Book Recco: Edward de Bono’s Masterthinkers Handbook

I have three Edward de Bono books – Masterthinkers Handbook, Tactics and Lateral Thinking. While the last of these is his most famous work, the first is the only one that I have read a substantial part of. I’ve read bits of the others, but completed none. None of these are self help books – more like guidelines for developing structured ways of thinking, analysis and ideation. Textbooks, maybe.

I read Masterthinkers Handbook almost eight years ago, and the structures and the ethics of objective analysis that de Bono has discussed, have contributed to my thinking process. I just came across a passage from that book, here. Some excerpts (which I don’t remember reading, but agree with):

– A masterthinker admits an error at once since his or her concern is for objective thinking. The fear of making a mistake keeps some intelligent people from putting forward speculative or creative ideas because these might turn out to be wrong. Such people do not like taking risks with their thinking. Taking risks is at times a necessary part of thinking.
– Perhaps the biggest danger is that many highly intelligent people (especially when young) tend to be very arrogant about their thinking. This is unfortunate since there are no grounds for arrogance about thinking at any time.

Now I shall go and read Tactics

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Who thinks up these things anyway?

From the Delhi Book Fair (had gone on three days, once with Jai and Aishwarya)

Umm…not what immediately comes to mind.

I’m not sure if I clicked this one for the title related to chocolate sex or a name like Marsha Mellow

Go figure

The photo isn’t clear: it’s called “The autobiography of an ex-coloured man.” Black or white?

No comments, really.

“Finding a girl in America” :S

Aishwarya: what was his next book called?

A directory of Alcoholics Anonymous members? 😛


“My Darling My Hamburger?” Anyone heard of My Beloved, My Vada Pav?


And from Darya Ganj (a couple of weeks before that)

Judgement Day?

Since you asked for it 🙂

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Duh’rya Ganj

For the uninitiated, Darya Ganj is where the Sunday Bazaar for books is held in Delhi, every Sunday. After a Friday and a Saturday that had been overcast and breezy, with the occasional relief of rain, Sunday lived up to its name: it was painfully hot, and patience and temper had evaporated. For the most part, bargaining for books was not an option for me.

There was relief in company: Aishwarya and I, joined later by Aditya, (from Bombay, in Gurgaon for a couple of weeks, and is missing Bombay but – gasp! – LIKES DELHI!!!) spent most of the afternoon spotting oddly titled books and books with strange covers. There were also a few conversations:

1. Customer: Autobiography, hain? (Do you have an autobiography?)
Bookseller: Kiski? (whose?)
Customer: Kisi ki bhi (Anybodys)
Bookseller: Kisi ki bhi? (Anybodys?)
Customer: Haan. Koi bhi autobiography dikha do. (Yeah, show me any autobiography)

In the pile I spot the biography of Janis Joplin. Heh.

2. Customer to Bookseller: Bhaiiya, mythology ki book hain? (Do you have a book on mythology?)
Bookseller: Pathology?
Customer: Mythology.
Bookseller: Pathology?
Customer: Mythology.

I half expected the bookseller to say that he doesn’t have a book on mythology, and would pathology suffice?

3. Old man telling Young Girl (12-13 years old) in Hindi: I’m willing to pay even 300 bucks for this book but only if you will use it.
Young Girl: I will learn how to cook.
Old woman, flipping the pages: Yes. It is a good book. Look, it teaches her how to make a burger. (pronounced burr-gurr)
Young Girl: I will learn how to make a burger.
(looks up expectantly)
Old man: But you will use it, na?
The Young Girl nods. Smiles.

I sneak a peek at the book – it’s a childrens cookbook in German.

Aishwarya also went through several books on household maintenance tips (:P. Okay, she just spotted two) and I picked up 5 Nora Roberts books THAT MY SISTER HAD ASKED ME TO BUY FOR HER.

