Book Review – Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Rating – 5/5

The most difficult thing to do is rating a memoir or an autobiography.

How can you rate somebody’s life?

What are the benchmarks ?

But I will still rate this book top notch just for the sheer honesty and truthfulness with which it is written.

Phil Knight isn’t a perfect businessman. Far from it, he lists down his flaws right from not replying to Johnson’s letters to his regret at the less time he spent with his sons, but he touches you with his honesty.

He truly is a leader !!

The underlying theme for me is not how Nike was built but the honesty with which it was built.

Sure, they had to play tricks with Onitsuka when they were given the unfair deal but when the crunch was on, when the bankers pulled the plug, when the law suits were piled on them, there is only thing that got Phil Knight and team through… their truthfulness, their honesty…

This book is truly an inspiration… and the last chapter is just a beautiful life lesson… so many thoughts will remain with me like its ok to fail but you should fail sooner so that you can learn and move on… to give up is ok but to stop is a crime… Always be on the lookout for your calling in life and then fatigue, pain and disappointment are all just fuel for your journey..

Hats off Phil Knight..!!

Book Review – Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie #bookreview

Edition – 1971

Rating – 3.5/5

Review

Ganesh Chathurthi holidays, relaxed atmosphere at work and home, loads of sweets around for a sugar high, the only ingredient missing in all of this was a good, quick book to read from a favorite author.

I was already in the middle of another book, eBook and an audio-book (phew!!) when I felt the urge to pick up a book for a quick read during the short holidays. That is when I remembered picking up this Christie from a local used book store for just 50 bucks (what a steal for a Christie) and decided to gobble it up during the holidays.

Ms. Agatha Christie is truly the Queen, um… no, the Empress of crime fiction and I do not feel any other author, living or dead, male or female, comes even close to her style of intrigue, suspense, pace and characterization.

The book is set around the Lee family and its patriarch, Mr. Simeon Lee, who is brutally murdered in his own house, with the killer having no place to escape (locked doors/windows, the quintessential Christie setting).

The basic premise of the thriller is set around a Christmas gathering at the Lee house where Mr. Simeon Lee has decided to burn bridges (or not) with his estranged son(s) and grand daughter but due to a cruel twist of fate ends up losing his life.

The murder occurs while everybody is in the house which invariably leads to everybody being an alibi for each other. Mr. Simeon Lee is found brutally murdered in his room with the doors and windows being locked from inside and nowhere for the murderer to escape as everybody in the house supposedly *wink wink* hears the crime being committed and is in the room in a matter of minutes.

The murder is then investigated by a Police Superintendent Sudgen, Police Chief Johnson and Christie’s very own crime detection sleuth, Mr. Hercule Poirot.

What happens next is not just a murder mystery but a lesson in character building and analysis by Ms. Christie of each and every suspect through the eyes of Mr. Poirot. Ironically though, Poirot cracks the case only after he studies the character and personality of the victim, Mr. Simeon Lee, which gives him some concrete clues towards solving the mystery.

As always happens with most of Christie mysteries, the killer is right in front of our eyes the entire time and she leaves us some very subtle clues throughout the book pointing at the killer. I set myself the task this time round to guess the killer before it is revealed and I am glad to say I did a fairly good job almost 80% into the book. However, as with all Christie’s, the who is just a part of the story but the fun part lies in the how and the why .

This book is worth 4.5-5 stars but I have just given it a 3.5 to satisfy my own ego since I guessed the killer before the reveal.

If you are on a small vacation, or on a small work break, would recommend you to pick this one up as it is fast paced, intriguing and fun filled, a classic Christie.

Oh yes, please don’t be too relaxed while reading it as you may miss the clues planted by the author at various points in the book.

Happy Reading and Sharing !!

 

 

 

 

My Beautiful Anne!!!

Seldom we come across people who hold us so much in captivity with their thoughts , trials and tribulations.

One such person is Anne Frank, the beautiful Annelies Marie Frank. I would mention her as a person rather than about the diary she wrote because while you go through the diary you lose sight of the fact that it is a diary she has written and feel so immersed in her everyday conversation with you.

I started my conversation with Anne during the Diwali period. I was in two minds whether to proceed with such a depressing account during such a happy festive season. But then Anne never was given such a choice in life then why should I be so picky about it.

