Dan Brown is one of the authors that I hold in high esteem. The Da Vinci Code was his first book that I had read, and it fascinated me. Never had I imagined that a subject as abstract as art symbols would make a compelling mystery, let alone a bestseller. But I was proven wrong. After the Da Vinci Code, I moved onto his lesser known work- Digital Fortress. Angels and Demons was next, and this book for me cemented his place as one of the best authors in the world currently. His handling of Christianity and its symbols, along with the setting of the novel in CERN and the Vatican made for a brilliant book.
The Lost Symbol is where it all began to go downhill. The infallible Dan Brown-one who could do no wrong-suddenly appeared to have a chink in his armour. Inferno was his second failed attempt. The novel failed to match the success of his previous works, and the movie did not work much either.
Origin-his latest book, released on the 3rd of October and I immediately picked it up for reading. The start was promising. I particularly liked the use of analogies made by Edmond Kirsch (the science-geek protagonist), when he goes to meet the religious heads on a mountain top (“Moses climbed a mountain and restored faith in people, and I am climbing one to destroy it”). Like all of his other novels, this one too takes place over the course of 24 hours. It is his fifth work featuring the famed Harvard Professor Robert Langdon and as usual, he finds himself in a spot of bother when Kirsch (One thing I found funny is that Kirsch is a denouncer of religion while his name Kirsch seems derived from Kirsche which means Church in German) makes a presentation in the Guggenheim Museum in Spain which could shatter the foundations of religions, but is killed midway. What follows next is the usual cat and mouse game, where Robert Langdon and Ambra Vidal-queen consort of Spain find themselves racing across Barcelona trying to broadcast Kirsch’s presentation to the world.
However, unlike the Da Vinci Code, this seems like a work that has not been thought about much. The plot never picks up (never even thickens for that matter) and you begin to wonder midway through the text whether Dan Brown has lost his art. Entire paragraphs on the description of places seem to be copied from Wikipedia and every new place that Langdon visits is either “awesome” or “breathtaking”. The allusion to the mickey mouse watch of Langdon still continues and climax ends too easily for my liking and I believe also for those who have read the book.
But the book is not without its moments. The presentation by Edmond Kirsch where he tries to answer the two fundamental questions of life (Where do we come from?; Where are we going?) is nothing short of a masterpiece. The novel has questions about faith at its heart when technology becomes more intelligent and starts taking over our lives.
Although Dan Brown’s storytelling ability is not much to speak about in this work, trying to answer the questions about faith and technology is no mean task- one that he has done reasonably well.
I am not a big fan of self-help books, but after hearing a lot about Robin Sharma and his work, I decided to give his best known book-The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari- a try.
Written in an easy to understand prose, the book is all about following simple guidelines that can help you transform your life towards the positive. The author tells the story of a workaholic lawyer, who although achieves great heights in his career, neglects his health which leads him to have a heart attack. The protagonist then travels to India where the mystical saints in the Himalayas teach him some simple rules to live a meaningful life.
The rules are told in the form of a story where in a green field consisting of a lighthouse, a giant sumo wrestler with a pink wire rope around his waist stumbles and falls on a gold stopwatch. His hand touches some flowers and he sees a path of diamonds ahead. Each element of this story represents a part of life that has to be modified to make it more meaningful. The garden represents the mind which needs to be full of positive thoughts in order to be nurtured. Enter one negative thought (or weed), and the corruption of the mind begins.
The lighthouse represents that life should have a purpose. The author suggests to write down the things that make us happy and to act on them. Lots of people have dreams, but somewhere along the line, those dreams are forgotten. Once you set a deadline to your dreams, they become a goal and that is what the author tries to convey through the analogy of a lighthouse.
The sumo wrestler represents the process of self-improvement or kaizen. After determining your life’s purpose and trying to work towards it, it is essential to continuously monitor and improve the performance so that we get better with each passing day. This is achieved through sheer willpower and perseverance and that is the essence of the pink wire string attached to the wrestler’s waist. Each strand of the string represents some work that has gone into reaching the goal that will fulfil the life’s purpose.
The gold watch on which the wrestler stumbles conveys the message that time waits for no one. So rather than focussing on the future or reminiscing about the past, it is always better to divert all attention to the present and make the most of it. The flowers in the field ask us to do good to the society and be kind to others because a part of our deeds rubs off on us. The path of diamonds at the end tells us that if we follow these principles, we would lead a life that will help us reach our goal.
Robin Sharma teaches us the recipe to lead a meaningful life in the form of a simple story-one that will resonate with us for times to come. This book is an essential read for all those who are struggling to find meaning in their lives or need to find a purpose. I would urge everyone to read the book and practice what has been written down. I already started today. Have you?
This week I completed 1000 visitors on my blog, taking me exactly two years to reach the mark. When I started the blog back in 2015, I sought it as a means to escape the monotony of office life. I was doing a 9 to 5 job, and after coming back from work, I used to feel a bit empty, like something was amiss. I had to do something which could break the monotony. Having always been fond of books since my childhood, I decided to take up blogging. In a way, this was a means to escape the dreariness of office life, and also a means to do something that was really close to my heart.
Since I was not a big poetry writer, I decided to write reviews of books that I had read. At the time, I was reading a lot of spy novels- particularly those of John le Carre-with the effect that you will see quite a lot of his books under my book review section. After writing a couple of blogs about reviews, I decided to take up writing original short stories. Among the couple of those that I have written, ‘The Operation’ remains the closest to my heart. I have always been a fan of some melancholic stories where the protagonist finds success just around the corner but feels unable to reach it. That is what I have tried to portray through my short stories.
Now, 95 blog posts and around a 1000 visitors later, I know that blogging is not as easy as it sounds. The phrase ‘Content is King’ has never ringed truer than now. It is ultimately your content that matters, apart from the timing of your blog posts. Always review the insight section of your blog to find out which tags and categories have received the maximum number of hits and also the time when the readers read your blog posts the most. In my case, most of my readers are from the USA, so I tend to post the blogs in the afternoon during the weekends (I live in the Netherlands currently) so that my readers find my post at the top when they log in first thing in the morning. So the advice would be to post quality content and to post it regularly.
Apart from content and timing, what is required is patience. If you start blogging thinking that you will reach a thousand followers in a week or a month, then that is highly unlikely. People will only stick around if the content is good. My advice would be to never give up and continue churning out one good blog post after another. Once you write them, send them around to your friends and publicize it on social media. Because the more feedback you receive, the better the motivation to continue writing.
This was my story about the first thousand visitors to my blog. What’s yours?