Design Book

Book Reviews

I do read non-Poetry books. Typical focus is on Philosophy, Religion and Human Behavior. Some of the ones that I do read, I end up writing a short review as noted below: (These reviews are also posted on Amazon and Goodreads)

(40+ Books have been reviewed so far)

Editor's Top Ten Books: 

  1. Huston Smith: The World’s Religions

  2. Daniel Kahneman: Thinking Fast and Slow

  3. Louis Gerstner: Who says Elephants Can’t Dance?

  4. Jimmy Carter: Peace not Apartheid

  5. Muhammad Asad: The Road to Mecca

  6. Fazlur Rahman: Major Themes of the Quran

  7. Karen Armstrong: A History of God

  8. Reza Aslan: Zealot

  9. Nassim Taleb: Anti Fragile

  10. A Confession: Leo Tolstoy

And Us To Dust – C.J. Robinson – 2 Stars

Dusty Poems

Poetry is hard. It really is. Especially if it doesn’t touch your heart with experiences that you’ve never felt. One or two poems in this collection did touch my heart (like lovers and liars or your perfume) but most were sort of diffuse meaning unclear as to what the poet wanted to convey. So, I found the entire collection a bit boring.

A Confession – Leo Tolstoy – 5 Stars

Masterful Thesis

It is impossible to find someone who writes so well – the clarity, the thought process and utter frankness. It has been more than 100 years since the passing away of this giant of literature who won the Nobel Prize and the way he describes his confession is wonderful to read. What he describes for irrational thoughts (like faith or religion), which must have a link between finite (our living life) and infinite (eternity) was very comforting to me. His classification of human philosophies and his notes on faith are equally enlightening. He doesn’t argue for the reader to change but gives out examples to think and ponder.

My Mirror of Word – J. Flowers-Olnowich– 3 Stars

Thoughtful Poetry

Poetry in this book made me think and that’s the best I like with poems. Not simple imaginations but phrases and opinions that shape thought, though not directed towards goals, but just thinking in a new dimension. What I didn’t quite like was the lack of purpose from the entire collection. Nonetheless it’s good to read and enjoy.

The Islam We Miss – Mohammed Mohiuddin– 3 Stars

Ho-hum Summary

This book started out fine but falls into a trap of sand boxing thoughts. If freedom in thinking is bounded by constraints of not hurting others with similar thinking, this book meets that criterion. Obviously, the author is an accomplished medical doctor with a lot of attributes to his profession. But does that make him a votary on another topic like religion? If you go by what is written in this book, the answer is no. The book however is well divided into sections and as a practicing Muslim, I did not find it to be offensive in any way. The resulting outcome for Islam standing for truth and justice also is well put. But where does it lead us? Nowhere in particular. Same solutions as many others have put forward with no direct link to success.

Religion by and large gives peace of mind to a human brain, the most important organ in the Universe. Minds can also be very different. Of all the religions practiced by humankind, Islam is the latest and has the most structured content. For people not believing in God, no religion would work. So, we leave them out. For others, honesty and justice would lead them to Islam in a way we may not concur, but we’re not appointed for that. We are merely fellow travelers.

100 – R.S. Cobb– 3 Stars

Good Poetry, but not much thought

Free flowing verses and good alliteration. But overall, not much thinking depth in poems except in a few places. After a few poems, it felt like the rant of an angry person. It was ok to read because not much time is wasted in thinking.

The Lion Playing the Kazoo– Taylor Sapp– 4 Stars

Engaging Poetry

I love reading Poetry books. Especially good ones. This one was very delightful. There seems to be a method of mental involvement here as the poet writes his verses. There is engaged imagination with nothing steering out of the ordinary and making the reader think that it just doesn’t make sense. I loved going from one poem to the next and went back and read a few of them again. Joyful experience!

 

The Building Blocks of a Better Future – Jack Jacobs– 4 Stars

Uncovering the Mysteries of Bitcoin

I think I now understand Bitcoin a lot better. Better enough to start investing. The author does a remarkable job in structuring his presentation. The reviews are great to summarize. Overall, I now have a cogent understanding of Cryptocurrencies, but not enough to explain to others. If I need to, I’ll have to study the references listed in the book.

Politicons – Oliver Arnold– 2 Stars

Distracting Satire

Satire is expected to bring a smile to your face as you unravel it. Not with this book. It has satire spelled all over it. It’s quite blasé too in the sense that it doesn’t care how the reader reacts. Very quickly it became boring and expected.

 

Couple’s Trivia Questions – Bryan Bruce – 2 Stars

Needless Questions

The book started out pretty good with common sensical notes about communication and lies and so on and so forth. Very quickly it fell into posing lots and lots of questions for each of the couple. What came to mind is are they necessary. Most of the answers fitted a goody two shoes mentality in my humble opinion.

