Friday, February 10, 2012

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Happiness hypothesis combines philosophical wisdom and scientific research to understand the way we think and act. The author cites some of the elegant studies done in the field of psychology to give us some surprising insights. He shows how gossips, reciprocity, selfishness, sacredness, divinity, virtue, adversity, spirituality have shaped us through time. He finishes the book by attempting to help us through the process of answering the grand question, “What is the meaning of life?”.

The elephant and the rider

The author says that we are made of two different beings - a rational self and an emotional self. He explains this with the metaphor of a rider on an elephant. 

The rider (our rational thoughts) can control the elephant (our emotional self) with the rein on his hands to turn, to run, to stop or to go, only as long as the elephant doesn’t have a will of its own. When the elephant wants to do something of its own, the rider is of no match to the elephant. What could possibly better illustrate this than these kids fighting to control their elephant?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

What is the secret to a right answer? You guessed it right - a right question! This book is all about the powerful idea of asking the right questions. As a young graduate student, the author found herself in tears every time someone ruthlessly critiqued on her PhD dissertation. One day when her professor told her that her work was simply not acceptable, instead of breaking down in tears, asked “OK. How can I fix it?” This change is question enabled her to take become calm, confident and to take constructive action. Over the years she developed ways to inflict this deliberate change in questions to drive her results. In this book, the author explains the concepts through the story of Ben who is in a huge crisis at his work place and in a relationship mess with his wife. 

Monday, September 05, 2011

A Splendid Exchange by William J. Bernstein

Your televisions from Taiwan, cars from Japan, vodkas from Russia, coffee from Brazil, your iPads from China, shirts from India, oil from Saudi Arabia are all so ubiquitous that it is easy to forget how recent such miracles of world commerce are. What better symbolizes the epic of global trade than an apple (the fruit :)) from the other side of the world, consumed at the same exact moment that its ripe European cousins were being picked from their trees? Millennia ago, only the prized merchandise - silk, gold and silver, spices, jewels, porcelains, and medicines - travelled between continents. The mere fact that a commodity came from a distant land imbued it with mystery, romance, and status.

This book tells the magical story of how trade has been a dominant factor in shaping our world today. The author pans across the ancient silk road, the spice trade, the plague, the cotton, the slaves, the sugar, the coffee, the tea, the opium, the gold and silver, the wars, the pacts, the Portuguese, the Arabs, the Dutch, the English, the Chinese, the Indians, the Americans to narrate an fascinating story of how the simple age old urge to profit led to rise and fall of empires, wars, trade restrictions, and globalization as we know it today. Personally I think this book changes the way you look at the world and its history. Bernstein's rich and engaging narrative style makes the book fun all the way!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Never eat alone by Keith Ferrazzi

This book is about all about networking – not the usual cold and impersonal way, but connecting – sharing the knowledge and resources, time and energy, friends and associates, and empathy and compassion in a continual effort to provide value to others, while coincidentally increasing our own.

How do you turn an aspiring contact into a friend? How can you get other people to become emotionally invested in your advancement? Why are there some lucky people who always leave conferences with months’ worth of lunch dates? Where are the places you go to meet the kind of people who could impact your life? These are some of the questions that this book answers. If you are someone who is very shy (just like me :) ) to meet new people or if you are that networking ‘jerk’ (:P) who has a martini in one hand and just collects business cards on the other in a ‘networking session’, then this book is for you!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

This book gives us a glimpse of what happened to us, our human society and its evolution in the past 13000 years. In the 13000 years since the end of the last ice age, some of us have ended up with literate industrial societies with metal tools, while some others only developed stone tools and non literate societies and rest of us remained as hunter-gatherers. This historical inequalities have long cast shadows into the modern world, for many of the literate societies with metal tools colonized, displaced or exterminated the other societies in the recent centuries.

‘Guns, germs and steel’ was initiated by a simple question from a New Guinean named Yali: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had a little cargo of our own?” Jared Diamond attempts to answer why we evolved differently in terms of technology in different continents, with Europeans ending up colonizing most of the world and not vice versa. As he sails pasts our history of 13000 years he brilliantly clarifies how geography played the most important role to shape our evolution and refutes the belief that the Eurasian domination is due to any form of intellectual, moral or inherent genetic superiority. 

