Bloggerly Duties - 2: The 15 Books Tag

This is part 2 of the promised 3 part series of fulfilling my bloggerly duties. I was tagged with the 15-books tag by the Rambler here. Apologies to her for not doing this earlier, but 15 books is seriously a lot of books! Procrastination is my middle name, as those who know me will vouch. But better late than never, and so here goes:

These are roughly in reverse chronological order, while skipping a few skip-able books.

1. Enchantress of Florence: My new favorite read. A breathtakingly opulent tale of love, passion, war and philosophy, entwined in history and woven together with a narrative that leaves you speechless. For pages on end I had goosebumps reading the exquisite prose and I guess that says more than anything I can express in words.

2. Fooled by Randomness: A contrarian academician's exposition of all things random. As the title suggests, the book expounds on the universal human trait to make erronous judgments and accept false hypothesis due to the inability to deal with randomness of real life.

3. Maximum City: A hard-hitting unflinching account of a 'ruined metropolis'. An apt read during my stay in Mumbai, going behind the scenes of the daily chaos I saw all around me.

4. I'm Ok, You're Ok: A psychology book I picked up from a roadside stall because of the interesting title. Turned out to be a pretty famous book, though the basic premise was a bit hard to swallow. The crux of the message though, that we must learn to be Ok with ourselves and our surroundings, was fair enough.

5. Winner Stands Alone: I was never a Paulo Coelho fan and this book just reiterated my conviction. Somehow I find that most people who read his books have read only his books. So pretty hard to take their claims of his writing prowess seriously.

6. Sunny Shady Life: Written by a current MDI student about life on a campus, I picked it up expecting another Chetan Bhagat clone. I thought I would get an idea of how amateurish one can write and still have a book published, but I was pleasantly surprised. Not a classic for sure, but it had enough originality and content to keep me interested.

7. Kite Runner: Everyone's read it. It's simplicity is its strength. Playing to the whole mystique and paranoia surrounding Taliban and conditions in Afghanistan, it does a good job of creating a human interest story. Not a classic, but eminently readable.

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns: A work much superior than Kite Runner. The pathos, the helpless tragedy of two Afghan woman is sensitively portrayed. Many a times makes one feel ashamed to be a man, ashamed to be free and ashamed to be unable to help. Worthy of all the acclaim.

9. Good to Great: Part of my business books reading phase. But an MBA has got me kinda sick of the retrospective analysis of successful strategies of companies. They have absolutely no predictive value as many of the companies carefully selected as models of superior businesses have since gone under.

10. Art of the Deal: One of Donald Trump's many attempts at self-aggrandization. In spite of that, he seems honest when talking about his failures and hence someone worth reading.

11. The Undercover Economist: One of the more successful books of the genre of popular economics that sprang up after the path-breaking success of Freakonomics. A hotch-potch of explanations of common business practice passed off as 'insight'. Still worth reading for gaining an insider's view of how we're constantly being duped by firms.

12. Blink & Tipping Point: Both best-sellers, but neither one too convincing. I am a fan of Gladwell's articles in the New Yorker and wish he would just stick to them. But that's just me I guess.

13. Freakonomics: Thought-provoking and delightfully counter-intuitive. Running through it is a pleasure as you're always anticipating which devious explanation the authors' are gonna come up with to explain previously misunderstood phenomenon.

14. Midnight's Children: My previous favorite book. The words seem to collide into each other, leaving you breathless and tired in a good way. A mind-bending display of pure mastery of language and originality. A book to savor and treasure.

15. Inheritance of Loss: Deep melancholy and unrelenting tragedy. Depressing, yet realistic, which only adds to the sadness.


Chetan Bhagat's 3 books: Decent one-time reads. I find it funny how people who have read only his books claim to dislike them. What were they expecting? A literary classic? They are meant to be enjoyable light-reads, something to kill time with on a train, and they meet that end quite respectably. The quality seems to be decreasing with each book though.

Grisham, Sheldon, Ludlum, Dan Brown, Archer, Puzo and the rest of the pulp-fiction club are good stuff to read on long vacations.

It's been a long time since I've read classics, so I guess I should revisit some of them

Nicholas Taleb mentions in his book 'Black Swan' of Umberto Eco's 'anti-library'. He is referring to the fact that a library is only as valuable as the books in it that are as yet unread. My anti-library has grown quite large and I hate not reading as much as I would like to.

