Thursday, 22 January 2015

The Summing Up by William Somerset Maugham

This  autobiographical  book was first published in 1938 ,when Somerset Maugham was 64 years old.I first read this book in 1979 when I was 25.It did influence me then , as it has done now.But I  believe,I have understood it better this time.In the book , Maugham  tried to sum up what he understood about life and its  meaning.Since most of his experience had been in writing dramas and novels ,   a large part of the book is about writing .But it is also the story of a soul struggling to understand what this life is all about.
             Precisely , Maugham sums up by saying that every life  should centre around goodness.One should be good and do good. Goodness is the only value that seems in this world to have any claim to be an end in itself.There is nothing more beautiful than goodness(Page 56).Life  should be all about right actions.The right action, according to Maugham , is acting in conformity with your nature and your business."Loving kindness(non-sexual love) is the better part of goodness.It lends grace to  the sterner qualities  of which goodness consists and makes it a little less difficult to practise those minor virtues of self-control and self-restraint,patience , discipline and tolerance , which are the passive and not very exhilarating elements of goodness."(Page 302).The value of  life  is not  beauty but right action .It  must strengthen your character and make it more fitted for right action.
                    Living for goodness requires self-realisation  which is "bringing to the highest perfection every faculty of which you are possessed."(Page 274).
                      Maugham has given many observations about reading and writing .One interesting statement:"The ageing writer does well to keep in touch with what the young do and from time to time ,I read their novels." Another witty observation:"Bored noblemen,axed officers,retired civil servants , fly to pen as one might fly to the bottle."(Page 176).
                I recommend you to read this book.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

