Stars and Strangers @ BYOB Party in October 2019 (Part 4)

Image result for the city and the starsEveryone’s favorite sci-fi author Arthur C. Clark’s book The City & the Stars was discussed.  The city Diaspar was destroyed by invaders and it became the last refuge for human beings. A man called Alvin is the first human in the city and he has no memories whatsoever. All he has is curiosity, not the fear of newness that his compatriots have.

Watch Arthur C. Clark talk about A Space Odyssey here.


Bindu spoke about Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. The anecdotes are painstakingly researched and have the usual Gladwellian flair.  As I found out on, the book talks about all kinds of questions: How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

“But though the anecdotes were fantastic, the conclusions he draws from these were not relevant to me at least.,” Bindu opined. “There was great storytelling value but I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t know already. I mean there is no second-guessing what strangers think; I can’t even tell you what my family members think!” You can read a similar opinion about the book here.

“Of late, I’ve started to listen to more quality online lectures. A much better investment of time.”

The entire discussion shifted to the 10,000 Hour Rule mistakenly attributed to Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell used Ericsson’s provocative generalization and somehow the idea of 10,000 hours became the touchstone of learning. Listen to this Ted Talk that disputes this idea- you need just 20 hours of deliberate practice to get started on something. You could also take this idea of ‘less is more’ to another extreme- take the expert capsule courses that last for 20 minutes a day and give you certification. That’s dangerous too, especially if it’s certification for something like machine gun expertise!

Some more 10,000-hour trivia— the Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a walking man and 10,000 step goals in Japan.

More books in Part 5.

Ten-thousand Hour Rule and Hot Streak @ BYOB Party at JustBooks, Sahakarnagar in July 2018 (Part 1)

This time we hosted the BYOB Party with JustBooks at the cozy JustBooks library, Sahakarnagar. It was an extraordinarily intense set of discussions that we had.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

Image result for outliersSrikanth talked about a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s the age of the non-fiction book, isn’t it? Lots of non-fic books were discussed in this session. Everyone wanted to know how to be successful, a question that Gladwell could provide no self-help magic potion for. He gives you the facts, tells stories and deconstructs myths of success, e.g., people with a high IQ are not necessarily successful. The question came up about what success really can be defined as and what contributed to success.  One theory attributes success to the environment. There are also periods and places in history where success was common, take the 1950’s baby boomer generation. Gladwell lays out the controversial 10,000-hour rule, easier to illustrate with skill-based success stories, e.g, violinists, chess players and plumbers who spend 10,000 hours on their craft are bound to succeed.

We learned many new things. Conversation threw up the broken windows model of policing, first described in 1982 in a seminal article by Wilson and Kelling. Then the Black Swan Theory was discussed.  Watch this one-minute video. Another idea was the Hot streak, a period in a professional’s life that is markedly improved over others. Watch this interesting video analyzing data collected about thousands of professionals’ winning streak moments.  If you trace the large-scale career histories of individual artists, film directors and scientists, you can identify the success from the cost of their paintings, the success of their movies and the number of citations they have received, respectively. One interesting fact that emerges from this analysis is that you can nail the hot streak regardless of age or career, thus drilling a hole in the theory that musicians and mathematicians must be young. Success among scientists also depends on the ‘hotness’ of the field itself.

A book that elicited a great deal of discussion was a non-fiction book about Caring. Let’s talk about this book in the next post.

Moriarty, Assassins and Dyslexia@BYOB Party in May (Part 2)

exit sherlock holmes

For all mystery fans, Conan Doyle is a favorite. If Sherlock Holmes is not enough, there are many spin-offs of the Conan Doyle series out there. For Ramesh, one of the readers at the BYOB Party,  Exit Sherlock Holmes by Robert Lee Hall is by far the most special.  The book has retained the London fog and cab flavour and is loyal to the original. It gives answers about the elusive equation that Holmes and Moriarty share and ends it with a massive twist in the ending.


the shotSunny got a book that he felt was a light read, a book called The Shot by Philip Kerr. The story revolves around an assassin called Tom Jefferson. His mission? The assassination of Fidel Castro. The book carries a 60s flavor with all the political  elements of the day. Light is thrown on the mental preparation an assassin needs to make to gun his target. This pseudo historical thriller is a fun read.

David and GoliathManjari bought along a book by Malcolm Gladwell called David and GoliathGladwell is a compelling writer and he starts this book with the story of the shepherd boy who defeated the enormous Goliath against perceivable odds. Gladwell roots for challenges and calls some challenges desirable as opposed to some which are undesirable. So disability, being an orphan, being at the brunt of mediocrity could actually be the scripts for success stories. Conversation veered to the number of successful people who have dyslexia and the problems with getting an accurate diagnosis of ADHD.

Can dyselxia be a formula for success?, a question arose.

“Gladwell is a genius at storification,” Jaya said, “but we all know how business books whitewash nuances and build stories without taking into account the whole picture. This doesn’t take away the fact that Gladwell is a good writer.”

More from the BYOB Part in May in Part 3.