My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As far as we’ve come into the ultra-modern 21st century, we are still women living in a man’s world.
Inferior is a well timed book that explores why the gender dynamic works the way it does, across cultures, generations and professions.
How did women come to be in the social positions they currently live in?
Who decided what roles men and women must have? And what were these based on?
Why are women believed to be inferior to men?
Are we biologically built to be lesser humans?
Do our brains have lower intelligence capacities?
Through really extensive research spanning neuroscience, psychology, medicine, anthropology and evolutionary biology, Angela Saini delves deeply into the question about women’s position in society, revealing hard scientific evidence that somehow never gets the limelight, but definitely questions the one-sided superiority argument that has favoured men in areas dominated by men.
The book lends a lot of perspective to the historical and social constructs, where “women have been systematically suppressed over the course of human history by men and their power structures“. It take a critical look at how we came to develop these traditional gender stereotypes of the breadwinning father and the stay-at-home mother, and if these are really part of our biological makeup. I think it’s a really interesting and important study into our evolution as the “social animals” we so like to label ourselves.
My favourite chapters in the book were Chapters 1 and 7 because they present such interesting insights into the patriarchy led socio-cultural control system that confines women within a desirable boundary of acceptable behaviour. These are norms that define our “character” or “characterlessness” for that matter, and we all still live by them today.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book with a lot of expectation and interest. The point Cal Newport makes is very valid, but it is not a new point, and he doesn’t claim it to be.
In my opinion, the deep work approach is most applicable to “thinking work” – such as research, academics, writing, etc. The point is simple – work in larger chunks of time un-distracted and uninterrupted, to see your productivity and creativity soar. Make it a routine ordered by rules.
The book tries to offer these set of rules as a path to set yourself up for deep work.
One of its major points is – stay as away as possible from social media – which I tend to agree with to an extent, as it can really take over your life and time, once you’re hooked – and when you really come to think of it, it adds very little value to anything of depth. Its basically a superficial time guzzler that we need to be more mindfully careful of.
While I enjoyed reading the first half of the book, after the 60% mark I lost interest completely. It became a long winding narrative that I felt was repetitive with nothing new to share. I mostly skimmed through the rest of it.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Remember the journalist who threw a shoe at P Chidambram at a press conference a few years ago? That journalist, Jarnail Singh, is the author of this book. He was just an 11 year old kid, a resident of Lajpat Nagar, when he witnessed the vicious violence against the Sikhs in Delhi in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Many books have been written on the incident and the long pending justice that is still awaited by its victims and survivors more than 30 years later. I have not read most of those books, but there is something very emotional and personal about this one. For Jarnail Singh, this is too close to heart. The narration of first person accounts is simple but direct. It is difficult not to picture the carnage, the brutality and inhumanity of the unimaginable attacks. Men turned to monsters.
More than 30 long years later, the victims’ families continue to live in the long shadow of the attacks , their lives upended, their futures ruined, relegated to peripheral rehabilitations, survivors still struggling to survive, though many have succumbed.
The administration’s evident involvement and yet painfully slow and reluctant action to bring justice is outrageous. Khushwant Singh writes in his foreword to the book, that it is a must read for all those who wish that such horrendous crimes do not take place again.
And yet we see more examples of the same things happening today. Human life continues to hold little value in the face of what is manufactured belief, asserted boundary, wrenched legitimacy.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book was meant to be investigative journalism, but it certainly does not read like one. Infact there was quite a controversy around it being publicised as a memoir – a woman’s journey of self exploration, much against the wishes of the author, who protested that tagging it as a memoir stripped the book and the author from its journalistic expertise.
While this may well have been the effect for many readers, it did not really change my perception about the book or the author’s journalism expertise. I still picked it up believing that it would provide a rare and engaging insight into this unexplored section of the North Korean society.
But the irony is that it reads exactly like a memoir, and not an interesting one at that. First I almost quit at 20% and then at 60%, and then just trudged on to the end because I wanted to read about what the author witnessed when Kim Jong Il died. But the details she shares from her two teaching months come across as so superficial, that anyone who has been reading about North Korea or has watched enough videos on YouTube, won’t be surprised by or find anything new in her reporting. There is so much of herself in there that all of this taking place in North Korea almost seems like a sub plot.
