Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch (oct 23'1960 - July'25 2008) , a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he was asked to give his 'last lecture' at CMU, he didn't have to imagine it as his last; he was already counting his last few days. This book was inspired by that last lecture he gave on Sep 18-2007 titled - " Really achieving your childhood dreams". Some of you might have already watched the video of the lecture.... if not, here is the link to the video on youtube. It's amazing and really worth a watch!!

This book combines the inspiration, humour and intelligence that made his last lecture so memorable and phenomenal. I read a review of this book on a friend's blog and immediately bought a copy, 'coz from the review I read I knew I would treasure this book for a long time to come!

The book is a light read but offers you so much wisdom and food for thought. I finished it in just a few hours (it was too interesting to keep it down!) but I can see myself remembering a lot of things that he has said, for the rest of my life. Such is the impact. It's not some sort of a self-help book which gives you N-steps to success or happiness. Randy Pausch, by just describing his attitue towards life, his childhood dreams and his stories of success and failure, shows you a path to leading your life the right way. He says, this lecture/book was not intented only to those 400 people in the auditorium but for his kids. This, he calls as a head fake - which is nothing but 'indirect learning'. According to him,
There are 2 kinds of head fakes. The first is literal. On a football field, a player will move his head one way so you will think he's going in that direction. Then he goes the opposite way. It's like a magician using misdirection. The second kind of head fake is the really important one - the one that teaches people things they dont realize they're learning until well into the process. If you are a head fake specialist, your hidden objective is to get them to learn something you want them to learn.

Randy Pausch with his 3 kids. Photo courtesy: his website

The book really makes you think about what you want the most out of life - your job, your family, your marriage etc.. How would you spend your life if you knew you had only 6 more months to live? How would you leave your memories back to the ones who love you? What dreams would you fulfill? What would you give more priority to - your work, spouse, kids, friends, family? Such are the questions that you will inevitably start asking yourself as you read the book...
The book, which has immense amount of wisdom in it, also has a baggage full of emotions. I could see myself in tears at certain points. It was not out of sympathy but I was so moved by his love for his family, his wife and kids and his extremely optimistic outlook towards life. It's just amazing to see how strongly, and with a smile on his face, he faced his terminal illness. If you watch his video, you wont believe that you are actually listening to a guy who is suffering from cancer at its final stages.

Am sure by now you would have realized how much I loved this book!!! I highly recommend it and I really feel every one of u who reads this book will take away something with u which u will remember for the rest of your life...

Some useful links if you are interested to know more:

His blog -

If you have already read this book, let me know what you thought of it and I'll add a link to your review..

Sunday, October 5, 2008


A few months back I had come across this Non Fiction Five (NFF) reading challenge (May-Sept)and was really keen on doing it. But I got so occupied with reading my already stacked fiction books and other stuff that I just couldn't get to this on time. But as my enthusiasm for non-fiction is back, I am up for this all over again. I already have the books lined up by my bed-side too! Here's the list - Keep watching this space for the reviews :)

1. The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
2. Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
3. Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
4. Built to Last - Jim Collins
5. Liar's Poker - Michael Lewis

Friday, October 3, 2008

In the Country of Men

Author: Hisham Matar
Pages: 245
My Rating:

My next stop in the OT challenge was Libya. I never read any prior reviews of this book and the only reason I picked it up was becoz it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize -2006. I have a tendency to choose books that are shortlisted for prizes, coz I always feel they have some substance in them for being nominated for a prize! More often than not I am proved to be right; so was the case with this book too. Though I didn't LOVE it and it doesn't feature in my top-favorites list, I still enjoyed reading it - learnt a lot about the life in Libya and the Libyan revolution especially.

The book is Hisham Matar's debut novel set in Tripoli Libya. It deals with Libyan Qadhafi's September 1969 revolution; the social and politcal life in the seventies. One aspect I loved about this book was the author's usage of poetic prose and the attention to detail in the important scenes of the plot. The writing style is very simple so it really helps you concentrate on the plot and the characters.

The author doesn't give us details of the revolution, but he explains the impact of the revolution on the day-to-day lives of people and especially on children, through the story of a 9 year old boy - Suleiman, who narrates the story as an adult. The author has developed the child's character and that of his mother's as a complex yet complete multi-dimensional human beings. The emotions in Suleiman, his cruelty, dilemma, betrayal and all the contradictions he goes through are portrayed very well. But somehow it still failed to make a lasting impact on me. I am still not able to figure out what could be the reason, but I know that at the end of the book I felt that it did fall short of something! One reason could be that the author did not spend enough time and effort to really build up and highlight the relationships better - be it the one between the father and son or between Suleiman and his best friend Kareem. So I always felt I was at the surface and looking at what's happening, rather than feeling that I was a part of the story or engrossed enough to relate to the characters.

Nevertheless, I still recommend this book as it's not just a run-of-the-mill fiction. It's based on the real life events during Libyan revolution and helps you gain some insights into the same.

If you have read this book, I would love to know what you felt. If you reviewed it already, do let me know and I'll link it here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Orbis Terrarum Challenge update..

I realized I haven't written an update about the OT challenge in this new book blog. It's been quite a while since I started this (April 2008) and it's progressing much slower than I expected it to be :( I thought by now I would have completed reading all 9 books, but I still have 3 more to go....
Here's the udpated list and the map -