Review: A final course in Grammar and Composition

A final course in Grammar and Composition
A final course in Grammar and Composition by P. C. Wren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is very difficult to be judgmental about this book. Generations of Indians learnt their grammar from this book (take what you will from that statement:) ) There were two versions of this particular book and I remember I used to have the green cover one. Plus I think there was a middle course in Red. For a lot of us who studied in the late 80s and 90s this was the go-to book for grammar. Since one could get full marks in grammar and since getting marks was the most important part of our study process we really lapped up this book from end to end.

I had a quick look at the book and find it still relevant especially the parts defining the structure of the language. I guess the fundamentals of grammar will never change.

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Review: Modern Digital Electronics

Modern Digital Electronics
Modern Digital Electronics by R. P. Jain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As textbooks go it gets the work done.

Logic circuits basics as well as some advanced material around Logic Design is represented in a succinct manner. I found it a very dry book for what I think is a very interesting subject. However it does put in all the required information one would need to understand this subject (and more importantly, pass the exam :))

Not sure if it is dated now, but I am sure that better reference books and material are accessible now which was not the case when I went through this course around 15 years ago.

My only advice to the students who would be reading this book today, in case this book feels too dry do check other books or study material online. Logic circuits is an interesting as well as a fundamental subject of computer engineering and it is best not to judge the subject based on just one book.

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Review: Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I

Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I
Cours de Langue et de Civilisation Françaises I by G.Mauger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my textbook for my French course in High School. A very well written book it is deceptively thin for the amount of material in it. It starts off at a gentle curve but within no time its difficulty increases exponentially. However due to a conversational style of teaching the language, at times as dialogues between people in a certain context and at times as essays about various places or events, it is a engaging read.

However this book alone will not be useful for a non French speaking student. This book will have to be complemented with a good French-English dictionary, as well as a competent instructor (without an instructor the book can feel daunting after 1/3 of the way through). The instructor is particularly important if the student wants to learn how to speak the language too.

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Review: Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry]

Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry]
Elementary Engineering Drawing [Plane and Solid Geometry] by N. D. Bhatt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the prescribed text book for our Engineering course (Mumbai University) A no frills, straight to the core book, on a cursory glance it looks like a very dry text book. However this is a one of the better test books I have personally read. It takes a bit of effort at first, especially when learning projection of points and lines. However if the student keeps on it, it very soon becomes your bible. Without this book I would never have loved Engineering Drawing the way I do.

My favourite section is drawing as well as in the book has to do with Isometric Projections. I heartily recommend the exercise in this chapter, espectially exercise number 28 on page 403 of this particular edition. Great fun.

Caveat:
This review was relevant for when I did Engineering (late 90’s) and as a general reference book. I am not sure if it is still prescribed for the current curriculum

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Review: Life

Life
Life by Keith Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book. That was actually a bit surprising to me as I have never been a Rolling Stones fan, more cause I have never really heard a lot of their music. Except for a slightly dragged start it was quite a fast read.

While his drug adventures did not make the most riveting read, he did leave me a bit confused. I assume at the end of it all he does look down on drugs but his overall attitude towards it was not black and white clear, in my opinion – which was not what I expected in these politically correct days.

However I really enjoyed the chunk of the book. Whenever he speaks about his music and his tools of the trade the book takes on a whole new feel. It is pretty evident, even with the help of a ghostwriter, that his music is very important to him. His reggae influences, his rock and roll and blues background, almost all these points are touched upon.

The other area which was interesting was the material on the people in his life and his interactions with them. Obviously his interaction with Mick Jagger figures prominently, but I was happy that he did not harp on it more than needed. A pleasant addition was putting in quotation from others who added other perspectives to episodes in his life.

All in all a nice autobiography. It has made me really interested in the man and his music and I see myself listening to a lot of Rolling Stones in the future.

A small point which might have influenced me positively towards this book is the fact that I am learning how to play the guitar presently. So reading a master of the art talk about some of its dark secrets was both educative and inspirational.

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A new book club, part of, I am.

I love reading. I am quite a lay reader – loving fanciful flights of clichéd ideas and pure pulp in the stories told. However the main point is I love to read anything and everything. I love interacting with people. However more often than not I am wary of coming off as too stupid or too boisterous making people dislike me. Disregard the above statements if it makes no sense. I just felt I had to give some caveats for the rest the post.

When the idea of a book club was floated I jumped onto the band wagon for the following reason
1. Always wanted to be in a ‘book club’
2. Trusted the people involved based on past interactions with them on twitter and offline
3. Wanted a support group to help me read and understand the more ‘literary’ and ‘serious’ books.
4. Have fun

Of course I have zero experience of a book club.at All I had were hazy assumptions based on mentions of book
clubs as it popped up in a novel, movie or a news item. So what did I expect when i joined a book club? Well, to be fair, my
innermost secret idea was the club would be a bit Dead Poet Societish . Essentially 10-12 people meet, have some coffee and discuss a book that they had read and have a good time understanding a book.

Well we had our book club launch this last week – and it was a success as launches go. It was a well spent afternoon and I for one was very happy to meet the author of one of my favourite books. You can find better posts on the launch by Shantanu [For the passionate book lovers], by Sankarshan [Post The Tossed Salad Book Club meeting] and by Poonam [Makings of a Book Club]. Poonam’s post in particular made me reflect on the launch event and try to map it against my earlier ideas/expectations for a book club.

I did not think the launch was how a typical session of the book club would/will run. We had picked a popular book, a popular author and a commercial locale – it was a given (imho) that the meeting would become a book reading/author interaction of sorts. If you read Shantanu’s review above you will notice that the event reads like any author-fan interaction. So to that extent I agree with Poonam. However I do not see it as a shortcoming on her part as a moderator or in us as a book club.

This is the way I see it, I would love for the book club to fit my romantic ideas above. I know that if I want to stay enthusiastic about this book club for long I do want to have discussions on the books themselves… and debates… and explorations… and serendipity… etc etc. *However* that’s not all we should have. That would be too narrow and self-serving a purpose. If we do last long we *need* to have occasional readings and interactions like we had in the launch. We *need* to spread the habit of reading if we can. And we should have fun.

Without the quieter, serious discussions a book club will end up being just another tweetup. However considering that most of the initial members of this specific club are quite active on the social interweb it is unavoidable that we will do flashy stuff from time to time. In fact that is the charm our group has.

So as far as the launch was concerned I believe that Poonam, Sahil and other volunteers did a fantastic job setting up and running the event. The activity of the launch day may not reflect a typical book club session but there will be days like this from time to time. We do need to meet before the next session and try to codify some of the discipline that we thought would have been obvious. Poonam has already enumerated some of them in her post . The next book club meeting will be the real test. The book is interesting but it will not be as easy to read as Meluha was. And the author is dead. So it cannot be a Q&A, people will have to do their homework and they will need to interact if they want to have some takeaway from this activity. [Watch out for my post after that session;)]

So here’s hoping for a long innings to this book club.

Cheers.