Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Genre: Non Fiction
Rating: *****

Quite a revelation. I loved this book. Fascinating to the last page and very educational. Explains the concept of social epidemics brilliantly. One of those books that you actually might be able to apply in reality and you will find yourself mentioning interesting facts from it in conversations. What I did find interesting though is that he has a theory on what caused the drop in crime in New York but another book (Freakonomics) offers a different theory. His ideas are still valid though, just makes you remember that there are usually more factors than what are presented. Its also a little disturbing to find how susceptible humans are to suggestion. Hopefully, by becoming aware of our susceptibility to certain situations, we may lessen the effect. I'm also currently reading another of his books, "Blink", extremely entertaining thus far. Even more focussed on the human mind, the process behind snap judgements and even more disturbing stories of how susceptible the human mind is to suggestion.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini

Genre: Fiction
Rating: ****

I actually listened to the audio version of this book read by the author. I decided to buy it based on the excellent ratings it got on the site and the summary looked quite interesting. The book is very well written and tends to open your mind to certain subjects. The story is about a boy growing up in Afghanistan, born in a time when it was still peaceful. The unrest first begins when he is still a boy. I could relate to many of the practices of the Afghans, but found many of their other customs a little strange. It is interesting how people meld culture and religion, a lot of the time in such a way, that people forget which is religion and which is tradition. What left me a little unsure about the book, was its absolute anti-Taliban stand, while being pro-American. The book is thankfully not anti-Muslim but there are many characteristics of the Taliban that he describes that I find a little hard to believe. I know of some extreme practices, but I always thought of them as misguided people who truly believed that what they were doing is right rather than hypocrites that enforced Shariah law in public and completely went against it privately. After skimming his biography now, I see that he grew up in Kabul but he moved to the states just like the main characters in the novel. I wonder if all his information on the Taliban came from the US media, which would explain his perception of the Taliban. Not once does he seem to sympathise with them at all. And sometimes, I wonder that even if he did, perhaps he did not express it for fear of alienating his countrymen in the US. All in all, I think is a book worth reading, as long as the reader remembers not to take all the information at face value, and to remember to check other sources to get a better rounded picture of the story.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke

Genre: Fiction
Rating: ***

I finished this book about a month ago. A tale about magicians and reviving magic in England. It was quite an enjoyable read despite getting a bit tedious at times (especially the first part on Mr. Norrell). The book for some reason, reminded me of a cross between Harry Potter and Jane Austen. I think because the content is about magic but the language and style is quite old-fashioned. Once I'd finished it, I have to say I didn't feel absolutely satisfied. I wasn't sure if I liked the book or not, it had some really good moments and some really long-winded sections. Perhaps the book would have been a lot better if it had been shorter and faster-paced. However, I absolutely adored the dynamics between Strange and his wife, they seem to me the ideal couple :)