 

Peter, the Paranoid Pumpkin – Andy Goldenberg – 3 Stars

Timely Children’s Book

With Halloween round the corner, this is perhaps a good book to entertain small kids. Although I’m sure similar books of this kind are there, but the author has a bit of a surprise in his narration. Overall, a friendly take on how a ‘personalized’ pumpkin feels on Halloween.

Clever Marketing Plan – Magic Leone – 3 Stars

Clever way to make money

I liked the bare-bones direct approach of the author. No confusion here. He shows how to go about making money with a ‘clever’ marketing plan. No thought to improving products or services to help the consumer. Just focus on the instincts customers have, find out the loopholes of competitors and design a clever marketing plan to make money. All is fair in love and war and making money. The author seems to be good looking, but he uses the refrain of ‘ugly Indian’, perhaps to appease readers. Undoubtedly, he must have made a lot of money and I don’t begrudge that. Its just that I’d rather not follow his ‘clever’ marketing plans.

 

Swing Trading Strategies – Truman Chapman – 4 Stars

Well Written Book

Without realizing it, I was doing swing trading for the past several years, or so it seems. The author describes it very well and how it is different from scalping or day trading. Later in the book there is a good word description of trading mentalities and options with details of how the US Stock Market got formed and specifics around it. At the end of the end, it is the mentality of the trader and how he/she wishes to change it to adapt as markets are incredibly unpredictable. The author has done a great job making a normal, uninitiated person understand investing. I personally am not fond of all the graphics, charts, and logging.

 

Psychic Awakening – Harlow Wolfe – 2 Stars

Doubtful Science Proposal

Before reading this book, I was a sceptic. After reading, my opinion solidified. I found the arguments used to promote psychic anything to be doubtful before the author jumps to conclusions that are simply based on normal probabilities. Granted, a human mind is vastly complex and human imaginations know no bound. As a matter of fact, some religions are based on human imagination and it’s hard to argue about them. But in this book, the author takes simple probabilities and stretches them into a psychic science with exercises. A reason I’m giving this book two stars is that the author appears to be serious about this topic.

 

Texas Bucket List – John Mallon – 3 Stars

Trusty Guide

Nicely written guide for Texas. I wish I had this before my several trips to the state. Very well summarized. I wish they put a small map on each of the major attractions that would help in planning.

Parenting Teen Girls – Bukky Ekine-Ogualana – 3 Stars

Standard Text

A straightforward description of highlights about western teenage girls. Their goals and desires as they are growing up. Not any new insight presented here. The examples given appear too tailormade to illustrate the principals explained. It’s a book to read to make sure you are not missing out on the conventional stuff.

Major Themes of the Quran – Fazlur Rahman – 5 Stars

Remarkable Book!

This is truly a remarkable book. It exhausted me a bit as I was reading it. Much like when I was reading Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. It made me slow down the reading to understand it better.

To start with, the author outlines how the unseen impacts humanity: …and a heart that is humble before the unseen…” and is therefore, responsive to guidance. Belief in God is the basis for a belief system. Without that, we’re in a different space of thinking (a different dimension, as the author points out). If one doesn’t believe in God, no structures of human conduct are consistent and are not dependent for outcomes (if there are any). There is an excellent description of man as an individual, based on the Quran. One needs a spiritual nature to appreciate it. Further in the book, issues such as slavery, polygamy and rights of women are dealt with in a way of flexibility. Rational proofs are given to address powerful instincts to the contrary.

As you read this book, certain ideas come to mind. It’s obvious that no one can understand the nature of man better than the Creator. Obviously, when the Quran was revealed, God knew the nature of people living in those areas better than anyone else. He would also know how mankind would develop and many instances revealed may be viewed differently at a later stage. If people reading the Quran today keep that in mind, it makes it easier to deal with what appears hard to comprehend. Obviously, Quran is not a science book. You wouldn’t expect to see the theory of relativity or evolution in it. It’s a book providing guidance to people in the sixth century with a basis that is as valid today as it was at that time as human ‘nature’ hasn’t changed much. On the average, people have become more intelligent, but the basic nature defined by instincts hasn’t changed.

As you go further in the book there is a chapter on end of life for a human. This is sensitively done and results of heaven and hell as lasting punishment in the hereafter are described. Here the question that pops up is why is this necessary? Could there have been something else? Answers are not beyond conviction, in my humble opinion. If you look at the development of Islam, the passing away of the last prophet was a fulcrum point (as the author says: look at the results, if anyone else came). After that moment, Islam spread far and wide, yet the key principals of the faith were somewhat modified, with sects appearing and killing between the close followers of the prophet. If the root points of the faith were nailed as they were on the day the prophet left this world, the faith would be primal. No other revelation from God ever reached any other human after that, according to beliefs for Muslims.

