Friday, August 31, 2007

What Did We Do to Deserve This? by Mark Howell

Hello friends,

What Did We Do to Deserve This?Palestinian Life under Occupation in the West BankMark Howell

Released to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (June 1967), this timely book exposes the realities of everyday life for Palestinians in the West Bank in the twenty-first century.

Based around photographs of, and interviews with, ordinary Palestinian people, it looks at all aspects of daily life ranging from restrictions on movement and imprisonment to the effects of the occupation on business, the practising of religion and the development of democracy.

Finding a solution to what is frequently termed the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is now widely acknowledged as an important step in reversing the growing gap between mainstream Muslim society and the West. By providing the reader with a comprehensive understanding of how Israel’s policies in the West Bank affect the lives of real people on the ground, it cuts through the smokescreens and political correctness that pervade coverage of the issue and offers the reader a new platform from which to form his or her own opinions.

Look insideTo download a selection of sample spreads from the book in PDF format, please click here (3 MB) or here (4 MB).

About the author

Mark Howell is a freelance photographer with a specific interest in the Middle East. He combines analytical skills derived from eight years experience as an English qualified lawyer with photographic craft honed during a Masters Degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, to produce balanced, comprehensive and accessible works.


Palestine Chronicle: “As an introductory view of the Palestinian situation, What Did We Do to Deserve This? is an excellent starting point. Hard-hitting, gritty, realistic, yet also compassionate and humanistic and ultimately, in spite of the negatives, hopeful. The hope is narrowing, the love of family, land, and culture remains.”

Palestine News: “Mr. Howell acts as a witness to the humanity of the Palestinians, which is movingly displayed in testimonies and photographs showing their activities, aspirations and emotions, as well as their suffering. … The book gives a rare opportunity to hear the voices of Palestinians, in an accessible format together with a succinct historical and political background.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone

The fantasy of every kid………

The overwhelming wish in almost all dire situations…………

To have magical power of some kind or other, maybe to know the paper tomorrow or help out in a competition or with a girl, well here is a case of a young kid (obviously living a wretched life coz he’s the HERO) finding out that he’s got it and to cap it he’s a rather famous character. Here starts a journey of fascinated learning of a world totally new and beyond imagination.

Our hero is now at a school for learning to use magic and in his first few encounters is faced with a society divided into the ‘old faithful’ style GOOD & EVIL or the DARK side. True to tradition the dark side one and only one ultra powerful egocentric self centred etc etc chap at the head and the other ie good side has one that believes in love and similar things. Just a basic deviation the head of dark side is not stronger than his opponent and thus wants to avoid a direct confrontation.

Returning to main story, Harry Potter, a legend, the only one to survive and somewhat related to partially destroying the Leader of the dark side ‘Lord Voldemort’ as an infant, suddenly comes to know he’s a wizard and has got admission to the best school for learning magic, HOGWARTS, headed by the redoubtable Dumbuldore. He meets people from the wizarding fraternity and instantly chooses the sides he wants to be on, is naturally talented in Quidditch the most famous game for wizards. There he meets a few friends Ron & Hermione, not to mention the gentle half giant Hagrid who also happens to be a teacher of his. Other major characters include Snape another of his teachers who happens to loathe him and Quirell another professor who acts rather strangely.

Hogwarts happens to be guarding a philosopher’s stone which gives the elixir of life, which helps a person live forever. The Dark Lord obviously wants it and that’s why it is guarded. He however latches on to quirell’s body and forces him to steal the stone….but at the last moment our saviour Harry comes to the rescue with his friends and saves the day.

An oft told story but with a few differences that the hero is not an all conquering figure but one who has to fight off his inner emotions, he does not just sacrifices his feelings for the greater good ala superman but rather fights for himself as well fights his own emotions before reaching a decision. This was a major shift in how our hero were supposed to feel & this along with the fantasy & children’s angle helped the book become as famous as it did.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shadow Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

If you love to have your skin crawl, this is a tale that will do it. Chills creep up and down your spine as Detective Bryson Coventry tries to catch a stalking killer. A fast-paced thriller with plenty of action and characters that will have you looking other books by this author.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Firm

by John Grisham

This was my first reading by John Grisham. I read it around 6 years ago. The only other book by John Grisham, I read is 'The Client'. His works are normally thrillers but wound around law. I can understand, that John is in love with his education of law.

The story is about a young rookie lawyer, who is brilliant by all standards. But, he was more brilliant then both himself and his employers thought him to be. He, was big dreamer and hard working guy. But, more than money he was dominated by his values.