On my shelf right now: Mohammad Hanif's 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes' & Taleb's 'Black Swan'. I also have James Joyce's 'A Portrait of an Artist', but it's quite unreadable, at least right now.


And now for the fun part.

I take a great amount of sadistic pleasure in tagging Nikita, Avanti, Karishma, Pallav & Harshad.


  1. Taleb's book "Fooled by randomness" is quite over rated. The whole book is filled with his incessant rant about how people make mistakes by following the middle level, the average. But the idea he champions so tirelessly is as equally unimplementable, as stupid the average-hugging behaviour is.

  2. Aha.... you gain sadistic pleasure in tagging and then you apologize for the same! Some sadist you are ;)

    Have read most books you posted here (nice to see Maximum City on the list :-) Though 'Inheritance of Loss' couldn't hold my attention for long. Like you said, it was broody and in parts, rambling. I wish the writer would come to the point and not display her erudition by including several elaborate (and labyrinthine) descriptions of the landscape, the house etc... Of course, again, its an individual observation and I firmly believe in 'Each to his own'. The basic premise was no doubt realistic (as u put it) and that's the selling point of the book.

  3. @felicity: I'll grant you that the book isn't perfect. But it echoes many of my beliefs of people giving more importance to their own abilities than luck when explaining success, and vice versa with failure.

    @Avanti: Lol! Oops! :)

    I don't actually love 'Inheritance of Loss' either. It's very grim, dull and bleak. None of the characters are a least bit likeable. But the fact that history and geography have made them unwilling inheritors of grief and tragedy is a moving premise, one which reminds me of how lucky I am (we are) to be born in a place and time that allows us to by and large take our freedom for granted.

    Looking forward to your list. :)

  4. How can anyone not be jealous!!! esp after you put all those pictures !
    And btw... you look a lot older in this picture with a french and suit.

  5. Hey, so you finalllly managed to do this post. Quite a good collection I must say...Have read a few, wanna read a few, and few I am quite surprised at!

    Chetan Bhagat?Really? But I agree with what you wrote, the quality was never good to begin with and its degrading now :-)

    Inheritance of loss:Disappointing and not very engaging...I think I will stop picking up novels because they have won Booker or have been nominated for Booker or other awards. Those kinds seem to be quite hard to read!

  6. Hey I've actually read nearly all these books..

    and I agree with felicity, Fooled by Randomness is rather didnt leave me very convinced tho' I had great expectations from it.

    I agree with you at several points here. Trump is a self-aggrandizing prick..but then he's filthy rich, he can afford to be that.

    I love Midnight's Children, too and I wud never, ever read a Paulo Coelho book..its just ditzy spirituality mixed with self-help and sometimes, a little sex thrown in (Re:Eleven Minutes..ughhh)

    Nice list..and I shall have mine up think week too..

    not my favourite thing to blog about..but it'll be fun!

  7. I liked Fooled by Randomness too - havent't gotten around to the Black Swan but let me know ur thoughts. I got bored halfway through good to great, really enjoyed Freakonomics and just bought the Inheritance of Loss a couple weeks ago.

  8. Nice list, Arslan!

    a) I'm glad someone apart from me also finds Coelho overrated.

    b) For those who read up on retrospective successes of companies, a small disclaimer should be added. I believe many of the 'Good to Great' companies are now bust, or no longer all that great.

    c) Haven't read Tipping Point, but thought that Blink was a bit self-contradictory at places.

  9. Norwegian Fjords has been on the top of my list since ages, I simply would die to go to Norway or any Scandinavian country. I am happy that you are off to Sweden, have a great time mate :)

  10. @Dhruv: Really? I'm actually sporting a clean-shaven look these days. :)

    @Rambler: Yup, it's the same reason I haven't tried Aravind Adiga yet.

    @Tangled: Thanks for taking this up! I'm sure yours would be an awesome list. :)

    @WIP: Wow, thats quite a few that we have in common then. :) Have barely started 'Black Swan' and I probably won't read it in a hurry. Good luck with the Inheritance of Loss. :)

    @Sumit: Thanks. :)
    a) Quite a few of us apparently.

    b) That's exactly what I meant when I wrote 'have since gone under' :)

    c) Yup, my view as well. I've even read 'Outliers', and it's ok. Somehow forgot to include it in the list. I really prefer reading Gladwell's columns.

    @pawan: Thanks a lot! :)


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