Audiobooks, Marathons and Natural History @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 7)

Image result for born a crimeSankharshan spoke about a stand-up comedian who faced the heat of controversy in India recently– Trevor Noah who wrote Born a Crime. Since Sankharshan has a long commute to work these days, he invests in audiobooks: “It works out fine if the narrator has a sense of humor and if he knows how to breathe when he talks.”

Trevor Noah has the perfect audio voice and his book arrived at a time when Sankharshan was trying to understand more about how geographies can determine the history of political action. The memoir of someone whose very birth was a crime tells you a lot about the geography in which he was born. Today Trevor Noah is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show and a popular stand-up comedian but the backstory of his radical candor was the hard reality having a Dutch father and a Xhosa mother during the Apartheid era in South Africa.

Image result for Let Your Mind Run: Thinking Your Way to VictoryApurba also talked about an audiobook, the first time at the BYOB Party that we had two audiobooks in a row. Let Your Mind Run: Thinking Your Way to Victory by Deena Kastor, Olympian runner, is a New York Times Best Seller. Kastor has faced her share of hardship. She was on the brink of burnout when she met her coach Joe Vigil who taught her the art of self-care as an essential component of securing long-distance running wins.

Says Apurba, “I loved listening to Deena Kastor talk about how she shifted from sprints to long-distance running. Although I hate self-help books, I could identify with Kastor’s positivity. She learned not to beat herself for not reaching a goal and empathized with herself as running is hard work and involves many sacrifices such as eating right and discipline.”

Apurba mentioned how she almost gave up on a marathon. When she congratulated herself on how far she had come, she was able to finish the marathon. “Many times, we all berate ourselves even when we all have come such a long way. We need to appreciate ourselves more and see how far we have come.”

It’s not the first time we have talked about running at the BYOB Party. Murakami and his marathons are a hot topic. Many writers are good runners. Besides Murakami, Erich Segal was another writer who ran the Boston Marathon every year.

Image result for Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian SubcontinentAbhaya talked about Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent, the first definitive natural history of the Indian subcontinent, by Pranay Lal.

Lal covers facts. Although he is a biochemist, his deep interest in the geological narrative of India helps create a compelling read. He talks about how the Ellora caves are hewn from igneous rock, Bengaluru’s relatively more pleasant climate (at least until recently) being the result of tectonic events that took place 88 million years ago and the Rajasaurus.

“The book has risen from curiosity and a sense of play. The timescale is much bigger than Harari’s Sapiens but the book doesn’t leave you with lingering larger than life questions, only the pure unadulterated joy of finding things out. So now when I visit Chitradurga or Lal Bagh, I look at the earth beneath my feet differently. A children’s version of the natural history and geography of India would also be interesting, Indica’s detailed bibliography and colorful layout make for such a fun read that I also hope for something like this for Indian philosophy,” Abhaya mused.

Watch this interview with Pranay Lal.

And with that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in February 2019.

Secrets, Poetry and Sci-fi @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 6)

Image result for Eloise: What secrets did she take to her grave? Shweta enjoyed reading Judy Finnigan’s Eloise: What secrets did she take to her grave? 

This haunting meditation on female friendship and motherhood is the debut work of Judy Finnigan, broadcaster, journalist and Book Club champion. The character Eloise has died and her friend Cathy, who suffers from depression, is devastated. She realizes that all is not well. Her husband who is a psychiatrist dismisses her concerns but Cathy probes deep and arrives at a secret. This light read was a Sunday Times Bestseller.

Arvind talked about a book of the collected works of Coleridge, which spurred much conversation. People are more familiar with Wordsworth’s Daffodils but Coleridge was well-known at the time for his poems The Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan.

Even though Coleridge’s poems have figured in the school curriculum and may readers are familiar with his works, he was primarily a prose writers. Arvind read out a lyrical passage:

“A man may look at glass, or through it, or both. That all earthly things be unto thee as glass to see heaven through! Religious ceremonies should be pure glass, not dyed in the gorgeous crimsons and purple blues and greens of the drapery of saints and saintesses.”