So, the story is clash between, persons value system and monetarily driven environment around him. To create the scene, all the good guys and bad guys come in to the picture.

But, the good thing about this reading is its speed. I read this book in 2 days and throughout two days I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what next?? And I was always shocked to get unexpected.

The novel has all the spices for the modern day reader. And also, the novel has been transformed into superhit movie by the same name 'The Firm'. But, I must say, I enjoyed reading more than watching.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The One Minute Manager

by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

I read this book around six years ago, by borrowing from a co-passenger in bus. Now, how I could have read it full in the small journey. The answer is that its concise size and gripping content. At that time I was a engineering student. But, even then I was able to relate to it. Though I have read and practiced a lot afterwards in the management field, still I think it’s a masterpiece.

The book is crisp direction towards team building. It focuses on the way a effective manager and leader should treat his subordinates in different phases of their association with the organization. The phases are the induction, routine and exit.

And the best part of the methodology explained is that the One Minute Manager himself becomes trainer to bring out One Minute Management out of all his subordinates.

I think, in today’s world of time pressure, if one reads this methodology and masters it, nothing can stop him.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

This book written by Scott Peck is another masterpiece in the field of psychology. It refers to the difficulties in life, our perceptions and attitudes towards most of the stimuli. It talks of the upbringing by our parents and the effect of their behavior on our molding into a matured personality. Also the vivid discussions with respect to Love, religion and grace and the method of solving our own problems are some of the major highlights of the book.

The book starts with a dialogue “Life is difficult”, and this is the essence of what the author conveys to us in the whole book. We keep on cribbing for our problems and try to prove that they are the most troublesome among all. But each one has his/her share of problems and we ourselves have to find their solutions. We must accept that the life is difficult and we have to find solutions to our problems. Problems and solutions exist together.

Then the specific areas are discussed with help of the cases of the clients of the author and how he got the clue of what was the root cause of their problem. They bring a live conception of the complexities of our mind, and at the same time, they also reflect the causes of problems by sending some signals. These signals are interpreted by the author with amazing perfection. He also discusses the Phenomena of Love in exquisite details where he explains the true love in a different way. He says that it is an act more than feeling. When we extend ourselves to attain spiritual attainment and help other person to achieve it alongside, then we actually love. The act of love can be extended to any number of people. It is more of a rational decision than just an attack of Cupid.

It also gives a new dimension to the religion. He says that despite being adhered to certain religion by birth, we may have an entirely different belief system and that forms our religion in our heart and mind. The incidents have been explained beautifully where a person worships God in different ways than others around him do. People also fear God and they have a different imagination of God based on their experiences and consistently felt emotions.

In all, the book gives a lot of space to think differently about our problems and the various issues related to our day to day lives. Moreover, it also gives us a positive direction to lead our further lives and removes a lot of doubts through insights on controversial topics like love, which has so many different ideas for different people. It is a mind-boggling read for the people who like the psychological realm in their choice of books.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

In the midst of all the hype and hoopla around HP and Deathly Hallows , I picked up a really unexpected title which I was hoping to read since long. Afterall it had its own hype in the literature circle when it won the Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Its a Collection of nine stories, most of them narrated in first person, ranging from the life in kolkata to US to UK . All 9 of them in a typical Jhumpa style which 1) leaves u with a sense of incompleteness at the end of each and 2) Makes u wonder why Jhumpa focusses so much on explaining the scene and setup so specifically and in detail like she secretly conspires to get u distracted from the main story plot . Well most of the times u wont even feel it was a complete story. Albeit , I must say some concepts of the "stories" were quite interesting and new , but i felt a bit dragged in a few portions here and there.

Although going by the title , I was sure expecting a lot of depression shots :)

The "Temporary Matter " talks about a Bengali couple , who try and get back the lost spark in their marriage using the pre-notified power failures for a week and playing a game to disclose things to each other they havent told ever. They eventually end up deciding something else altogether. The 1st half of it is depressingly slow which beats up a bit in the latter half .....

"When Mr Pirzada came home" is the flashback narration of a woman , about a phase in her life when she was a kid and when Mr Pirzada visited her parents home everyday to watch TV and have meals as he was living here in US all by himself ( without a TV ofcourse) while his wife and kids were back in the war torn Bangladesh / East Pakistan then. Its about her empathy and concern she had for Mr Pirzada as she realises that he must be too worried for his family whenever he saw the news about the war on the television.