Nature of man is a blend of good and evil, as explained by the author. Satan also is as old as man, chronologically, as before he rebelled, he was a faithful angel to God. The strategy of Satan is based on confusing people with a ‘whispering voice in the mind’, based on cunning and deceit. It invites weakness within a human to succeed with evil and that causes them to fail the test of guidance from God. If believers stay with people of guidance, it helps them in times of trouble. But the guidance of the people must be based on a direct link to the Quran and not on distorted histories that most Muslims follow. Superficial following of the faith with tremendous dishonesty is what is common today. There are built-in strategies for predict pardoning of sins with good deeds, like praying, etc. with guarantees of going to heaven.

 

School of Thought and Action – Ali Shariati – 4 Stars

Some Reservations about Good Thoughts

Even though more than half of the book is bibliography, I was impressed by what I thought were the original arguments as Ali Shariati presents in the first part of this book. The first one was describing the role of an intellectual: to give consciousness to society. The question that springs to mind is what the current consciousness is and what should it become? I was not impressed by the arguments on this topic. On one hand, the author argues for a Universal brand appeal for the religion of Islam and at the same time there is widespread resentment against all western thoughts. No doubt, there are many evil political actions taken by the West but sharing of technological process with the rest of the world is truly a pinnacle of Western thought. The fact that most of learned individuals from all Muslim countries wish to migrate to the West is adequate proof of this.

The framing of approach to science and Quran is very good, although some resulting arguments are not all the way acceptable. The description of an ‘ideal’ man also seems a bit far-fetched. Studying history in a way to predict future behaviors of nations and people seemed to me a novel idea. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book.

Gabriel’s Wing – Annemarie Schimmel – 4 Stars

Worthy Update on Allama Iqbal

This book is about Allama Iqbal, a brilliant Indo-Pak poet who lived about a 100 years ago. He was a poet-philosopher and had a considerable following amongst the intelligentsia of those countries. He was a thinker and ahead of his time and was devoted to the Quran and love of the last prophet. There is no other Global Muslim leader with his appeal since his time. He was opposed to nationalism, mysticism, Sufism, and other narrow interpretation of edicts, and focused a lot on aspects like ego, personality, power, time and philosophical discussions. He did not communicate, in my humble opinion, what was needed for people in that part of the globe to overcome religious-inspired laziness about not thinking and developing scientifically, while maintaining religious roots at the same time.

Allama Iqbal travelled to Europe, and on one hand admired the scientific progress, but looked down on western social behaviors. It was quite clear, even in those days, that there was clearly no link between scientific progress and religion in any way. Social behaviors were based on other set of factors. It is true that some other intellectuals of that period, like Sir Syed Ahmed, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, admired the organization and thinking of the Britishers, without losing his Muslim identity. As a matter of fact, Sir Ahmed even said that angels and jinn could be manifestations of human mind’s faculties, a clearly advanced way of thinking, compared to the Imams who were controlling the thought process of most Muslims during those times (they still do!). Despite thinking in that way, Sir Ahmed had been a profound Muslim, helping his countrymen get educated in a modern way. In summary, if Allama Iqbal insisted that Muslims be honest, think creatively and be clean in their personal hygiene, he would have done a great favor to the nation that calls him their spiritual Godfather, and would today be worth admiring, rather than being a nest of corrupt people. None of the thoughts mentioned above are against any Islamic ideology and with his public appeal, many would have listened to Allama Iqbal. Rather, they were left fermenting in anger about the social norms of westerners and refusing to learn any good things from them. That behavior is valid even today. If you talk to anyone educated and living in those parts of the world, it’s shocking to realize how constrained their thinking is based on religious edicts imprisoned in their mind. Today’s Imams in those areas still think that all scientific progress is satanic inspired. They just don’t realize that active religious Muslims have invented many new scientific theories when Muslims were in power. It’s cynical that conservatives in the US today (opposed to the Covid vaccine), have arguments somewhat like the ideologs posted by conservative Muslims in third world countries on general scientific advancements. It’s so hard to educate all people!

This book is very well written. The author does not force any opinions on the readers and presents facts as outlined in lectures and notes with good interpretations. The last chapter in the book is an excellent summary of the book by this eminent author.

 

Look! This is Love – Poems of Rumi – Annemarie Schimmel – 3 Stars

Mystical Poetry, but a bit lost.

Knowing Rumi and the eminent translator Annemarie Schimmel, both tempted me to this short book of Poetry. But I was a bit disappointed. Mystical it is. No question about it. But mystical is somewhat subjective. Different people may disagree about the depth of mysticism. I’ve read these poems a few times. There is Rumi magic in some of them, but unlike many of his other collections, the setup in this book did not excite me.

Panda Not Dragon – Shaoyu Yuan – 5 Stars

Honest Analysis

There is truth in this book. To start with, I was a bit puzzled if this is mere propaganda. But as I read more, it dawned on me that the author is a true, honest American. He is clear about his thoughts and is not concerned how they are viewed. I have personally become a more neutral judge of China, after reading this book, as it continues to rise as a nation. It seems they value humanity, despite some known issues about them suppressing ethnic minorities.

