Friday, November 25, 2011

The Immortals of Meluha

Author:         Amish
Published:   2010
Publisher:    Westland Ltd.
Paperback: 466 pages

This is a  story about the  transformation of a  Tibetan tribal leader to a savior of the country of Meluha.
This Tibetan is none another than whom many Hindus worship as Lord Shiva and Meluha is " what modern Indians mistakenly call the Indus Valley Civilization".
This is an  imaginative rendering of the saga of Lord Shiva.
A modern Shiva Puranam !
This book is the first book in the Shiva Trilogy , the second being "The Secret of the Nagas" and the third "The Oath of the Vayuputras (yet to be released)".
The book begins with Shiva being convinced by Nandi (a Meluhan) to emigrate from Mansarovar , Mt. Kailash to Meluha along with Gunas , the members of his tribe. It concludes with Shiva leading Meluhans to a resounding victory over their enemies the Chandravanshis of Swadweep. However Shiva is rather pained by this victory and almost goes into depression. Why ? Read the book to find out!
The plot is quite interesting, fast-moving and has a surprising twist in the end.  It has author's own logical and quite credible interpretations of - how Shiva got his blue throat (thereby the name "Neelkanth"); how his weapon the trident (Trishul) was conceived; his third-eye; the symbol "Aum"; reincarnations of Vishnu etc. Though this book is packed with events, yet author has managed to portray Shiva's character, his dilemmas and  his sense of humor pretty well. 
The underlying message of this book as mentioned by Amish, the author in the introduction is "... all of us can rise to be better people.....there exists a potential god in every human being. All we have to do is to listen to ourselves." 
However from a literary perspective I would rate Ashok Banker's book "The Prince of Ayodhya", which belongs to the same genre, a notch higher (See my review of this book). But Banker's book is more voluminous and rather too descriptive which may be a bit too much for many readers (not for me though ! I liked it).  And this is where "The Immortals of Meluha" has an edge. It is more appealing to a wider audience and has become No.1 National Bestseller.
Though it did not meet my expectations 100 % (may be I had too high an expectation based on what I heard and read about it), I still enjoyed reading it and look forward to reading its sequels.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Agile Estimating and Planning

Authors: Mike Cohn
Published: 2005
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Paperback: 368 pages

A MUST READ for all project managers from both Agile and Traditional projects !

Read the complete Book Summary in my business website.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Agile Testing

Authors:       Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory
Published:   2009
Paperback: 576 pages
A very significant contribution to agile literature which educates programmers and testers as well as their managers on how to appreciate one another's work and collaboratively work towards integrating testing activities as a part and parcel of an agile process.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

7 Secrets of Vishnu

Author:     Devdutt Pattanaik
Published: 2011
Publisher: Westland Ltd.
Paperback: 232 pages

I received this book from Blogadda under their book review program.
I belong to the Iyengar community which worships Vishnu as their main deity. Therefore I am generally familiar with most of the legends and rituals built around Vishnu. However I was always curious to know the hidden meaning and significance behind them and hence this book sounded interesting and I offered to review it. 

There are seven chapters in this book, each dealing with one secret of Vishnu. These seven chapters also correspond to seven of the several avatars (reincarnations) of Vishnu viz.; Mohini, Matsya, Kurma, Trivikrama, Ram, Krishna and Kalki.  These avatars are chosen to explain various underlying and hidden metaphysical and philosophical themes :
  1. Mohini's Secret - Spiritual growth need not exclude material growth.. 
  2. Matsya's Secret - Difference between man and animal - only humans can empathize, and exploit.
  3. Kurma's Secret - Wealth eludes the insecure.
  4. Trivikrama's Secret - Ignorance breeds insecurity and ignorance.
  5. Ram's Secret - Outgrow the beast to discover the divine.
  6. Krishna's Secret - Know the thoughts behind actions.
  7. Kalki's Secret - The wisdom of letting go of things with a faith in its renewal.
 The title of the book is a misnomer for it reveals much more than seven secrets of Vishnu . It also slips in the secrets of  Shiva, Brahma, Saraswati, Lakshmi and many more gods, goddesses, asuras and rakshsas as well as a bonus within confines of the above chapters !
All the legends , rituals and symbols are very well interpreted, though I am not sure whether it is author's own interpretation or whether it is based on the research he had conducted.The writing style could have been simplified a bit more. It is slightly abstruse and somewhat disjointed and lacks a spontaneous flow. This may cause some difficulty to readers not exposed to Hindu philosophical concepts, though for me it is not a major issue.
The book has an attractively designed cover and an impressive layout of pages.It is profusely illustrated. Every alternate page has an illustration of a classic painting (for e.g.Mysore painting, Kerala murals, Pahari miniature, Mughal paintings, Patta paintings etc.) or a calendar art or a temple sculpture. The illustrations are well supported by explanations in call-out bubbles which point to the exact part of the illustration being explained. See below a sample of such illustrations.
A few suggestions for the author and the publisher to be taken care of in the next edition:
  1. A glossary for non-English terms used in this book.
  2. An index to easily locate the interesting pieces of information.
  3. A consolidated list of all the illustrations along with their sources.
  4. A hardcover version of this book with glossy illustrations in color will make this an excellent coffee table book.
Overall I am really impressed with this book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in religious mythology, spirituality or philosophy. At just Rs. 250/- this book is a real bargain. 
I was luckier since I got to read it free. However as a part of the deal ,  I had to try hard and take time out to write a 500 word review within the 7 days deadline given by BlogAdda. But it was worth it.

