Thursday, May 19, 2011

"The Writing Class" by Jincy Willett

This was actually a book I picked randomly from Amazon and is in a genre that I do not read all that often. It is a murder mystery. Actually, it is a mystery that turns into a murder mystery near the end of the story.

It is about a group of students attending a writing workshop at an extension school, and their instructor. One of the students is someone who has been trying to get published for a long time, without success, and is bitter as a result. This person is always pulling pranks on the members of the group, the instructor, and, as we find out later, various publishing houses. The pranks go from being just a little dangerous but causing no actual harm, to actually taking people's lives.

It is a situation where every single member of the group is a suspect. The story nudges the reader towards suspecting one person and then another and so on, until we find out who the prankster really was. It keeps you glued to its pages and keeps you guessing what's coming next. I managed to finish this book because it was a mystery but it was not spine-chilling scary. Probably because it built up gradually, starting with mostly harmless pranks. And I have to admit that I enjoyed it, though I do not usually like to read books in this genre. This is the kind of thing that would be fun to read again and look for the clues hidden in the story. Maybe I will.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"One Two Three . . . Infinity" by George Gamow

Another book I'd meant to read for quite a while. This one was recommended by Bhatti a long time ago.

It started out seeming to be a mathematics book. The number theory discussed in the beginning was one of the most engaging pieces of non fiction or fiction I have read in recent times. And then it moved on to talking about relativity, time and space, single celled organisms, genetic structure, and just about everything that makes up part of why the world that we live in is the way it is.

I have to admit, I skipped a few passages which were going deeper into physics or chemistry than I would have liked them to, but I read all of the stuff about maths and genetics. I also have to admit that I may have given up and closed the book if the author had started with the nebulae and stars and talked about numbers later in the book. But the number theory part was interesting enough to make me believe in the book.

This book has a quality to it that I do not recall having seen in any other texts I have read on similar subjects. It made me actually marvel at the intricacies of the functioning of the world that we live in, and the developments that have been made in scientific studies after overcoming obstacles that seemed insurmountable at first. It made me appreciate all of that like I have not done before, even though I actually knew a lot of the stuff that the book talks about.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Observation

A few days ago, we were at a food court in a mall and we chose to get some Chicken Teriyaki at a Japanese place. There was a Chinese (or Japanese, Korean, Thai or Vietnamese - I'm afraid I cannot tell them apart) family at the table next to ours eating naan with dal and paneer. I found that pretty interesting. A few days later, on the train, I was reading a random book by an American author whom I had never heard of (but I am enjoying her book so far). The American lady sitting across the aisle from me was reading The God of Small Things (which, I admit, I don't remember much of, but was the only book that, as soon as I finished it, made me think, "I would love to read this again." I haven't actually done that.).

This country has its good and its evil, like any other country, but one thing I like about it is that you can find people of various different cultures and nationalities who enrich the culture with their own contributions and are also, often, willing to take some things from other cultures and adapt it into their lifestyle.

A Thought

So I was reading this book called Food Rules by Michael Pollan, which, by the way, is an interesting book that you can read cover to cover in under an hour and should definitely read, especially if you eat at all in the States.

This guy talks about highly processed and preservative added foods like breakfast cereal and snack bars, which are alarmingly popular in this part of the world. These foods never go bad, even after their suggested "Best Before" date. They can sit on shelves for years and years and not rot. Pollan suggests that you should only eat food that will eventually go bad.

In a different context, he talks about why food goes bad. He puts it differently from what I've usually read or heard. He says that we are in competition with the fungi and bacteria and what not around us for nutrition. When these creatures get to the food before we do, we say that the food has gone bad.

When you put these two things together, which he doesn't do in his book, you see that single celled bacteria know that processed food items do not deliver real nutrition, but we, the ones with the more highly developed brains, eat that "food" anyway. Something to think about.