With summer behind us, here’s a short list of some noteworthy reads that I caught up with…….
A gripping account of expeditions along the Silk Road in Central Asia in the early 19th century to look for lost Buddhist treasures is narrated fascinatingly by Morgan & Walters. Funded by the British Raj, an avid explorer and archaeologist, Aurel Stein sets off into the harsh deserts with a motley crew and a spirited dog called Dash. The treasures that he is seeking are ancient Buddhist texts believed to be preserved in caves along the Silk Road and to rescue them from obscurity! But even in his wildest imaginations, Stein could not have dreamt of what he would eventually stumble upon in the caves of the Taklamakan desert -the Diamond Sutra – which the Buddha is said to have preached to his disciples in Sarnath. And it is absolutely fascinating to note that this is the first ever printed book in the history of mankind, circa 868 AD, a full five centuries before Guttenberg invented the printing press. Journeys on the Silk Road is a captivating travelogue filled with adventures, history, politics.
Simon Winchester narrates a riveting account of how people from different walks of life and with different bent of mind came together to build the United States of America. In order to do that he draws a leaf from ancient cultures that classify the world into five different elements, earth, fire, water, wood and metal. Simon is a powerful storyteller and weaves seamlessly Thomas Jefferson’s visions, Lewis and Clark’s expeditions, the development of roads, canals, railroads, telegraph and communication networks that helped shape the US. Simon adds a nice personal touch with his own accounts of travel to several historic sites. While this is not an encyclopedia of American History, it does a fine job of keeping the reader engaged at all times with interesting tidbits and is sure to enthrall history buffs.
Despite a successful career as anchor of ABC’s Nightline, Dan Harris experienced bouts of mindlessness that resulted in a panic attack during a live recording. After experimenting with self help books, medications and New Age Gurus, he discovered a simple means of meditation from Buddhist teachers. A complete skeptic at first, Dan describes his journey in a no-holds barred approach as to how simple breathing techniques helped him refocus his thoughts time and again. His lucid writing drives home the point that while there may be no nirvana in the near future, he is definitely ten percent happier with his life.
In this era of information overload, how does one differentiate signal from noise and make sense of it all, or simply put, separate the wheat from the chaff, as you are constantly bombarded with facts from newspapers, television, internet, e-mail, text, Twitter & Facebook. If you have misplaced your keys or reading glasses, or have a hard time recalling passwords in this day and age of multitasking, leading to shorter attention spans, then this book is for you. Dan Levitin, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience says that our minds evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and does not store memories in a neat compartmentalized fashion, in the same way that you would organize a filing cabinet. Filled with humorous anecdotes this book looks at how our brain thinks and how leaders adapt to changes and come ahead of the endless chatter that fill our lives.