Book Review – “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefevre

Title: Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

Author: Edwin Lefevre

Published: 1923

Number of Pages: 308

Price: Kindle – Rs. 60, Paperback – Rs. 890 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 3/5

This disguised biography of Jesse Livermore has been highly recommended by stock market pundits over the years. One can see why, given the fact that the observations about human nature and stock trading ring true almost a century after the book was written and first published.

What however might make this a cumbersome read is the fact that most of the practices and anecdotes mentioned here are no longer relevant today. Institutions have been replaced and there are strict rules against “manipulating” stocks.

The book does give you a glimpse into the kind of courage and daring required to make big bets in the stock market. Apart from that, for the general learning, I recommend reading through the quotes from the book on Goodreads.

Read more about ‘Reminiscences of a Stock Operator’ on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

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Book Review – “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama

Title: The Audacity of Hope

Author: Barack Obama

Published: 2008

Number of Pages: 375

Price: Rs. 325 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4/5

When Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States of America, he kindled hope not only in America but across the world. This book outlines the basis of that hope.

Obama argues that in spite of their differences, Americans want the same basic things: jobs, good education for their children and a safe, free environment. And then there are the challenges created by the ideological differences between the two major political parties, the manner in which laws are created and how the legislature works. Not to mention the social and economic challenges brought on by globalization. In ‘The Audacity of Hope’, Obama confesses to not knowing all the answers but does outline a road-map that he says can take everyone ahead.

What I particularly liked about this book are the lucidly explained ideas. Even as someone has never followed American politics in great detail, I was able to grasp most of what was being explained about the legislature. This isn’t a book heavy with details and complexities of how the legislature works but gives us a peek into the lives of U.S. Senators and how they try to align their personal, political and national interests.

I would also say that this is not necessarily an ‘American’ book. The challenges that Obama lists and the common aspirations of the people are a universal story and as applicable to us here in India as to the citizens of America.

Read more about ‘The Audacity of Hope’ on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Book Review – “The Speed Reading Book” by Tony Buzan

Title: The Speed Reading Book

Author: Tony Buzan

Published: 2000

Number of Pages: 217

Price: Rs. 726 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 4/5

Tony Buzan lists out various techniques to speed read books, newspapers and magazines. Given that the book was written in 2000, there’s not much on how to speed read on mobile or computer screens.

Still, the book is helpful in order to get started on the speed reading journey. What I think is more important is to persist through all the techniques mentioned, which require regular practice and persistence. Scanning and skimming books and articles also might help to skip through portions which don’t necessarily help in building one’s knowledge base.

Overall verdict: definitely give this a read. I think of this book as a “building block” to reading other books and the benefits will start accumulating over a period of time.

Read more about ‘The Speed Reading Book’ on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Book Review – “The Complete Guide to Memory Mastery” by Harry Lorayne

Book: The Complete Guide to Memory Mastery

Author: Harry Lorayne

Published: 2008

Number of Pages: 302

Price: Rs. 219 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 3/5

I have been wanting to read this book ever since I was in college. So to be able to finally persist and finish this book almost a decade later is a matter of no mean happiness.

Almost everyone I know wishes to have a better memory. More often than not, they tend to fumble over small things: little daily errands, remembering birthday and anniversaries, etc

What Harry Lorayne does in this book is give us little techniques that can aid us to remember things which we did not think were possible. For instance, the greatest help was linking numbers to words and remembering a mental image. It sounds complicated but is much simpler once you read it.

The book also describes various party tricks and also tricks to remember all the 52 cards in a pack; at one point, I do feel there is an overkill with the number of techniques he suggests. But I understand what he’s trying to do: give us a variety of options and let the reader choose whichever one works best for her.

The second half of the book, “The Secrets of Mind Power” feels more like a self-help book and I personally wasn’t interested in it at all. Still, I feel the first half of the book more than warrants the money one spends on it.

Read more about ‘The Complete Guide to Memory Mastery’ on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Book Review – “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven” edited by Sudha Murthy

Book: Something Happened On The Way To Heaven

Edited by: Sudha Murthy

Publisher: Penguin Books India

Publication Year: 2014

Number of Pages (Kindle): 224

Price: Rs. 200 (Flipkart) / Rs. 175 (Amazon) / Rs.  157.70 (Kindle)

My rating: 2/5

A book that I bought and persisted with since one of the twenty real-life short stories here features a friend of mine. Although she had warned me that the publishers had dumbed down the language in the book, I was taken aback with what I read. Some of the tales are really naive too, which doesn’t help either.

Avoid.

Image courtesy: www.goodreads.com

Read more about ‘Something Happened On The Way To Heaven’ on Goodreads. Buy it on Flipkart, Amazon.in or for your Kindle.

Book Review – “Playing It My Way” by Sachin Tendulkar

Book: Playing It My Way

Author: Sachin Tendulkar, Boria Majumdar (contributor)

Publisher: Hachette

Publication Year: 2014

Number of Pages: 486

Price: Rs. 602 (Flipkart) / Rs. 519 (Amazon) / Rs. 304 (Kindle)

My rating: 3/5

I must begin by criticising the writing for it was such a big disappointment for a book that I began reading with much excitement. For a legend of the game, and one who I’ve admired since childhood, I often felt that the writing in this book was amateurish and did very little justice to Sachin’s great achievements and his memorable career. I have read Boria Majumdar’s columns in newspapers and even they seem better written in comparison. I wondered why someone of the stature of either a Ramchandra Guha or a Sharda Ugra couldn’t have been brought to the table to write this book. I also wondered how a publishing house like Hachette would’ve allowed such a book to go ahead. Perhaps they were certain that merely Sachin’s name was good enough to sell enough copies and no one would notice the sub par writing. (At one point in my notes while reading the book, I actually wrote “School boy-ish writing. Aargh!!!”)

