Book: The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Dispossessed Cover ImageThe Dispossessed, originally published in 1974, and in print ever since then, is possibly Le Guin’s most intellectually challenging novel.

It is placed far away in the future – a long distance from the earth; yet it is easy to identify with.

It is a book about two societies – one a model egalitarian, anarchist, resource-strapped society (with its flaws) and another a resource-rich, capitalist society with huge inequalities. It is a story about a physicist (also an idealist) who wants to learn from others and share his findings with the whole of humanity. It is about the benefits of community collaboration while celebrating the lonely journey of the creative genius.

The Dispossessed is a timeless tale, with a science fiction setting, but appealing from a literary point of view. It is rooted in the political issues, communal counter-culture, and women’s movement of the late 1960s and early 70s.

It is hard to put down, once you start reading it. I have read it four times over the last 20 years, and I am likely to read it many more times.

The book has been studied and analyzed by scholars and students and is a subject of research.

Title The Dispossessed
Author(s) Ursula K Le Guin
Initially Published In 1974
Publisher Multiple – Orion Publishing Group, Harper Voyager, Easton Press, Harper & Row, Gateway
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback

“Le Guin’s book, written in her solid, no-nonsense prose, is so persuasive that it ought to put a stop to the writing of prescriptive Utopias for at least 10 years.”

The New York Times 

The World(s)

Far away in the future and far away from the earth, human beings have occupied and thrived on other planetary systems, while the earth has been destroyed (our earth is not the focus in this book).

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Book: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Making Ideas Happen - CoverGenerating new ideas is easy, it’s executing that is hard. Whether you are an individual or an organization, perseverance and perspiration are a must to transform vision into reality.

In Making Ideas Happen, the author, Scott Belsky uses his observations and insights behind successful teams at Disney, IDEO, and Google — as well as highly productive and respected individuals like John Maeda, Seth Godin, and Chris Anderson — to present essential principles and a structured set of methods for converting any idea into reality.

Title Making Ideas Happen – Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality
Author(s) Scott Belsky
Initially Published In 2010
Publisher Penguin
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Available At


“A Swiss army knife for Ideas”

Ji Lee, Director at Google Creative Lab 


Ideas for new businesses, improving productivity or capabilities and solutions to the world’s problems  are common. So are ideas for artistic breakthroughs. However, great execution is rare. Ideas don’t happen by accident or because they are unique or great. Ideas are taken to fruition with passion, focus, and hard work.

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Book: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Breakfast of Champions - CoverThis must be the fourth or fifth time I have read Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr– I had first read it in the late 1970s, and have always considered it as a ‘classic’ that needs to be read again and again.

It is difficult to categorize this book, but here are the categories that it may fit in: fiction, biting satire, black humor, science fiction/ fantasy, and serious literature. The fact that the book has alternate titles may provide a hint on the unpredictability, and difficulty at slotting the book.

Title Breakfast of Champions or
Goodbye Blue Monday
Author(s) Kurt Vonnegut
Initially Published In 1973
Publisher Random House
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle

“Marvelous . . . [Vonnegut] wheels out all the complaints about America and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful and lovable.”

The New York Times 

The Plot

It is the story of “two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”

Dwayne Hoover, is a charming, rich man – he runs a Pontiac dealership, owns land and is franchisee for many chains (like the Holiday Inn) in and around Midland City. Dwayne’s mind is disintegrating because of bad chemicals that his body is producing. However, no one appears to recognize the signs of his mental disturbances.

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Book: Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Finding Flow - CoverOne of the books I read (re-read, actually) in the last two weeks was Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Finding Flow is part psychology study material and part self-help guide. It proposes to help us reclaim ownership of our lives. Based on research of over thousands of individuals, Finding Flow contends that we often walk through our days unaware and out of touch with our emotional lives. People are happiest when they are most absorbed in their actions, a state the author terms as ‘flow.’ We experience ‘flow’ when we work towards clear goals that provide a slight stretch to our existing skills. Constant feedback on our progress also enables flow. So, to be happy we need to constantly be absorbed in such situations.

