Books Read in Aug - Dec 2023

These are the books I read in the second half of last year

Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam :
An informative summary of Pre-Islamic Arabia. The dearth of available sources shows but it manages to throw good light on a few areas. It's a dry read unless you are interested in a specific aspect - e.g. architecture, or religion, or social life, of the period.
 
The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice : A great exposition on how to apply Yoga's philosophical principles to our daily lives. It's targeted at Western readers, which I felt was unnecessary, but that does not take away much from it.

Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From :  A very readable popular science book dealing with how new genetic research is uncovering the true nature of human migration across millennia, and in the process, how this research is settling the Aryan migration question.

The House of Jagat Seth : A history of the family of Jagat Seth, wealthy bankers during the 17th and 18th centuries in India. They were responsible for funding the British and other interests in deposing the then Nawab of Bengal, which subsequently paved the way for British rule in India. Their intentions - according to this book and another - were political and not to bring in the British.

Xangbadikotar Okothyo : A memoir (in Assamese) of a senior journalist.

A Promised Land : Barack Obama's very readable presidential memoirs.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity : Could have been shorter.

The Rosie Project : Semi-enjoyable.

The Master and Margarita :I think this has opened the door to reading more Russian authors.

Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music : Meh.

Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story :Lang Lang's autobiography.

Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More : Classical music.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier : Classical music. Really love this one.

The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece : Classical music. Very well written quest plus biography of Casals and Bach.

Play it Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible : Classical music, again.

A Brief History of Christianity

I dropped these books midway -

The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had : I dropped off after the autobiography chapter. I started this book with high expectations. I liked the premise. 

It is not much more than a collection of synopses of books - books that what the author says make up a classical education. The author has a protocol to be followed while reading them - some of the rules make sense but can get really tedious and take away the joy of reading or reflecting on what we read.

The author also misspells "Ahimsa" as "Ahisma" - meaning non-violence - in the context of Gandhi's autobiography, so I am not sure what else they have misspelt or gotten wrong. This occurs twice in the same paragraph. And thus everything else starts to slide downhill when you realize that it's not necessary that the author actually read the books in question before making a reading list out of them.

Being a man in the lousy modern world : "In Japan the handshake has yet to replace the bowing, but in the rest of the world it has triumphed over genuflection and kowtowing to each other." The world according to this British (not American, as I would have thought from this gaffe) is made up of the western world and Japan.

Rajarsi Janakananda : A Great Western Yogi : I was expecting a biography, which this was not.

Unreasonable Success and How to Achieve It: Unlocking the Nine Secrets of People Who Changed the World : This book reads like somebody was forced to come up with a formula for success with bullet points, actionable items and random personages from world history, in true corporate BS PowerPoint style. There is nothing new here, and the "formula" is just paragraphs of supposedly inspiring directions that go on and on. No wonder this was selling at a 66% discount on Amazon when I bought it. Including Lenin in the list of successful people is not just weird, it's also insulting to the memories of the thousands killed or interned in concentration camps during his regime. 

I use Goodreads to track most of my reading - https://www.goodreads.com/challenges/11633-2023-reading-challenge


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