Writing Experiment Lab

Category: Book Review (page 1 of 2)

So I recently read: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Imagine you’re working in your office cubicle. There is a looming deadline at hand and whenever you are trying to concentrate, someone laughs hysterically loud from a distant corner. You mutter some abuses under your breath and try to concentrate harder. You try to mentally block the unnecessary noises along with stuffing your fingers into your ears, to added effect. Even now you can hear the printer, someone walking behind and generally distracting lights but you tell yourself, it is okay and that you can still read the very important document without which finishing work would be difficult. As soon as you reach the second paragraph, a pop-up window shows up and the right-hand corner of the desktop. That can be ignored, for now, you assure yourself. You reach the third paragraph and then your phone lightens up. There is another joke on your family WhatsApp group which is there just for ruining whatever concentration you had built till now. You move on but before you reach the next chapter, notifications galore. Someone visited some place on the company’s money and want you to see their airport check-ins on Facebook. Or some political upheaval has happened in the capital, your news alert shouts. Or twitter has just lost it’s, what do they say, collective shit, for the 109th time today. And there goes your concentration out of the window and gives up on you. Has it ever happened to you? Or as they show in ads, are you fully frustrated with distractions, notifications, social media nonsense and inability to concentrate for the attention span now almost inexistent? If yes, this book is the perfect antidote you need for your addiction to social media, the poison of modern day life.
Does your office appear like a fair to you where people are just moving incessantly for no reason whatsoever?

Does your office appear like a fair to you where people are just moving incessantly for no reason whatsoever?

Deep Work by Cal Newport tries to do only one thing. It tries to reassure and encourage you that if you really want to do some productive work, which he calls as ‘Deep Work’, you have to really boycott everything you think isn’t relevant to the work. The book has several examples of people who really mastered the art of Deep Work and produced astonishing work of literature, science, art and so on. All they did was to cut themselves off from the material world and concentrate. They trusted their brain to do the knowledge work, they had set out to do and when their brain got free from all the mess around, it produced the desired results and the satisfaction which is often missing from the work. For example,
“Mark Twain wrote much of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in a shed on the property of the Quarry Farm in New York, where he was spending the summer. Twain’s study was so isolated from the main house that his family took to blowing a horn to attract his attention for meals.”
The book repeats several times, that social networking (and mobile phone), is nothing but a poison which is damaging our culture and innate mindset of humans that we are getting consumed by it and not the other way around. It mostly takes the example of modern knowledge workers, say, people who code, write, think and create. It also tries to propagate a beautiful fact which is totally unlike what you have been told till now. We are told to be approachable and we are expected to reply to every message, email, text immediately. Deep Work suggests to become hard to reach. Not only it would make you better at what you’re currently doing instead of wasting time replying to things which can easily be dealt later. But it also makes others understand that you treasure your time as equally as money. Reading this book coincided with my getting fed up of the social media and I feel no remorse whatsoever not being on Facebook and Twitter. You can buy it from here: https://amzn.to/2zs9nRL

So I recently read: Off the Corporate Bus and into the Creativity Boat

Off the Corporate Bus and into the Creativity Boat

Off the Corporate Bus and into the Creativity Boat

A Confession

I started reading this book at the beginning of this year and finished it only a week ago. No, it is not that big a book but this year has been particularly bad about book reading for some reasons. I had to give reading up time and again and got involved in one thing or the other. Yada yada yada, I want to apologize for not finishing it earlier. Sorry, Ashoo Ma’am!

But that cannot stop me from writing a review now when I have completed it, finally!

This book is one of the most unique ones I have ever read. It is a non-fiction and a fiction book combined into one. To sum it up, the book revolves around a conversation which 2 people have about a person lost on an island and from that conversation, the author discusses ideas which form the basis of the concept of creativity.

I won’t go into the fictional part of the book but rather I would like to focus on the non-fiction part. Most of us, I would like to believe, have a creative side of us. That gets overshadowed and becomes latent with age due to various reasons like responsibilities, family, education, and society. This book tries to evoke the dormant part of our brain which deals with creativity and encourages the reader to explore it again.

After each chapter of the fiction, there is a lesson learned which discusses various forms of creative expressions. This deals, with a lot of conviction and scientific logic, as to how our minds form ideas. Examples from Photography, Writing, Art, and Music are explored with a lot of research.

You can read this book in a couple of days while sipping tea and enjoying the rain. I am pretty sure that a book like this would appeal to everyone’s senses who feel that they used to be creative but then life happened. Certainly, this can be the trigger to reinvigorate the hidden creative part of you. You might take out the instrument you bought long back but didn’t play or finish the incomplete poem you wrote long ago and pick up a new hobby if not done yet. Although the book’s title says ‘Off the corporate bus…” but of course, not everyone can leave their jobs and become artists. But one can take some time out and try to do a bit about their hobbies which they used to have in their childhood. Sometimes, to break the monotony of life, one has to do go back to their childhood and do the thing which made them happy. That is what the book aims for.

