Breakout Nations; Ruchr Sharma; 2012; non-fiction – A fascinating book that is made even more interesting given how it gives a somewhat unique insight into what the world was forecasted to look like almost a decade ago. This is wonderful given how some of the long-term predictions Sharma made in his book are visibly underway, whereas some have been woefully torn apart by economics, politics, and war. Lastly, I especially admired the section on the Indian subcontinent, specifically the portion where Sharma gives his views on the ‘rising’ Rahul Gandhi. A truly wonderful read that links together the past and the present.
Prisoners of Geography; Tim Marshall; 2015; non-fiction – Another brilliant book that managed to convince me that a field of study I previously considered alien and declining plays a much larger role in our world – geopolitics. Marshall successfully navigates the issues of explaining politics using nature. However, on the downside, his language is rugged and not wholly engaging – in stark contrast with the ideas he attempts to portray. There was also too much negativity buried in how most world maps were drawn by ignorant leaders (although I do not know whether it is right to question that).
The Soul of an Octopus; Sy Montgomery; 2015; non-fiction – A fascinating and complex book that enthralled me right from the start. As a presumption, I assumed that, even before starting to read it, that writing about octopuses would be incredibly hard. However, the author manages to weave together some alien facts into a cohesive structure. She also fuses together the best of fiction and non-fiction elements, giving the book a spectral quality. In fact, for a certain period of time, one feels galvanised to make his/her own aquarium. However, what I found lacking was the author’s focus (especially in the latter parts of the book) on worthless stuff that vitiates the flow of language and contradicts her purposes at the beginning. One such example is the chapter on getting octopuses to blind date, which makes no sense to me (given the context).
Contact; Carl Sagan; 1985 – Sagan, once again, doesn’t fail to impress. What I admired about this book was the constant sense of longing, longing to conquer what lies beyond our pale blue dot. Combined with the conflict between humanism and politics which dominates the plot, and the variety of character traits Sagan imbibes into his characters, the book is a stunning read. From people like Kitz, who is frozen in the Cold-War and thus elects to ignore fact and choose hypocrisy, to Hadden, the very definition of a mad scientist x tech wiz, the book contains a wide array of characters differentiated by not just nationality and ideology, but by opinions, thoughts and individuality. Although I fail to agree with Sagan’s final impression of love (cliché) being the only common denominator amongst ‘The Five,’ this book did leave a lasting effect – a will to wonder about whether or not such advanced civilisations actually do exist out there. I completely sympathised with Ellie’s character, and especially her stubbornness and arrogance when it came to denouncing opponents logically. Hadden too had a deep impact on me. His solicitude combined with his love for space and inability to stop believing in the most arcane theories possible made him a role model esque figure. Although his death came a bit too early, I couldn’t help but relate to his desire to see Jupiter’s swirling mass of hydrogen and helium. On the other hand, although I didn’t like it, but one has to accept that Sagan’s repeated emphasis on flawed human characteristics such as political borders transcending into science, inability to believe in the truth and willingness to accept religion did pay off by representing some of the biggest challenges we face as a species. This book will surely leave you shaken, and perhaps cause many to see how important space truly is and how fragile our planet is.
Automate the Boring Stuff With Python; Al Sweigart; 2015
Programming in Python3; Mark Summerfield; 2015
The Glass Palace; Amitav Ghosh; 2016