Article Recommendation: The Management Myth by Mathew Stewart

Now here is an article that calls a spade a spade. The spade here is management theories and education. Management education started with Frederik Taylor, whose theories have fallen into disrepute and are taught, at best, in “the history of management theory” lessons, but business education that he propagated has continued to prosper and so have continued the rise and fall of management theories.

In the spring of 1908, Taylor met with several Harvard professors, and later that year Harvard opened the first graduate school in the country to offer a master’s degree in business.

Although it is usually the same two concepts that keep coming up in new garbs adorned by new buzzwords.

Between them, Taylor and Mayo carved up the world of management theory. According to my scientific sampling, you can save yourself from reading about 99 percent of all the management literature once you master this dialectic between rationalists and humanists. The Taylorite rationalist says: Be efficient! The Mayo-ist humanist replies: Hey, these are people we’re talking about! And the debate goes on. Ultimately, it’s just another installment in the ongoing saga of reason and passion, of the individual and the group.

And the entire discipline manages to escape any kind of accountability.

The world of management theorists remains exempt from accountability. In my experience, for what it’s worth, consultants monitored the progress of former clients about as diligently as they checked up on ex-spouses (of which there were many). Unless there was some hope of renewing the relationship (or dating a sister company), it was Hasta la vista, baby. And why should they have cared? Consultants’ recommendations have the same semantic properties as campaign promises: it’s almost freakish if they are remembered in the following year.

But don’t MBA programs create those highly paid executives?

Management education confers some benefits that have little to do with either management or education. Like an elaborate tattoo on an aboriginal warrior, an M.B.A. is a way of signaling just how deeply and irrevocably committed you are to a career in management. The degree also provides a tidy hoard of what sociologists call “social capital”—or what the rest of us, notwithstanding the invention of the PalmPilot, call a “Rolodex.”


For companies, M.B.A. programs can be a way to outsource recruiting.

Read The Management Myth by Mathew Stewart.

Book Recommendation: The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

The Illicit Happiness Of Other PeopleThe Illicit Happiness of Other People is melancholy, humorous and philosophical, all at the same time.  When I first read the book a few weeks ago, I found the first few chapters a drag. I was, perhaps, wondering why I am being presented with bits and pieces of a decently smart, but an intellectually megalomaniacal teen’s philosophy, which, in its entirety, would most likely be borrowed wisdom that sounds profound, but means nothing. I held on because the writing was good and the dig at the typical middle-class Madrasi’s life* humorous. I am glad I did. I read the initial chapters again recently to see if there were other reasons for finding them such a drag. Surprisingly, I no longer found them so, perhaps because by the time the novel ends, the author ties up many of the threads he introduces in these chapters. So I was discovering a purpose in them now.

The philosophy of Unni Chacko, the dead teenager around whom the plot revolves, won’t help you find the ultimate truth, but it will make you smile, or think or wonder if there is any difference between wisdom and mental illness and what really defines normal vs. delusional.

Ruminate over the following, if you like.

It is the misanthrope alone who has clarity.

Or this.

Truth usually shows humanity in a poor light.

And here is the delusion explained.

The fundamental quality of a delusion is that it is contagious. The very purpose of every delusion is to transmit itself to other brains. This is how a delusion survives. On the other hand, truth can never be transmitted, truth can never travel from one brain to another. Movement is a quality of delusion alone.

In case you are wondering why?

Truth is not consistent. It changes from brain to brain. The truth of every neurological system in unique and it cannot be transmitted. It cannot be told, it cannot be conveyed, it cannot be searched for and found.

And sainthood deflated.

The distinction between a delusion and a lie is the very difference between a successful saint and a fraud.

And if you thought language was the best thing that happened to humankind.

Language was created by nature to guard its secrets, not to reveal them. We are trapped in language. Even thought has become language.

