Friday, November 24, 2006

Life of Pi By Yann Martel

Let me just say that this is an extraordinary book.

It took me awhile to get past the few chapters, but once I reach the second half of it, I couldn’t wait to see how it ends. I bought the book some time back on a whim, I was told by a few people that it was more than a good book. Reading the synopsis, it as easy to think that it was a gimmick storyline (with the addition of the Man Booker Prize attached to it), but don’t be stopped by that oversight. Yann Martel is a good storyteller, and this is undoubtedly a good story.

In a nutshell, the first part of the book deals with the childhood of Piscine Molitor Patel, the young boy who’s the main character in the story, in the French influenced Pondicherry in India. There is also a prelude, detailing the authors so-called journey as to how he discovered the wonderful story of Pi, described as one which will ‘make you believe in God’. Pi’s father is a zookeeper, and he spends a lot of time in the book talking about his observations and understanding of animal behaviour and how they relate to humans. This is actually quite fascinating for those who are interested, but in actual fact Martel is basically re-telling a lot of what that has been researched and published before, even in novels. Pi also discovers religion, being all part Muslim, Hindu and Christian at the same time. This part was a bit too much for me, was Martel merely trying to appeal to a wider audience, or just being politically correct?

This first part is also interspersed with the authors diary of meetings with the latter life Pi, sort of post-story glimpses to tantalize (or confuse) the reader.

Nonetheless, the second part of the book is where the magic begins, and you’ll understand why Martel drives the bits about animal psychology and behaviour in the first place. The ship his family boards from India to Toronto (while carrying some animals) mysteriously capsizes, leaving only 5 survivors – Pi, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orang-utan, a hyena and a 450-pound royal Bengal tiger.

It is with the beautiful and majestic tiger, named Richard Parker, that Pi forms a relationship based of fear, respect and co-dependency with. Don’t expect any of the animals to speak like humans though (although... never mind). The exploration and growth of the relationship between two of God’s creatures here is, although one-sided mostly, but displays Martel paramount understanding of human emotions and the of course tigers, not to mention turtles, fish, sharks, lifeboats and survival at sea. There’s also a bit about a mysterious botanical discovery, which I felt a little out of place.

The last part of the book is decidedly sweet, even including a cheeky epilogue. The book didn’t really make me believe in God, since I already do, and I didn’t really fancy the whole religion angle to the story, thankfully Martel didn’t play it up in the rest of the book apart from the beginning. Take the journey with Pi and Richard Parker, even if it sounds like a gimmick storyline.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Banned Books and What Are You Going To Do About It?

Looks like there's quite a bit of buzz about the books that have been banned here in Malaysia.

If you want to see the list of books banned (including some you may have innocently bought for your 3-year old kid), you can see the complete list here:

Silverfish Books: Books Restricted by KND Johor Bahru

A few prominent book bloggers have actually started a blog to disseminate info regarding the issue. Go on, read it then.

It was also highlighted in yesterday's Star, go and read it if you haven't thrown it out with the trash.

Anyways, lots of people are talking about it, you can check out some of them here:
Sharon Bakar
Midnite Lily

and even one by a footie blog (ok, well, an irreverent footie blog).

Please show your support by posting about it. Alas, Spongebob Squarepants is in the same ranks as filthy sex books.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Five Books Every Geek Should Read

Suicide Girls' Geek blog has an entry by Wil Wheaton listing the top 5 Books Every Geek Should Read. Very interesting. According to him:

Long before we wrote our blogs, long before we argued about the finer points of
the Prime Directive on UseNet, even before we nervously waited for ASCII porn to
download at 300 baud from Fidonet, geeks buried our faces in books.

Maybe it's because we were easily bored by television and movies (or
without the Internet to facilitate arguing about them) or maybe it's because we
were less likely to be tormented by a cool kid if we kept our faces safely
buried in the pages of some novel, but books are important to every geek I know.
We all have huge libraries of well-worn novels, often fighting for shelf-space
with our action figures.