If you want to read this, you can purchase the book from here: https://amzn.to/2wUzTB0

P.S.: My name is mentioned in the credits of this book as a contributor to the illustrations. I am so glad I could be of use for a book like this. The illustrations I made were certainly not a piece of art but rather diagrams, to be frank. When I was making them, I had no idea what they would be emoting. But after reading the complete book, I understood the clear picture, as the protagonist of the fictional story within the fictional story of this book was told, that sometimes to see the clear picture, take a step back and observe again. You might find them showing a lot more than what they depict.

Thanks to Ashoo Khosla Ma’am again!

Books I read in 2017

I am not an avid reader of books. I read a lot of articles, blogs, and ‘Terms & Conditions’ thoroughly on websites before clicking ‘I agree’. Alright, not the last one but I have not been a book reader types person in the past, even if I look like one. If you count articles and blogs maybe I do do a lot of reading and if you add all those articles up, they might constitute 2-3 books or so. But not proper books. I mostly end up reading 5-6 books a year, at max. This had been going on for a long time.

In case you are not aware, on the Goodreads.com site, there are Reading Challenges every year. People enter a number of books they wish to read that year. When you are done reading a book, you can mark that book as read. That’s a good way to check your progress from time to time.

Sometime in late 2015, I bought a Kindle. That helped a lot in increasing my book reading ability so I read 8 books in 2016. At the start of 2017, I aimed to read one book per month i.e. 12 Books per year. For actual book nerds, this might be a number they could be reading per month. But I am a normal person (some of us work also) so I thought one per month is a good number.

I would like to apologize by saying that I failed. 2017 ended but I could read only 10 books in 2017. Yes! That’s how life is, sadly. But I am very proud to say that most books I read this year had a profound impact on me. It was about quality and not quantity. These books not only reduced my social media time but also helped me become a better person. I also found my liking to non-fiction genre which I didn’t delve into much earlier. So, long story short, I am sharing the list of the books I read in 2017. The books which are bold are the ones I recommend. You can try reading them. No harm. As far as I know.

This is not your story by Savi Sharma

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Secret of Leadership by Prakash Iyer

Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

The Martian by Andy Weir

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

Krishna’s Secret by Devdutt Pattanaik

Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi

Faster than Normal by Peter Shankman

Some of these have been reviewed here and obviously, those are the ones I recommend.

So I recently read: ‘Faster than Normal’

This is going to be weird. Although the book ‘Faster than Normal’ is about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or popularly known as ADHD and how to make it work for you, by a renowned Author, Speaker, Ironman Triathlon Athlete, Podcaster, etc. named Peter Shankman, the title might also be my own Tagline, if I do get a tagline.

Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHDBrain

Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD brain

Let me share some of the traits (as I would refrain from calling them symptoms) of being Faster than Normal:

  1. Speaking fast. Very fast. I mean really fast. (Although in my mind I am being normal and others are being slow to understand me)
  2. Getting easily distracted from uninteresting things (BORING!)
  3. Being a Morning and Monday Loving Person / Extra-Energetic / Borderline-Hyper (Yes!)
  4. A believer in ‘Either my way or highway’ philosophy (Although this doesn’t work in real world. Still, I try.)
  5. Suffering from Imposter Syndrome often.
  6. Uncontrollable hands. Sometimes tongue too.

This isn’t written in the book but rather my own traits if I may be frank here. So, I don’t know whether I really have ADHD or not but reading this book gave me so many examples of my own life. And even if I might have had ADHD, this book continues to state that ADHD is not a disorder. Rather, ADHD is a superpower which can be utilized to maximize one’s output. The best part of this book is that the suggestions, tricks, and tips given in this book would work for anyone who wants to be optimal at their game, ADHD or not. I would pause here and state that if someone really has ADHD, I cannot even comprehend what all would be going through their minds all the time. But when this book tells about people who have been diagnosed with ADHD and still made it big, that is very reassuring. For instance, names like Seth Godin, Richard Branson, Will Smith have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives.

So, reiterating here that whether you are normal or faster than normal, this book has a plethora of tips by which you can enhance your general productivity. Peter gives his own examples at every instance and also brings in guests who share their experiences with how they used their faster brain to accomplish great things. From getting up early, journaling your schedule, keeping your room tidy, choices minimum, following rituals, and making the best of the time when you are in your zone, are some of the tips which are explained in details with daily life examples.

