A Man Called Ove

Ove, a character so endearing that I spent my entire Sunday binge-reading this novel moving a mere 40 feet around the home.

A man of principles, set in his ways, who only understands the black and white is left with a body but no life when his wife of 40 years, the only person adding color to his life, passes away and he is pushed to take early retirement from work because he isn’t open to adapting to the new ways – aka computers. The entire story is set in his residential neighborhood where he is the unofficial Head of Homeowners Association despite being voted out because of his strong opinions. Ove is a complete coconut: hard and rough on the outside and soft and supple on the inside. Six month after his wife’s passing he has made up his mind to end his life and despite repeated tries he is interrupted by something or the other – his new neighbors, the kid who needs his bike repaired, his friend who is about to be taken away to an institution because his wife is too old to take care of him but more than anything the challenge, or shall I call it ‘reason to live for’, he is presented with at every turn of day. He tells himself he is doing it because his wife would like it that way. He is too manly to admit he has a heart that’s too big to not help others.

Fredrik is a first time novel writer but his prose turned me into a complete fan. I can’t wait to read his other novels if Ove is anything to go by. One of my favorite paragraphs from A Man Called Ove:

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it’s often one of the great motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before is has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.”

This man certainly has a way with words that is one of the most attractive qualities in a person in my eyes.

In a lot of ways Ove was a reflection of some people I know in my life and reading this gave me a newfound appreciation for them.

Be careful when you start reading this because you won’t put it down before you finish. (9/10)

A Man Called Ove

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The Internet to the Inner-Net (by Gopi Kallayil)

This book is a special one for me to review because the author is none other than my mentor and office-mate at Google, Gopi Kallayil. I have had the privilege of working with him for the past six months and not only have I grown professionally but I have also learned a lot of personal life hacks from him.

If you get to know Gopi you will quickly learn that his middle name should be “Oxymoron”. Gopi Oxymoron Kallayil. I say this because this man comes from humble backgrounds in Kerala, yet surprises you at every turn of a page with his worldly wisdom. He lives a non-materialistic life, yet his job is to mesmerize some of the biggest brand builders globally. He has degrees from some of the top notch global institutions, yet his simple words make him one of the most personable Googlers I have met.

I highly recommend you read this book to find out for yourself why combining the seemingly impossible seems to be the norm for Gopi. You are about to go on a jet-setting 200+ page journey through the world, gasp at a range of experiences, hold your breath to find out how some of his mini-adventures end and have a permanent smile on your face thanks to the lightheartedness of Gopi’s writing. The many chapters will take you through practical advice on how you can build a bridge between the Internet and your Inner Net while firmly having one leg grounded on each side of it. You can read this book forward, backward or from the middle. There will always be a nugget of wisdom hidden in every chapter. (9/10)

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Weekend Language (by Andy Craig & Dave Yewman)

One of the best books I have read on developing your presentation skills. Simple language to explain how you can take the corporate speak out of your presentations, get rid of Power Point slides (completely!) and be a true master storyteller. All very well explained in a quick 1-2 hour read. Something to ponder about – 93% of your audience’s perception is influenced by the vocal and the visual. So while getting the verbal right also make sure your pausing, pacing and projection really make you own the stage. (9/10)

Making India Work (by William Nanda Bissell)

On the one hand there is a nation and its non-resident humdards fretting over the embroidery on their PM’s suit and whether the new kid on the block will provide free WiFi to the capital or not. On the other hand there is this brilliant half-Indian entrepreneur, William Nanda Bissell (CEO of Fabindia), who has envisioned an in-depth plan to rebalance resources in India breaking the artificial boundaries between the inheritance and exploitation Richie Riches and the poorest of the poor. He makes a case for change that will not only give power and justice back to the people and create a citizen’s republic that is far more sustainable than today’s India of the haves and have nots. While some of his ideas may sound borderline marxist we all know that desperate times call for desperate measures. His are well thought through and really bring the essence of the word back to “politics” which for many has become a swear word in today’s India. I wish anyone who really claimed to care for India’s future would pick up this book, learn from it and be a catalyst for change. (10/10)

Der Hundertjährige der aus dem Fenster stieg und verschwand (von Jonas Jonasson)

Geniales Zusammenspiel von Wahrheit und Erfindung. Sogar jemand der mit Geschichte nicht viel am Hut hat wird dieses Buch, dass einen durch das gesamte 20. Jahrhundert auf eine Zeitreise der Weltgeschichte einlädt, lieben. Jonasson’s Humor ist geradezu absurd einfach aber genau deshalb um so überraschender. Dieser Roman erinnert an Forest Gump hoch zehn! (10/10)

Leaving Time (by Jodi Picoult)

Not my favorite novel of hers but I sure will look at elephants differently for the rest of my life. What amazing creatures they are. She had a little too much Inception-style confusion going on here until the very last chapter and despite her easing the reader into psychic powers I guess it won’t stick until it happens to you. (6/10)

David & Goliath (by Malcolm Gladwell)

I’ve read The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers (still want to catch up on What the Dog Saw) but so far this is my favorite. Barring some sub-chapters of lengthy historic discourses I was fascinated by his simple yet not intuitive research stories.
His thoughts on desirable difficulties (“the unexpected freedom that comes from having nothing to lose!”) and the inverted U-curve are so insightful that I wish more people took note of them.
My favorite quote: “The contrast between the previous apprehension and the present relief and feeling of security promotes a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.” (9/10)