An extremely short (13000 years in a single post?) rundown of what gave Eurasians the advantage over the rest of the world:

Success arises out of a steady accumulation of advantages
-Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Monday, March 07, 2011

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics is a book about making sense of a large volume of data using interesting questions. It is simply thinking sensibly about how people behave in the real world and as the author says, all it requires is a novel way of looking, of discerning, of measuring. This isn’t necessarily a difficult task, nor does it require super sophisticated thinking. The book has essentially tried to figure out what the typical gang member or sumo wrestler figured out on his own (although it had to be done in reverse).

The effect of reading this book is this: You might become more skeptical of the conventional wisdom; you may begin looking for hints as to how things aren’t quite what they seem; perhaps you will seek out some trove of data and sift through it, balancing your intelligence and your intuition to arrive at a glimmering new idea. Some of these ideas might make you uncomfortable, even unpopular, just like the claim that legalized abortions resulted in massive drop in crime.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Stop clutter from stealing your life by Mike Nelson

This book deals with understanding the deeper reasons for your clutter, the inertia of getting rid of it, finding a balanced household and living, and filling our heart and soul with people and memories, not stuff. The author emphasizes the emotional why-do’s along with the practical how-to’s hoping to uproot the cluttering behavior entirely and not allowing it to grow back to creep into our lives. The author believes in slow and steady success than instantaneous and quick-fix solutions. After being abandoned by his wife, by many friends and after being kicked off from jobs, he realized the magnitude of the problems the clutter can cause in life. Being a successful de-clutterer himself, he supports his practical solutions and ideas with his own stories and testimonies from other de-clutterers like him. In addition, the quizzes for self evaluation, a de-cluttering diary to keep track of the de-cluttering success and like enhances the de-cluttering experience.

To find if you are a clutterer, click .

The de-cluttering diary

If you think you are a clutter, make a notebook as your de-cluttering diary. The purpose of this diary is to help see patterns in our cluttering behavior, and solutions to those patterns in our de-cluttering behavior. It is a map of the journey from living a cluttered life to learning to live clutter-less.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie

This book gives very effective and doable principles on dealing with people with lots of examples and instances, and it delivers what it promises. Written by Carnegie in 1937 after extensive research, it is amazing to see the stated principles still holding true. The extent of his understanding the human nature simply shows. This is certainly a ‘oh yes’ book, and is very difficult to practice what it preaches. But as they say, Rome was not built in a day. There is room at the top, when you know how to win friends and influence people.

What others want?

Barbara Anderson was working in a New York bank and wanted to move to Phoenix in Arizona for her son’s health. So she wrote the following letter to 12 banks in Phoenix:

Dear Sir,

My ten years of bank experience should be of interest to a rapidly growing bank like yours.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

This book is jointly done by Mitch Albom and Morrie (as their final project together), told from Mitch’s perspective. It is about a student who meets his professor when the latter is slowing withering and dying from ALS. They both spend every Tuesday together and Morrie shares his views on the meaning of life, love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness and finally death, all from his experience.

A summary of Morrie’s ideas on..

Self pity

Morrie puts a daily limit on self pity. Every morning he sheds a few tears thinking about him suffering from ALS. He stops after a while and concentrates on all the good things that he is going to hear that day. Many people spend their waking hours feeling sorry for themselves bringing in so much negativity in their daily life. It is certainly useful to put a limit on self pity and move on.

Full article at this URL

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma

This book is a compilation of ideas that are already known to us, yet they were never acted upon. Robin has put these ideas very elegantly and has shown that these ideas worked for him very well, that one gets inspired to constantly pursue them to reach the place called greatness. I definitely found this book incredibly useful and enjoyed reading every chapter. One chapter every morning would certainly supply the motivation needed for the day.

There is something missing from my coolness!

Robin was out skateboarding with his daughter. The little girl looked like a pro with all her new accessories. Just as they were having fun learning to skate, she looked up to Robin and said, “Dad, there is something missing from my coolness”.