This is in no way a review of Anne Frank’s diary, because quiet frankly you cannot review a person’s life.

The underlying sentiment in every conversation that Anne had with me is the hope she has of a better tomorrow. It just makes you feel so small thinking that when a girl confined in a secret house without being able to step out in the open air for two years doesn’t lose hope then how can we.

Anne quiet literally guides you through the phases that a girl goes through while becoming a woman. And quiet frankly it is astonishing. Although the underlying theme of her conversation is the life in hiding, but the thoughts are pure and are surely what every girl goes through or thinks at some point in life. I would ask every man to read this book to understand what their moms, wives and sisters may have gone through internally at some point in life. Would help you be a better man for sure!!

As my conversations with Anne proceeded through Diwali I developed a fatherly love towards her. I used to get back to Anne at different points during the day just to ensure that she had a good time on that day 70 years back. I would love to have a daughter like Anne and I would pray to God that he deals her a better hand than what he did to my Anne. I would definitely gift this book to my daughter on her 16th birthday just to show her that I love her.

Ironically, all through our talks Anne kept telling me that she wanted to be a writer whom the world would love. Anne surely did that with something she never imagined would get published. After every conversation with her, all one feels is nothing but if only….

All throughout the last 15 days, I kept saying to myself , ” oh Anne, sweetheart, please do not stop talking with me. You are so loved.” But then suddenly post the 1st August 1944, there is a publishers note saying that Anne’s diary ends here. My heart sank, it kept on searching for Anne through the remaining pages, calling out to her, reaching out to her. But Anne never came back.

Many people have read this book earlier in life but I think Anne came in my life at the right moment. Frankly, I do not think I was mature enough to understand this book until on the day when I started reading it. Maybe this will help me treating my Pankti in a better and more respectful way.

Anne died when the world was rejoicing the victory of good versus evil. I will never forgive Hitler and the Nazis for taking so many beautiful Anne’s from this world. And in a way we all in some way are responsible for killing so many Annes.

Anne, i miss you and every thought of our conversations makes me cry and be grateful for the luckier times we live in.

I will end this with few lines that were there in the afterword to the novel:

” Anne , who already was sick at the time, was not informed of her sister’s death; but after a few days she sensed it and soon afterwards she died, peacefully, feeling that nothing bad was happening to her”
– a survivor who was with Anne at Belsen in her last days

” Her voice was preserved out of the millions that were silenced, this voice no louder than a child’s whisper… It has outlasted the shouts of the murderers and soared above the voices of time”
– Ernst Schnabel, an author who took it upon himself to trace Anne after her last entry in the diary and wrote a book about her life post her last conversation with us.

” I want to go on living even after my death”
– Anne’s wish

Book Review – Narasimha

Book – Narasimha by Kevin Missal

Edition – 2019 ( HarperCollins)

Rating – 4.5/5

This is my first book by the author and I regret why it has taken me so long to come around to read his books.

Recently there has been a spike in the number of re-telling of the two big Hindu epics – Ramayana and Mahabharata. I was attracted to this book because it dealt with a character from Indian mythology seldom written/talked about- Narasimha.

The book is first instalment of a trilogy named ‘ The Mahavatar Trilogy’ and if the first book is anything to go by, then we are in for a fun ride.

Although the book is titled Narasimha, there is no real protagonist in the book. The story revolves around four major characters, Hiranyakashyap, Prahlad, Andhaka and Narasimha. Each of the characters is on his path to find a purpose in life and the book takes us on this journey with them.

The story is not about victories, but defeats. It shows how disappointments or defeats and not victories , shape our futures and the paths we take. It shows how pain and loss sculpt our beliefs and it also shows that when it comes to life there is no black or white but an array of different shades of grey.

A big shout-out to the author. What a fantastic style of storytelling.. ! Every chapter leaves you grasping of breath and dying to turn the next page. Mythological re-tellings can get a bit drab or lost in translation but the author avoids this through his crisp writing and shorter chapters. Hats off and will definately be picking up his other works.

Do pick this up.. You will enjoy reading it..

Happy reading..!!

Book Review – The Outsider by Frederick Forsyth

Edition – 2015

Rating – 3/5

What do you do when you realise that one of your favorite authors is coming out with an autobiography which will mainly cover his life as a journalist/ spy? Yup, you got it right, you preorder it and cannot wait to get your hands on it…!!