"Interpreter of Maladies" is about a a gujju driver Mr Kapasi who is also a part time interpreter at the local doctors. He takes this young NRI couple to visit the konark temple and ends up fantasising about subtle interactions with the young , mother of three , wife. He is happy about the conversations she has with him while her husband and kids are busy getting themselves clicked enroute or getting amused by the monkeys.All the thoughts are fluoroscent till she ends up telling things to Mr Kapasi which she hadnt told anyone , which leaves Mr Kapasi a bit thinking towards the end.

"Real Durwan" is a boori maa ( guess its the bong pronounciation for a boodhi maa ) who lives under the stairs of a kolkata apartment occupied by not so affluent bengali families , about her life what was now and what she claimed it used to be. How she was the undesignated "darbaan" of the building and how she is undeservingly treated towards the end.

"Sexy" is more of a todays story ... this firang girl who falls for a married Bengali and how eventually her life zeroes down to waiting for sundays when he used to come visit her ( In his jogging attire ) to sleep with her and say " sweet things in her ears".

At "Mrs Sen's" is an encounter of this young american boy who has to spend some time at Mrs Sen's ( she was the baby sitter ) after school while his mom had still a few hours left to end the day. It highlights how imoportant it was for Mrs Sen to be able to cook a whole fish and to learn to drive a car so as to be able to go alone to anywhere she wanted and not call Mr Sen who was always so busy at the university.

"The Blessed house" - Twinkle & her husband shift to this new house where she is thrilled to discover hidden catholic symbols/idols which her husband completely hates. She infact finds it beautiful & wishes to display it in prominent places so that guests at the housewarming party could appreciate it.How her husband deals with it and how the housewarming party turns into a treasure hunt is "The Blessed house"

"The treatment of Bibi Haldar" - Bibi Haldar is a 29 old girl who is the victim of epileptic fits ( I guess thats what it was ) and how at 29 her life was far from normal. Though she lived with her Bro and Sis in law but her actual home was the store room, where "it was difficult to stand with ur head straight" . One day she realises that she wants to get married and expectedly her guardians assumed no one wud marry her. One fine day her bro abondons her and runs away after which Bibi Haldar was mostly inside the store and no one saw her much. Till one day the narrator discovers her inside in a state that eventually cures her.

"The third and final continent" was the least Ironic of them all and flows "normally" from India to London to US. In all the stories above.. u can clearly see the brilliance of Jhumpa Lahiri to narrate the minute specifics of the scene setup but "ironically" it doesent help the reader much to relate more to the stories. By and large the feel throughout was that this work of fiction is more of a hype.

Rating : **

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Godfather

By Mario Puzo

What should I say about this legendary novel by Mario Puzo?
I think most of us know about it. But still I will jot down my thoughts.

It was the novel I waited for 2 years to read. It was my father’s favorite and he used to tell me the excerpts from it since childhood. When I got into 11th Standard, the desire of reading became very strong. And to my bad luck, pirated copies were not available in my home city. And I couldn’t afford the original paper print. So, I talked to my dad about my wish. He simply said that wait for your admissions in engineering college, and then he will gift it to me. So, it happened I was gifted this novel by dad after two years of my request. And it was my first novel in life.

I liked the starting line among all the lines in the text. The line is “Behind every great fortune, there is crime”. Well I don’t totally agree to this, but it entices me.

The story revolves around Corleone family, which is strongest among five families controlling mafia of US. All these families belong to migrants from Sicily or better known as Sicilians. Godfather, Vito Corleone is head of Corleone family.

Godfather according to Christianity is the person who is responsible to take care of child next to his/her parents. But, Vito was not only known as Godfather by his godchildren who range from truck driver to movie stars but because of his conduct, his genuineness and balls.

The novel describes in management terms the whole Supply Chain of Crime. One can learn lot of things from it like Manpower Management, SCM, Change Management and what not. It was proper business set up and the only thing missing was legal entity.

Then to most of the youngsters’ page no. 28 will entertain a lot, animal like sex.

Number of movies has been made on this novel -Godfather series in English & Dharmatma, Sarkar, Atank hi Atank, Zulm ki Hukumat and many more in hindi. Recently I saw one real life movie City of Gods. I think it was in Spanish, but again the underlying situation and conduct was similar.

And I have read and heard lot of business tycoons, claiming that this novel is their mentor.

So, its one of the books that I gift to my friends who wanna start reading. And most of the times they don’t leave it till they finish it. But, still there are others who are unable to read it completely. For them, I will just say “If you can’t be interested by this, then you can’t be interested by anything”.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


By Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton is one of the best known science fiction writers of our time. He is famous for Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain and Congo. His latest work TimeLine is one of my favorites.

