The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

Book Reviewed: The Fault In Our Stars

Contributor: Rohit

Author: John Green

Rohit’s Rating: 3.0/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.49/5

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, LoveHumor

Review:

“The Fault In Our Stars” is one of the top rated books on Goodreads and receiver of many literary awards in the Young-Adult fiction category, hence to the fans, this review will hurt. But again, world is not a wish-granting factory…

If you are like me, “The Fault In Our Stars” is another one of those books that you desperately wanted to read just because the promo of the upcoming movie based on this book looked amazing… and since there is enough time for the movie, you wanted to have a go at the book… because movies are not always a better depiction of the books, you think. And because movie characters spoil the book covers.

Story moves around  Hazel Grace – a 16 year old terminally ill, who has given into life and routine of a cancer kid, and whose name suggests that she has to have beautiful eyes; Augustus Waters – another mortal who has kicked cancer in the balls once and has developed a carefree attitude towards everything that doesn’t matter; and their Cancer Kids Support Group – this is their story and has its moments – takes its time… builds slowly and softly, with right emphasis on the moments, and no complications. Book scores on the way it depicts the world of cancer kids – how empathy sucks at so many levels and being a bad-ass helps on so many more. Some (very few) quotes are good and stay with you.

But then, that’s that. Nothing else will be as intriguing as the ratings at GoodReads promise to be.

There is not much of character building, just laser focus on kid’s views on death and dying. “The Fault In Our Stars”, with its grief stricken families, terminally sick characters who are ironic about their illness, expected surprises and predictably abrupt ending of chapters,  reminds you of all the hit movies and bestseller love stories that have ever been there – be it 50-50, Notebook, Keith… It will make you sad at times, true… but that is more because its perfected to appeal to most obvious, the most easily accessible emotions.

If you are more into young adult genre, and if you can forgive the cliches, go for the book. Else, wait for the movie.

“Book disappointed. Okay?”

Okay.

“Hope Movie is better, okay?”

Okay.

Notable Quotes:

“As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

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“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

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“I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

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“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

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“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”

On Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays – Stephen Hawking

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Contributor: Adarsh

Adarsh’s Rating: 3.5/5.0

GoodRead’s Rating: 4.0/5.0

Genre: Science, Autobiography

Review:

Stephen Hawking’s “Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays” published by Bantam Books is a collection of essays and speeches by Stephen Hawking during different times in his career, and like a cherry on top, it includes his 1992 interview with BBC Radio. Stephen Hawking believes that we are very close to solving the puzzle of the Universe and that there is no use for speculative Philosophers in today’s World. He considers them a hindrance to scientific progress (though I don’t agree with him). He sets the tone in the introduction itself, with the words:

“The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially  now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind.”

In the first two essays, “Childhood” and “Oxford and Cambridge”, Hawking tells us briefly about the first few years of his life, and he makes it out as unremarkable. One feature of Hawking’s writing throughout the book is that he maintains a largely impersonal tone, with an occasional sense of humor. This aloof attitude of his writing is further highlighted in his third essay (which is actually a speech transcript) – “My Experience with ALS”. This speech transcript describing Stephen Hawking’s unfortunate medical condition and its effect on him should arguably be the most attractive piece in the collection, given our morbid curiosity over other people’s lives. But Hawking uses an unemotional tone, and describes the events alone. He concludes this speech making an effort to give all his listeners hope with the words:

“I have had motor neuron disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope.”

In the next two essays “Public Attitudes Towards Science” and “A Brief History of A Brief  History”, Hawking explains his belief that the public should be aware of the latest advancements in Science, and his own effort in making this possible by writing his most famous book – “A Brief History of Time”.  Hawking does not ignore the fact that though the book may be a best-seller, a lot of people use it to just adorn their bookshelves as a status symbol (The book lies untouched in my own bookshelf for about 7 years now. Note to self : Soon).

