Friday, March 06, 2009

Flow; the Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is research based book about scientific study of people when they are in 'flow' or in the "the zone".

Author argues one of the critical components of flow is a complex self: a self that can weather change & maintain serenity. flow- experience is to concentrate attention on present moment instead of continually struggle with the past or worry about tomorrow. Ofcourse with potentially stress of daily life , book discusses how flow experiences can reduce stress. Author argues that flow will produce happiness, creates an opportunity for cultures to evolve.

“We have all experienced times when, instead of being buffeted by anonymous forces, we do feel in control of our actions, masters of our own fate. On the rare occasions that it happens, we feel a sense of exhilaration, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like….. moments like these are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

But I should say, distinguish between simple pleasure and enjoyable flow is largely semantic & very unconvincing. And It was very interesting to find out that, this whole theory was applied while designing video games(which infact is addictive faux flow experience). flow is simply feeling of pleasure and like others this too can be addictive and its not an good.

Book is good(heavy) read if you are interested in Psychology.

You can also watch Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discussing at TEDtalk

House of Stairs by William Sleator

House of Stairs by William Sleator, is a novel about 5 teenage orphans(Oliver, Peter, Blossom, Lola, and Abigail) who find themselves in a strange building. Its not a hospital or a prison but it has no walls or ceiling, nothing but endless flights of stairs leading to nowhere and a strange red machine.

They begin to realize that the machine give them just enough food to keep them alive but only whenever they become to do certain gestures & acts. So they started make many efforts to please the machine and let it rule their behaviour. Initially they have to perform some kind of dance but soon they realize they have to be cruel to each other in order get any more food. Then teenage continually face hopeless situations, creating suspense. What follows is- set of events highlighting adversity they face and brings out their personalities—strengths and vulnerabilities.

While teenagers find themselves in an enigmatic suitations and place, narrative is not the enigma but the story is about these five characters, their weaknesses and strengths, their reactions to stress and about the relationships they develop.

Book is very well written and very interestingly highlights the conflict of society's rewards for conformity and personal satisfaction of asserting one's individuality.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel, is a riveting adventures tale about a shipwrecked teenager(Piscine Patel) son of Pondicherry Zoo keeper who is stuck with a Bengal Tiger and their never-ending journey of up & downs, tragedy and triumph,. Book walks through details of zoo-keeping, connections between animal & man, Pi's religious & spirtual beliefs.

Pi's family decides to relocate to canada by taking much of its menagerie with them and selling the others. Half the way their ship sinks and Pi find himself stranding in a lifeboat with bengal tiger named richard parker, a zebra, a hyena. i.e ofcourse everybody is on each other's menu.

what follows is 200+days at sea with series of adventure journey of Pi with uneasy truce with his companion to find home and how they(Pi & richard/tiger) manage various troubles, main-easting island,etc.. by calling upon everything he learned both in practical & spiritual sense. Pi become to believe that his & tiger's fate are interlinked and they develops an deepening relationship.
"I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild- mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low. You feel yourself weakening, wavering. Your anxiety becomes dread. Fear next turns fully to your body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Your ears go deaf. Your muscles begin to shiver as if they had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing. Your heart strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much. And so with the rest of your body. Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you've defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you. The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you."
Book isn't about silly, meaningless adventure story but a mystery about man's relationship with life & faith. while the book does explains in some details about all major religious belief and how a sincer belief on something can make it happen but doesn’t offer answers or suggestions but many questions.

I like the fun tone of the book even while handling such heavy subject. Its not preachy but a fascinating tale which might or might not make you believe GOD but will make you wonder, questions your belief and awareness.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

20 books in 2009

Iam getting into 20 books in 2009 challenge. The goal is to read 20 books in the 2009.
and I will update the progress here (@ my book review blog) with tag '20booksin2009'

  • must have a website/blog post to keep an online progress page.
  • You must create a progress page, which will be updated each time you complete one of your 20 books. For more information about progress pages and an example of how you can do them, click here .
  • If the book is a re-read, it must be from a year ago.
  • If you begin the book in 2008 and finish it in 2009, it does count for this challenge.
  • The following do not count: comics, catalogs, manga, journals.
  • You must link back to this challenge with the button provided or one that you make for your own personal use, or even a text link.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is the depiction of Christopher McCandless, a young adventurer who wandered across the american continent by Jon Krakauer.

After college McCandless donates all his asset worth $25k to charity to walk away for solo adventure. Finally in 1992, McCandless's boby was found in the Alaskan wilderness.

Krakauer(author) manages to track so many friends/people all the over the country which gives good insight of McCandless's life.
Krakauer try to chart out inner motivation of McCandless since he(author) was an adventurer himself. This was a interesting book with route he took, the people he met, jobs he picked up on the pass by, interviews, research and quotes from other books also from McCandless’s family. All of it is depicted and described in a very impressive way.

I noticed various controversy news articles about McCandless decision to move away from his family and never bother to contact them. I always wonder an idea of vagabonding but such trip is very wild. I still wonder about his decision and motivation. It would have been great insight if only McCandless manage to come back wrote about his experience. This book is second best to that.

And ofcourse- Sean Penn's movie version is brilliant directorial work.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, is story of one night in Florence's and Edward's life, Its about couple's experience of culture shift in 60s/70s. both being terrified yet thrilled about the wedding night and story is the journey of how both of them reaching brink of their adulthood and their private worried, shared joy.

Its sexual explicit yet it does touch deep into human emotions and illustrates the difficulties of communication & understanding of what goes in their inner secret world.

ONLY suitable for Adult. Good quick read & travel time killer.