Anyways, i scored really bad, out of all five, i scored only half, having half finished my brother's copy of Hitchhiker as a kid. I guess I'm not a geek, then...

I, Robot
Author: Isaac Asimov
Published: 1950

Author: William Gibson
Published: 1984

Author: Larry Niven
Published: 1970

The Hacker Crackdown
Author: Bruce Sterling
Published: 1992

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Author: Douglas Adams
Published: 1979

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trying to Start 'Life of Pi' Again

I bought the book on a whim some time back, and started reading it at once. But somehow i was sidetracked with a lot of other stuff (and books) and it was left on my shelf.

The other day i was packing for my trip overseas, and so i dumped the book into my hand luggage for the flight (I can't stand doing nothing for more than 5 minutes, let a lone a 3 hour flight).

So I'm now into chapter 7 of the book, which is quite okay so far. Hopefully I can finish it this time around.

Incidentally i visited this night safari at the time I was reading about Pi Patel's growing up years in the Pondicherry zoo. Ironic.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Philip K. Dick's Book Cover Art Gallery

This is strictly for Philip K. Dick fans. In his website, there's a collection of over 650 cover art for most of his books, including those published in other languages.

Philip K. Dick - Book Cover Art Gallery

It's quite interesting looking through the collection, seeing how sci-fi cover art has evolved over the years. Now if only they'd alow you download the books... :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cake Shaped Like Discworld's Great A'Tuin!

I bet eyeris would get a kick out of this.

This lady made a wedding cake for her daughter shaped like Discworld's Great A'Thuin! The detail is amazing, from the turtle to the 4 elephants to the rimfall...

Original post and more pics here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up..."

The other day I was reading some book, and this African poem came up...

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must outrun the fastest cheetah, or it will be

Every morning in Africa, a cheetah wakes up.
It knows it must outrun
the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.

It doesn't matter whether you're a gazelle or a cheetah -
when the sun comes up, you'd better start running.

I suppose most people at some time or other would have heard or read it (apparently, it was used in a Nike ad campaign in the US some time ago).

But I thought it was very good verse, considering the increasingly dog-eat-dog world we live in today. Or shall i say, cheetah-eat-gazelle world...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stuff That Is Distracting Me From Reading More

Stuff that distracts me from reading more.

Reading blogs.
My classes and homework.
Standard 7 hours of sleep daily.
And then there’s that little thing called work.

I sometimes wish there is just an extra 60 minutes to every day.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Times Bookshop Warehouse Sale!

While most of you may still be suffering from the after-effects of the Pay Less Warehouse Sale last weekend, Times Bookshop is having their own starting today. Yesterday was their preview sale for members only.

I remember the last sale was held just only a few months ago in City Square KL, still have unread books from that sale! Might give this one a miss...

Date: 16th Sept - 24th Sept 2006
Time: 12pm - 8pm (weekdays) 10am - 8pm (weekends)
Contact: 012-608 3569
Venue: 2nd Floor, Dataran Hamodal, Block A, (same street as F&N Dairies), Jln Bersatu 13/4, Seksyen 13, 46200, PJ (see map below)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Currently Reading

This is the book I’m reading at the mo.

I just started, long way to go. Most of you would have heard of it from somewhere or someone, it’s the highest selling non-fiction book somewhere some time ago.

In it’s own words, its about “the globalization world in the 21st century”, not postulating some controversial new theory in geography or cartography. It’s quite good, albeit in the first few chapters the author repeats himself a little too much to emphasize the basic principles.

Review will be out when I finish it. Sooner or later.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What'sOnMyBookshelf? Beta

Now this is quite an interesting concept.


It's a website for book-swapping. On first impressions it looks like a very simplistic book club (granted, it's still in beta) but if you read the details, you’ll find out that it’s quite a different concept. What happens here is you put up your old (or shall we say pre-owned) books, and people can borrow your books, and similarly you can borrows books from others.