The discussion turned toward the rivalry between Wordsworth and Coleridge and poetry in general. Some readers found the entire exercise of reading poems like The Charge of the Light Brigade futile. Others felt that appreciation of poetry needs to be taught not for the sake of grading but for enjoyment; take the joy a poem like Lochinvar can give you, for instance. Abhaya mentioned how he preferred the rhythms of Hindi poetry, say the poetry of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. But so much about poetry appreciation depends on whether the language or context is relevant today. One good way of keeping abreast with poetry and also enjoying the newer rhythms of free verse is to listen to poetry podcasts like these:

Poetry and art are subjective experiences and the goal, if there is any, is to evoke a feeling. What do you make of this poem by Ezra Pound?

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Image result for alfred bester tiger tigerStephen is a big fan of cyberpunk and sci-fi. He spoke about Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester. The story is set in the twenty-fourth century begins with a man called Gulliver Foyle who marooned in space and how he takes revenge on Vorga. Bester’s settings are breathtaking and touch on sci-fi staples like teleporting and mega-corporations. The mega-corporation theme somehow led the conversation to the idea of naming characters after the companies where they work and even how in the US, slaves were often named after their owners. Ideas about how the World Wars led to all technological prowess and how companies play the role of conglomerates that dictate policy were discussed. Stephen mentioned that Bester did have a problem with female characters as well but this is not surprising as the book was published in the 1950s.

More books in Part 7.

Influence and Investment @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 5)

Image result for Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionAyan enjoyed reading the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. “I used to be a diehard fiction reader but lately management books have been a big help.”

Watch Robert Cialdini- The 6 Principles of Influence.

Ayan thinks that Cialdini who holds a Ph. D. in the field of psychology,  looks at the sales perspective through the eyes of the customer, aiming to make them aware of how they can safeguard themselves from falling into a trap. He examines the tools the compliance and marketing folk use to influence customers. Ideas like the Principle of Reciprocity and lavishing sincere compliments work in marriages as well as sales. Cialdini’s research spans thirty-five years of surveys, evidence, experiments and a three-year study of the behavior of people. The book is a seminal work when it comes to understanding the art of influence and persuasion in a scientific manner.

Image result for Investor Behavior: The Psychology of Financial Planning and InvestingRalph found the book Investor Behavior: The Psychology of Financial Planning and Investing by H. Kent Baker and Victor Ricciardi to be highly valuable for educational purposes and helpful when it comes to making rational investment decisions. The book was a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards.  This series of essays by academics and investors provides insights into investment research. The book delves into investor psychology,  risk perception and tolerance, evidence-based financial planning, and neurofinance.


Dystopia, Delusions and the Man @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 4)

Image result for the road cormac mccarthySreeraj talked about the profoundly moving book The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This dystopian post-apocalyptic novel talks about the survival instincts of a father and a son. They walk through the barren landscape of an America that has been ravaged by fire and ash. It is cold and they do not know where they are heading to. All they have is a pistol for self-defense and a map that the man refers to. They go from uninhabited house to house, seeking food and shelter. The son keeps asking for reassurance as they see many gory sights on the way. Sreeraj was especially impressed by the kind of cli-fi words the author used dark, dead, grey, carbon fog, forest fire, ash, snow…The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was also adapted into a movie.

Most millennials relate to this kind of book as there are many post-apocalyptic series and movies these days. Take Bird Box and other zombie series where the primary themes revolve around people who are foraging and trying their best to survive. Post-apocalyptic situations are also rampant in video games like The Last of Us.

You can listen to Cormac McCarthy talk to Oprah about this lyrical book here.

Image result for y the last man amazonA book this reminded Poonam of was Y: The Last Man comic series by Brian K. Vaughan. The premise of this graphic novel is interesting. A sex-specific plague wipes out the 2.9 billion men on earth, including male animals — every creature with a Y chromosome. Except two.

While the idea of survival is a theme that sells, the reality may be quite boring and not as romantic as writers make it out to be, one of the readers mused. People would have to go back to agriculture and till the land. Another reader observed how human beings are built for survival, so much so that even if they are left to their own devices in a jungle, someone who is unfamiliar with forest terrain will try his best to live and adapt to the ways of the woods. Of course, they could also die in the process. Take the case of the Rapa Nui in Easter Island.