So much lost opportunity, not just in the writing but also in the information / investigation of information, especially since the book is a result of ten years of work.
People read about North Korea to understand it beyond the generic assumptions we have or make about the country, it’s systems and people. Investigative journalism is probably the most potent and dangerous means of getting the real picture. But how does it work in a country like DPRK when your every move is being watched, every word heard. So I understand that this is a big challenge and carries immense risk and may not actually provide the results one hoped for.
But a nearly day by day, lesson by lesson account of her time teaching English there adds no value to the larger scope of information that could have been gleaned and what one actually learns from this book could easily have been wrapped up in a chapter or two.
2016 has been a bitter-sweet reading year with the usual mixed bag of disappointing books but also some very very good ones that I couldn’t recommend enough!
Surprisingly, I very comfortably finished my reading target of 31 books for the year (which is a tiny number compared to the many book bloggers here – and I wish I could read even half as much as they do!). The down side is that I haven’t been able to sit tight with a single book since that happened – and my last month this year has gone with me pining to read but making no progress with the annoying reader’s block that I can’t seem to shake off!
So! Since its that time of the year, here are the 7 best things I read in 2016!!!! (in no particular order coz they are all great). Click the title to read full reviews!
- The Blood Telegram – India’s Secret War in East Pakistan by Gary J. Bass
Ah, such a pleasure to think about this one again. A journalistic masterpiece. I read this book like the history student I never was, completely absorbed in the details, marking margins, watching interviews on YouTube as I read and constantly resisting the urge to underline complete paragraphs on nearly every page in the book. The 1971 Bangladesh War is an important, recent and probably much misunderstood / misinformed event in modern history. This is a must read. Cannot compliment Gary Bass enough for writing and researching this as well as he did.
2. Five Days in November by Clint Hill
If you’ve ever been obsessed by the the JFK assassination, then you will appreciate the very personal insider account of what happened immediately after the shots hit JFK. Written by the Kennedys’ secret service agent, Clint Hill, and published on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, it is a sensitively written book that gives you a glimpse at the profound sense of grief that everyone close to JFK felt but had to keep in check as official procedures and protocol took precedence. This is easily a book you can finish in a couple of hours.
3. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
I spent a beautiful month reading all four books in this series. Actually I tore through one book after the other until they were all done and each one was brilliant. If I had to summarize, I’d just say that Elena Ferrante’s writing captivates, engrosses, absorbs, consumes, devastates and satisfies. All the fuss and buzz around these books is completely authentic and well-founded. Being nominated for the Man Booker was well deserved. I only wish she hadn’t been harassed by that Italian journalist’s obsession to uncover her true identity – in the end it has nothing to do with who she is as an author and this all this reader cares about.
I reviewed each book in this series separately, so I’m leaving links to those here:
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
The Story if the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
4. The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie
Oh what an adorable, wonderfully written book on the basic tenets of Buddhism and its simple yet profound philosophy for a happy life narrated by the Dalai Lama’s cat Rinpoche! A happy book that must be read by everyone at least once.
5. The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons
Probably the only thriller that worked this year! Also, it breaks away from the usual ‘super hero’ typecasting of the main character, which is refreshing and realistic, and gives him a great back story too. Modern day fast paced, intense and exciting – its just the kind of book you can curl up with on a cold night this winter; with some hot tea or chocolate? whatever you prefer!
6. Belonging by Umi Sinha
I still consider this to be one of the most underrated and undiscovered books of the year. A well-crafted, elegantly written epistolary novel set in early 19th century India, spanning three generations and their struggle to understand their identity in colonial India.A definite must read.
7. One Child by Mei Fong
Wrapping up the list is another brilliant journalistic novel on China’s one-child-policy, that was enforced in 1980 as a drastic family planning initiative to arrest its exploding population. Reading about how this policy was implemented has impacted and will continue to impact the country’s people and economy was disturbing but also such an important story that needed telling. China never ceases to amaze and this social experiment from its modern history is a big lesson for the world to reflect upon.
