Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The "tag"

Instead of posts on India (which I have been bombarding the unsuspecting general public with of late), I shall now respond to a tag. This might have broken the "fabric" of the blog, had there been any. But, fabric there is none. So, this post is probably more appropriate than inappropriate. Yada yada yada.

One Book that Changed my life?

Once upon a time, I was an optimistic guy. I thought the world was a beautiful place, and that the birds were cute little things that flew in the sky to make it look better. And then I read Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", which taught me the basics of cynicism. It taught me to abhor, it taught me to suspect. And then came Orwell's 1984. I can't look at a computer screen with ease .... is big brother watching me? These two books have made me a neurotic wreck.... they did change my life, obviously.

If Wikipedia were actually printed on paper, it would probably have not changed my life as much as it has right now in its online incarination. All I do is type anything I want to know in that firefox address bar ( for instance "wikipedia Adis Ababa") to get data on the average annual precipitation, the geography and the per capita income of that city. But I guess I'm digressing. Quintessential me?

"The end of poverty" byJeffery Sachs was another masterpiece that really got me thinking...

One book you have read more than once?

"The theory of partial differential equations" by Lawrence C Evans. If you understand it the first time you read it, then you are a better person than I. This guy skips so many mathematical steps .. I want to go to Berkley and kill him. Eighty six dollars, and I guess this big fat book filled with the most vexing form of data compression.

On a more serious note, Wodehouse is an author that one must read again and again. His humor seldom wears out. A smirk seldom fails to appear when one reads his prose. He has been quite an inspiration to me. Whenever I'm upset, I just pick up a Wodehouse, turn open a page at random and start chuckling. There's something dignified, silly and wholly satisfying in the way he writes. Perhaps, the most memorable among all the Wodehouse bits to me, is the episode where Freddie bounces tennis balls on the empress ... or maybe when Gussie presents the prizes ..... or when Edwin burns the house down ... or when Freddie talks of crysanthamums as cabbages ....... "It's raining in Northumberland".

One book you would want on a desert island?

Any modern book on math, where they deal with multiple dimensions. Just in case I come across a 7-dimensional coconut tree and need to make coconut chutney to go with the idlis (which conveniently were marooned on the island with me?)

On a more practical note, I woudn't mind the Hitch-Hiker's guide. I could do with some tips on how to tackle raveneous bugblatter beasts should I happen to bump into one of those, and what to do if I were caught by ravaging princesses. I might also pick up on some sub-etha signals.....

Or maybe Swiss Family Robinson. I could compare their way of life with mine....

One book that made you laugh

Each and every Wodehouse I have ever read has never failed to repeatedly make me laugh to tears. Of particular note are his short stories, for instance the one where the efficient Baxter finds himself at the "business end" of a rather painful air-gun. Douglas Adams is a funny guy too. Yes Prime Minister is a ponited satire.

Strangley, almost all good authors are British.

One book that made you cry

"Fluid Mechanics" by ******. A revolting text-book, inflicted on our entire batch in our second year at IIT Madras. Utterly unnecessary, especially when masterpieces such as "Fox and Macdonald " are around. This book ruined my entire foundation in the subject. It took me 4 years to set that right. It was a subject I really loved too. I just coundn't appreciate it then. Other books were too complicated..... The whole course made me cry.

One book you wish had been written?

Why does Jerry Sienfeld not write books? I would love to see a book by him and Larry David. Finally, an American novel book that I can read.

One book you wish had never been written?

Ramjee's load of bull on Fluid Mehcanics, for one.
I'm not sure "The O'Rielly Factor for Kids" is the right stuff to give impressionable kids. But that isn't exactly my war.
Stephen Hawking's "A brief History of Time" .... at least then, I wouldn't be ashamed of not reading it.

One book you are currently reading?

"The Hydrogen Economy" by Jeremy Rifkin. Got it cheap. It does not seem to make much sense. All rhetoric. Little sense.

One book you have been meaning to read?

Heat and Mass Transfer in Porous Media by Bejan. It's been lying at home (borrowed from the library). Need to work on it a bit for the project. Lazy me.

I need to tag 6 people. Damn. I don't know so many ....


Srihari said...


Thanks for tagging me. I'm sorry, though, as I won't keep the tag chain going, because I personally think tags are a bit too artificial for me. And honestly, I havent read enough books to talk about in the first place. ..but, I am totally with you on Wodehouse - he has probably written the funniest ever lines in English prose.

Akhilesh said...


Tags, for me are as artificial as blogs! At least this tag.
I like this tagging business because it lets me spin infinite guiltless yarn. "Shag" would be the technical term used back at IIT.
I did not read many books either. As a matter of fact, I think I more or less mentioned all the books that I have read in the post!!! (Getting maximum mileage .... you know).

The Solitary Reaper said...

Well,I will try filling some space on my blog,but I am not sure how many of you would have ever heard of these books.
Agree with you on Orwell's 1984.Did you try his Animal farm?
I guess no onw read's Ramjee's book anymore here.Good news for you.

Akhilesh said...

Animal farm was nice - more of a direct satire than anything else. An amusing read, lighter than 1984.

1984 is not a satire. It is a dystopian novel. A sort of terror and depression builds within you when you read it.

Its basis, according to me at least is fairly well reasoned out and robust. The society it envisages is realistic, and in many ways is already in place. Orwell had it right when he talked of war and propaganda.

I found "doublethink" to be of particular interest. My host nation's take on nuclear issues reeks of doublethink. Reading it, for me, was like the Douglas Adamsian pan-galactic-gargle-blaster. An eye opener, to say the least.

Lakshmi said...

Akilesh, thanks for responding to my tag. Tags ARE childish, if not artificial I agree. But I think it is ok do no-brainers now and then..why do all of us have to think profound thoughts and do what comes "naturally" to us all the time? Of course, that is merely my opinion.

Akhilesh said...

My sentiments, exactly.
I think tags are fun.... I don't think there's anything "childish" or artificial about talking of what books one likes!
Reading is a dying hobby amongst most of us. Anything is keep the hobby alive is most welcome.
And it gets my blog off its consistent , offensive stilted state. Even I was getting tired of the opinionated bilge I was churning out.

Anonymous said... an IIT alumnus too...even have a similar name (Akhil)...just came across your blog...wanted to let you know that Jerry Seinfeld has written a's called 'Seinlanguage'. The only downside is that some of the material is straight from the stand-up bits that we saw on Seinfeld, but overall a very entertaining read. Try it out sometime.