It works on a points system, their FAQ explains it clearly, including the important bits about paying for shipping and handling. Just like any site dealing in online transactions of pre-owned stuff like eBay, a degree of trust is expected from the users.

It is interesting to note that the site encourages users to put back up exchanged books that you have finished reading.

Like I said, very interesting thing concept, although at the moment, they haven’t really started to build the user and book database, so there isn’t much to choose from. A site like this would probably work in the US, and not here in Malaysia due to a few reasons. Lack of interest in reading, being one.

Anyway, will probably check back on the website, in a few months time and see the progress.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Problogger: Essential Books for Bloggers

Darren Rowse, the problogger, has compiled a list of Essential Books for Bloggers after some feedback from his readers. There is a full list of almost 70 recommended books broken down into 5 cateogries - Blogging, Copy Writing, Business, Marketing, Creative Thinking & Miscellaneous.

While some of you may perceive blogging is just, well, blogging, to really market your blog and be successful at it, you need a fair knowledge of other business fields such as marketing and branding, hence the recommended non-core blogging books. Besides, it's always good to learn these topics for your own use or career, even if you're a weekend blogger...

Given below is an except of a few of the books, for the full list you can check it out


  • Blog Marketing
  • Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers
  • The Corporate Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Get It Right

Copy Writing

  • Zen in the Art of Writing
  • Write It Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros
  • 1000 Most Important Words


  • The Art of War: The oldest military treatise in the world
  • Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service
  • Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time


  • All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World
  • The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness
  • Life After the 30-Second Spot: Energize Your Brand With a Bold

Creative Thinking

  • Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas
  • Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step (Perennial Library)
  • Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Review: Absolute Friends by John le Carre

Absolute Friends
by John le Carre

Okay, I've finally finished this book. Some of you may remember my mentioning how tedious and slowly it was going for me some time back. So I'm doing a full review. Except it’s not going to be very long.

In a nutshell, le Carre’s style is what it diffcult for me to read this book. It took me more than a year of plodding through the book, going off and on it, like a bad cough that wouldn’t go away. Of course, in between this I finished many other books. This is my first le Carre, although I have heard of him since the early eighties. Those days, I read somewhere that someone described him as "Ian Fleming’s James Bond without the glamour". It would seem apt a description, Le Carre’s Ted Mundy here is an ordinary English bloke, although with a colourful history.

The story is one of the aforementioned Mundy, first of his current life as an English-speaking tour guide in a Linderhof castle, and slowly flashes back to his childhood in Pakistan. Then the story slowly recounts his life from there right up until it meets the current again, almost to the end of the book. The story centers around Mundy, himself of dubious political beliefs (probably it isn’t dubious, I just couldn’t be bothered to fully understand his roundabout rhetorics) and his long friendship with a German radical called Sasha.

Both turn into double agents for their respective states and for each other, sometimes involving a couple of both legitimate and shadowy organizations, both often seldom mentioned in full detail. What le Carre has down is update his brand of espionage thrillers into the 21st century in the backdrop of post 9-11 terrorism and borderless nations. A lot of the book deals in arguments of ideologies and ideals that seemed old in the seventies, let alone the new millennium.

In the end, the ending is a little unnecessary, but not entirely unexpected.

le Carre is good at what he does, and he probably loves doing it. He crafts narratives and dialogue with a sharp wit and a deft touch, something few others can do. But the problem is that, he gets self indulgent, to a certain extent. His descriptions and dialogues can go on for a page or two, and more often than not I found myself skipping ahead, and finding they don’t really say much after a couple of pages. This book will no doubt delight his fans, but for the new readers who are accustomed to the fast paced and intriguing thrillers that are all too common these days, they may find this book a little too slow just like I did.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hot Library Smut

Got this from swifty via sharon's blog. Man, this is hotstuff.

Hot Library Smut

No, there is no pron there. But great pics of libraries.

(Thanks, swifty!)