In the modern day life where we have more distractions than a normal sane person can handle, focussing on a single task at hand is certainly a huge deal. When you know that if you are to be given only one hour of time with no distractions, you can wrap up the work which otherwise might take a day with distractions, then you probably you would enjoy this book.

I have gained a lot of insights about things which I had kept on the backburner due to laziness but after reading this book, I am pumped up again. This review is the 7th blog post on my blog in 7 straight days. I think if I am able to continue this streak further, this book would be one of the reasons behind that.

The actual title of the book is: Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain. You may buy it at the given link.

So I recently read: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris

So I recently read Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferris or better known as Tim Ferris. Tim is mostly known as an investor, a podcaster, a motivational speaker, an author of multiple best-selling books and a few more things to top all that.

30-tim-ferriss-tools-of-titans-w1200-h630

Tools of Titans is basically the book format of some of his podcasts, The Time Ferris Show in which he interviewed some popular figures and divided them into 3 categories:

  • Healthy
  • Wealthy
  • Wise

For example, in Healthy section, you will find Triple H, in Wealthy section, you will find Peter Thiel, and in Wise section, you will find Malcolm Gladwell.

To be honest, and also very clearly described in the foreword and beginning of the book, this is not a usual self-help book. This is rather a collection of interviews which needn’t be read from First Page to Last Page like a normal book. One is free to select an individual and read their discussion with Tim Ferris. After/during these interviews, Tim puts his own take on the answers given by the people who are very successful in their respective fields. The question ranges from how does one define success, to what were their best shopped item which costed 100$ or less.

Now, the book is plethora of tips and tricks which the mentioned people have used as their rituals and habits which make them the people they are. If you like a certain celebrity like Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can directly jump to his interview and read about his journey from Alps to being the Governor of california while earning millions of dollars even before he became famous. You can read how Casey Neistat‘s day looked like when he began his Daily Vlogging. You can read about how James Altucher dealt with multiple failures before he became successful.

Some of the people in the books were pretty well knowns. However, some I got to know only while reading them as most of them are popular in US only (I am not living under a rock but not everyone can know about everyone, right? Ask Maria Sharapova) and then there were some voila moments when I read and realized ‘Oh, so this was the person who did that!’.

After reading this, apart from many tips received, the 2 tips which stand out the most are:

  1. Meditate, as much as you can, whenever you can, in whichever way you can.
  2. Journal, something, somehow, as much as you can, whenever you can, in whichever way you can.

These mean that most of the famous celebrities who have made something of their own in their lives live by one rule, Discipline.

Very recently, Tim has come up with another book, which is kind of sequel to this book called as Tribe of Mentors. For now, if you are interested in knowing about the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers, check out the below link.

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers

Header Featured Picture via https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/286674

So I recently read: The Martian by Andy Weir

Sunday, October 4th, 2015, around 6 PM

Heavy raining was an understatement for that day. It was pouring out there. I and my room-mate called an Uber and found a 2x surge, as usual. But we had to go any how. We had to go to the movie, we had booked, “The Martian”. So eventually, we found a cab and started for the 6.30 show at Cinepolis (still the best after IMAX). The multiplex was not more than 20 mins away from our place.

We had crossed half the way, zooming past the evening rush amidst the downpour. The roads were relatively empty despite evening time. We were hopeful that we will reach the Cinema Hall well in time to buy Nachos and a huge tub of Pop-Corn. And then, like it always happens, Uncle Murphy reminded us of his laws. As soon as we reached the main road, it was jam-packed like the atoms of a heavy metal. I could only see a sea of red of the rear lights of the vehicles ahead. While the rain had now slowed down and some part of the sky had cleared, I could see a tiny red dot near the horizon up in the sky. (Making this last line up, it was still drizzling with grey-blue sky).

We crawled like a sloth and finally reach Cinepolis at 7.15 PM. I was expecting that they would have shown 20 minutes of trailers and advertisements before the show and we would have missed the movie little bit.

The Martian

The Martian

Hustling bustling, we entered the multiplex and found our seats after disturbing at least 10 people and saying sorry awkwardly to a couple. (This line is also made up because we had booked corner seats. I just didn’t want to state that fact)

I asked my neighbour, how much did we miss? The guy said, almost everything. The first scene, I remember, was when Astronaut Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) was video blogging about how he is about to make water and his plan is to have potatoes for survival.