Books that I bought for myself (the Nora Roberts books were for my sister, and don’t you forget that):

Tom Holt: Faust Among Equals
Jeanette Winterson: Sexing the Cherry (Aishwarya’s recco)
Steve Martin: Pure Drivel
Elmore Leonard: Be Cool (sequel to Get Shorty)
Ogden Nash: Bed Riddance
The Playboy Book of Humour and Satire
Douglas Adams: The Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy
C.S. Lewis: The Screwtape Letters
Evelyn Waugh: A Handful of Dust
Tim Dorsey: Triggerfish Twist
Sartre: Existentialism and Human Emotions
Terry Pratchett: The Color of Magic
Richard Hooker and William E.Butterworth: M*A*S*H Goes to Las Vegas
Woody Allen: Without Feathers

Missed a couple that Aishwarya picked up before me. Particularly – The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. My reflexes aren’t what they used to be – I need more practice at buying books from Darya Ganj. Heh.

Of the books bought yesterday, I’ve randomly read poems from Ogden Nash’s Bed Riddance. Pert is a word that comes to mind. Then I switch back to Barbarians at the Gate, if only particularly because of the suspense that is being built up, and you’re left dreading the worst. Okay, non-fiction can be fun.

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The Re-education of Nikhil Pahwa

Well, now that the exams are over, it’s time to get back to reading and education (as opposed to studying). After college finished in October- after a heavy duty, 14 hrs a day saturating workload during the capstone course – I took a break from management studies. Eight months of abstinence, and I’ve forgotten many many things. I thought I’d prepare a list of books(from the ones that I have) I have to read and sites I have to go through to get back on track:

K@W: Major backlog of reading.
HBS: The Magazine and the Working Knowledge site.
McKinsey Quarterly: Major backlog of reading.
Mankiw on Economics : ’tis a blog I am addicted to, and have been reading it regularly, in spite of the exams. What I love is the way Prof. Mankiw discusses current events and simplifies the concepts that Indian texts make complex. Highly recommended even if you’re not interested in Economics.
Trendwatching and Springwise: Business trends and ideas
Adrants: Ad fun da. 😀
PSFK: Marketing updates

Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Yeah. I STILL haven’t read it.
The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell: See comment above
The Stock Market Wizards by Jack Schwager. I also need to read a basic intro to Futures and Options. I’m aware that its a form of hedging, but it’s a little too risky for me to attempt to trade without an adequate foundation.
The New Buffetology by Mary Buffet: had this book for three years now and still at the basic level. This book, still, is among the most useful that I’ve come across because it approaches investing in a logical, simplified manner. A beginners guide to investing, I guess, and not for trading.
The Witch Doctors by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge: On making sense of Management Gurus. Recco’ed by Shekhar
Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar: On the hostile takeover of RIR Nabisco. Again, recco’ed by Shekhar.
How to read a balance sheet*: These are little known ILO publications that are very useful. There seems to be only one copy at Amazon, and at $31. I’ve got an ancient copy that my dad bought 20-30 years ago, and another on marketing. Still, these books are possibly the best for studying. If anyone knows where I can get them in Delhi – do tell.

So, this is what I plan to read. There’s lots more, but it can wait. Now about what I really really want to read –

Big Trouble by Dave Barry
Memoirs of a Mangy Lover by Groucho Marx
“Rommel? Gunner Who?” by Spike Milligan
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
(This is going to be a long list, so I’ll stop now)

*- ‘Balance Sheet’ reminds me of something that Dad had told me about a few years ago: when prohibition was enforced in India, several small breweries went out of bijiness. Vittal Mallya (Vijay Mallya’s father) began buying them on the basis of the value that their balance sheet held. A contrarian call. 😀


  • Wikipedia has a list of popular business books. Reminds me that my brand new copy of 22 Immutable Laws of Branding book on branding by Al Ries got burnt. There’s so much that can be read, and so little time.
  • Prof. Mankiw had posted a summer reading list. He says: Here are ten very different books I like that are fun enough that you would not be embarrassed (well, not too embarrassed) reading them at the beach
  • I’m now accepting (business) book recommendations.
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Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

I found Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart interesting and highly readable not because the writing style made it readable and interesting, or because the content was gripping: I liked it because it was exotic and quite different from the other books that I’ve been subjecting myself to:

Achebe tells the story of the rise of Onkonko in society as a man who commands the respect of his fellow men and is a person of importance in the village. Achebe details tribal culture in Africa- the beliefs, customs, traditions and practices – are described in detail. To an outsider these seem caricaturish at best, and discriminatory and barbaric at worst. Achebe details them in a matter of factly manner that lends a pictoral, almost documentary-like feel to the novel.

