Monday, July 19, 2010

Asterix and the Normans - René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo.

This brings back so many childhood memories. Yeah, while growing up with tales of damnsels in distress, I also buried myself into Asterix. And it's so fun to read, even till today. Although I must admit, I only discovered my ability to read in between some lines and laugh at the pun now! Honestly, I never knew why they had funny names or what they meant when I was five. But now I do :)

And I'm determined to collect the entire series.

Available at Times bookstore.

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert.

I read the book while I was on a trip (how ironic, right?). And I must say, it is one of the most magnificent but coincidental encounters in down-er than Down Under, younger than most new lands, none other than New Zealand.

It was a book which I wasn't planning to read because I'm not one who will support over-commercialized publications. Eat, Pray, Love was on everyone's lips and every magazine's book reviews, peppered with sprays of praise. Sheesh, I thought.

When I was in Auckland, I spent most of my evenings, waiting. Not the kind of wait that makes you bloat with redness in your face. But the pleasure-is-all-mine kind of wait. And one uneventful evening, in one of my 'waitings', I picked up this book at the local bookstore, picked a good seat and started reading. I decided to challenge Elizabeth Gilbert and see what she has to say about eating, praying and loving. And two pages after that, I was stuck. And that was the last night I waited in the bookstore. Because, every night after that I found myself waiting anywhere and everywhere with the book. And then magical conversations happened.

Two things which struck me was Gilbert's most approachable writing style. She's funny, witty, intelligent, curious, innocent, sometimes quite a doofus but in a good way, kind of way, and it captures you like a friend with the most listening ear. And she speaks to you as if you guys have known each other for years. There was no double meaning, no guessing, no wondering if you-could-have-meant-this-instead-of-that kind of situation. It was honest and the brutal truth about a woman who at the turn of her 3rd decade in life started going berserk because she wasn't sure if she likes to be who she was. Hmm. Sounds dramatic right? But show me a person who has never been at this crossroad before and I'll show you whatever you want to see in your life. Sometimes, some people pause for a long time, questioning the journey, wondering if they should get off the next stop. But sometimes, they only pause a second long enough before snapping out of it, returning to their joyous or monotonous life. Nevertheless, they paused.

The other thing which struck me too was, her audacity to chase after her directionless dreams albeit what society pressures her to be. And I think all of us can relate to that. It's almost like giving a voice to our subconscious to those of us who don't have the balls to face facts, own up, stand up and needless to say, who aren't blessed with New York Times-worthy English to have narrated like how she did in a book. Her life story, compiled and compressed in between two covers. I loved Elizabeth almost instantly and because it was a good ending, I'm assuming it must have given millions of other wondering and wandering souls (women or not) a kind of hope that if you are still living and breathing, you can always get off the next stop, buy another ticket, go the other way, go round in circles till you figure where you want to head to, or just be still at the station. And that will be okay.

You should read this. And you should get all your friends whom you suspect may be in a crossroad too to read this. And you can start by borrowing it from me here. Today, I'm no longer waiting. I'm actually going somewhere. Good luck ;)

Who else will fit such a role if not Julia Roberts? :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sustainable MBA - Giselle Weybrecht.

The best thing about this book is, it provides everything you need to know about running a sustainable business at every level, for every size. Giselle Weybrecht provides every point of view possible in running a conventional business and compelling reasons why you should be re-looking at current strategies in view of today's economic, environmental and social climate.

The Sustainable MBA is easy to digest with straightforward facts and ideas written in point forms to avoid the lethargy of needing to digest overly technical business jargon that would put any MBA potential to 'Z' land. Though its flow is simple, nevertheless after every chapter, it inspires you to reassess current business situation and question how better things can be done now. While I don't think anything written in this book is rocket science but it does provide an extremely holistic view on how to operate a socially and environmentally conscious business in the 21st century. The problem most managers are facing is the inability to see the big picture simply because the sustainable canvas is too wide for a single perspective. But without viewing the situation in whole, it becomes a real challenge in trying to convince upper management or even stakeholders (external or internal) on why change is imminent and instead of reacting to it via 'bolt-on' tactics which only provide temporal results, we should be responding and even capitalizing on it for the sake of the future. Not everything is accounted in dollars and cents. Like Mastercard so thoughtfully put it: Somethings are priceless.

Long gone are the days of unprofitable social business. For business to stick around for years to come and reap profits, it now needs to consider the social side of things. Whether in terms of investment or returns, it's high time we all learn to steer in the right direction before it's too late.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beatrice and Virgil - Yann Martel.

Yann Martel did it again. And this time, he changed his rule of engagement entirely although there's still a sense of familiarity in the setting. To those who have thought wonderfully about Life of Pi which won him the prestigious Man Booker Prize, will definitely not be disappointed this time round as well. I promise.

Beatrice and Virgil is about Henry, a successful writer who hit a road block in his creative endeavor. While trying to deviate from the reality of not being able to complete his task, he was half hiding and half in denial when he found himself mysteriously drawn to two fictitious friends narrated by an equally mysterious taxidermist who stood no where near Henry when it came to writing fame. The enigma of mystery finally brought Henry lessons in life that should and could never be forgotten.

To be very honest with you, when I started reading the book, it was kind of slow. Perhaps of my exceptionally high expectation on this book, thanks to Yann's extremely engaging Life of Pi. Even half way through the story, I was not particularly empathetic towards the characters. Instead, I was getting slightly impatient and was only drawn to the plot only at certain twists and turns. And then *wham*, it hit me right in the face. The crux of the story came and went very quickly but was so powerful that I had to 'rewind'. I leafed a few pages back and re-read the entire scene to fully consume the message again. You've got me, Yann. You caught me off guard ;)

The plot is tight, the climax is short but diabetic-ally sweet and it hits you in the gut. Then this overwhelming sense of guilt suddenly washes over and chide you for being such a lax reader and taking the 'point' so carelessly. It suddenly made me realised that Yann had perhaps intentionally set the pace in such a way that we (as expected by him) would see history as facts that set the mood for a lethargic afternoon, than truly embracing it as part of an important lesson to be remembered and held with such esteem so that we will never, ever allow it to repeat itself.

This book isn't just about words weaved into fiction, aimed at lulling us into another dimension of imagination. That is only half of what this book is really about. The other half is him using words as a technique to relive a part in our memory that has begun to erode...

A must read for all thinkers. And from the horse's mouth (no pun intended, Yann :)):