Then what do you do when you get the book but already have a pile to go through on your to be read list (TBR) ? Yup, you got it right again, you forget about this book and somehow keep reading the other books for the next 3 years.

So after 3 years of buying the book last week I finally ended up reading the autobiography of Frederick Forsyth.

At the outset, this is not an autobiography in the real sense where the writer lays down his life in as many words as possible to help the readers understand the events in his life and his interpersonal relationships which finally mould him into the person he has become.

This book is more like a journal where the author has chronicled some important milestones and experiences in his life which he drew upon while starting a successful career as an author.

Like in all Forsyth books, even in this book the chapters go on feeling somewhat unrelated but somehow the story (his life) is tied up towards the end  making the reader realise the sense behind the earlier chapters.

The first few chapters are about his early life and how he had a passion for flying and went about fulfilling his dream of becoming a pilot with the RAF. Forsyth also shows us how he had a knack for languages and went on to learn quiet a few european languages which held him in good stead during his journalistic career and eventually in his writing days.

The book gets really interesting to read once Forsyth writes about his career as a foreign correspondent earlier with Reuters , then BBC and eventually as a free lancer.

Forsyth has given a good orientation through these chapters of the political situation in France ( De Gaulle v/s Left) , East Germany and the Biafra debacle ( Nigerian civil war).

I would admit that I was unaware/ unread about the Nigerian civil war and reading about it in this book was really eye opening and gut wrenching. Forsyth has laid down the blame, in no uncertain terms, of the Nigerian Civil war at the feet of the then British Government. He has described how, while it was a British colony , the country was ruled specifically as two different and distinct regions by the British government but when it was time to hand it over to the people it was decided to treat it as one and transfer all the power to one specific faction. He has shown how the Nigerian conflict was Britain’s ‘Vietnam’ and how they carried out the propoganda all over the world that the rebels were a minor faction and did not have much of a say in the country.

Forsyth has laid down his experiences during this period while reporting from behind ‘enemy’ lines. He has also explained how the civil war led to a problem of malnutrition within the rebel faction which was in the nature of protein defficiency caused due to the siege laid by the British backed Nigerian government.

There is a very painful incident where he describes that while writing a report a frail girl with her younger brother stood outside his window and asked whether he could feed them. But , those were the days of rationing, and since Forsyth had plans to have dinner at a diplomat’s place, no food had been supplied to his house. He painfully explains how the girl showed an understanding expression and walked away with her brother in tow into the nearby forrest. This chapter just hits home when we try to understand the impact of civil war in not just loss of life and property but also its unreversible impact on future generations.

Forsyth has then gone on to describe how he drew on his journalistic experiences to write his first novel , The Day of the Jackal, which bagged him a book deal for three books ( The Odessa File and The Dogs of War). He shows how the people he met and the ground zero first hand experience helped him in all three of his books . It is needless to say The Odessa File and The Dogs of War are based loosely or draw inspiration from his days in East Germany and Nigeria respectively as foreign correspondent for Reuters and BBC.

It is difficult to explain in the review about the political intricacies and under currents which play a role in media houses and governments/consulates that are explained by Forsyth in the book. It is just a treat to read these chapters as they are real eye openers.

All in all the book is a decent and quick read for Forsythians and I am glad that I got round to reading it eventually.

Happy reading!!

Book Review – India’s Most Fearless by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh

This book is a collection of not just stories of fearlessness displayed by members of our armed forces but also an example of human capabilities and spirit.

In today’s world where we Indians are arguing about standing up for a National Anthem as a sign of patriotism, we cannot fathom the selfless bravery, spirit and will these men and women (our saviours) display for us across various frontiers. Trust me when I say this, we do not even understand the P of patriotism.

Each and every story not just tells you about these heroes, but the camaraderie and togetherness they share within their unit. The juniors look up to their seniors with respect and are willing to do anything to save them and the seniors do everything in their capacity to minimise the damage that may occur to their units. In a very crude way thats also how families function.

People who will expect war and battle stories in this book will not be disappointed but this book also covers valour showed in the face of the elements ie mother nature and machine failure. It shows the strength of training that these heroes go through which shows in their capability to take last second calculated decisions not just to save their own but other’s lives in the face of certain death.

