Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Review: July 2009

So I broke the jinx and four books are being reviewed this month : ). It’s been quite random really and yet very enjoyable – motivation, history and then advertising…and a whole lot of learning through it all. I’ve enjoyed this month’s books thoroughly.

The sources of joy are:

  1. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy
  2. In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh
  3. Desi Dream Merchants by A. G. Krishnamurthy
  4. It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind
Dr. Joseph Murphy

The acclaimed work that many swear by fell in my plate only last month although Push had been suggesting this read for over a year. So as soon as I saw a copy I borrowed it from my nephew. I am yet to get a personal copy just because I couldn’t find it on my last two visits to bookstores. Anyway, the book is definitely worth all the hype around the concept and I have experienced the phenomenal power of the subconscious mind the moment I decided to tweak my thoughts a little after reading this book. I saw manifestations within a week of starting to think differently and on the lines that the book advocates. And that only reiterated my faith in this power and concepts like The Secret.

It is simple. This is not a book that can be reviewed. It is a tool to be used. The teaching methodology is through the use of copious examples that demonstrate the results others have achieved. So anyone who is serious about seeing his dreams transform into reality is well advised to read this book and bring the concept into practice. It works. Period.

In An Antique Land
Amitav Ghosh

This was my first Amitav Ghosh. And I am still lost in the antique land. Because the story did not lead me anywhere at least.

The book reconstructs the history of a slave, who walked in India and Egypt serving a Jewish master almost 800 years ago. The book also describes sojourns of Amitav Ghosh in Egypt as he went about this reconstruction, delving into any source he could get his hands on. In that, the book is very informative without being dry and the stories have been told well for a major part of the book. The only problem is that the story of the slave is not complete. So as I turned the last page, my mind was jolted back to the present from a place 800 years old looking for Ben Yiju and his Indian slave; it was quite a shock.

But I really enjoyed the book. It taught me so much about the past and about villages in Egypt which are not unlike the villages in India in their psyche. I may have lost the trail of the slave but the search revealed my lost affection for history. I rediscovered how much I enjoy reading History (and social Anthropology if I may) and for that I have this book to thank.

So if you are looking for a story with a definitive end, I would suggest you stay away. This is more of a memoir. But if you don’t care for that kind of stuff and like discovering new worlds through books, you will probably enjoy the book as much as I did.

Desi Dream Merchants
A. G. Krishnamurthy

For some time now, MICA has been on my radar. And wouldn’t you think it would be just like me to pick up a book about the Mudra Agency given that prelude? That’s exactly what I did when I spotted the book at Landmark last month.

Desi Dream Merchants has been written by the man who made Mudra what it is with ample help from his team mates. AGK headed Mudra for 23 whole years and while reading the book one gets the feeling of it having been written by a parent describing how he brought his child up; literally from the stage when Mudra staggered to stand up and create a place of its own in the Indian advertising space of the 80s to when it became a confident player in that space. The book is sloppy even though it’s a TMH publication (or is it BECAUSE it is a TMH publication?) and has editorial mistakes. The language too is nothing to write home about, has no grace/charm/sophistication about it considering that an ad-man has written it (am I going by the stereotype too much given that Mudra was a home grown company of the 80s and these are high expectations from that profile?) and the book is liberally sprinkled with vernacular and regional references. Regional references I am absolutely fine with since India has that diverse fabric but vernaculars completely put me off (‘Lambi race ka ghoda’ anyone?) So I didn’t enjoy the presentation of the book at all. But the content is splendid and there is a good lot that one can learn from the book.

The book is divided into three sections. The first has former Mudraites (I hate these ‘ites’, ‘ians’ references just as much but that’s how they refer to themselves) relating how they came to join Mudra in the first few years of its conception and why they think it was/is such a great place to work in. The second and third sections are a reprint of a column that AGK used to write for the Business Standard in the years 2004 and 2005, the second section being all about what he has learnt and the third being what he liked. I enjoyed the third section immensely since AGK takes certain ads and points out why he likes them or why they worked so well. Numerous ad-lessons coming in there.

So overall, nice book to read and learn from and it provides a good insight into team Mudra.

It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be
Paul Arden

What do I say about this book…it was a punch in the face, for which I am grateful to Tigerstone. Lasted a short while and hit me hard.

Paul Arden was a former Creative Director of Saatchi and Saatchi and, I am certain, a force to reckon with in the world of international advertising. So the book has been written using references to advertising and creativity. But don’t let that fool you. This book can shake you out of any routine that you have got into - be it the routine of life or the routine of thought. It is a heavy dose of insights delivered in 120 quick pages and in a not so heavy fashion. The read is thoroughly enjoyable and liberally interspersed with pictures that speak more than a thousand words. What else can you expect from a person who gave an image makeover to brands like British Airways, Toyota and The Independent in no more than 4 words? (For Toyota it was just one actually – Driven) And it leaves you smiling, shaken and analytical of how you have been doing things in life so far.

I loved a particular piece from the book about how It’s Wrong To Be Right:

Being right is based upon knowledge and experience and is often provable.

Knowledge comes from the past so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It is the opposite of originality.

Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems. The old situations are probably different from the present ones, so that old solutions will have to be bent to fit new problems (and possibly fit badly). Also, the likelihood is that if you’ve got the experience, you’ll use it.

This is lazy.

Experience is the opposite of being creative.

If you can prove you’re right, you’re set in concrete. You cannot move with the times or with other people.

Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas. You are rooted in your own rightness, which is arrogant. Arrogance is a valuable tool, but only if used very sparingly.

Worst of all, being right has a tone of morality about it. To be anything else sounds weak or fallible, and people who are right would hate to be thought fallible.

So: it’s wrong to be right, because people who are right are rooted in the past, rigid-minded, dull and smug.

There’s no talking to them.

© 2003 Phaidon Press Limited

And he adds the cherry on top by adding a red cross mark under the piece. This piece left me with a healthy amount of self-respect for not seeking to be right ever because that is where I learn. And it also taught me what kind of people there is no talking to : ) . Loooooooooved this one and all the other bits from the book. I have only done a ravenous cow’s devouring of the book as of now since I couldn’t put it down after reading the first page. Will have to regurgitate and ruminate on this again…maybe a page or section at a time and a day’s reflection. This one cannot be let by with one reading.

P. S.: I finished the last bits of Desi Dream Merchants and It’s Not How Good You Are…on the same day. One field, two ad-men (born only two years apart so living in the same time frame) and what a world of difference in the quality of the reading experience in terms of the presentation of content. Raises a few doubts in my mind.

Will leave you with that thought. Happy reading : )

3 Thinkers Pondered:

Satish said...

Reading all your book reveiws,i guess you would have built a very good library now.....

Hopefully one day i will get to the end of "TO READ" list

Smita said...

Hmmm not my kidn of books.

Have 2 books of Amitava Ghosh!! Yet to read them. I hope they don't fail my expectations!!!

Nice brief reviews :)

Anupama said...

Hey Satish!

The library is always Work-In-Progress and there might be no end to the 'TO READ' list :) ...thanks for the comment :)

Hey Smita!

Would like to read your review of the Amitav Ghosh books when you put it up and know how you enjoyed them...thanks for the comment :)