What does work for this book, however, is the wave of nostalgia that will sweep through you if you’ve followed Indian cricket for the years that Sachin played cricket. I could not only recall scenes that I’d seen unfolding on a television screen but also headlines from newspapers of the Indian team’s exploits as I read about them in this book. Who can forget Sachin’s batting heroics at Sharjah or him taking five wickets in a match against Australia at Kochi and then juggling the ball with glee? How can I ever forget the heartbreak as I saw Sachin getting out to Saqlain Mushtaq in Chennai? A hundred memories like these are what I would like to remember this book for.

Another thing that impressed me in this book is Sachin complimenting and thanking all the people who have helped him throughout his career. From his coaches, to the support staff, his parents, his wife, his manager. Everyone gets a mention.

Something that surprised me, and has been written/talked about a lot, is how Sachin doesn’t talk much about the troubles that the team faced when match-fixing allegations were flying thick and fast. He is basically done with it in three or four sentences where he merely mentions how angry and upset he was. I can understand why he cannot reveal names or more such, but as a man who was in the eye of the storm (so to speak) this tells the Sachin fan very little how much the champion was affected by the scandal.

This inability to express Sachin’s anger and frustrations is also evident when describing the various injuries and resultant breaks and therapy that he had to undergo. Not only does the persistent back injury seem as if it wasn’t a big deal but even the tennis elbow injury is not made to sound threatening enough.

The book does become engrossing as he nears his retirement day. He is able to express in vivid detail the emotions he felt as he saw the noise around him reached deafening levels. It feels as if he were at peace with his decision of retiring and that is one thing a Sachin fan can feel happy about.

Overall, this book remains a disappointment. Sub par writing, anecdotes which don’t give you an insight into the inner world of players, funny anecdotes that fall flat, conveniently sidestepping the troubling times that Indian cricket saw in the last decade and a half are a big thumbs down for me.

Perhaps Saurav Ganguly’s (auto)biography, if and when that is written, will give us a better insight into arguably the greatest era in Indian cricket. Hopefully, that book will be like Saurav’s commentary: never holding back a punch.

Image courtesy: www.goodreads.com

Read more about ‘Playing It My Way’ on Goodreads. Buy it on Flipkart, Amazon.in or for your Kindle.

Open by Andre Agassi

Title: Open – An Autobiography

Author: Andre Agassi

Number of Pages: 400

Price: Rs. 235 (Amazon.in/Flipkart)

I hadn’t read an autobiography in a while, let alone a sports one. What tipped me towards reading this particular book was that it was highly recommended by a couple of friends who are avid sports fans themselves. In fact, one of them had insisted that she listed this book as brilliant.

I expected the book to be a simple narration of an athlete’s journey: his trials and tribulations, snippets from his personal life, the various battles that he had been part of on the tennis court. What I got, however, was an untarnished glimpse into the life and the roller-coaster mind of a flawed genius.

There is no doubt about the fact that Agassi is one of the greatest tennis players of his age. He will forever be remembered as one of the titans. He will also be remembered as somebody who was flamboyant and perhaps not mentally strong enough to capitalise on his skills in the initial years of his career.

The book smashes all such ideas. And then some more.

Agassi shocks us by telling us how his father trained him since the age when he could barely hold a racket. Agassi hated the sport. As he grew up, he was, like any other kid, a rebel. What made things different for him was the focus on his life and his career. And that the rebellious kid’s every antic was being noticed and commented upon.

No doubt he worked extremely hard was made to work extremely hard on his game. But he was also clearly gifted. Yet, he continuously saw ups and downs in his career graph, most of which can be attributed to the demons in his head.

Agassi speaks honestly about his married life with Brooke Shields and how, even though it looked picture perfect, there were ominous signs right from the start. His subsequent wooing of Steffi Graf, however, makes for a delightful read and you cannot be any more pleased for a man to have finally found happiness after all that he has been through in his personal life.

There are also some great stories of friends, trainers and coaches who have had a significant impact on Agassi’s life. Each one of these injected a dose of positive thinking in his life when he needed them the most. Those chapters are very good motivational reads.

And then of course, there is Pete. “As always, Pete.” The one awkward rivalry-friendship that endures through the length of the book is that of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Agassi admits as much. Sampras was definitely the more crowned champion, and perhaps with good reason. Agassi mentions how not bothered Sampras could be with the sport when he was off the court: how he could “switch off”. You cannot but admire the way Agassi speaks of his friend and arch-rival.

I have always loved tennis as a sport and will forever remain a Federer fan (GO FED!). But this book has made me look with new respect at Agassi and at what is perhaps the loneliest sport out there, as he mentions in the book.

Bring on the Sampras autobiography, I say!

My rating: 4 out of 5.

Image courtesy: http://www.goodreads.com

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