Don’t be surprised if a few stories leave you teary eyed… proud to be protected by these men… a huge salute to all of them!!

Thank you for all they do for us…!!

Book Review – A Time to Kill by John Grisham

Rating  – 2/5

As the rating suggests, this book failed to live up to the expectations.

Just to explain my point, I will take you through the ordeal that was reading this book.

The Book Blurb:

“When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the hoodlums who have raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of Clanton see it as a crime of blood and call for his acquittal.

But when extremists outside Clanton hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice.

Jake Brigance has been hired to defend Hailey. It’s the kind of case that can make or break a young lawyer. But in the maelstrom of Clanton, it is also the kind of case that could get a young lawyer killed.”

Review:

Lets be fair, the above blurb just piques your interest in the book, add to that an average rating of 4 on Goodreads and you just have sky high expectations from the book. But the book is just that, an extension of sentences written in the blurb.

The book has tremendous scope with the backdrop of racism, rape, fathers retaliation by murdering the rapists and the morality of the crime committed (the murder).

This book had tremendous scope to make the reader understand the impact of racism when a crime is committed and how it can play on the minds of the jury when it comes to the question of justifying a murder in retaliation to rape of a child.

There is so much scope to delve into the contrasting emotions felt by all the characters in the book, the father who committs the crime, the white lawyer who takes up his case and the jury which is caught in the midst of a racist storm in the county. But thats what the book lacks, it suffers from absolute lack of emotion.

If you ask me, this book reads like a report about a case which happened some years ago and nothing more !!

In any courtroom drama based in USA there is a lot of thought that goes into research and  jury selection. The topic about the jury selection in this book is finished off so quickly that it begs the question whether any research was done in the writing of this book.

Then the political implication of the trial is very lightly touched upon. It really left me disillusioned.

To top it all when you just go on with the book in the hope of a clinching closing arguement by the defense attorney ,Jake Brigance, you are again left so underwhelmed that it takes the wind out of your hopes. It finally ends with a member of the jury convincing the other members of the innocence of the father with our hero nowhere in the picture. It is by far the most anti-climatic endings I have come across in a book.

In isolation, this book is a really nice book for a debut but I feel the basic premise of a murder in retaliation to a rape and the snowballing into a racial conflict is a topic which needed far more emotional and researched handling.

I did not expect a protagonist in the vein of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mocking Bird, but there could have been better character building for Jake Brigance , the protagonist of this book.

Recently I have read a similar legal thriller named Between Black and White by Robert Bailey which also deals with the topic of racism and a racially motivated murder. But the topic is handled in a far better way by delving into the political and emotional aspects of the crime and racism.

Highly disappointed and disillusioned with this book…

Ajji – Papa’s Place

Every person in life always relates their childhood memories with certain experiences ,people , places and events or maybe a combination of all. These memories always have the power teleport us back into those times where we reminisce and relive them. For me, such memories always flood back the moment I think about my maternal grandparents’ (Ajji – Papa) place.

I am the younger son of two doctors which subsequently made me the most protected child (I think my low immunity also had a role to play in that, but that is a topic for some other day). Considering the above and with a paranoid doctor for a mother I always grew up with restrictions on what I ate or drank.

In all this protective world my biggest source of freedom or release was a visit to my maternal grandparents’ place (I will refer to them as Ajji and Papa going forward).

To put things into perspective, my grandparents used to live just two streets away from us but it was never the distance that played a role in this feeling of freedom.

My Ajji’s place was my space to be a child, to do what I wanted and to eat what I felt. Considering how close the house was , one may think that I might as well have spent my entire time there . But that was never the case, having grown up in a protective environment, I was attached to my mother a lot and leaving her and going anywhere used to be difficult for me.

In fact, I remember going to my Ajji’s place whenever Mom used to leave for her clinic or during the vacations when she just wanted me out of her head for a while in the afternoon. There was something unmistakably lovable about my Ajji’s place.

The moment I used to enter the house it almost felt as if the air smelled different there. The house always gave me a sense of freshness and happiness.

My grandparents used to store all varieties of snacks or toffee in small tin containers and I remember opening and searching each and every container to find out what new snacks have been kept them for me to munch on. This habit got so imbibed in my subconscious that, even today ,whether I am at my parents house or at my own place, I still open all the containers to just browse the snacks available irrespective of whether I am hungry or not.