The reference to a wife plotting to kill her blissfully unaware anarchist husband (overstated) in the book description, a cartoon for the cover and the publisher calling it a ‘darkly comic’ story gives an impression of a very different kind of book. You might go in expecting a satire. But that’s not the case. There a dry, dark humor in the book, but it is very different from satire. The overall tone, in fact, in rather pessimistic despite the humor and wit. It is possible to get depressed with the wise pessimism. But you will survive it. Do read the book.

Book Description

Below is the book description from the publisher’s website.

Seventeen-year-old Unni Chacko has done something terrible. The only clue to his action lies in a comic strip he has drawn, which has fallen into the hands of his father Ousep, an anarchist. Ousep begins investigating the extraordinary life of his son, blissfully unaware that his long-suffering wife is plotting to kill him. Set in Madras in 1990, this is a darkly comic story involving the relentless pursuit of a failed writer who has found purpose, an adolescent cartoonist’s dangerous interpretation of truth, the plots of a brilliant housewife, and the pure love of a twelve-year-old boy for a beautiful girl.

Purchase Links

Other Books by the Author

Manu Joseph’s first book Serious Men was widely praised and won multiple awards. I have not read it, but by all indications, it is a satire worth reading.

  • It could have been a dig at the typical middle-class life pretty much anywhere in India, except perhaps Karnataka, where the JEE craze was not there, at least until a decade ago.

Short Book Review: Johnny Gone Down by Karan Bajaj

Johnny Gone DownSBR: Every plot point in Johnny Gone Down is so contrived that I don’t know where to begin describing it. The self-pitying narcissism of the protagonist (which almost feels like a proxy for author’s own feelings) is nerve-grating. We are supposed to sympathize with him, but his renaissance-man-brilliance and the roller-coaster of life have not an iota of reality in it. I don’t mind escaping reality for some entertainment, but there is nothing entertaining about the story either.
To read or not to read: Don’t.

Short Book Review: Yellow Lights of Death by Benyamin

Yellow Lights Of DeathSBR: Yellow Lights of Death was originally written in Malayalam and the translation does a good job of retaining the flavor or the original. So good a job, in fact, that it became a problem for me. It didn’t translate all the relationships’ names from Malayalam (didn’t even provide a glossary). The completely fictional life created in the real-life location of Diego Garcia is fascinating enough, the whodunnit fairly interesting, but the book has its share of flaws. Not translating Chettathi and Valayapapan is not the biggest of those. A book within the book has to be pieced together to figure out the mystery. Why and how of it is so contrived that you wish the author took his readers more seriously. The book would have been better off without this meta-mystery. I also wished that we didn’t have to read so much of mundane chit-chats between the friends throughout the book. Not resolving everything in the end and leaving some of it to the readers’ interpretation was a nice touch, though.
To read or not to read: The story is interesting enough to be read. But you don’t have to lose your sleep for it.

Book Recommendation: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell JarI recommend this book with some trepidations and a trigger warning. If you are prone to depression this book may hit close to home. It is not surprising that the novel is partly autobiographical. The picture Sylvia Plath paints of the world inside a depressed young girl’s head is so vivid that only someone who has experienced it first hand could know it. And her talent with words ensures that what words express is faithful to what really goes on in the head.

The book was published in 1963 and one has to be thankful that the understanding of mental health issues are much better today and somebody with an issue like Esther Greenwood’s in the novel might get a better treatment.  But the universal interest I have in mind in recommending this book is that it can help the reader understand the situation depression puts someone in. If you find yourself shaking your head at the fatalistic way in which the protagonist behaves and just can’t get a head or tail of her motivations, then know that she can’t either. And that’s how depression works. It can help you cope and help better if, God forbid, someone close to you is suffering from depression. It should also be treated as a warning against stigmatizing mental health problems, which is far too common in our society. Reaching out for treatment and help if one is depressed is nothing to be ashamed about.

Apart from all these, the work is eminently read-worthy for the beautiful writing too.