Image result for the god delusionAfter dystopian disillusionment, Aniket brought our attention to The God Delusion, a sensational book of 2006. Richard Dawkins’s theories must be understood in the context of a world where polarities like secularism and fundamentalism draw swords.  The idea of Darwinism is a heavily disputed idea even today. Dawkins views God as an excuse that human beings use to wage war and indulge in abuse. In spite of his infamous twitterfeed, Dawkins book is a seminal work and would interest seekers of knowledge. Watch Dawkins here. Aniket also mentioned having read the book Why am I a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor.

Image result for sapiensMani talked about the popular book of our BYOB Parties – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari. He is still reading the book and is impressed by the author’s multidisciplinary approach. The book seems to be the talking point of all book gatherings today.

More books in Part 5.

Evolution and the Neocortex @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 3)

Image result for why evolution is true

Samarth talked about a book that he had read a long time ago since he is hard-pressed for reading time these days. Why evolution is true by Jerry A. Coyne, an American biologist, is an important book in times like these, especially when the debate about creationism is commonplace. “What’s the need for such a book?” Samarth asked. “We don’t have a book on germ theory as it seems pretty self-evident except in some strange cases- like the Fox host who refused to wash his hands for ten years as he couldn’t see the germs or the terrorist organization that refutes the idea of evaporation since it is a western concept. But evolution is not like that. It has to be understood.”

Statistics show that evolution is not accepted by a large majority in the US. Many think that evolution should be bunched up with other alternate theories. Darwin wasn’t the first to postulate the theory but his research provided the evidence needed to firm up the theory of natural selection.

Abhaya rationalized that though many of the readers in the room believed in Darwinism, their views were not always backed by understanding. The debate turned completely scientific and we landed on many subjects from Lamarck’s behaviorism and Darwin’s Natural Selection to biomimicry and the God particle.

Incidentally, the name God particle has been much criticized for referring to the very idea of God that the scientific community has been trying to disprove.

Image result for straw dogs bookHarshit spoke about a book called Straw Dogs by the philosopher John Gray. Gray questions Western philosophy from Plato to Marx and argues against the superiority complex embedded in human DNA. What makes humans think they are any better than animals? You might find this interview with Gray interesting.

The conversation mutated and evolved into varying subtexts – the fundamental difference between humans and other species- the neocortex. Listen to what a neuroscientist has to say about the brain systems –reptilian, limbic and neocortex. Then the discussion veered to IQ ratios, the decline of motor skills, how digital devices influence memory, loss of handwriting and how the brain declutters by default.

One book that could lead to a better understanding about how the internet is rewiring the brain is The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

More books and eye-opening discussions in Part 4.



Witness and Wasps @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 2)

Image result for the witness nora robertsThe Witness is not her best but it’s an unputdownable read,” Prerna said about Nora Roberts’ book. The adult romance thriller tells the story of Elizabeth Fitch, a sixteen-year-old, whose life is run on a schedule. When she rebels for the first time in her life, gets a fake ID and dyes her hair a different color just to break free from her cold, controlling mother’s grip, she ends up as the witness of a crime. That single event forces her to lead a life in hiding in the small dark town of Ozarks. Brooks Gleason, the local police chief, decides to help her.

Nora Roberts is a prolific author and she also writes under the non-de plume of J. D Roberts.

Listen to the first chapter of The Witness here.

Image result for eating wasps anita nairPoonam picked up a copy of Anita Nair’s Eating Wasps. “The book title made me curious,” she said, “I thought I would get to the bottom of it and then go back to reading other titles but it was so engrossing that I read the book in a single sitting.” The story uses the mis en abyme approach of the Kathasaritsagar, an eleventh-century collection of Indian legends, fairy tales and folk tales, to weave one story in the other and tell the tales of ten women. Their stories are open-ended and Anita Nair covers relevant issues like stalking and body-shaming. The book is a nod to the Keralite writer,  Rajalakshmi, a lecturer in physics who doubled as a writer of several controversial works and was also christened as the Jane Austen of Indian literature. She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960 for her work Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum (A Path and a Few Shadows) at the age of thirty-four. Unfortunately, her wizardry with words ended abruptly when she committed suicide in 1965. Strangely enough, there are no translations of her work as yet.

