I read this book few years ago and I had written about it during my earlier days of blogging. But I wanted to go back and read “Eat, pray, love” once again. Somehow I felt that this book had helped me in making some decisions about my life back then and I was again at crossroads and reading this book helped me once again. I have found a definite connection between myself and author Elizabeth Gilbert and that is a source of great inspiration for me. The way she handled her life and came out as winner after all the trials is amazing as well as motivating.
I also found incidents that I had not noticed during my first reading or not written about them during my earlier blog post. She manages to be funny even while writing most difficult phases of her life. The idea of writing a letter to God and getting it signed by all her well wishers in imagination is great. The way she is able to make friends everywhere in the world while travelling gives me something to think about. I have never been able to do anything like that. She celebrates thanksgiving dinner with her friends in Italy and it gets emotional for everybody present even though many of them are strangers.
I can go on writing about each chapter and how it made me think. It requires guts for somebody to give up everything and go on such a journey and then make millions of dollars and fans by writing about it. I wonder whether I will be able to take up this kind of journey in my life. You really need to be passionate about things and willing to give up pleasures of life and seek pleasure in simple and different things. I have to also make those butter fried potatoes some day that she made one night to satisfy her physical hunger but in the end she had to think about her Brazilian friend in the bed to satisfy herself.
I remember that I was attending a technical seminar few years ago where one of the IBM executive mentioned that it is an open secret that now IBM earns most of its profit from services and not from products as has traditionally been the case earlier. That particular statement left me thinking as I had always regarded IBM at the forefront of computer technology and responsible for so many innovations that have taken place in last 50 years. And then I came across this book “Who says elephants can’t dance”, by CEO of IBM Louis V. Gerstner who is credited with this turnaround of the company.
When he came on board from a non-technical domain of American Express, IBM was facing a tough challenge from PC makers, Microsoft, Apple and the technology trend from mainframes to desktop PCs. But it was a monolith, steeped in bureaucracy and very difficult to make any changes. At such time, Gerstner took tough decisions, laid out employees but did not break up the company into “Baby-blues” like AT&T and focussed on IT services and solutions instead of Hardware that it was selling till that time. He managed to turn around the fortunes of the whole company in few years and even though it is not doing the same things that it used to do earlier, IBM has adapted to market transition and has been financially successful.
His writing style is good and easy to read. But the book focusses a lot on the Gerstner himself and what he did to save the company. Since it is his autobiography, he has liberty to look at things from his perspective but sometimes I felt that he was over the top. Several of his emails to all employees of the company find prominent mention in the book that I found a bit too much. There is also a famous incident where he switched off a projector in middle of presentation by top executives so that they could do some real “work”.
Another gem of a book by author Dan Ariely. I had read his earlier book “Predictably Irrational” sometime back and now he has come up with “The upside of irrationality; The unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home”. In this book, once again he explores various irrational forces that are defining our decisions but here he talks about how this irrationality is beneficial for all of us at work and at home. If we were completely rational human beings, working on old economic theory of cost versus benefit, nobody in this world would want to work or help others. But he goes on to prove through short simple experiments that we human beings (as well as animals) want to earn our living. We take pride in what we do. We value our work more than other’s work and we empathise with people when we see them needing our help.
The book also explores the idea of adaptability in mating game played by humans. He shows how people adapt to their own physical limitations and adapt very quickly in selection of their mates that is most likely to give them results. He has gone a bit tangential talking about online dating and how that does not work as an industry and what all needs to be done for that.
His idea that we are able to empathise with single person but fail to understand the misery of millions is thoughtful. This is something that I have also seen in recent past. When “prince” fell down in well, the whole of country was praying for him. But when thousands of people die of malnutrition we fail to rise up to the occasion.
The book is very thought-provoking. Individual examples in the book may or may not apply to all of us but you end up thinking about lot of decisions that we take in our daily life. It is not necessary for all our decisions to be rational but it is important for us to question them and understand the hidden forces that shape our decisions.
In a way this book “Fermat’s Last Theorem” is a fantasy come true. To be able to read about complex Mathematics in a story book style is something that was possible only in this book by Simon Singh. Before I picked up this book I had no idea about Fermat’s last theorem or its significance. I just read the summary on the back page and felt like picking up the book and once I started reading it, there was no stopping it, though I did skipped over complex mathematical equations part.
Fermat’s last theorem states that no set of positive three integers exist such that
an + bn = cn
is satisfied for any integer value of n greater than two. This theorem was first conjectured by Pierre de Fermat in 1637 and he claimed in his writing that he had a proof of this theorem but he did not have space left on the paper on which he was writing at that time. After his death hundreds of Mathematicians across the world tried unsuccessfully for many centuries to get the generic proof but the final proof was found only in 1995. Even though the proof has been found it is based on very complex mathematical models that were not in existence during Fermat’s time. So, it is still a mystery, how Fermat had that proof that was very simple.
The book traces this history of Fermat’s last theorem. It is a fascinating story of how the best minds could not figure out something that was done by Fermat such a long time ago. The significance of this theorem is not that it brings some new understanding to the world of Mathematics but lies in the simplicity of the theorem and exceedingly complex proof of it.
Elizabeth Gilbert became famous with her book “Eat, Pray, Love”. This book “The Last American Man” was written before that and it was not such a famous book. I also went to this book after reading Eat, Pray, Love. The idea of the story looked good to me and I was curious about what she was writing before her famous book. This book is a biography of Eustace Conway, who left his home at the age of 17 to live in the nature and more importantly to live off the nature.
When I first started reading the book, I did not realize that it was a real character but then I figured out that the story is real and Eustace Conway does exist and his Turtle Island is also a reality. Eustace had always been attracted to nature from childhood and moved out of his comfortable existence to live in the jungle or whatever existed in US at that time. He has done grueling hiking across Appalachian Trail, has travelled from coast to coast on horse and many other adventures. He has created a nature preserve of 1000 acres where he invites people to stay with him and learn to live with nature.
It is a fantastic story of a person who attracts so much attention and people want to be like him. At the same time, once people get in contact with him and start working with him, they find it extremely difficult to cope with him. The author has done an excellent job of bringing out different facets of his life, his relationships and has given a commentary on the lifestyle of americans in today’s time vis-a-vis hundred years ago when american man was still discovering the frontier.
It is so true that today’s generation has forgotten their connection with the nature and their own body. We know more about TV then the grass or plant in our backyard.