Book Tag

Posted by in Books

The book-tag virus has hit me as well. I just came across just a few days back and now its my turn – got it from Surya. I actually tried to search a bit to find out the origin of this virus – haven’t had much success though – may be its the time of the day (its 21:50 here.)

Total number of books I own: Currently I could imagine I have around 150 – 200 books. Its what I have left from the past 4 or so years. I am sure I have few hundreds back home in Kerala. I do buy quite a few fiction too – but I never keep them. But yes I do like to keep my non-fiction collection – but again, I am not too held up on ownership. In fact my favourite book – which I guess I need to write about later – I have ended up buying few copies as I always end up giving to someone to read and often it never came back. Most of the non-fiction I have are either Management related, or they are biographies or popular science titles.

But another reason perhaps I have limited number books is the fact I tend to use libraries a lot. I find them much a great way to land up reading unexpected books Рbooks on subjects that I never knew existed. Most of the biographies I have read were from my random look-up binges I used to do at various libraries. Some of the memorable libraries I have spent time include the central library at Cochin University of Science and Technology; British Library at Thiruvanthapuram, New Delhi and Paris; The American Center Library at New Delhi and Paris; Bibliothek Fran̤ois Mitterand, Paris; Zentral Bibliothek and Central Library at ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) both at Zurich.

Now though I don’t find much time to go and sit in libraries as in the past. But one of the amazing things in Switzerland is the combined online catalogue of almost all the academic libraries available to all people residing in Switzerland. We can browse the entire collection and borrow upto 20 titles at any time – and for free. They will send it by post if needed, but we have to bear the postal fees. Else we can pick it up from our home library free of cost (home library being the local library or institute connected to the network.) The book is brought from wherever it is located in Switzerland. This I find an amazing service – which I use often along with Amazon (search for titles on Amazon, and then with the ISBN get the book from Nebis!)

Finally, about one more resource I use often while shopping for books online. This services called is a comparison engine that looks at most of the key online bookstores. It compares not just the price of book offered, but shipping cost (in my case to Switzerland for example, and in Swiss francs) and shipping time. It includes all the Amazon sites – so I get to know which of the Amazon is offering the best price and delivery time –, or .fr or or .com. I have shopped from all these places.

Recently I heard that Belgium does not have taxes on books and hence its the cheapest place to buy books online. I have to look up for some online book shops based in Belgium.

The last book I bought: Leonardo on Painting, edited by Martin Kemp. Its based on many writings of Leonardo da Vinci on the topic of painting. While I am not sure if Leonardo himself intended to write a book on painting or not, it does look like at some point he did consider this. This book – rather easy to read – gives a rather interesting insight into one of the world’s foremost innovator’s mind. His keen observations and his elaborate detailing of various aspects related to a given subject.

While this is the last book that I bought, the last book I got is something totally different. The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose was a gift from three of my great friends here in Switzerland. Its a rather big book – some 1100 plus pages. But whatever I have read through its a great book to have. Its by far the most comprehensive mathematical explanation of our universe yet published. Roger Penrose explains all the mathematical and physical theories and then uses them to explain our understanding of the universe. He claims that this book is written with layman in mind – but I think this would make sense for someone with some background in science and mathematics. Otherwise you could get lost and lose interest. I hope to finish reading this book over the next 6 months or so.

The last book I read: Bad Thoughts – A Guide to Clear Thinking (in US its published as Crimes Against Logic with American examples) by Jamie Whyte. This is a rather intersting book – especially in today’s world where spin doctors and smart PR people spin everything on its head to present a story – often with shocking statistics. Jamie Whyte tries to list out some of the common fallacies and lack of logic in most of the explanations given by most of today’s leaders and news media. I have very often been outraged by the incredible stupidity of some of those who take centre stage and make credible-looking claims. I felt that this book would help me to better react in such situations. One intersting use I found for some of the ideas he presents is in my job as a negotiator. Some of the standard negotiating tricks – where the standard response used to be something else, I have started using some of the ideas from this book to rather amazing success.

My unfinished book: There are quite a few unfinished books on my shelves. Some I found them unreadable after few chapters, others are more technical and I reach out for them when a need arises. But one book that I think has remained unread for a long time is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. This Pulitzer prize winning novel was given to me by a friend who highly recommended this work to me. I have started reading this book quite a few times – but never managed to get beyond the first couple of chapters.

Books that mean a lot to me (not in any particular order):

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This is one of my all time favourites. This also was the book that I mentioned I have bought quite a few times. I like to think that this book has influenced me in my thinking quite a bit (well I have read it so many times and I very often identify myself with JLS in many situations.)
  • The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. If there is one book that has helped me most in deciding my career – then it is this one. While doing my MBA, like most of those who do it right after their degree, I was a bit lost as to where should I be focusing on. One hears how cool working for Consultaning firms is, or how highly paid Financial Analysts are. But after I read The Goal, I knew what my calling was.
  • Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. This I think is one of the best books written on the philosophy of quality in a world still today obsessed with quantity. I have had quite a few debates about the validity of some of the claims that Robert Pirsig makes in the book about some of the western philosophers, but I find that debate in many sense unnecessary. This book, a novel for all purposes, presents a compelling story and does lead the reader to think about a variety of aspects – leading to some insight into how not to get alienated in the endless race we are in today.
  • Handson Systematic Innovation for Business and Management by Darrell Mann. Now this is a rather new book that I have started working through since April this year. And I already find this book helping me crystalise my thoughts on the concept of innovation rather well. I feel that this is something that will have quite some impact in the next few years in my way of working. So I am adding this in a future tense manner here.

Now I need to pass this on to 5 fellow bloggers.

  1. Rajith Nair
  2. Indu Harikumar
  3. Sayesha
  4. Ullas Nambiar
  5. Madan

Meanwhile if you are reading this, you are welcome to take this as an open invitation and continue the book-tag meme. Just leave a comment so that I can pre-add your name to my list of five 😉