The topic of translation is a favorite at the BYOB Parties. Some languages are more easily translated than others; some translations hardly do justice to the work. Apurba mentioned how Monica Ali’s Brick Lane was filled with Bengali idioms, the transliterations of which gave the book its dose of creativity.

More books in Part 3.


Eastern and Western Philosophy @ BYOB Party in Feb 2019 (Part 1)

This time we had the BYOB Party on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Image result for atlas shrugged amazonAnish kickstarted the discussion with Atlas Shrugged, a book that he found difficult initially and enjoyed more on a later read. Ayn Rand’s philosophy matches the tenor of this age- the same brush with economic depression, the same economic competition, and socialism. There were readers in the group who were through with their Ayn Rand phase and others who read Rand’s slimmer volume called Fountainhead at an impressionable enough age to question everything they knew based on the articulate expression of Rand’s philosophy. “It’s not a fast read,” Anish said. “I advice you to go back to it again and enjoy the read.”

If you would like to know more about Ayn Rand’s brand of objectivism, watch this video.

Krishna likes to read fantasy and philosophy. He spoke about Vadiraja’s Refutation Of Sankara’s Non-Dualism: Clearing The Way To Theism by L. Stafford Betty. Vadiraja was a sixteenth-century Hindu philosopher who challenged the Advaita and spoke in favor of Dualism. L. Stafford Betty chanced upon his work and went ahead with the translation of the philosopher’s polemic.  You can learn more about Stafford Betty’s ideas in this interview.

Image result for Vadiraja's Refutation Of Sankara's Non-Dualism: Clearing The Way To Theism amazonKrishna explained that there were various traditions of schools of thought in India. Unlike Dvaita or Dualism, Advaita or Non-Dualism subscribes to the idea that there is only one super-consciousness and everything else is non-reality. Vadiraja was one of the last of his ilk; philosophy in India went to sleep mode post the sixteenth century. Other philosophers like Madhvacharya and Nagarjuna were also discussed.

There is an idea that eastern philosophy is not considered important enough but Abhaya refuted this. It isn’t lack of interest in eastern philosophy but the accessibility of western philosophy that is the problem. So the comparison to writers like Bertrand Russell is inevitable. In a very light-hearted manner, Russell pierces through the foundation of western philosophy keeping in mind that he is addressing a modern audience. Unlike the patronizing proponents of ancient culture, Russell’s writing is accessible. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Surendranath Dasgupta are good places to start when it comes to Indian philosophy but somewhere down the line a lay reader may find it tedious or lacking in citations. Surprisingly, there is no good book on Indian philosophy in Hindi either. It doesn’t matter if great thoughts are lost in translation as long as we can preserve some of it, Jaya mused.

More books in Part 2.


Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) Party on February 17, 2019 (Sunday)

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

RSVP on Meetup OR Register on Eventbrite

BYOB Party is back and this time, Worth A Read will be hosting the party at the office on February 17, Sunday.

Have you read a book that you are craving to chitchat about 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 on Feb 17, 2019 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 swags courtesy Worth A Read.

Venue: office


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

Is the event free?

Yes, it is free to attend.

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 groupRSVP, and come over!

If you are not on meetup, you can also Register on Eventbrite.

Misleading Positivity, Mahabharata and Morrie @ BYOB Party at the Takshashila Institution in Nov 2018 (Part 8)

Image result for Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k

Abhinay spoke about The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, a self-help book with a difference. Mark Manson believes that positivity is over-rated and he believes that accepting our follies and faults and the uncertainties of life is the first step toward becoming more responsible citizens. His arguments are backed by academic research.

Image result for the kaunteyas amazon

Aparna added a mythical twist to the BYOB Party with her book titled The Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan. The Mahabharata can never become redundant as more and more authors in India are exploring varying points of view and in almost every BYOB Party at one point in time, a Mahabharat-based book or discussion was common fare. In this book, it is Kunti’s destiny that is explored. She leads a normal life until she misuses the boon Durvasav gave her. Her life is a series of obstacles; her husband Pandu loses the throne to Dhritarashtra and dies once the Pandavas are born. To complicate the inheritance battle, she is mother to an illegitimate child, Karna. “While Draupadi’s suffering is more graphic, Kunti’s is more bearable,” Aparna said.