One of Us – Louis Rosenberg – 2 Stars

Few Words in this book.

There is not much to read here. Very few words and outcomes are easily predictable. Not sure what the author was trying to convey, but I for one, missed the point completely.

 

The Butterfly – Ryan James Robinson – 3 Stars

Ho-hum Stories

Kept reading this book, hoping the next story would be better. No such luck. Predictable, expected outcomes. No insight into any human character portrayed. No deep observation of the places described. Usual run-of-the-mill interactions and no real outcome for the butterfly of the book in the end.

Black and White – C L Holley – 5 Stars

Excellent Book

I did not expect such clarity and depth in explaining a racial divide. What I liked most was the dispassionate balance and sincerity of the arguments made – No propaganda here. Although I do not quite share the author’s opinion about George Floyd or the numerous Christian messages sprinkled throughout the book, I did admire the plain terms he used to show how hurtful racial tensions can be in the modern world. In neutral terms, the arguments are very compelling. A must read!

Master your Attachment Style – Scott A. Young – 4 Stars

Worth Reading

I liked how intelligently the author reviews this subject. Relying on the latest thinking, he establishes what an attachment style is and goes through each one in a very reasonable way. He addresses strength and weaknesses of each and lays the foundation for you to determine where you are. There are a couple of theories that I did not agree with. One is laying a lot of blame on the parents. The second one is about self-love, which I find very distressing. It is like chasing your own tail! Other than this, a person will learn a lot by reading this book.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners – Adam Weil – 4 Stars

Well-written Book

This diet became a discussion point in our family, and I wanted to read about it. It is professionally written with clear cut examples of what it does and how symptoms are treated. I enjoyed reading it and recommend that people requiring this should read it.

Fatty Liver Solution – Jeffrey Winzant – 3 Stars

Diagnostic Memo

The author describes what the Fatty Liver disease is. He goes on to explain the symptomatic results and what can go wrong. A sensible cure is suggested, and some good recipes are included. Read the book with some interest but noted no dramatic claims or any new not commonly known information.

PTSD Coping Skills using poetry and short stories – Timothy Segrest – 3 Stars

Tense Writing

PTSD is known as a debilitating disease. It is hard for people, like me, to know how to cope up with it. Reading this book was an eye opener. It was painful in parts and there were blood curling emotions packed in. A lot about sadness and death. No idea in my head what the cure for this is and I wish whoever is going through it the best.

 

Another New Beginning – Gail M Baugniet – 5 Stars

Enchanting Poetry

I have not come across a better poetry book in a long time. Not sure what the Japanese rules are, and it did not seem to matter to me. I really enjoyed the sensible and somber imaginations with a lot of reality woven into them. Some of the poems that stood out for me are, Courtyard, Revealing a Soul, A mother’s love, Going Out. Enjoyed reading this book.

 

Workbook and Summary of Burnout – Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski – 2 Stars

Plain flat simple advice

The book is in third person and aimed for women. Contexts are based on this assumption. Most of the reasons and explanations are standard text. Did not learn anything new by reading this book.

 

How to Market a Book – Ricardo Fayet – 4 Stars

Digital Marketing of Books

 

As a founder of Reedsy, the author sheds good light on the way to deal with and make choices with marketing a book. I loved the first few chapters. Later, the book delves deeply into making a book a top seller which did not quite interest me that much. Overall, a good book to refer to.

 

MDF Reason – D. Edward – 3 Stars

Sci Fi Tales

This book is truly short. Instincts did not seem to have changed in the 50K years from BC compared to 2K now. Heroes and villains behave the same way. The writing and explanation are quite well done.

 

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Product Reviews – Patrick Gallagher – 2 Stars

Summary of Issues with Reviews

This book outlines how to interpret reviews and more specially book reviews. Much of the information is well known to readers. There is good support to one of the review companies. Overall, the gist of the book is a simple commentary of known facts.

 

Options Trading Strategies – Benjamin Ray Bears – 4 Stars

Well-scripted Guidelines

I have been a trader for over fifteen years, and I have dabbled with options and shorts in the past. But as the author of this book, correctly points out, that I did not have the right mindset to continue. My mindset is just not growth aligned. I gave up on options and I am just a simple trader. This book clearly shows how to become a good options trader. Additionally, it explains the background of becoming a successful trader and it is done in a straight-forward intelligent way. Apart from the well-known attributes like being patient, not being greedy, etc., it encourages deep thinking and work to become consistent. I would recommend this book to anyone considering a future in this type of trading.

