my total tally to five. I enjoyed all of them, Visitor being the best of the three. Typical commercial entertainers – read, enjoy and forget. I am now selecting the next one to read for my upcoming vacation.

Grand Ending to a Great Year

The year ended at a wonderful note with The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. What a book!! Made me jealous of David, how can some one write something so awesome!

How was your year in books? Do Share.

And a very happy new year to everyone!! Have an amazing “book-year” ahead.

Book Review: Malice by Keigo Higashino

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Malice - Book CoverI am a huge fan of Keigo Higashino’s earlier works – Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint. I consider him one of the most intelligent mystery novelists of our time, and in the same league as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It took me no time to decide that I have to read this book as soon as I saw it on my amazon recommendation page.

<Spoilers Ahead>

Detective Kyochiro Kaga is investigating the murder of best selling author Kunihiko Hidaka. He is found dead in his locked home by his childhood friend Osamu Nonoguchi and his wife Rie. Nanoguchi’s behavior makes Kaga suspicious and very soon he is able to establish beyond doubt that Nanoguchi is indeed the culprit. However, Nanahuchi’s version of the story strikes as odd to Kaga, which leads him to further investigation, unraveling the fiendishly diabolical plot by Nanoguchi to not only kill Hikada but to destroy his reputation, his integrity as well his honor.

In a typical detective story, there are multiple suspects, and the detective works diligently, piecing together evidences, reconstructing the  past, keeps eliminating suspects and then zeros down on the real culprit. and this is more or less the end of story. In this novel, there is only one suspect who is discovered pretty early in the novel. But that is not the end, The remainder of the book is devoted to finding the real motive of the murder. Instead of a whodunit we can call this book a whydunit. Kago’s dialogue sums it all – “You may be the first murderer who decided to fabricate a motive before committing the crime”

I have mixed feeling for this books. On one hand, I feel that it is a great book with a clever story, engaging twists and turns, and interesting characters. On the other hand, it was a bit disappointed too as I had really high expectations from the author – the other two books are master pieces and this is certainly not in the same league as Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint. Also, I was not very convinced by the motive and rationale of why the characters did what they did. More than anything else, it was this disconnect which lessened my enjoyment of the book.

PS: My review of Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint

Book Review: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

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The UnnamedThere are very few books where the agony and pain of the characters haunts you enough to keep you awake at night. It happened to me just twice before – with Saleem Senai in The Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. And with Florentino Ariza in Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris was the third one. It is definitely one of the most provocative (and somewhat unnerving) books about marriage love and relationships.

Tim Farnsworth and his wife Jane are a successful and happy couple – he is a successful your attorney in a prestigious law firm, she is a real estate agent. They love are care about each other, live a comfortable live in a seven bedroom flat and have a lovely teenage daughter. What wreaks havoc in their life is Tim’s “condition” – he suffers from bouts of unexplained, uncontrollable urges to walk. And when the “attack” comes he has to drop everything, walkout and just keep walking till the time he is so tired that he passes out.

Even with all it weirdness, at a very basic level it can be the story of any two people who love each other. Tim’s “condition” is a metaphor for anything – anything which, even with best intentions, is uncontrollable and how it affects a relationship. Herein lies the beauty of this story!

The Unnamed is a remarkable book, and has been rightly called as the “First Great Book of the Decade” by GQ.

Joshua Ferris’s third book – To Rise Again at a Decent Hour was shortlisted for 2014 Man Booker Prize. See my review here

Bonus Material:

The Unnamed “Trailer”

Joshua Ferris discusses “The Unnamed” with Asylum’s Anthony Layser.