Image result for tuesdays with morriesPriya swears by Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The book talks about getting a second chance with your mentor. The author meets his long-lost mentor, Morrie who is dying of ALS and every Tuesday, he learns the lessons he thought he had lost.

Here’s an interview with Mitch Albom.

And with that, we come to the end of one very enlightening BYOB Party.

Communication, Everyday India and Matrimonial Ads @ BYOB Party at the Takshashila Institution in Nov 2018 (Part 7)

Image result for transactional analysis amazonAnish Nair emphasizes that if there are two books you need to understand how better to communicate in the world today, read Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy by Eric Berne.

Dr. Eric Berne has been credited with developing one of the most innovative approaches to psychotherapy. “The book is not technical and so it is easy to read. In everyone, there is a child and a parent and our responses to people come from these residues within us. So when I talk to my child, I may be imitating my own parents and if I instinctively dislike someone that is the child in me reacting to the parent in the person I dislike. A book you must read to understand how best to communicate with others,” Anish said.

Image result for Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India amazon

Ashu talked about a delightful non-fiction called Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India (the term Mother Pious Lady is liberally used in matrimonial adverts), a compilation of Monday columns by social commentator Santosh Desai. Desai likes to examine all the idiosyncrasies of Indian life be it antakshari or auto rickshaws. Get a feel of his style:

The auto is the urban rat: a wily, crafty creature that wriggles its way through the urban sewer. The auto deals with the road on a second-by-second basis, recognizing that the Indian town is the abode of the Constantly Changing Circumstance. Twisting and turning constantly, the auto dribbles its way through traffic, mankind and chaos in no particular order. Every inch of territory is fought for using not courage but guile. The auto defies the idea that the road is a straight line but sees it as a chessboard, contemplating the next move as if a world of options is open to it.

In many ways, the auto is perfectly at home with twisty by-lanes, gullies and mohallas and mimics their lack of linearity. In fact, even on a straight road, the auto contrives somehow to avoid linearity as it zigzags its way out of sheet habit. The auto, like so many other things in India, almost actively seeks to subvert order by insinuating itself wherever it can. It brings to us a vastly enhanced sense of sub-atomic distances by intruding so close into the vehicle just ahead that distance becomes a state of mind rather than a state of being.

The auto is the one vehicle that moves in three-dimensional space, spending as much time off the road as it does on it. This it owes to the nature of Indian roads as much to its own design. This results in a unique ability to transfer the topography of the road into the passengers’ innards, converting road bumps into digestive experience.

The key to understanding the auto is to understand its design. The principle governing its design is perhaps a world view that celebrates compromise not as a “lesser choice” but as “inevitable, and eventually, the only sustainable choice”.

Take, for instance, the speed at which the auto is capable of travelling at. It is significantly faster than a cycle and much slower than a car but looked at from the reality of Indian roads, it travels at the ideal speed. Any slower and cycles would zip past, any faster is not possible given the nature of the traffic and the quality of the roads. Its suspension too is self-limiting, being designed for its speed; the moment the auto begins to travel faster, one’s insides mimic those of a food processor’s. The auto represents the ideal of personal transportation, but barely so. It is a shanty-on-wheels, offering just about adequate protection against the elements, which it more-or-less keeps out, without offering any real guarantees.

Image result for Lokayata/Carvaka: A Philosophical EnquiryThe conversation about distinctly South Asian quirks led to the mention of a controversial matrimonial ad for the elite. While marriage evokes homogenous sentiments in Indian in general, there are some who like to oppose the trend. Sowmya spoke about the author of Carvaka,  Prof Gokhale, a brahmin who wished to marry a non-Brahmin. In his book, Prof Gokhlae speaks about a purely secular and rational exercise within the Indian philosophical traditions—the Lokāyata/Cārvāka school of philosophy.

More books in Part 8.