This is in contrast with a novel like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and several movies on the Tribal-African way of life that have portrayed them as barbaric and uncivilised. In fact, I think it puts Conrad down because Conrad focused only on the white men and the mercenary nature of imperialism, and neglected the impact of imperialistic practices on the Africans. Things Falls Apart seems to correct this anomaly, and gives a very realistic insight into tribal life and how with the coming of the mercenary missionary, things actually fell apart.

Tribal culture in Africa- the beliefs, customs, traditions and practices – are described in detail. To an outsider they seem caricaturish at best, and discriminatory and barbaric at worst. Achebe details them in a matter of factly manner that lends a pictoral, almost documentary-like feel to the novel. A majority of the novel focuses on the life and customs in Onkonko’s village and without venturing an opinion, criticises the tribal practices. The society is patriarchial and women are treated like slaves and regularly beaten. Men are brutal and judged on the basis of their success in physical conquests.

The novel ends on a tragic note with the establishment of imperialistic power in the village and Onkonko’s suicide after he finds himself helpless in a changed world, where his word is no longer given the respect it once inspired.

The story is essentially about the frustrations of Onkonko as he fails to imbue the same characteristics that he felt made him a success, in his own son Nwoye, and about his own inability to cope with change. Onkonko’s thinks of Nwoye as less of a man than his daughter Ezinma (“If only she were a man”) – leaves him to join Church. Achebe doesn’t bore us with his opinions; just selective glimpses into tribal life that let us make our own decisions. At the same time, Achebe is also critical of the missionaries and their means of bringing out a change of power – they target the weak, deprived and the outcastes, and build up numbers to threaten those with power. Divide and rule.

While I don’t agree with Onkonko’s values and his rather brutal way of dealing with situations, one ends up feeling that his society has made him the way he is – he took the only route to success that was allowed to him and made the best of his situation. At the end of the story, I ended up sympathising with Onkonko, fully understanding what drove him to suicide. For him, it was the only way out – a man as great as him (or as great as he thought himself to be) could never a live the rest of his life in helplessness and servitude.

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Dry-den on Sat-ire

From True Satire by Dryden:

A witty Man is tickl’d while he is hurt in this manner, and a Fool feels it not. The occasion of an Offence may possibly be given, but he cannot take it. If it be granted that in effect this way does more Mischief; that a Man is secretly wounded, and though he be not sensible himself, yet the malicious World will find it for him: yet there is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly Butchering of a Man, and the fineness of a stroke that separates the Head from the Body, and leaves it standing in its place.

Taking the above into account, Dryden’s MacFlecknoe does seem to be overtly blunt, and perhaps lacking the finesse that the above quote portends. One expects a little more subtlety than:

Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullness from his tender years:
Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he
Who stands confirmed in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through, and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell’s genuine night admits no ray;
His rising fogs prevail upon the day.
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
And seems designed for thoughtless majesty;
Thoughtless as monarch oaks that shade the plain,
And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.

Undoubtedly the imagery and the allusions in the rest of the poem, and the rhythm achieved are laudable: MacFlecknoe is a poem that made me laugh out loud while reading. It’s just that as I read this portion, a year after I had first read the poem, it seemed to be too direct- more of an attempt at butchering than that fine stroke that Dryden mentions above.

However, I’d rather study MacFlecknoe than all the boring serious reading I’m forcing myself to do. Strangely enough, I find that I no longer have the appetite for The Heart of Darkness and The Power and the Glory, both of which seemed drab. I found the relatively ‘exotic’ story Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, about the disintegration of African culture in a tribal village, brought about by the setup of a Church, much more interesting.

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