Starting with the  speech transcript “My Position”, where he temporarily lets go his composure and indulges in a self-confessed harsh attack on Philosophers (“They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics”), the next few essays get into real Physics. Though I couldn’t understand the Physics part completely, I could get the broad ideas pretty well. This is largely due the fact that owing to their independent by-themselves nature of the essays, Hawking gives a general idea of the same concepts multiple times throughout the collection.

The final interview – “Desert Island Discs : An Interview” – is a delightful read. As a part of this very interesting show hosted at BBC Radio, the interviewer (Sue Lawley) manages to bring out different aspects to the very incidents that we encountered though Hawking’s own words. For example, in answer to a question, Hawking explains the feeling of hopelessness on discovery of his medical condition better than he does in his own speech. A more musically inclined person than me would even take the chance to approve (or disapprove) of Hawking’s taste in music. However my personal favorite in the whole collection is the essay titled “Is Everything Determined?”, where armed with no empirical data to support him Hawking  himself indulges in what he accuses the Philosophers of being guilty of – speculation. Touching over concepts of a pre-determined destiny, and the moral culpability of human actions in a pre-destined Universe, Hawking lets himself go (with an ironic sense of humour).

On the whole, “Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays” is a very good read (at least for a scientifically non-inclined person like me). Hawking’s writing is good and to the point, and his sense of mild humour ensures that all is not dull. Regardless of your agreement or disagreement (as in my case) with the statement from the book’s Introduction I have quoted above, I would suggest that you go for this one.

Notable Quotes:

“I have had motor neuron disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope.”

“The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially  now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind.”

“They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics”

 

Adarsh is a regular contributor to this blog. 
You can find other reviews and other ramblings here:  http://www.adarsh89.blogspot.in/

Day to Day Economics – Satish Y. Deodhar

 

Book Reviewed: Day to Day EconomicsIIM Ahmedabad Business Books: Day to Day Economics

Author: Satish Y. Deodhar

Contributor: GV King 

GV King’s Rating: 4/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.3/5

Genre: Economics

Review:

TO THOSE WHO WANT TO SPEND THEIR DAYS ECONOMICALLY!


What is the need to buy one more book on economy? Aren’t the journals that readily present Adam Smith and Amartya Sen enough? Have you ever wondered, why a few businesses prosper well and a few have to struggle even to survive? What is the need to pay taxes? Why RBI uses LAF? What is a bullish or a bearish stock market (How come bulls and bears buy stocks!)? Do we need a WTO? Why the prices of basic necessities like food, education, fuel, and so on are always on a hike? What is the reason for boom and bust in an economy? Why poverty still exists though the governments around the world are racking their brains to disown the word “poor” through welfare schemes and subsidies? If you have these much restless “whys” roaming around in your mind, (I have spared a few “whys” to save my article from being left unread due to its humongous size) Day to Day Economics has soothing answers to all these “whys”.

Until now if you are unaware of the truth that you are the economy, never mind whether you own a wallet or not, then you are the one to grab a copy of Day to Day Economics. To those who have a good command over economics, this book acts as a cementing agent to strengthen your concepts.

Notable Quotes: ‘Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation’   – Milton Friedman

And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseni

Contributor: Adarsh

Adarsh’s Rating: 4.5/5.0

GoodRead’s Rating: 4.11/5

Genre: Literary Fiction

Review:

And the Mountains Echoed is widely read Khaled Hosseni’s third novel, following The Kite Runner and Thousand Splendid Suns. Somewhere in the middle of the book, the story telling abilities of a minor character is described as follows :

..This was often the pattern of their conversations, Gholam choosing what they would talk about, launching into a story with gusto, roping Adel in, only to lose interest and leave both the story and Adel dangling

I believe Khaled Hosseini must have completed writing this book, brutally self-appraised his own work, and then fit in this line that succinctly describes his writing style as far as And the Mountains Echoed is concerned. And the Mountains Echoed is written in a completely non-linear fashion, starting at Afghanistan in the 1940s, spanning across countries and time.