And that wraps its up! If I wasn’t such a slow reader, I would have likely re-read nearly all these books again, but for now I’ll be glad for having read them at all.
Merry Xmas and Happy New Year everyone!!!!
Looking forward to a bookpacked 2017!!!!!!
An account of what may possibly be the world’s most extreme social experiment in modern times, ONE CHILD tells the story of China’s one-child-policy, that was enforced in 1980 as a drastic family planning initiative to arrest its exploding population. The policy was phased out last year, in 2015, and this book takes a look at what this policy has really meant for the people of China, how it was implemented, and how it will take a long time for the country to recover from its impact.
Two of the most striking emotions that I have associated with China from whatever I have read and heard in the past, and more strongly through this book now, are fear and control. The way the Communist Party and government system control the country down to the last and remotest person is disturbing. Several instances in the book show how people were bound by the one-child rule, breaking which brought about a slew of fines and punishments, economically debilitating an already poor population and leaving them with nearly no choices of a fair recourse. It was non-negotiable.
The book shows how the policy has affected not just the parents who were forced to adhere to it, but also its impact on the children who were born as the one-child generation. There are horrifying instances of in-human forced late-term abortions, and sad tales of parents losing their only child to natural disasters – like the 2008 Sichuan earthquake that claimed the lives of thousands of children, who were at school at the time, due to the poor quality of their school buildings. In the aftermath of such incidents, the desperation of parents scrambling to register themselves to have another child, as they would be eligible again, is heartbreaking.
But there is also a very economic and pragmatic reason driving them to make such desperate scrambles to have children. As the author states, everything in Chinese society is geared towards marriage and family, and being unmarried or childless placed you very low on the societal totem pole. (There are labels like “leftover women” for those who remain unmarried after 25, and “bare branches” for men who are also unmarried after the designated ripe age. There are “bachelor villages” because of an extremely lopsided gender ratio, that was further exacerbated by the one-child policy, which encouraged people to be even more choosy about having their “one-child” as a boy.)
People who broke the one-child rule or did not have any children, could not claim several of the benefits that the state offers – they simply became ineligible. Without any progeny, people found it difficult to buy even burial plots for themselves. Also, as the ratio of the older generation in China increased, and with expensive hospice care, having a child to look after you in old age became a critical requirement and investment.
Other discriminating policies like hukou, which prevents migrant populations from overpopulating cities by making them ineligible to government benefits that a resident would normally get, show how difficult life is in China for the economically weaker class.
There is a very interesting section early in the book, that talks about how the Olympics were also one area for the authorities to exercise population control to bring glory to the country – – where selective breeding to raise more talented humans was a central part of the elite sports program.
Held very soon after the devastating Sichuan earthquake, the 2008 Beijing Olympics were China’s opportunity to dazzle the world, and they likely did. But some of the facts about how they did this has been an eye-opener – from spray painting the city’s dry grass an emerald green, to deploying 25 control stations to fend off rain clouds approaching the Bird’s Nest stadium, to the computer generated imagery of the fireworks one saw on TV – – it shows how China can and will go to any extent to paint a picture of perfection.
Ironically, after three decades of making the one-child policy mandatory, the Communist Party is now having trouble making people choose to have two children – With such high parenting and child rearing costs, most middle-class Chinese now prefer to have only one child.
There’s a lot more that the book covers that is interesting, insightful and informative and I would recommend everyone to read it, just to know a little bit more about this intriguing land of smoke and mirrors and the struggles of its people.
Featured Image Source: Amazon.in
Thank you for nominating me Seldjana (The Book Orchids)! I enjoyed reading your answers and always enjoy your posts. This is the perfect way to relax and unwind after a really long and tiring week for me, so here goes!
Before I begin, here are the rules:
- Thank and follow the blog that nominated you.
- List 11 facts about yourself.
- Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
- Nominate 11 bloggers and set 11 questions for them.
11 facts about me:
- I’m a big foodie. I love eating out, but I also love simple home food, which I find extremely comforting. I always choose salt over sweet.
- I’m very very lazy, and I’m not proud of it 😛
- I’m a bit of a loner and quite independent.
