Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for April 2013

I know only two extremes of Japan Literature : Manga Comics and Serious (ie, Nobel Prize Worthy) Novels. Never thought there could be anything in between.

“Salvation Of A Saint” by Keigo Higashino (Translated By Alexander O Smith & Elye J Alexander) changed my perception about Japanese writing. It is a mystery novel set in that country, unlike typical pulp novels, it is very well detailed and yet, a true unputdownable story.

After reading the novel, I did some web search about the author and came to know that there is an association for Mystery writers in Japan, and this author (Keigo Higashino) is its president. Wow, so much for my prejudice!

Now, about the novel.

First thing I liked about the novel is, its characters are very rich, Not in the money sense, but they are very well documented by the author, without disturbing the pace of the story. By the time you are half way into the book, you know every character very well, and could even predict what they will do in different story situations.

And then, the author goes one step above and starts teasing you, Every assumption you make is twisted, turned and you end up doubting how you could read those characters so wrong!

Detective Kusanagi, and his assistant Kaoru Utsumi are the ones trying to solve a murder case. It looks like a wife has killed her husband, but there are not enough evidence to prove so (in fact, the evidences are totally against that lady doing any murder), and they are running around to find what went wrong.

With this simple theme, Keigo Higashino has written a fantastic thriller. It has all the elements, from humor to suspense  in the right mix. Most important, when the puzzle is solved, you are fully satisfied, not cheated (According to me, an important measure when it comes to success of a thriller story).

Now, a negative point which I disliked, Major one at that.

For a story of this kind, the amount of dialogues that are thrown in doesn’t fit. It helps in establishing characters, but after a point you start wondering ‘why these guys are talking non stop?’

In the beginning of the novel, I sort of liked it, because it gave an insight into the Japanese culture, but after a point it becomes dragging, because the premises explained via these characters is not something specific to Japan, you can rewrite this story with America or India as the backdrop, and not much would change.

Of course, I was not expecting a “Life In Japan” kind of book here, but the brand (and the way it is marketed) made me think it is a unique Japan novel, while it was only partly true.

Another point, The Indian edition of this book is published by Hachette India, and priced at Rs 350. Given the size and cost of other similar books (in this genre, I am not comparing talent here), this is rather high. I felt sub 200 would have been a good price for this.

Please Note: This book review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


Whenever I read any ancient Indian literature (Tamil or Other Regional Languages, translated in English) I always feel they contain so many gems, some of them can be used even today, in the same context, while many others would need modern interpretations.

These books can be split into two broad categories:

  • Books like ThirukkuRaL, Naaladiyaar, NanneRi etc., which are written with a direct teaching purpose
  • Books like RamayaNa, Vedas, Upanishads etc., which may have a different purpose (story telling, religious etc.,) but they too contain lessons which need digging out

First category is not a serious problem for us, either on our own, or on our schools, these lessons are taught and we seem to remember them well, and follow them whenever possible.

But the second category is very easy to miss for average reader (or non reader), Because these books are seen in a different context. For example, no one thinks of a lesson when a hero and a villain are fighting, they just enjoy reading about the fight and that’s it.

This book (Business Sutra, Written and Illustrated By Devdutt Pattanaik, Published by Aleph Book Company, 437 Pages, Rs 695) has done this difficult task of collecting business sutras from various indian ancient texts, hindu, jain, buddhist traditions, culture, compares it with the western and other culture based learnings, and the result is beautiful. Content is presented in a unique, simple style, with wonderful pictures to underline the points. I would say this is one of the very best illustrated books I have seen in the recent times.

Devdutt Pattanaik starts with the concept of belief, and encourages us to become CBOs (Chief Belief Officers) and then goes on to explain various other words and their business contexts, for example:

  • Shakthi : Inborn strength, capacity and capability
  • Shruthi : Personal Ideas that cannot be shared
  • Surya : One who is radiant and attracts all attention
  • Rangoli : A Pattern of thought
  • Krishna : He who breaks rules to help others grow on their terms
  • Ram : He who follows the rule at any cost to help others grow on their terms

This gives you a fair idea about what to expect from this book, If you are from India, almost every traditional word that you heard in a totally different context, finds a new meaning here, and used to teach a business lesson.

At the same time, this doesn’t make this book a mere series of thoughts, or comparisons, they are very well connected by good bird’s eye view chapters, interesting examples and case studies. This is different from any other business book you might have read.

After reading the book, I felt few things could’ve been handled differently. While most of the book unearths a different angle from a familiar thing, sometimes the same approach makes you wonder, ‘are we stretching this too much?’.

Also, this book is huge, by typical business book standards. It is easily readable, but not easy to carry. Means, you may not pick it in an air port and finish reading it in your next flight : typical use case for most business books. You need to dedicate time (and effort) to read, understand these business sutras.

I expected a concise pictorial representation of points expressed in each major subsection of the book, and preferably a larger chart / mind map to summarize the whole book. For a large book like this, it would have added lot of value.


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Sometime back I tweeted about reCAPTCHA & how it helps digitize books. Many friends provided extra info, thanks to them, it made great reading and fascinating learning about this simple, yet powerful technology.

Based on what I learnt via those links, did a presentation today on reCAPTCHA and crowd sourcing in general  to our team @ CRMIT. Sharing the slides & video here for those interested.




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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