 

The Mental Toughness Mindset – Cortez Ranieri - 3 Stars

Hard-wired Advice

Lots of good, sensible information in this book and it is well organized too. Some examples, like the concept of a strainer getting clogged to how a brain reacts to lots of similar information, are a bit stretched in my opinion. Good tasks are set for achieving mental toughness with examples of sheep and wolf or ego and confidence. Brain and time are also mentioned as having a huge role in planning. Overall, the book seems to have the information to become mentally tough, but I am not sure how people who are not mentally tough, absorb these details from this book.

 

Stop Doubting Yourself – Max Mason - 3 Stars

Useful Book

A good summary to become successful if you do not naturally have the skills to do so. Analytical and clearly expressed, it highlights limiting beliefs and self-confidence.  These will help step around inherent doubts. What the book does not do is to go into the depths of a person’s intellect. There are obviously some people who think deeper (naturally) and come up with ways around a problem in a creative way. Such people are indeed naturally successful. Others, who need to read a book like this may also succeed, depending on how well they align themselves with solutions outlined here.

 

Your Move – Viola Trivette - 2 Stars

Typical Excitement

A page turner, it quite is. But there is no strong character. The main lead seems to act by instincts alone, with no control one way or the other. The romantic part is a bit deluded as there are so many similar behaviors reported. Not my cup of tea.

 

Instagram Secrets – Jeremy McGilvrey - 4 Stars

Excellent Reading

This read was like listening to an intelligent person describe how he got success. Well organized and presented with options and sometimes with what happens if you do something else. I personally benefitted by reading this book as I was totally unfamiliar with Instagram. There are many suggestions that I would not follow as they go against what I believe in but having seen them shows me their effectiveness. I will probably need to still read more about honing ideas I picked up here. Good book to have!

 

Hacking Executive Leadership – Emily Sander - 3 Stars

Well Organized Book

This book is very well organized. The chapters flow into each other. Most of the elements mentioned here are well known and the author just restates the position. There are many examples given here and the novice can perhaps learn. Not a book, in my opinion, for one learning to polish their skills.

 

101 Poems – Gordon McCulloch – 2 Stars

Starter Book of Poems

I got carried away by publicity for this book – it is a 92-year-old poet who wrote this book and was pushed into the limelight. This book became as popular for a few days as Rupi Kaur’s books. So, I had to read it. Fortunately, truth is very persistent. Despite having a soft corner for the poet, I found his poems to be starter-type. Did not really tickle the heart. Some were good like The Panic, The stolen Kiss and Ambition. The rest of them were too boring.

 

Stars and Dreams – Antonio Kinchen

Poems interrupted by Essays, or maybe the other way around

.

The poems are good. I particularly liked Staring Down and The Witness. The essays are also somewhat worth reading, with pert observations and witty thoughts. But the overall framework of the book is not very pleasing to a reader, in my opinion. I wish there were more poems, so you get into a mood which enhances pleasure as you read them.

 

Red Lines – JR Lamar

It is all about Imagination.

I like imagination too and concur with the big-name quotes, mentioned in the book. But imagination must have a purpose and lead to something. If it is focused on a person (you – in the book), it loses perspective. Imagination is in the mind and comes out as the owner of that mind expresses it. If it is unrelatable to reality, it is idle thought. Much of what I found in this book. Sorry. 

 

inward – yung pueblo

Self-love and other 2-bit Philosophy

Love oneself or self-love is a disappointing philosophy that some people seem to embrace. If you look at any poetic giants, they never came close to this. Poetry is a giving emotion and not creating multiple versions of self to please each other. Love is selfless.

There are many essays punctuated with prose-broken poems. Some are quite contradictory to instincts that are burdened to humanity, like ego, competition, etc. Stretching these too far causes problems. Maintaining them with a sense of justice is the right way. In this book, the author is quite straight forward in asking readers to eliminate instincts. Not a very reasonable approach.

 

Original Turkish And TurkoFarsi States and Traditions – Basith Osmani

Review of Islam’s role in shaping of modern world.

This is not a book for cynical atheists. Nor is it a book for self-described smart people who have an answer for every question. It really is for people who are thoughtful, truth-seeking and who are curious about history and what it means for them. People who wish to see if there is a purpose of life in a streaming time, sequentially marked by history, the present, and hard-to-predict future. We also know that our minds are limited in terms of intellect and mysteries of the Universe are often hard to understand. Yet, there sure is a purpose to life, as outlined by guidance from the Creator of the Universe, Allah. Apart from the specific mentioned revelation about toil and trial, this remarkable guidance has not changed from Prophet Abraham to the final messenger. In simple terms, it is believing in one God, being good and truthful to each other and in seeking knowledge. Yet human frailty has misinterpreted it and people even today, in billions, have misconceptions about God and many even worship animals.