I think the novel was written from the perspective of making a movie and I m still waiting for the movie to come.

As one can infer from the very name itself, it’s all about Time Travel. I started the novel and till first half was really restless. The reason was that I bought it as science fiction, but what I was reading was history. Yes for first half I was literally confused and frustrated. I was wondering how Michael Crichton can do this to me. But, thank god I kept my patience. The story shuttles between modern 21st century and 14th century France, with team on scientists and archaeologists stuck in between.

But, as the story progressed from first half to the end, my frustrated confused face got smile. And I was just laughing at myself. “The Impatient Ass!!”

Here I picked lot of new concepts like Multiverse, time anomaly zones, and …………. In total I was more than satisfied on completion.

So, I will say be patient while reading it as the story gradually picks up the speed. And slowly you will find yourself visualizing the 14th century France around you. And again this novel made me wonder how can one like Isaac Asimov and Michael Crichton go to such a depth of the novel without actually practicing the field. Hats off!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Kane & Abel

By Jeffrey Archer

On the same day, on opposite sides of the globe, two boys are born. The boys are William Kane and Abel Rosnovski. While Kane is gold, Abel is steel.

The style of writing is typical of Jeffrey. The two stories are parallely running in a way that one chapter is dedicated to Kane and the consecutive one to Abel. The style continues till they finally meet.

Again Archer weaves the story into history by beautifully portraying the characters involvement in Titanic and WWII.

The two boys are the deadliest enemies and the fastest friends. One is from Poland the other one from US.

The story is a thriller jampacked with action, drama and business.

And the most beautiful thing is the two characters met only thrice in their life and still always think of one person that is each other only.

Once I picked the book, I couldn’t keep it down and read it in 2 days. The funny thing was that it is during my final exams of engineering I picked this book. I needed to prepare for the exams but at the same time couldn’t forgo the lust of the novel. So, along with my batchmate I studied it in a manner that I used to read one chapter of the novel and then pass it on to my friend. And studied the course till he didn’t give it back to me. This way we spent two days reading the book and course and if I talk about food, then it was only water for two days. Such is the grip of this book.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

Zendagi migzara - Like Afghans like to say , Life goes on.

Picked up a fiction after a while this time ...A Brilliant read ... One of the most moving ones i have read.

Its about Amir and his quest to find the real himself. Its about the acts he has committed , cos he was only human .. Its about his guilt which formed inside him cos he committed these acts also that he did not commit certain other acts.

Its about Amir's Baba , a true & brave afghan to heart. About his struggle with being a single parent, about his belief in humanity and nothing else , about his subtle revolt against the existing differences between Pashtuns and Hazara communities, about his love for his country , about him not being able stand anything against Afghanistan even after he forcefully quits his country for his childs safety, About his expectations from his kid and about his secret which gives direction to this story.

Its about Hassan , A Hazara boy ... his lifelong bond with his Pashtun Master's son Amir. Its about his humility , about his brilliance in his own little way . At the end u would get a feel that maybe this is what god's own son would be like.

It of course is also about the Afghanistan that was there before the Russians trooped in and about the afghanistan as it is now..Its about the pomegranate , apple and cherry trees , its about the Rostam and Sohrab stories and about reading it to your own brother .... It ofcourse is also about flying kites and running for them , and the wish to run it over for your bro "A thousand times over"

Thats where i will restrict myself from writing more abt it , cos I wont want to be unfair to people who plan to read it up.Go pick your paper back copy ... May u be touched for a lifetime, a thousand times over.

Rating - ****

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki

Do you hate to work for money?

Are you broke at the end of every month?

Do you believe life has much more to offer to you than it has already done in terms of riches and luxury?

Do you want to REALLY get rich?

Then go ahead, read this book.

I read this book recently and it breaks all the myths about getting rich. It radically changes the mindset our culture, our peers and our parents try to instill in us. The mindset that the ONLY way to make more money or get rich is to become more education, get more academic degrees, work hard to earn more money and the list goes on.

Robert starts with comparing the teachings of his poor dad (his biological father) and the teachings of his rich dad (father of his friend). He compares the teachings of both of his fathers and tries to explain to the readers how each kind of teaching impacts anyone's path to become rich and free from "rat race".

Robert teaches in this book about financial IQ, about how to build assets, how to free yourself from the rat race. He gives tremendous examples on how to earn money and get rich by investing in real estate. He gives his own personal real time examples to show how he made money work for him rather than work for money.

The book is a total mind opener and gives valuable insight on how rich people make money work for them rather than work for money.

A must read if you really want to make big money!

Recommendation: 10/10