Saturday, June 04, 2005

Four degrees of separation

This is a good time to thank all the great people whom I tagged; all their book-tag posts are up on their websites: Jaya, Kiran, Neelakantan, Ramnath, Suhail and Surya.

From Yazad, that is! So, I get book-tagged once via the Uma-Sunil-Charu route, and a second time, via the Amit-Quizman-Patrix route. These are the shortest routes; there is also this Amit-Michael-Sunil-Charu route. In any event, Yazad has certainly unleashed a serious virus. Well, here goes.

Total books I own: I would put the number at around 200.

Last book I bought: Three popular science books from our Campus Bookstore: Robert Ehrlich's Preposterous Propositions, Alexei Sossinsky's Knots: Mathematics with a Twist, and Roger Newton's Galileo's Pendulum: From the Rhythm of Time to the Making of Matter. Why did I buy them? Purely on impulse! I had no idea about these books, nor about the authors, at the time of buying them.

Last book I read: How Things Are: A Science Toolkit for the Mind, a collection of short essays by a whole bunch of great people (Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Freeman Dyson, Daniel Dennett, et al) who can explain great questions of science to non-experts. The two books that I read prior to this one were Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything and Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. As you can see, I am not quite current -- and with it! -- when it comes to books.

Books that mean a lot to me: This is a tough one.

  • Fiction: Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, my all time favourite. Recently, I read Mark Haddon's The curious incident of the dog in the night-time, a story told through the innocent voice of a 15-year old autistic boy, that brought back fond memories of Mockingbird, so I went back and read it again!
  • Biography/Memoirs: James Gleick's Genius (biography of Richard Feynman), and Kameshwar Wali's Chandra (bio of S. Chandrasekhar). Of course, I immensely enjoyed Richard Feynman's playful writing in Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynman! and his more mature writing (about the Challenger disaster, his first wife's death) in What do you care what other people think?
  • Pop science: Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene
  • Pop psychology / Self-help: Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness : Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Both are by academic psychologists, backed by solid research. A perennial favourite of mine -- for gifting, too -- is Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a great book that describes a certain personal ethic that is worth working toward.
  • Tamil stories: The books that I have the best memories of are the Tamil stories that I read in my teens. Kalki's Ponniyin Selvan (Sunil blogged about Kalki recently) and Thi. Janakiraman's Amma Vandaal are still strongly etched in my memory. I used to be a great fan of 'Sujata', a very versatile and very prolific writer of short stories, novels, essays, plays. I still remember one of his novels (whose name eludes me right now) in which he is able to bring out the essential character of a cynic -- who thinks life has dealt him a bad deal indeed -- using this self-talk: 'Boy, why else would this guy [in front of me at the urinal] be peeing so many bucketfuls?'. Then, there is this very sensitive short story by Aadhavan (that I read while I was a graduate student, from a book a friend of mine borrowed from the UIUC library!), where a guy keeps thinking about his wife who was murdered by a servant, and ultimately realizes that she died a thousand deaths as his wife, starting from their very first night together ...

    You see, there are these wonderful stories in Tamil, that I read a long time ago, that remain so fresh in my memory, as if I just read them yesterday. But, but, ... I am not able to recall their names! It is this 'three degrees of separation' from them that gives me a haunting feeling ...

Oh, well. Now, on to the last part.

Tag some bloggers, to spread this virus: In alphabetical order by first name, here we go: Jaya, Kiran, Neelakantan, Ramnath, Suhail, Surya

Update: Amit has put together a list of bloggers who have made book tag posts.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Kalki and Sujatha? 'Abinandan'? I should have guessed from the T.A. though :)
    my personal favourites are jayakanthan and sivasankari

  2. Anonymous said...

    No, Charu, it is not the 'T.A.', but the extra 'an' at the end of my name (Abinandanan) !

  3. Anonymous said...

    Sirjee, here is my assignment. Pliss to give me 10/10 for this termwork and no viva(how do u spell that?) kweshchans, pliss.

  4. Anonymous said...

    eeps, I never noticed it before *embarrased look from self absorbed charu*

  5. Anonymous said...

    Couldnt blog for a few days. but mines finally up!