Which means, we had missed the first part where the accident happens. Now, a little bit of Google will suggest that the first part of the story is slightly weird. As in, (if you have not seen the movie, Mark Whatney gets stuck on Mars due an accident caused by heavy storm), the storm won’t be that intense on Mars which would lead to such an accident. Sigh. That was as hurtful as the tethering bit goof-up of the movie Gravity. Anyway, we watched the rest of the movie, enjoyed it, came back home and happily lived ever after. [citation needed]

Now fast forward to present day. In fact few days ago when I got my hands on The Martian book by Andy Weir. So, out of curiosity about what actually would have happened in the beginning, I started reading this book. I will now proceed with this post in 2 sections.

  1. Book review
  2. How did I read this book?

Book Review (Not movie review)

As the story is quite known, I am going to directly post my views without giving story’s summary or even any context (as if the above text is nothing.).

I generally liked this book. I specially liked the part where the protagonist’s sense of humor, amidst the havoc happening around him, is still intact. And that’s most of the book. The wit in the most difficult situations makes this book memorable.

I cannot pinpoint which bit was the best but this book’s core is one message: Despite whatever happens, never lose hope. No matter how bad things look around you, there will always be something you can do. Even if you’re about to die, at least smile for the last time. The book’s first line itself says ‘I’m fucked’ but the last line says that ‘…this is the happiest day of my life’. Of course, some parts look totally impossible but how much do we know about human perseverance and will to survive! There have been many instances where life survived when everyone had given their hopes. This book is based on that idea. My only issue (apart from a character named ‘Venkat Kapoor’ (and that was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor!??!)), that some of the places and equipments depicted in the book are slightly difficult to imagine in the mind while reading the book. One, because I haven’t read much of Sci-Fi actually and whatever movies I have seen, seems to have made everything easier. Second, some geography, some vehicles, only Mars nerds would know.

But then, since this is mostly a first person book, these kinds interest me a lot. And I found myself chuckling throughout the book. But I am still not 100% sure why they called the movie based on this book ‘Comedy’. A thing is good if it is good. It doesn’t matter if it is comedy or serious. Anyways, I recommend this book if you want to read some good sci-fi which is very probable to happen in reality if Elon Musk and likes do few things soon.

How did I read this book?

Very good question.

I had read about 40% of the book at my own pace. But then my friend @anahgem_k shared the Audiobook of The Martian with me through Audible. (Thank you!)

That. Changed. Everything.

I listened to the book, while reading it. And then I increased my listening speed to 1.5x. And eventually found 1.85x comfortable.

With that, I could read, understand and enjoy it so fast, that I finished the book in almost no time. (it still took me 3-4 Sols though).

So, if in case, you are finding a book interesting but getting less time to read it. And audiobooks alone aren’t your thing, combine them both. I’m seriously.

You may buy this book from here:

The Martian

So I recently read: Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath

There’s an advertisement running on the Television. A bright and happy family of five, are getting ready for a picnic. A young boy, followed by 2 younger sisters joyously enter the minivan. The Husband and the wife follow them soon after and they start. A scene many of us relate to easily. The voice-over introduces us to the minivan now. It tells us about the features like remote-controlled sliding rear doors, ample space for big family, temperature controlled cup holders, six-point navigation system and what not. The voice says, “It’s a minivan to the max. It’s the minivan for families on the go.”

Everyone inside the van is smiling and enjoying the ride.

And then, it happens.

A speeding car overspeeding from the intersection hits the minivan. There’s a huge explosion and ear-shattering noise of glass breaking and metal bending.

There’s now just the sound of a permanently pressed horn and then screen fades into blank and goes silent.

The voice over now says: “Buckle up… Always.”

Unexpected. Right?

Unexpected is one of the 6 principles of making a thought stick in the reader’s mind or a viewer or the audience mind. The above advertisement about necessity of putting on a seat belt is so powerful that one won’t be able to forget it so easily.

The principles of making any idea sticky are:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Stories

or SUCCESs. An acronym, which would stick to your mind now, when you think of drafting an idea which you want to be sticky in other’s minds.

So I recently read:

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck or ‘Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die’ is a book by brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

made to stick

made to stick

This book is easily one of the most easy to read, witty and highly useful piece of text that I have ever read. It has plethora of anecdotes, stories, ideas and case studies of various incidents in the history where ideas housed themselves in people’s mind for a longer time.

The easy language with which Heath brothers have communicated the idea of making our thoughts get etched in and stay longer and relevant is exemplary. For anyone who is learning to write, fiction or non-fiction, or who is learning public speaking, writing an advertisement, or making a campaign, this could be of great use. Anyone actually who deals with communication would find this really enriching.

I found the recommendation for this book by Douglas Kruger in one of his videos. And this has actually helped me realize, why some of my own speeches and writings worked and why most failed. But after reading this, it would help me shape the flow and the content in a better way.

I recommend this book strongly, to anyone who wants to put forward their thoughts in a better way.

You may buy this book here:
Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck