Friday, July 31, 2009

Love, The Painter's Wife & The Queen of Sheba

This is a single book and a small one at that. Queen of Sheba and other ladies of The Old Testament were and still are a constant source of fascination for me. I am eager to read up anything about them especially in my favorite form of fictionalized history. Reading the title, I didn't really think this book had any connections to true events. Imagine my amazement then when I stumbled upon the fact that the painter Piero della Francesca is a historical figure and had actually painted those pictures alluded to in the book. French author and critic Aliette Armel has produced a well written book. This is the second book I read featuring Bilqis the Queen of Sheba. Both books that came out of independent research seem to be very similar and thus render credence. Armel traveled to Yemen for the book.

The story is about Piero and his wife Silvia and how Silvia helps Piero find his muse to do a historical series of paintings. She achievs this by artfully retelling the story of the Queen and her visit to King Solomon of Israel. Through the story telling we get to know not just Piero & Silvia but Queen Bilqis and King Solomon too. The Queen had always stood out for me among those old stories. I have often pictured this courageous and smart woman traveling to Solomon's Kingdom. It was a difficult journey rife with bandits and she also had to brave the fear of a potential annexation of her small Kingdom by the powerful King. The trip ostensibly was to experience first hand the fabled wisdom of Solomon. His wise resolution in the story of the two women and one baby is a well known one.

I loved this book and with two brilliant stories in one, it is a bargain read!

Du Maurier's 'The Scapegoat'

I cannot skip a Du Maurier. Now that I think about it, if at all I would want to meet an author, it would be her. A writer with deep perception on people and how they affect each other, it is sheer pleasure to delve into Daphne Du Maurier's books. Thought I had finished reading all the titles by this author and so couldn't believe my luck when this turned up on the library shelves. This is her best book yet. Books like 'Rebecca' & My Cousin Rachel' are replete with mystery. The Scapegoat is mysterious but is equally readable by a non-mystery person. It talks about British Professor of French literature (John) switching lives with French man (Jean) who by a twist of fate is an exact replica of his physical self! Jean de Gue orchestrated the switch through deception to escape from the people in his life who were demanding. John on the other hand decided not to go to the police and instead live this French Count's life in his Chateau full of people which seemed very similar to what he had always wondered about through those pages of history. A classic for all times and all readers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blink : The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a journalist and it shows in this book. I read all of it with interest yet I had this feeling of being cheated of something. Well, 'cheated' is a hard word so let us put it as something missing instead. I figured it out soon enough and from then it was not bad at all. You see, the book reads like a bunch of articles sewn together. He did make certain names appear here and there for the sake of continuity but in essence the chapters were articles. That does not mean it is not a good read. In fact I did not skip over any part and did read all of it. I am just ambivalent about the reading experience that is all.

I am sure almost everyone has heard of the phrase " First Impressions Are The Best Impressions". Gladwell has written a book on this with ample examples to prove his point. I agree with most of what he says and since he himself did a good job of creating a good first impression on each of his 'articles' you will finish each with pleasure. See here and here for more on the book and here for more on the author.

Added on July23
Well, Gladwell has managed to make me conscious of what normally is an intuitive feeling. So read him at your own risk. I am adding this to write about how he does truly have a point and my recent experience just proves it.

You see, I work at this company where they have these huge conference rooms in the lobby with full paneled glass doors that everyone can see into and back. Most job interviews are held here because there will always be at least one or two of these rooms available. The last few days, as I was walking past one of the rooms I began noticing the same group interviewing with different people. Sometime two on the same day etc. I started slowly being aware of these candidates quite unconsciously and decided on one particular one as the most likely to be hired. It was arrived at almost as soon as I glanced at the candidate through the glass doors. Thought to myself that if I were to hire, I'd be hiring this person.

So...... guess who got hired in the end? Yes, "my" candidate. So the group didn't need to waste their time and money. All they had to do was to put the candidates in a lineup and ask me to point to the one:-))

Friday, July 3, 2009

Just checking in

I haven't gone AWOL guys. Just that my 'Luck' seemed to have run out finally. I know, couldn't have lasted that long. eh? The last few books from the Library were disappointments. Yup, nothing to write home about. But I do have some interesting reading going on and will update once I am done. Till then bear with me and Happy Reading!