Review: Keep off the Grass

Keep off the GrassKeep off the Grass by Karan Bajaj

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. Its quite well written. A line about books, from the book itself, describes the content the best – “someone, somewhere thinks exactly like you – and articulates it better”. In terms of style, the prose flows well and easy to read. I think Karan has done a great job in his first book.

I loved the book also because Karan has based several of the characters in the book on the real people who were our classmates at IIM B. In fact, the name of one of them is not even disguised! Also some of the incidents are borrowed from actual history as well. I smiled to myself many times just because I could remember or imagine the actual people saying stuff that they say in the book.

On the whole, it was a personal trip for me. So, I’m not sure that someone else would have the same experience as I did and would probably rate the book a tad lower.

Wholeheartedly recommended to all PGP 2002 folks – particularly those who were in section B. Well worth a read to others as well.

Guy Kawasaki’s new Book: Enchantment

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and ActionsEnchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions by Guy Kawasaki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full Disclosure: Guy sent me a free review copy but I would still say the same things even if I had paid for it. I did feel obligated to read the book and write a review before the book hits the stores. I’m glad that I pushed it up on my reading list.

In short, its great book and everyone who deals with people in one way or the other should read it. Which, I guess, means pretty much everyone. Guy has put together advice taken from several great sources: books, blogs, people he knows and his personal experience and put it together in a very accessible way. Just the sheer wealth of insights/advice collated together makes this book worthwhile. Furthermore, Guy has put it together in the usual Guy Kawasaki way: conversational and bullet pointed. Thus, it makes for easy reading. I also noticed that the Contents page is presented as a checklist which incidentally is one technique that Guy advocates in the book.

The strong point of the book is its weak point too. The advice sounds quite simple and easy to use. On the positive side, its easy to start using it the next day. On the negative side, if one falters, there isn’t much to incorporate the feedback as the matter is condensed into crispy bullets. For deeper understanding and better chances of success, one is better off reading the books and other sources that Guy refers to. I think Guy does realise that and he has done his job through extensive attribution and Bibliography. The rest is up to the reader.

There are parts where the research looks thin. For example, I don’t know in which Indian language Tata means Grandfather and I’ve traveled/lived fairly all over the country. It just makes one a bit more skeptical of other parts of the book. But given that Guy’s been here only twice, I’m inclined to overlook it.

Overall: Great compendium of great advice. Well put together. Saves a lot of effort in reading a lot more material written in a far more tedious way. Don’t stop at this book though and get into the books that Guy refers to.

Recommended: Krishan Partap Singh

Just read Krishan Partap Singh’s Young Turks as a part of the South Asian Author Challenge. Back cover says “pure Jeffrey Archer” and its not off the mark. The story itself has elements of Kane and Abel and the its a political thriller like many of Archer’s books. The story just flows with hardly anything superfluous or underdone. The transitions between the incidents sometimes reminded me Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series also. The language is very simple and yet the story assumes an intelligent reader. So in terms of story telling, this is a very well written book at par with the very best.

The story itself is very Indian. The characters are very real and I love the way they grow with the story. Each of the main characters adds layers in their personality as the story unrolls. One can easily identify with young men in school to a Indian Muslim’s dilemma to several kinds of politicians in the story. In fact, the background of the PM and his choice of words brought up the face of someone I know almost every time. There is a lot of research by the author in real incidents, real people and real trends that comes together in the story. Thus, when he builds the story on top, the mix of fact and fiction reads very genuine. The pace is fast and a lot happens within the span of a few years but it all reads very credible thanks to Singh’s style of writing.

In all a great read and highly recommended. Krishan Partap Singh is a revelation and I’ll be looking out for any books that he writes. In fact my next book is his Delhi Durbar.

Mumbai landmark

I have a confession to make and also want to expose the evil called landmark. I am a bibliophile. And the newly opened Landmark is to me what a pub is to a recalcitrant tippler.

For those who do not know, landmark is a book shop that started out of Chennai and is now spreading across metros. The most recent one opened at Infiniti Mall at Andheri Lokhandwala. It is small by landmark standards but already beats any other large Mumbai book store in its collection. And these people say that the collection is just starting out!

Let me paint a picture of Mumbai Book shops. There is the venerable Strand in the fort. Great books become available here ahead of any other store and that too at great prices. Its the smallest book shop amongst all the shops I keep visiting but it inspires awe with its collection and its dedication to book lovers. The only comparison I can draw is with Midlands in Delhi. But then, which other man has won a Padma Vibhushan for selling books than Mr Shanbhag! They have the best Indian collection that I have seen on fine arts and on chess. But they really are famous for creating trends. A freakonomics/world is flat etc are released at Strand simultaneously with the rest of the world while the other shops wait for market reaction and then follow. Strand knows what its readers want and goes out and gets it ahead of others.

Crossword is the large chain that everyone knows of. There are many branches and affiliates but only two are any good: kemps corner where the original Mahalaxmi one moved and the Powai one. Some are actually examples of how not to run a book store: Juhu one. This is the place where most ppl go first and caters to the mainstream. But there has been a stagnation in the Sriram recommends category and the emphasis is on the predictable few authors/books. Crossword has nice decor and allows browsing but where are the books!! The only one I’d recommend to a serious reader is the Powai one.

Granth is a new comer and they made a good start with their Juhu shop. Nice collection in a small space. Really challenged its Juhu rival: crossword. Nice ambience and very helpful people. Didn’t have a loyalty program but quickly corrected it. The goregaon one is avoidable. The juhu one would have done very well over time but for the arrival of Landmark.

In this setting came landmark. Anyone who has been to the Chennai one would attest to it being amazing. I’ve been to the usual suspects in Delhi, Mumbai, bangalore and Chennai and have had the help of bibliophiles in each city. So, trust me when I say that the best book shop in India is Chennai landmark. Where a cross word has a shelf on a topic, the Chennai landmark has a few racks and no cheap tricks of multiple copies of the same book. The variety brings me the the only word that describes it: Amazing.

The Mumbai landmark follows the same principal. Huge collection.
Strand has now no chance is the science section. Its a section it used to lead with good competition from the Juhu Granth. Landmark even has a section on Maths though its not very well stocked right now.
Literature: I once looked by Jorge Loius Borges in Mumbai. Found 2 books in Powai crossword. Others had not heard of it. landmark has many of them and two complete anthologies of fiction and non-fiction. It will be ages before anyone catches up here.
History: Crossword has nothing here. Granth led but now landmark blows them away with the sheer collection
Business & management: Huge surprise. landmark is worse than all except perhaps the Juhu crossword! Need to bring it to the level of chennai one.
Indian languages: Crossword kemps corner has a section but no one else. Its a pity that indian literature is not offered in India! Landmark had made a start with Hindi, Gujrati and marathi volumes. But the selection is not as extensive as its own other sections and lags behind the Delhi stores in the Hindi collection.

The landmark however has a huge disadvantage: no place to sit and browse. One can tolerate the narrow aisles where you have to brush against others as you pass but no place to sit and browse is a big pain. there is a small divan but its too little for the amount of traffic and frankly I like some personal space when reading.

But on the whole, landmark is the name of a increasing hole in my pocket.