Title Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life
Author(s) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Initially Published In 1997
Publisher Basic Books
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle

Csikszentmihalyi eloquently argues that living fully in the here and now requires that one heed the lessons of the past.

— The New York Times Book Review

Flow is defined as the sense of effortless action people feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives.  Like athletes ‘in the zone’, or musicians in ‘aesthetic rapture’, or religious mystics in ‘ecstasy’.

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Book: Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

Last week, I re-read this really useful book on healthy eating.Mindless Eating - Cover


Title Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
Author(s) Brian Wansink, PhD
Initially Published In 2007
Publisher Hay House
Formats Available Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook

10 calories a day equals one pound in the year

— That is, 100 calories a day means 10 pounds more/ less on your body in a year.

This is a book that will help you improve your eating habits (it is not a diet plan book). It provides insights into how we eat (mostly mindlessly) and how we are highly influenced in the quantities that we eat by our surroundings and other things on which we have no control.

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Book: Sons of Sita by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-8)

“… he (Luv) let fly. The first arrow hit its mark and the second was flying even before the wagon had rolled fully into view. A man shouted with pain and tumbled off the wagon, with two arrows sprouting, one from each shoulder…”

— Chapter 4, Kaand 1, Sons of Sita

That was an attack by the twins, Luv-Kush on an Ayodhyan caravan (carrying funding for an Ashwamedha Yagna).

Sons of Sita

Title Sons of Sita
Series Volume-8 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the reviewer’s opinions on the whole series here.

The Story in Book-8 (last of the series)

Sita and her twins (Luv-Kush) live in a forest hermitage run by rishi Valmiki (credited as the original author of the Ramayana). While Luv-Kush are tutored along with other acolytes of the hermitage in the Vedas, Sita and her ex-bodyguard Nakhudi train the twins as warriors.

In the meanwhile, in Ayodhya, Rama now styles himself as an “emperor” (Samrat). He is manipulated by his new ministers, and justifies all his inconsiderate actions as an extremely distorted form of dharma (his ruthless soldiers are sarcastically called ‘dharmanators’). His mothers Kaushlya and Sumitra are unable to influence him. When his brothers (Bharat and Shatrughan) try to provide moderating advise, they are branded as traitors. Lakshmana and Hanuman continue to be unquestioning side-kicks.
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Book: Vengeance of Ravana by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-7)

“The rishi rose, spinning, as perfectly straight as a pillar – a few scant inches to any side would mean terrible wounds… He seemed to hover in mid-air for a brief fraction, like a hummingbird working at its nest, then….shot out like the yawning pincers of  stone crab Bharat had once seen at the moment it closed on its prey.”

— Chapter 3, Kaand 1, Vengeance of Ravana

That was rishi Valmiki on a visit to Ayodhya, showing his prowess when challenged by the gatekeepers/ security

Vengeance of Ravana

Title Vengeance of Ravana
Series Volume-7 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the reviewer’s opinions on the whole series here.

The Story in Book-7

The story is set in that period after decimation of Lanka and Rama’s return from his exile, but before Sita is banished. (I am not sure whether this part of the story is based on older versions of the Ramayana or it is a mainly a creation of Banker’s fertile imagination.)

In a dream/ nightmare Rama sees that Ravana is back. Rishi Valmiki (who is acknowledged as the original author of the Ramayana) visits Ayodhya with news of impending bad times. The city is attacked by rakshasa Kala-Nemi who was interned in the dungeons of the city. Soon after, Ayodhya is attacked by the armies and nobles of other Aryan kingdoms, led by Atikya (a son of Ravana) and Mandodari (Ravana’s wife).