How did the world transform itself from roughly the stone ages of the 7th and 8th centuries to the modern developed and bustling world of the 21st century? This book traces history and traditions of a 1200-year period, starting around 800 AD, during which period Muslims had the most influence in developing the world and humanity, in general. It is organized in five sections with the first section laying out the background and highlighting the key factors that shaped the period. As mentioned in the book, the main foundations of State building and growth come from ‘being good people with right conduct and seeking knowledge with humility’. This is part of direct guidance from the Creator, and these were the requirements in Turkish and TurkoFarsi traditions. As part of this, Muslims exercised two mutually complimentary concepts of Ummath and Humanity. The first one as brotherhood among fellow Muslims and the second one is accepting all other religions as equal in human dignity. As an example, during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 AD, the Ottoman empire (Osmanli Develet) gave refuge to Jews expelled from Spain, demonstrating tolerance of other faiths. At that time, Osmanli and Mamluk States were very strong, militarily and economically. Yet they did not intervene to avoid bloodshed of trapped Muslims and potential retaliatory attacks on Christians in Osmanli lands, where they were a majority. Instead they imposed a blockade on the Mediterranean, which in turn led to discovery of America. In addition to these two traits of Ummath and Humanity, Muslims excelled in learning new things and expanding knowledge and parsed this easily from any violation of religious duties. In 1633, when Italy was jailing Galileo for insisting that the earth was round, an Ottoman researcher, Lagari Hasan Celebi was experimenting with a 7-winged rocket in Istanbul and presented it to Murad-IV, the Sultan.

Many history books written by western intellectuals have a very biased opinion about Islam. This is explained very well in this book, along with the background hatred that propels it. It is true, however, that If you observe how many Muslims behave today, and what they do as described in these books, you will see a lot of consistency. But there is a big difference: Muslims have changed and were different when they were powerful as rulers as compared to how they behave now. As pointed out in this book, when they were leaders, they had a clear understanding of authentic Islam and were following the direct commands of Allah as given in the Quran. They were never corrupted by self-proclaimed scholars and saints.  An issue pointed out in this book is that good leaders emanate from good people and strong leaders cannot magically change people overnight.

There are many significant assertions in this book, with which you may not agree, but no critique of any philosophy or religion is ever tame. There has not been any current intellectual discussion among Muslims as to why they are behind. The only ones that get attention are from ‘learned Imams’ and such, who often blame people for not ascribing strictly to whatever the Imams think. A vast majority of present-day Muslims are not aware that they have one of the best guidance from the Creator Himself. It is an unutilized treasure and many of them will be upset, as the reasons mentioned in this book are not what is programmed in their minds. A study in Artificial Intelligence shows that the process in a mind to convert a thought into words is pretty complex. The forbidding criterion set up by religious-educated Imams is so high that such thoughts can’t persist in a Muslim’s mind, for the complex process to start working. And so thoughts pass away as thoughts and no one questions Imams. In a way, faith freezes thoughts. On top of that, the strength of faith is noted as a measure of making it to heaven and this scares them further. As people who have stopped thinking, they quickly get angry.

Overall, the book challenges people, both Muslims and Abrahamic people to think and question their current premises of how the current level of development in our world was reached. Reading this book requires concentration and great interest. The four sections following the introductory part deal with over 32 states described in the context of how they upheld Allah’s commands and overcame disasters. Most of the states didn’t have borders as defined today and had people moving freely between states. What you will find in this book is a consistent approach tying physically evidence and correcting deliberate, misleading information about how Muslims ruled. The dynamic of Ummath and humanity. The balance of managing conviction and consensus. You will indeed be surprised as to how well-thought out Muslim thinking was and see how depraved it has become now, on the average. Muslims were clever, at times very violent, yet were guided by strong, fair principals from the Creator Himself. As mentioned in this book, Turkish and TurkoFarsi people and societies were the most advanced people in every field and centuries ahead of their times as compared to Europe under the First Reich. Transmission of knowledge from these states along with trade finally helped Europe free itself after separating religion from state and this spurred them to the Industrial revolution.

There is hope however for Muslims who have lost their way. This isn’t the first time. They were similarly behind in the 12th century. Overcoming this is somewhat simple. People must follow the guidance given by Allah. Humans were not created by humans; We were made by the unseen Creator, who also gave us guidance. If we don’t use it and become good people seeking knowledge, what good is such guidance?

 

God’s Shadow – Alan Mikhail

Islam revisited – for the West, that is.

I’d given up on reading in my retirement. Yet, I was tempted when this book showed up in promotions. One reason – my brother is writing a book on a similar period and background and I wanted to learn. And so I started reading it.
There are many differences in this book, as compared to history books of that period written in the West. For the most part, the author seems to understand Islam better and presents it in a lot more suitable light. When he focusses on Selim, it is with a lot of interest and depth. Off and on though he veers off with details on Columbus and later with Erdogan that highlight his original thinking.
Overall a good book to admire the thoughts, strength, and depth of purpose of Osmanli Sultan Selim. This demonstrates a glorious Islamic past when Muslim rulers ruled the world. Noted also is the excellent way in which minorities were treated with respect and dignity. Islam is credited with having triggered progress in West and general development of humanity.
It would be worthwhile if Muslim leaders read it and learn how to inspire and motivate Muslim people who seem to be now at the wrong end of suppression all over the world.

