Aditya Kane

Thoughts on the Internet, WordPress and FOSS

Category: Books

A couple of books about our world

I recently picked up a couple of books on Kindle. Starting with the An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor. The book is highly recommended by many friends and relatives who have read it, have been surprised on India’s colonial history. I personally did not find An Era of Darkness as illuminating, but then I have been reading about colonialism for a while now.

The other book I am reading and finding interesting is “The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith” and it was thanks to a quote by Noam Chomsky – 

People read snippets of Adam Smith, the few phrases they teach in school. Everybody reads the first paragraph of The Wealth of Nations where he talks about how wonderful the division of labor is. But not many people get to the point hundreds of pages later, where he says that division of labor will destroy human beings and turn people into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be. And therefore in any civilized society the government is going to have to take some measures to prevent division of labor from proceeding to its limits.
He did give an argument for markets, but the argument was that under conditions of perfect liberty, markets will lead to perfect equality. That’s the argument for them, because he thought that equality of condition (not just opportunity) is what you should be aiming at. It goes on and on. He gave a devastating critique of what we would call North-South policies. He was talking about England and India. He bitterly condemned the British experiments they were carrying out which were devastating India.

– Chomsky

The bold letters are my emphasis. I am actually surprised how I managed to not read this book all this while.

I am looking for recommendations on books that explain our world practically and philosophically rather than spiritually.

Drop in your recommendations, I would love to check them out.

Tolstoy on Hypocrisy

I was reading Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism by Peter Marshall. On a chapter on Tolstoy, it quotes him about writing and exposing the hypocrisy of the wealthy and respectful, including himself.

Some books in my reading list for this year [2017]

Over the last year, I have sort of stopped reading books. I read a lot online. But there is something interesting about reading a book.

The stillness of reading a book is deliberate. The past year has been difficult personally and professionally. So stillness would be a good thing to find in everyday life.

So a few weeks ago I started putting away titles and collecting them for reading, partly inspired by this post.

I borrowed a book from an uncle yesterday – Demanding the Impossible – A history of Anarchism by Peter Marshall. It promises to explore key anarchist ideas and values throughout human history.

The other one I plan to read is Mao – The Unknown story – by Jung Chang, Jon Halliday. The book was recommended by my girlfriend. I know very little of China’s history over the last 100 years, and this could be useful place to begin.

Then there is the The Code Book by Simon Singh on the history of codes and encryption.

There is also P. Sainath’s Everybody loves a good drought. It is an important read to know about the systemic propagation of poverty and debt in India’s agrarian society.

I want to re-read Foundation and the Second Foundation by Asimov. Both of these books made me think about things and life differently. I want to see what happens this time round.

I have bookmarked Critical Theory since Plato edited by Hazard Adams, Leroy Searle. It is pretty heavy reading and expensive to buy outright. So if you know of a place in Pune or Mumbai I can borrow it from, let me know!

I should probably read more than just these books in 2017. But I am looking for suggestions right now.

Bonus

I was also recommended Homo Deus – Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuva Noah Hariri.

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Fiction to read in 2015!

I love reading non-fiction. History books usually. But I do not mind the odd “Outliers” either. I have usually avoided fiction – possibly why I have actually managed to NOT read Agatha Christie or PG Wodehouse in my growing years.

But a recent catching up of a BBC series called “Jeevs and Wooster” has prodded me to read more Wodehouse and more fiction for 2015. I guess in a way 2015 will end up being “Year of Wodehouse” for me.

But since I have stopped reading good fiction for ages, would love to get recommendations for new books I should read in 2015. Just drop them in comments or email them to me at aditya.kane at gmail.com

 

Book Review: Jerusalem – The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

The road to this book started almost six months ago. I was not into reading about middle-eastern history. I had very little interest in the history of Abrahamic religions, hence I ending up with this monstrous 540 page book (excluding the notes and references section) on Jerusalem was unlikely. I was recommended this book by an uncle with whom I was sharing some interesting articles about middle-eastern culture over email.

The book really is exactly what it calls itself – a biography. It starts with the obvious sketchy details of the city’s origins in the world of David, Solomon, Judah and it’s subsequent insignificance in the Persian and later Macedonian scheme of things. The city gains some importance as the Romans arrive. The city though of not much economical significance is central to Judaism. It obviously attracts a lot of religious prophets, mystics and messiahs. One of them being Jesus Christ, whose teachings finally led to Christianity.

It proceeds very adeptly about the rise of Islam, the crusades, the mamluks, Ottomans. Jerusalem is truly written on an epic scale with characters like the Herods, Saladin, Baldwin the leper-King, Richard, the magnificent Suleiman, Napoleon Bonaparte and many more whose choices and their impact end up shaping the city’s fortunes and misfortunes.

It ends with the recent past of the city and its complexities thanks to the politics of religion and the region.

Thankfully, Montefiore does not dramatise the storytelling and keeps it simple. Despite covering almost 3000 years in a single book, he manages to do justice to the various events and their back stories.

If you are interested in the history of the region, then this one would be a good addition to your book collection. Afterall reading about myths, mystics, messiahs, prophets and emperors is usually a lot of fun.

Amazon: Jerusalem – The Biography

Flipkart: Jerusalem: The Biography

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