At the gates of Ayodhya, there is a lot of drama, with many people getting into a ‘stasis’/ ‘freeze-frame’/ ‘statue’ mode so that a few others can take the centre-stage and show their moves, or make their speech. During one such exchange between Atikya/ Mandodari and Sita, Atikya puts a new spin to Sita’s parentage (you will have to read the book to know the new spin).
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Book: A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper by John Allen Paulos

A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper Cover

Title A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper: Making Sense of Numbers in the Headlines
Author John Allen Paulos
Publishing Date 1995
Publisher First by Basic Books, then by Penguin
Formats Available Paperback, Kindle
Available at,

Here is an example of mistaken precision quoted in the book:

“…museum guard who claimed the dinosaur on exhibit was 65,000,038 years old. When pressed about the precision of the number, the guard says that a scientist told him the dinosaur was 65 million years old when he was hired 38 years before”

In this book, John Allen Paulos takes us through the various sections of the newspapers and explains how math and numbers are key elements behind every story that we read. The book is quirky, perceptive, and uses a ‘light’ approach. Each chapter is very short (about 2 to 3 pages) and covers one topic or one segment of the newspaper. He keeps using analytical thinking and logic together with numbers and simple formulae to keep us hooked. Surprisingly, I found that the longer chapters were more engrossing than the shorter ones.

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Book: King of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-6)

“… When he had the rakshasha’s feet at his own waist level, Hanuman shoved them upwards with all his might; then, when Kumbhakarna was fully inverted and thrashing about desperately, he pushed downwards, literally shoving the rakshasha’s head down towards the bottom of the ocean.”

— Chapter 16, Kaand 4, King of Ayodhya

That was an excerpt from the fight scene between Hanuman and Kumbhakarna.

Cover King of Ayodhya

Title King of Ayodhya
Series Volume-6 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-6

The high-level storyline in this book:

Hanuman returns to join Rama’s army at the site of the bridge construction (after inflicting huge damage to Lanka). Just when the army is about to cross the sea over the bridge, Varuna, the lord of the ocean, is beckoned by Ravana to unleash a storm and a tsunami. The storm-cum-tsunami destroys the bridge and kills and injures many of vanars and bears, even before they begin the journey to Lanka. They eventually do cross the sea (in an interesting way)  to reach Lanka.

Ravana, using sorcery once again, creates a huge earthquake to inflict further damages and also instill a sense of utter fear in Rama’s army.

The physical fighting starts and there are many evolving strategies, changing tactics, small battles won and lost, many vanars, bears and rakshashas killed. Eventually, Rama’s army wins, Ravana and his main generals are killed. Vibhisena is crowned the king of Lanka.
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Book: Bridge of Rama by Ashok Banker (Ramayan series book-5)

“Hanuman’s last jump took him so high, nobody could see where he went. He rose up into the air, passed through the now shredded cloudbank, and rose still higher, higher until he could not longer be seen. Several moments passed………

And then, with one final mighty burst of strength, he leaped again….”

— Chapter 12, Kaand 2, Bridge of Rama

That is Hanuman, making his leap to Lanka, and to wreak havoc there.

Cover Bridge of Rama

Title Bridge of Rama
Series Volume-5 of the 8 volume Ramayana series
Author Ashok Banker

NOTE: Please read the comments on the whole series here , as the reviewer’s opinions on the series are expressed there.

The Story in Book-5

The high-level storyline in this part of the series:

Sita is held captive and as a hostage by Ravana in Lanka. Rama and Lakshman are planning to cross over to Lanka (from the mainland) to rescue Sita. Hanuman collects a huge army of vanars (from different tribes and sub-species), along with groups of sloth bears (rksas) for the conquest.

To the cross the sea, the army of vanars and bears start building a bridge using stones, wood, mud, and sand. All this while Ravana is also making preparations to face Rama and his army, and Sita is tormented by various rakshashis.

Hanuman discovers that he has super-powers bestowed to him as a result of the unique circumstances of his birth. Rama sends Hanuman to Lanka, as a last ditch effort at retriving Sita without having to wage a war and avoid death and destruction that would come in its wake.
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