 

Book of Verses – Pratip Sen Gupta (2017)

Enticing poetry, if you love poems.

Its somewhat fortunate to be in love with poems. Hard it is, to review someone you know, but derived enchantment is never fake. From the 101 poems published in this book, my favorite ones are thirteen and I read them over again. The mystery of losing in them is something Pratip does so natural

y and with finesse that its hard not to fall into it. Images and situations with a touch that can be ambivalent, yet have tons of meaning if you understand the depth of feeling behind the verses! The subtle and caressing passion with which he anoints his beloved is simply marvelous.

Read this book. Make time for it and dig into its uniqueness.

 

The Obesity Code – Jason Fung, MD (2016)

Explained clearly with humor and poise.

Of the many books on this topic, I found this one to be particularly clear. Citing detailed studies without mixing interpretations and concluding what is inescapable. Three things to take away in my opinion:

- Three meals a day; No snacks.
- No Sugar
- Fasting

Insulin resistance is the key in a multi-factorial explanation of why obesity occurs, starting mainly from the 1970’s. Realistic basis for meeting goals based on evidence of many studies. Great book to read!

 

Zealot – Reza Aslan

Amazing history lesson.

Reza Aslan focusses on hard evidence to highlight the schism between practices of Christianity for the past 1600 years and historically factual data. Surprisingly in the first few centuries following the death of Jesus (the physical person who lived and preached in Jerusalem), there is scant authoritative information available. Connecting the dots after twenty centuries is tough slogging and what emerges from Reza’s research is a fascinating account of how Jesus’s original teachings morphed into contradictory dogma that became sacred with centuries of practice and is now immune to honest intellectual discussion. In matters of faith, emotion often trumps logic and reason. The author’s personal background and experience offers a unique perspective but may be mistaken for bias. 

Almost 40% of the book is notes and references which I found to be a redundant. Overall, a very enjoyable read!

Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman (2011)

Startling truths about the vulnerability of human minds.

This is one of the densest and most rewarding book I’ve ever read. It took me over two years to finish and I savored every moment I spent on it. The depth and clarity with which the author covers the manner in which a human mind processes data is incredible. In some ways it is sad to realize how vulnerable we are as humans and how easily we can be manipulated. I am sure advertisers and politicians will take advantage of the concepts presented here to milk more profit out of ordinary folks. Hopefully, we’ll evolve as a result.

A must read for people inclined to introspection and reflection.

 

Al-Ghazali On Knowing Yourself and God – Translated by Muhammad Nur Abdus Salam

Rational arguments for the meaning of life.

There is a good reason Al-Ghazali is acknowledged as the first Muslim scholar who laid the foundation of rational thinking in the interpretation of Islamic beliefs and rituals. He is also regarded as one of the founders of Sufism. In this short translation, the topic of introspection to understand universal truths and the very meaning of human existence is masterfully covered. He uses analogies and allegories to explain complex thought processes that many of us use to intuitively understand what we can observe and feel but find it hard to articulate to others. It is amazing that a person who lived a thousand years ago can resonate with believers living today! However, his arguments are wasted if the reader is a diehard atheist or a non-believer. Such a person would find many holes to poke in Al-Ghazali’s reasoning.

 

Antifragile – Nassim Taleb (2012)

Commonsense with a punch!

 

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Nassim Taleb is a brilliant economist, deserving of a Nobel Prize, IMHO. He presents a drastically different way to look at everyday experiences and circumstances around us, as well as at significant events that impact societies, countries and humanity as a whole. He does it often with self-deprecating humor that is becoming, although a snarky side occasionally peeks out. Great quotes are sprinkled throughout the text: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

The strongest message is his advocacy of opinion makers and influencers having ethics and ‘skin in the game.’ He savages Tom Friedman, Stiglitz and mentions Paul Krugman, my hero, in an unflattering way. There is a lot of respect for Mother Nature and learning how adaptable and antifragile she is.

 

Sikander – M Salahuddin Khan

Fabulous tale of character under pressure.

It’s been more than twenty years since I last read a work of fiction and it was with some trepidation that I started “Sikander”. It turned out to be one of the best stories I’ve ever read. It’s an amazing journey of a young person born and raised in Pakistan, who witnessed first-hand the tragedies that befell the region starting with the Soviet occupation and leading up to more than a decade of US occupation. Salahuddin is master story teller. His descriptions of the locales are so vivid, I can see them in the eye of my mind and recognize them if I ever visit the place, assuming it is real! The feature that impressed me most was the way the characters humanize the “enemy” as seen from the West. With a unique style that I’ve learned to admire, the author delivers the message without hectoring. There is chaste humor sprinkled throughout that the text that makes it charming and the culture that is described alluring. Some situations do ask for the reader’s indulgence to make the resulting message worthwhile. This book is strongly recommended for folks who are tired of one-sided narratives that have flooded western literature on this topic.    