The novel begins with a father narrating a story to his children Abdullah and Pari:
So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one. But just this one. Don’t either of you ask me for more….One story, then. Listen, both of you, listen well. And don’t interrupt“.
And as Saboor starts narrating a magical story involving “jinn s” (genies) and “div s” (demons), we immediately sense that this story-inside-story is just a metaphor, and the metaphor is explained almost immediately. The book moves at a breakneck speed, until the narrative shifts to explain the back-story of a minor character. We are mildly irritated at this diversion, but invest ourselves with a completely new character, only to find that the narrative shifts again, to a different place and time.

The narrative also takes different forms. While it is mostly third person, it shifts to first person at times, and epistolary at others. This narrative could be discerning for some. Also, one feelds that the book focuses more on minor characters, and does not tell us enough about the lead characters. But this is exactly what makes me love this book, more than The Kiterunner and Thousand Splendid Suns (am I the only one to say so?). Almost every character has a back-story, which explains clearly the motive for their actions.
And this shifting narrative, isn’t that what life is all about? We meet a lot of people, we love few and we hate few, and then we are forced to separate from them all and meet a completely new set of people. Our knowledge of others’ lives is not complete, it is filled only with bits and pieces. Khaled Hosseni’s writing is magical, and by the end of novel, any lingering doubt in his mastery of storytelling is swept away. I could relate to the emotions and actions of most characters – Abdullah, Pari, Nabi, Suleiman, Marcos, Thalia, Pari (no typo here), and my favorite Odie. No character is morally right or wrong – like the epigraph says,

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

On the flip side, I felt that a few characters like Gholam, Adel, Timur and Idris had enormous potential to be developed, but were left incomplete. There is a general opinion that this book is about sibling love. It is. But it is also about a galaxy of other human emotions. It is about a man who realises the true worth of his mom when he is 55 years old, it is about a woman who abandons her child to pursue her ambitions, it is about a girl jealous of her more beautiful sibling, it is about a man who almost dies at a place far away from home, lives on, and gives back to the society in his own way, it is about a man to lazy too do what he knows is right, and it is much more.

Comments: I recommend this novel to everyone – this is a book you cannot hate (if your idea of good book is one that focuses on the story alone,and dispels all distractions, you might be mildly disappointed with this book. But still, you won’t hate it, and you won’t have wasted your time). And don’t mind the narrative – like Nabi says
A story is like a moving train: no matter where you hop onboard, you are all bound to reach your destination sooner or later.

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes – Thomas Cathcart , Daniel Klein

Contributor: Switler

Switler’s Rating: 4.0/5.0

GoodRead’s Rating: 3.77/5

Genre: Philosophy

Review:

‘Pluto and Platypus walk into a Bar’ can also be called ‘When Philosophy marries Humor’! This is a philosophical book and the best part is that it is Humorous! This is the only book I have read (so far) which blends the two wonderfully. It tries to explain the reader about various branches of Philosophy without going too much into the details. And the authors have used jokes to explain the philosophical concepts.

Those who enjoy philosophy will enjoy this book thoroughly but those who keep such books at bay can still go for it. They will at least enjoy the jokes! They may not make one roll on the floor with laughter but one will nevertheless find those amusing! I give the authors full marks for finding appropriate jokes for the concepts!!! Just amazing!

Let me end the review with 2 jokes from the book!!

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(This one is where authors try to explain that everyone has a purpose!)
“Mrs. Goldstein was walking down the street with her two grandchildren. A friend stopped to ask her how old they were. She replied, “The doctor is five and the lawyer is seven.”

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(This one is where authors explain the difference between essential and accidental properties!)
Abe: I got a riddle for you, Sol. What’s green, hangs on the wall, and whistles?
Sol: I give up.
Abe: A herring.
Sol: But a herring isn’t green.
Abe: So you can paint it green.
Sol: But a herring doesn’t hang on the wall.
Abe: Put a nail through it, it hangs on the wall.
Sol: But a herring doesn’t whistle!
Abe: So? It doesn’t whistle. Sue me!

Comments: Happy chuckling:-)