- I LOVE baking. I love the smell of baking breads, cakes and pies. I hope to some day own a small bakery.. be the Baker who loved books…
- I love animals, specifically dogs. I’ve always had one as a pet and I think they’re extremely adorable, each one with a distinct personality.
- I’m a crime fiction junkie and get pretty obsessive about real crime too – from the JFK assassination to OJ Simpson, to Oscar Pistorious, to the Madeleine McCann case and so on..
- I love cinema, and I love going to the movies for the big screen experience. Who doesn’t.
- I’m so greedy about books, that my TBR list is over 250, I own 18 unread books and at least a 100 unread ebooks – each one chosen after careful research. The one thing I love as much as books is reading about books.
- I love gadgets. Smartphone, iPad, laptop, mp3 player, Bluetooth speakers, pedometer… I’m trying to contain the list to that. My only guilt minimising consolation is that I pay for these myself 😛
- Word puzzles, scrabble, crosswords and soduko are some of my favorite games. I’m a Boggle pro – of the original written down kind, Not the iPad app kind.
- I decorate and redecorate spaces in my head. I’m a mental interior designer.
1. If you could choose any place on the Earth and even from the space to live, where would it be?
I think I’d keep myself on Earth only. I’ve always fantasised about living in a quaint little Spanish village, as a baker’s apprentice, with a cottage full of books and a robust Internet connection
2. What superpower would you like to have?
The “I dream of Genie” kind. It covers everything.
3. What is the TV show you can’t stop watching over and over again?
I think I’ve watched and rewatched F.R.I.E.N.D.S. more times than I can remember. But it never gets old and I never tire of Chandler’s jokes.
4. What is the book you haven’t read although it’s a must read? (no lies)
Haha, I can name more than one. The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco); Beloved (Toni Morrison) ; all the classics…
5. What movie adaptation of the book do you hate?
The Twilight series.
6. If you could name a planet, what name would you choose?
That’s a tough one. Aron I think…
7. What’s your favorite actor/actress?
Leo Dicaprio. Jennifer Aniston, Mark Rylance, Amy Schumer….no favorites, they’re all good.
8. When have you realized that you are something like a book addict?
I think when Goodreads happened. I realised I spent way too much time on it and still do, and it’s really fuelled my passion for reading.
9. If you could punch the character from a book/movie in the face, who would it be?
I would say Mitch Rapp from the Vince Flynn series. He’s so perfect he irritates me.
10. Which fairy tale is your favorite?
11. Ask yourself one question.
What are you going to read next? (That was obvious)
Following an extremely interesting discussion on Indian history, I realised there was much more to know about what happened, when it happened and most importantly why. In today’s day and age, when one has all the resources to inform oneself on historical facts, I don’t see why we mustn’t be well informed – after all, our history defines our present, shaping thoughts, opinions and decisions. So to avoid developing my own version of history and instead to develop a history’s version of history, I’ve resolved to read the following books in the next few months. Its a 2016 resolution come early! and I’m raring to get started.
In no particular order, here’s my list. Being someone who is as much a hoarder as a reader, I happen to have all of these in paperback, hardback or ebook formats 🙂
- The Last Mughal – William Dalrymple
- White Mughals – William Dalrymple
- India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha
- Delhi: A Novel – Khushwant Singh
- The Blood Telegram – Gary J Bass
- Indira Gandhi, the Emergency and Indian Democracy – PN DHar
- The History of the Sikhs – Khushwant Singh
I guess there’s nothing left to do but read.
The key word caught my eye, so decided to re-blog this. An outdated post but the concept of #intolerance has a new found relevance today…
What does one make of a case like SR Siras’ – a professor at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) who allegedly committed suicide because apparently the “shame” of being a homosexual consumed him.
Now SR Siras was reader and chairman of Modern Indian Languages at AMU. He had been teaching at the university for a good 20 odd years. Recently, about a month ago, he was suspended from his duties by the Vice Chancellor of the university on the pretext of having being involved in “grave misconduct” by indulging in “consensual” homosexual activities within the “privacy” of his home. (Consensual and privacy are two key words to be noted here – but it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to pay attention to them.)
This suspension came as a result of a complaint by students of AMU who had planted spy cams in Siras’ home and presented it as evidence while…
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