 

Pushed Times, Chewing Pepper – Myra Jolivet

Intriguing story with cultural overtones

This is a fast-paced crime-mystery thriller, which is surprisingly well-written for a debut novel. Myra gives an insightful peek into the Louisiana-Creole culture that is both fascinating and informative. I certainly enjoyed reading it and found the ending pretty dramatic. Some of the imagery is likely to appeal a lot to young female readers.

 

3 Sections – Vijay Seshadri

Intriguing Modern Poetry.

As someone who dabbles in poetry, I had to read the Pulitzer Prize winning collection by Vijay Seshadri. Also, as someone who shares his background of having been born in India, the desire was unstoppable. I was not disappointed. Although I didn’t quite understand all the poems, the ones I did were simply so fascinating that I blame myself for not being able to appreciate the inscrutable ones. Modern poetry in my opinion is often quite dense and leaves the ordinary reader gasping for explanation. My favorites were: Thought Problem, Urdu Poems, Elegy, Family Happiness and Yet another Standard.

I would have appreciated a preface that sheds light on the captivating three Urdu poems included in this collection. Are these translations? My meager knowledge of Urdu poetry tells me that they are, but I am not sure. I also did not care too much about the prose section or the longish personal essay.

Overall, it is a delightful, thought provoking read and there can be no doubt that the poet is highly intelligent and gifted.

 

 

 

Proof of Heaven – Eben Alexander (2012)

Fascinating juxtaposition of science, spirituality and the enigma of consciousness.

If this book were written by anyone other than an eminent neurosurgeon, it would not have merited the serious consideration that it demands. Without being overly sentimental, the entire experience is recounted with clinical precision and is undoubtedly very truthful. While it may not convince diehard sceptics, everyone else is bound to be impacted by the profound implications of what the good doctor describes. Citing the most recent scientific knowledge in the fields of medicine and physics, the author walks a fine line between stating what occurred, tying it all together and giving an explanation that defies scientific dogma. No reasonable person will be unmoved by his fascinating story. The entire incident is relayed in non-denomination terms without pushing any particular religious viewpoint, other than an acknowledgement of God, the Creator.

As someone who has himself undergone a near-death-experience (NDE) a few years ago, I found this book particularly engaging at many levels. My own experience was relatively minor in both duration and depth, but was undeniably real. As a scientist and a practicing Muslim, who has read the Quran, I am amazed at the lack of conflict between the out of body experiences described by the author and beliefs fostered by my faith and its perception of the omnipotent Creator of the Universe.

A must read for people searching for meaning in life.

 

 

Birth Marks – Jim Daniels (2013)

Poems to read when you are in the right mood!

Before publishing my fourth collection of poems, I wanted to read an award-winning poetry book to see what I can learn and perhaps use as a template. As a poet, I wasn’t disappointed. But I can clearly see why poetry books don’t sell – They are hard to understand! You have to be in the right mood and the right frame of mind to really get the message being conveyed. Jim Daniels’ poetry is genuine and heartfelt. He does his background justice and lays bare the frustrations and challenges of Middle America where people struggle daily to get by. The all-pervasive permissiveness that enables aunts and uncles to be drunk and drugs and immorality to take root in society leads to unfulfilled lives, and this is brought out beautifully in much of this collection. There are several I’d count as my favorites: My Two Aunts, Love Poem with Pesticide, The Geography of Detroit.

 

The Qur’an – Translation By Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall

Instruction Manual for Humanity

Islam is the first religion in the history of mankind that places the deity beyond reach of human senses but firmly within the realm of intellect, and regards its most important attribute to be the creator of the universe. Built on foundations of Judaism and Christianity, Islam admits certain key beliefs of the two religions: Jewish belief in being the “chosen people” of God and the Christian faith in the Immaculate Conception of Jesus. Tracing the advent of monotheism to the prophet Abraham, Islam considers it a fundamental tenet of faith. It also regards Jesus as a mighty Prophet but with no share in divinity.

Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the literal word of God, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as the last and final messenger. Published in 1930, this is the first English translation of the Qur’an by an Englishman, who was also a believer. Religious texts cannot be faithfully translated by those who do not believe in them and Pickthall has done an admiral job. Those familiar with biblical language will find the reading to be scripture-like and note both similarities and differences from the Bible. By using a minimalistic style for notes and interpretations, he leaves the readers with a lot to ponder upon on their own. For an English-speaking Muslim, this is one of the most authentic translations of the Holy Qur’an.