Book Description

Below is the book description from the publisher’s website.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and razor sharp portrait of 1950s society and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

Purchase Links

Short Book Review: The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

The Glass PalaceSBR: The Glass Palace is a work of historical fiction spanning generations over a period of more than a hundred years. The book’s history is good, but the fiction is not. Often I felt like asking the author to relax and let his characters breathe. They can live their own lives and don’t have the obligation to jump from one historical event to the next so that they can tell us everything you have learned from your research. There can be no denying that Ghosh’s history research is solid. The insights into the curious relationship India and Burma had during colonial times were enlightening to me, and the subsequent disconnect between the countries disheartening. The characters of the book, however, are stiff and the story often sounds forced.
To read or not to read: Read for the history, not for the story.

Kindle Deal on BYOB Party Favorites: Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar and My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

Couple of Bring Your Own Book Party Favorites are a good deal on Kindle right now. Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar, which was a book I had brought to the very first BYOB Party is available for Rs. 74 and My Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin that Shruti had brought in the February 2016 party is available for Rs. 50.

Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on July 16, 2016 (Saturday)

RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara



RSVP on Meetup OR RSVP on Explara

Have you read a book and are craving to chitchat about it with someone? Have a favorite book that you think everyone would love, if only they knew about it? Want to see what others are reading and have interesting conversations beyond weather, traffic, and real estate?

Then come to the BYOB party and talk away! Try to avoid a bestseller and if you have a copy, bring it along and read us a passage. All languages are welcome.

There will be refreshments and swags courtesy Worth A Read.


So, what really happens at a BYOB Party?

Everyone brings a book and talks about it. Conversations follow and they are good. So are the refreshments!

You can take a look at what happened in some of our earlier parties here:

Do I have to be there for the entire duration of four hours?

We aren’t closing doors or locking you in. But the party is best enjoyed if you are there for the entire duration and listen to people talk about a variety of books. Trust us, you won’t know how time flew.

Do I have to bring anything?

Nothing really. But if you have a copy of the book you want to talk about, you might want to bring it in. Other attendees might want to have a look, or you might want to read a paragraph from it.

I am an author. Can I bring a book written by me?

A good writer should be a voracious reader. It would be preferable if you brought a book you really like written by someone else.

Who are the organizers?

Worth a Read

I have more questions. Who do I contact?

Shoot an e-mail to

Okay! I am ready to come. What do I do?

Join our meetup group, RSVP, and come over!

If you are not on meetup, you can also RSVP on Explara.

Short Book Review: Fatherland by Robert Harris

FatherlandSBR: After The Man in the High Castle, my search for the next alternate history book, which didn’t involve magic, zombies, aliens etc. ended on Fatherland by Robert Harris. The book is based in an alternate history where Germany won the war in Europe and was established as the European superpower. If that had happened, what sense would the world and the German people themselves have made of the Nazi actions during the war and afterwards? With a murder mystery thrown in, replete with the usual fare of shocking revelations, interesting twists, a sanguine detective, and an unlikely assistant, it makes for a fun, entertaining read. In the process, we uncover the hazy realities of Nazi history in all its ghastly glory. The settings of the alternate history are in the background, not in your face, which works well for me. But apparently many alternate history buffs are dissatisfied with the lack of attention paid to the “history” part. It is also possible to point out unconvincing situations presented to the readers from time to time. But overall I liked the book.
To read or not to read: If you like mystery or alternate history, go right ahead.

Short Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

The Man in the High CastleSBR: Watching the first season of the show The Man in the High Castle got me interested in alternate history as a genre, and the book behind the show seemed like a good place to start. That’s how I picked up the book. Not surprisingly, the book’s feel is very different from the show. It isn’t as plot driven as the show, the characters are much more loosely connected, and there is no story of the East Coast at all. I liked the book, overall, but its mystic ending didn’t sit well with me.
To read or not to read: Yes, if you are interested reading alternate history, because it is a classic of sorts in the genre. For entertainment and fun, the show does a better job by changing and adding all that it has done.