Sapiens and Da Vinci Diaries @ BYOB Party in May 2018 (Part 4)

Image result for sapiens amazonSapiens by Dr. Yuval Harari is an extraordinary book. We’ve seen the book surface several times during our BYOB Parties and each time the book elicits a different response. Dhruv found Sapiens inspiring unlike the doom and gloom that the book evinced for many readers; he was piqued by the reasons behind European colonization of the world. Abhaya thinks that Jared Diamond’s book called Guns, Germs and Steel does more justice to the theories behind European colonization. He didn’t find Hariri’s book scholarly enough though the aim of the book was primarily to introduce lay readers to theories and important questions, which he has succeeded in.

Image result for Extraordinary Voyages jules verne amazonVishal spoke about Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages, a compilation of novels that he found remarkable. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea was just one of the many novels this prolific writer had written. Another book that Vishal chose to speak about in detail was Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. What Vishal found compelling about this magnificent biography and Verne’s voyage stories was the way ordinary people who were not necessarily experts remained curious throughout their lives and made great inventions and discoveries on the way, a luxury in today’s automated world where curiosity leads you to Google and not beyond.

Image result for walter isaacson leonardo da vinci amazonDa Vinci was not everyone’s favorite painter. He may be held in great esteem now but back then during the Renaissance, he had a bad reputation when it came to deliverability, engaged as he was in conversing with mathematicians, building bridges, applying science to painting and learning for the sake of learning. Da Vinci was a visionary – “illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical”.

“There is such a saturation of tech nowadays that we miss out on this exploration,” Vishal said. “His notebooks describe a woodpecker and he asks questions like why the sky is blue. He didn’t limit himself. The fields of specialization were all nascent and there was room for curiosity.”

A noisy debate ensued on the problem with experts, the necessity of curiosity, and how experiments are conducted.

More books in Part 5.

Nuclear War and the Periodic Table @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 2)

There was a bit of doom and gloom in the BYOB Party.

Image result for Has Man a Future?amazonArchit got the famous book Sapiens by Yuval Harari. We’ve talked about the book many times. It made sense that the book he bought with it was Has Man a Future? by Bertrand Russell, one of the world’s most eminent philosophers of the twentieth century. The book was written during the Cold War when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. What struck Archit as scary was that book is relevant even today.  Even today, disarmament hasn’t turned into a collective objective with guns entering classrooms and nuclear warheads raising their heads in political banter. The possibility of a nuclear war is not exaggerated.

Image result for sapiensamazonAlthough Sapiens means Wise, the term is at best ironic. In the book, Sapiens, Harari explains how man evolved and hasn’t become wiser. He seemed to have been better off in the pre-agricultural era when he was a hunter-gatherer.  This was the only time in recorded history that he was aware of the food that he ate and the true nature of his surroundings. An argument grew around this- can anyone know everything? Doesn’t the very reason for stratification and division of labor stem from the fact that knowledge is shared property? Since there is a discrepancy in the time required for evolution to occur and the lightning speed of the human brain, inequality is the norm. Human beings have always tipped the scale and so this whole idea of an equal society in pursuit of happiness is silly. Sapiens is an important book simply because of the arguments it encourages. Part 2 of the book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is equally horrific in the way it lays bare mankind’s stupidity.

Amrutha talked about a six-part sci-fi story set in a dystopian world where only Korea remains, the rest having being destroyed by nuclear war,  and mentioned how human beings are reborn as their prehistoric ancestors. Can anyone tell me which book this is? All my google searching didn’t help.

Image result for the periodic table primo levi amazonRitu was spurred to get a copy of a book she read long ago when she was young and later again when she was older. The book called The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is a series of short stories which tells the author’s own story- his experience being an Italian Jewish chemist during the World War era, a particularly unfortunate time to be Jewish.  Each story in the book is named after a particular element, which very cleverly becomes heavier and heavier towards the end of the book.  The book begins with so much promise but towards the end, the author must face the concentration camp. Although the ending is sad, it feels like dusk, Ritu says, beautiful and filled with color but with the heaviness of the ending day.

Amrutha read this book too and wondered how teachers could make a subject like chemistry so boring. “You need to include one of these chapters in the school curriculum,” she said. That’s a nice thought.

Reader Interview of Archit (The Newbie) @ BYOB Party in March 2018

Tell us something about your book.

So, I knew about this book as it was a reference from a friend. They wanted me to read it so that I could gain a different perspective as I was completely into Scientific Positivity and only believed ‘Science is right’. It was only two weeks ago that I ordered this book. I wouldn’t say that it has changed my mind, I was aware of these concepts individually. However, I appreciate the effort of putting it into one perspective, kind of like a tube taking you on a journey of human history, different from how it is actually taught to us in school or university. In my head, these concepts were disconnected, wherein I could talk about these concepts individually but couldn’t really talk about them as a whole. The book gives a holistic approach to human history from one perspective. I would like to make a reference to Slavoj Žižek, who is very well known in the Philosophy world. He presented a movie called The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. I want to cite a scene where there are these glasses and when you put them on, you see the world for what it truly is, for example, you see a dictatorship in democracy. Reading this book gave me the same lens from which I could view human history about how we have screwed ourselves.

How did you hear about us?

When I moved back to Bangalore from Mumbai, it was a cultural shock for me. I was suddenly wondering what to do with my time so I downloaded this app called Meetup and found this Party.

How do you choose your books?

My introduction to reading was quite recent, during my Post-Graduation. It was here that I befriended some voracious readers who made me feel inferior to them. They introduced me to books. One thing I have realized is that I am not a fan of fiction and this seems to get me into tough spots, especially when there are literature students around. It’s scary. I started reading non-fiction, mostly science and then zeroed in on Philosophy. This was greatly due to my college professor’s influence. I like Russian literature – it’s written in a context, easy to read, and gets to the point quickly. But there are some author’s that I just couldn’t read like Arundhati Roy. I love her lectures and admire her as a person but I just could not get through more than 50 pages of God of Small Things.

If you had to recommend some books…

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, Musicophillia and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and quite a few academic books.