Visit the Author's website for interesting articles on mythology.

Sample illustrations from this book:

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Letters to Sam

Author:       Daniel Gottlieb
Published:   2008
Paperback: 176 pages

There is a saying, "If life gives you a lemon make lemonade out of it".
This very well applies to Daniel Gottlieb, the author of this book who is a psychologist. At a young age of thirty three, an accident made him quadriplegic and confined to a wheel chair for life. But in spite of this debilitating disability, he tried hard and developed a tremendous mental strength which enabled him to develop his career as a successful psychologist over the last thirty years. He has counseled and helped people to deal with their mental agony through his consulting sessions, articles and books and also as a talk show host.
In this book he shares his perspectives on life as observed from his wheelchair .He says his clients, his talk show audience and the readers of his articles have taught him "a great deal about courage, longing, and what it means to be human'. And these perspectives and the lessons he learnt  he wants to pass on to his grandson Sam who suffers from an autistic disorder. Each of the thirty odd chapters in this book  is in form of a letter to Sam. They are lessons on - perfection, kindness, love, compassion, frustrations, desires, justice, happiness, peace, loss, gifts of life, death etc. All these letter try and answer the question "What it means to be human?".

There is another saying - "The best things in life come in small packages".
This slim pocket-sized book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year. Chapters are short, simple and touches your heart.
In a very reassuring manner it motivates the readers to accept the reality of their suffering and effectively deal with it.
A must-read for everyone especially for long suffering patients and their caregivers !

Look forward to reading its sequel "The Wisdom of Sam".

P.S. While reading this book I was reminded of  Hrithik Roshan's character in the Hindi film "Guzaarish". It has Hrithik  Roshan playing a quadriplegic who as a Radio Jockey spreads hope and laughter among his listeners. May be this character was partly based on Daniel Gottlieb who hosts a very popular talk show "Voices in the Family".

  1. Daniel Gottlieb's Website
  2. Excerpts from the book : Two chapters - Lap Time & Give Kindness a Chance
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Templar Legacy

Author:         Steve Berry
Published:   2006
Publisher:    Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.
Paperback: 560 pages

A  Da Vinci Code- like adventure  about Knight Templars and the hunt for the Great Devise which holds the key to the secret behind Jesus Christ's resurrection. 
Partially based on facts.
Fast moving and interesting though somewhat confusing  with too many characters and clue.
A good time-pass reading .
However if you have read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code you can give this book a miss unless you have nothing else to read.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Art of Living - Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka

Author:        William Hart
Published:   1988
Publisher:    Embassy Book Distributors
Paperback: 180 pages

Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique originally taught by Gautam Buddha 2500 years ago. It is aimed at effectively dealing with the misery in life - tensions, agitation, unhappiness, suffering etc. - we experience in this world and achieve peace and equanimity of mind thereby  leading a happy life.
Vipassana technique is based on self-observation and introspection. It is a non-sectarian approach, so one need not be a Buddhist to follow it.

S.N. Goenka a retired industrialist is one of the most recognized teacher of Vipassana in the present age. This book is based mainly on the discourses given by him during a ten-day Vipassana meditation course and to some extent the articles written by him.
There are ten chapters in this book corresponding to each day of the course. At the end of chapters there are excerpts from the Q&A session and a typical story choosen among the several stories narrated by  S.N. Goenka.
A well written book which provides a a spiritually inclined person very good introduction to the technique of Vipassana. It got me interested enough to ponder over the possibility of attending a Vipassana course at some point of time. But the prospect of getting cut-off from the 24X7 connected world for 10 full days is rather daunting. Wish I had the capacity to let go of temptations of the modern world at least temporarily.

  1. The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation a text based upon a talk given by  S.N. Goenka in Berne, Switzerland. 
  2. Introduction to Vipassana Meditation by S.N. Goenka : A 17 minute video discourse.
  3. Vipassana Research Institute : Established by S.N. Goenka in 1985 for the purpose of conducting research into the sources and applications of the Vipassana Meditation Technique.
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