This is the first book of Amitav Ghosh that I’ve read. I learned of his body of work from a in interview by Barkha Dutt on ND24 (an Indian news channel). While the main portion of the inteview revolved around his latest book (Sea of Poppies), there were several of his books that were mention and live audience questions seemed to indicate that his writings were regarded rather well. His own answers to questions about the development of the characters in his books seemed to be well thought out and the way he seemed to address some of the queries that Incendiary Circumstances, a collection of non-fiction essays, raised was elegant at the very least. Having read the book, though, I’m not sure he did much more than repeat what was already in the book.
Coming to the book itself now – it’s a mixed bag. There are some essays that are well told and equally so, some definitely not. The ones that he has written well are those with little political opinion and rich description of the unique traits of people (individuals and not groups, national, religious or otherwise). “The Greatest Sorrow” and ‘The Ghat of the World” are probably the best of the lot. “The Fundamentalist Challenge” and “The Ghosts of Mrs.Gandhi” are the worst. Some like “The Egyptian in Baghdad” and “The Imam and the Indian” don’t seem to really say much. Right now, I’m in the middle of reading “The Glass Palace” which is a work of fiction by Amitav Ghosh. I must say, his work of fiction is better than non-fiction. Perhaps the author ought to stick to that genre.
Verdict: Give it a miss. There are better books out there e.g. works of fiction by the same author.
This is a decent beginners’ book on photography. While there are better ones out there, it wouldn’t be a bad use of time to peruse this one. It has a pretty good overview of general principles of photography, though it lacks depth. I would warmly recommend this for first time DSLR / SLR users. There are several photos that serve as good examples of clean composition. That alone may be reason enough to read this book. I don’t consider myself a beginner and I’m not the target audience for this book.
Verdict: Recommended for photography beginners.
Conventional wisdom is blown out of the water in this masterpiece as economic theory is used to depict correlations (not causality) between various factors in topics as wide ranging as legalization of abortion being the main reason for a drastic drop in crime in the late 20th century, the patterns of cheating in sumo wrestling and teachers and behavior of real estate agents when they sell your house vs. their own house. Other subjects also covered in this treatise (if one may call it such) with “no unifying theme” include how information asymmetry is (mis?)used by folks deemed as experts, e.g. doctors and real agents, to take advantage of those without access to inner workings of their profession, parallels between the Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents, rubbish theories on the larger influence of parents on their children rather than that of the children’s peers and correlation between the selection of names and the probability of better education. Granted that in the final chapter the authors get a bit long winded, but other than that minor gripe, this is a must-read book.
Verdict: Highly recommended.