Ajji was always at loggerheads with my mom because she felt that by putting restrictions on what I ate my mom was harming my ability to develop a taste and immunity whereas my mom always maintained that it was my low immunity that made her keep me away from eating anything and everything.

I was a clear winner in this tussle because it resulted in Ajji cooking for me the most tasty food I have ever had in my life with a caveat, ”Don’t tell your Mom !!”.

It would be very unfair of me, to say that I remember my Ajji-Papa’s place only because of the tasty food I got to binge on . Although the experience helped in me developing different tastes and building up immunity to various foodstuffs, their place also played the role of an important institution in my life and has played a huge role in the person that I have become today.

Ajji Papa were in true sense my first teachers in life and their house will always be my first school .

Ajji never treated us (me and my cousins) like kids, she used to pamper us a lot but I always remember she used to talk to us as if we were equals. She was never one to beat around the bush and was very blunt with her views irrespective of your age or relationship with her.

I remember an incident where I had asked her for some money which she didn’t have and told me to take it from grandfather’s cupboard . But she told me that although it was ok for me to take the money, I need to ask Papa before opening his cupboard. I remember this vividly because in her own way she subconsciously taught me to respect somebody’s personal space irrespective of how close one is to that person.

Papa, on the other hand, was and will always be a person I have idolised in life. I have never come across a more meticulous person in life. He was a very disciplined person and I was always in awe how everyday at the appointed hour, like a machine, he used to go about the specific daily tasks. I remember him having a detailed handwritten record of what medicines he had taken, at what time during the day and how many were still left in stock. He was always on the move in the house keeping things in their places and dusting the house wherever he found miniscule specks of dust. Today, my wife gets annoyed with my obsessive compulsive need to keep things in their places and cleaning small stains anywhere in the house, somethings in life can never be unlearnt.

I remember he used to tell me these old fables every evening after dinner and for me those were the best fairy tales I have heard in my life. These stories will never be found in any book but they taught me the same lessons .

I remember listening to these stories  sitting on an old armchair and urging him on to explain reveal happened next !! This chair still exists and somehow, every time I still visit the house I find myself sitting in that chair, but the voice that told me the stories is no longer there.

My grandparents lived a full life and breathed their last some years back in the same house. They were my world but their world was set in that house and subsequently that house became a huge part of my world,

When I think back on things, I don’t just relate these memories to my grandparents but also to the house where I learnt the most amazing life lessons.

The phone number of the house is still saved as ‘Ajji’ on my mobile although its been quiet some time since they left us. Even today just entering the house and seeing Papa’s bed brings a smile to my face. Ajji Papa are no longer with us but their small memories are still there in the house, like the armchair on which I listened to the most fascinating stories.

Ajji-Papa’s house was the first place where I understood the difference between a house and a home and makes me ponder would I have been even half the person I am today if I didn’t have this house to grow up in ?

Maybe every person needs such memories to look back in life, maybe they need such memories to breathe the fresh air of freedom, maybe they need such places to smile, maybe they need that sunshine in life…

Maybe, just maybe…!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Never Surrender by Michael Dobbs (Winston Churchill #2)

A well researched book and written in a style which makes it an even more interesting read.

The book covers so many aspect, Churchill’s internal turmoil, internal politics in the British parliament and the predicament of the foot soldier as a result of the above.

The Chichester family angle adds a lot of relativity to the story and makes you turn just that one more page to see whether the policies can help get them back to England.

And finally, Winston Churchill, it will be wrong to call him the protagonist in the real sense of the term. The author portrays him for what he was, what we all are, flawed humans who are driven/directed by our past, our fears and the principles we build along the way due to these factors. The author has depicted Churchill for the shrewd politician he was and the emotionally flawed human being he was. The introduction of Ruth Mueller in the story and how she draws parallels between Adolf Hitler and Chruchill to drive her point home with Churchill makes for a fascinating read.

The final speech in the parliament delivered by Churchill is also well written. Rather than wax lyrically about Churchill, the author shows the shrewd politics behind every sentence he says and brings out a complete different picture of Churchill rather than the nationalist image he tried to portray.

The book and the politics it depicts is so relevant even today and it is a must read for any lover of politics.

Book no.2 of Michael Dobbs that I have read and the writing style and research makes him one of my favourite writers.