Review: Dare to Run

Dare to RunDare to Run by Amit Sheth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love books which share the author’s experiences authentically. Dare to run is a compilation of essays that Amit wrote in his journey from a novice runner who couldn’t run beyond a few meters to an ultramarathoner who finished the 89KM long Comrades that happens over a hilly terrain.

As a runner, I could identify with and feel strongly about several episodes. The self doubt that comes up in the first few days of running; the pain and shame of not finishing, the joy of crossing the finish line – Amit describes them all so well. The bit about crossing the Comarades 2010 finish line with the Indian flag was particularly moving and brought tears to my eyes.

Amit also shares his thoughts that came to him as he ran his long runs and races. It essentially underlines that running a marathon is a personal journey and struggle. Amit’s philosophical musings are his personal ways of looking at the struggle and he shares very generously. Amit also talks about how long distance running changes one’s life – social life changes, food habits change, priorities change. This again is true for many runners and this is the first time I’ve seen a runner’s account of this aspect.

Somehow, some of the parts do not gel into the book. For example there is more description of Dublin rather than the Dublin marathon. It stands out as there is hardly any link between the run and description of the place. The same disconnect is not felt for the essay on Florence marathon because the description of David etc gels in with the run and becomes a Runner’s experience which is what I expect from a book with a title like “Dare to run”. For the other bits, I’d turn elsewhere. For this reason, I’d give only 4 stars and not 5.

Overall: Good read for long distance runners anywhere and particularly in India. I also think that its an important book. As marathons in particular and sports in general bring in more participation in India, there is acute need for personal stories like these which inspire us. I hope that the recent commonwealth games winners also publish their stories.

Review: The Grand Design

The Grand DesignThe Grand Design by Stephen W. Hawking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book makes for a very easy reading in spite of the topic involved. The authors do not get into any maths or more complex arguments. Also there are a no of pictures/illustrations which smoothen the reader’s flow and provide welcome breaks. Thus, its easy to understand.

The key takeaway is the concept of model-dependent reality. Its a concept more out of a psychology or Buddhism/Hinduism or existentialism rather than hard core physics. The M Theory is not really described in any detail or with rigor. Counterarguments and supporting data is also missing though the authors claim that the theory is testable. Thus, it would be more interesting to see if other physicists adopt the idea of model-dependent reality and come up with other theories rather than to see how they respond to M Theory.

On the whole a very readable book. Well worth the read just for its description of works of Einstein and Feynman. The authors have to be congratulated for conveying the core ideas with such simplicity and brevity.

Also inspired me to re-look at the daunting task of reading the Road to Reality by Roger Penrose ¬†ūüôā

Review: Manifesto of the Communist Party

Manifesto of the Communist PartyManifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got interested in this book because Dalai Lama’s own favorable ¬†experiences with communism as per his autobiography. I am glad that I read it.

Its not easy to read as the sentence constructs and contexts are not familiar. Still, it builds a very good picture of class struggle. One could look at some of the struggles today; say that of Naxals, and find a lot of similarities. No wonder that even today a lot of people turn to this and other books of communism. One can also see its ideas resonating for a large number of people and why it could form a bedrock for revolutions.

While it does bring a strong case for the proletariat and their problems, the picture remains simplistic. One important part that it ignores is the role of technology in economic evolution. Its prescriptions for a solution are not detailed and not examined against practical realities. Its no wonder that many of the countries following this model have had to rethink.

Overall, I love this book for its description of class struggles. Also, it remains a benchmark of political argument that stirs souls. A must read for anyone interested in people, societies and change. Avoidable if you are looking for deep economic analysis or assessment.

Recommended: Delhi Durbar

I finally picked up Krishan Partap Singh’s Delhi Durbar. Its the second book on my South Asian authors challenge. Once picked, it was difficult to put it down and I devoured the book late into a night in spite of a hectic schedule the next day. KPS (Krishan Partap Singh is such an mouthful of a name) again spins a very well paced yarn. The story again seems very authentic and again draws upon real life persona. However, unlike the last book Young Turks, there seem to be some small holes. Or maybe, I’m getting used to KPS’ craft and starting to see beyond what he wants a reader to see.

Read the book for a a very credible story of a behind the scene “fixer” who does the high value deals for India’s PM. The fixer is good and has the good fortune of inheriting from his father who was the best of the fixers. However, he is faced with situations and people that even he can’t stomach. Also, he has personal problems to deal with. This is his story of navigating the maze of India’s political sleaze and managing to win against the odds.

The protagonists from Young Turks also make an appearance here and there seems to be an implicit promise of everyone getting together in the last book of series.