My favourite 100 books

The idea to prepare  a list  of my favourite 100 books came to me when I was reading William Somerset Maugham's autobiographical book The Summing Up.A stage comes in life when  you decide to do things that seem of importance to you , and you can no longer persuade yourself that you are not yet ready.For if you are not ready now, there is a small likelihood that you will ever do so .I have been an avid reader of books ever since I was  very young, and I have not really kept count of the books I have read .But often , when I liked a book very much , or I was  deeply influenced by a book, I had a desire to read such books more than once .But there was always a competition between the new books , and  old books waiting to be read again .The figure of 100 is purely arbitrary,and the list is the first list .It is possible that there may be some more books , which were my favourite when I read them , and I may modify the list .But I know that the changes will not be substantial.The list has a mix of fiction and non-fiction .So  here below is the list of my favourite 100 books  as on January 17,2015.:
1.Angela's Ashes   by Frank  McCourt.
2.The Fountainhead  by Ayn Rand.
3.A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton.
4.The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
5.The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh.
6.Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
7.Animal Farm by George Orwell.
8.Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally.
9.Steppen Wolf by Hermann Hesse.
10.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
11.The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
12.Stoner by John Williams.
13.The Diving-Bell & The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby.
14.The Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse.
15.The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
16.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
17.Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
18.The Wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum.
19.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
20.Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
21.Heart of darkness by Joseph Conrad.
22.The Little Prince by Antoine De Sait-Exupery.
23.Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
24.Tolstoy and the Purple Chair ..My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch.
25.The Stranger by Albert Camus.
26.Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
27.The Plague by Albert Camus.
28.The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.
29.Beloved by Toni Morrison.
30 TheRazor's Edge by W.Somerset Maugham.
31.Infidel . . .my life by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
32.Night by Elie Wiesel.
33.The White Castle by Orhan Pamukh.
34.Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
35.To Sir With Love by E.R.Braithwaite.
36.Saturday by Ian McEwan.
37.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
38.The trial by Franz Kafka.
39.The Fall by Albert Camus.
40.Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.
41.Notes From underground by Fyodor Dostevsky.
42.The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow.
43.The Truth by Michel Palin.
44.Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
45.A single Man by Christopher Isherwood.
46.Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.
47Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.
48.The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.
49.Jonathan Livingstone Seagull . .a story by Richard Bach.
50.The English Patient by Michel Ondaatje.
51.Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T.S.Eliot.
52.The Bhagwad Gita by S.Radhakrishnan.
53.Long Walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela.
54.Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz.
55.Motivation and Personality by Abraham H.Maslow.
56.The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White.
57.The Story of my experiments with Truth ..  .An Autobiography by M.K.Gandhi.
58.Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl.
59.The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
60.The Road Less Traveled by M.Scott Peck,M.D.
61.Obedience to authority by Stanley Milgram.
62.Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere.
63.A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
64.Free to Choose . .a personal statement by Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman.
65.I and Thou by Martin Buber, translated by Ronald Gregor Smith.
66.The art of war by Sun-Tzu.
67.The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi by R.K.Prabhu ,U.R.Rao.
68.The Complete Yes Minister  . The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister by the right Hon.James Hacker MP.
69.Love  . what life is all about  by Leo Buscaglia.
70.Illusions . .The adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.
71.How People Change by Allen Wheelis.
72.In the Footsteps of Gandhi . .conversations with spiritual social activists by Catherine Ingram.
73.The Master as I saw him  by Sister Nivedita.
74.Letters of Swami Vivekananda Advaita Ashrama.
75.Markings . ..The Enduring Spiritual Classic by Dag Hammarskjold . .translated by Leif Sjoberg ,W.H.Auden.
76.The magic of Dialogue by daniel Yankelovitch.
77.The hidden words by Baha'u'llah.
78.The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.
79.The Different drum by M.Scott Peck.
80.How to be Invisible by J.J.Luna.
81.Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande.
82.On writing  . .A memoir of the craft by Stephen King.
83.How to Read a book  . . the classic guide to intelligent reading by Mortimer J.Adler & Chrles Van Doren.
84.Leading Change by John P. Kotter.
85.The Fifth Discipline  . .The art and practice of the learning organization by Peter M.Senge.
86.Thinking in Systems . ..a primer  by Donella H.Meadows.
87.Ageless Body ,Timeless Mind . .a practical alternative to growing old by Deepak Chopra.
88.Exit ,Voice ,and Loyalty by Albert O Hirschman.
89.Straight from the gut by Jack Welch with Johna A.Bryne.
90.Individuals ,Groups, and shared Moral responsibility by Gregory Mellema.
91.The Seven habits of Highly Effective people . .powerful lessons in personal change by Stephen R.Covey.
92.Good Strategy,Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.
93.On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis.
94.Mojo to get it ,how to keep it,how to get it back if you lose it by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter.
95.Getting Things Done  . .The art  of Stress-free Productivity by David Allen.
96.Quality is Personal. . . .A foundation for Total quality Management by Harry V.Roberts,Bernard F. Sergesketter.
97.Glow..How you can radiate energy,innovation and success by Lynda Gratton.
98.Emotional Intelligence  . .why it can matter more than IQ by Daniel Goleman.
99.Mindset   ...The new psychology of success . ..How we can learn to fulfill our potential by Carol S.Dweck.Ph.D.
100.The summing Up by William Somerset Maugham.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

This book is an autobiographical account of the years  Karen Blixen from Denmark   spent in Kenya.Karen Dinesan was married to Bror Blixen in 1913 , and the couple moved to Kenya , which was at that time a part of British East Africa.In 1914,they used family money to establish a coffee plantation there.The Blixens separated in 1921 and were divorced in 1925.The coffee plantation failed in 1931 , as a result of world wide economic depression in 1931.Karen Blixen was forced to sell the farm to a residential developer and returned to Denmark .She wrote her first book in 1934 .Out of Africa was her second book , published in 1937 and is her best known book .It established her reputation as a writer of acclaim.
                          Out of Africa describes  events of 17 years which Karen  spent on her coffee plantation  in Kenya.The book of 330 pages is divided into five sections as below:
1 .Kamante and Lulu.
2.A shooting Accident on the farm .
3.Visitors to the farm .
4.From an immigrant's notebook.
5.Farewell to the farm.
The style of the book is meditative and melancholy.It  captures the life of a white African colonist.She describes a world which is lost now,the world of huge  farms which were home to  herds of elephants,zebra , giraffes ,lions , hippos and leopards.Kenya at that time was a hunter's dreamland.Hunting safaris  depleted the wildlife of Kenya substantially.
                   It is a book which makes you have a  feel  for the life lived in partnership with nature.You  may like to read this book , if you want to know a different world, full of wild life, which existed not long ago.