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Retracing the Oregon Trail…

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My reading Rinker Buck’s book The Oregon Trail was a product of serendipity. What I thought was a classical 19th-century work by Francis Parkman is, in fact, a very engaging and wonderful book that beautifully melds history, travel and adventure, and memoir.

Rinker Buck is a journalist who decides to recreate the torturous journey taken by pioneers – most of whom were immigrants — to settle the uncharted American West. Pioneers took a huge risk at a time when going anywhere west of the Mississippi River was a dicey proposition. For many, the Oregon Trail began on the western frontier of Missouri, traversing Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and, finally, Oregon. There was not one Oregon Trail, but many; and not all pioneers were heading for the Pacific Northwest. Included among them were gold prospectors making their way to California to, hopefully, make their fortune.

As the pioneers went so did Rinker Buck. He took the journey in a covered wagon pulled by a team of mules. To make it into a family affair, Rinker brought his ornery brother Nick along, as much as for company as for his expertise. Nick is not only an experienced carpenter, but has an encyclopedic knowledge of mules and covered wagons, which we will find later proved to be quite handy.

For Rinker, the decision to recreate a 2,000-mile overland journey from Kansas to Oregon was not a light one, but deeply emotional and personal. Recently divorced, and in middle age, he wanted a way to reconnect with the fond memories of his youth. Rinker frequently recounts the trips he and his siblings took with their father, a restless adventurer. They, too, traveled in a covered wagon, but they only went far as Pennsylvania from their home in New Jersey.

I’m still reading the book, but it’s so absorbing, and Ruck is such a great storyteller, that I had to share my thoughts right away. It has also inspired me to want to take a similar journey.

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Written by niraj

March 9th, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Posted in books,history

To Be Good Do You Need to Be Bad?

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Currently reading Literary Rogues, an anthology of anecdotes on the bad boys – and bad girls! – of literature. I’m over half-way through and have come to the conclusion that to be brilliant (simply being good is not enough) you must suffer from some emotional instability, have a chemical dependency, and live a life of endless debauchery. And, yes, being an obnoxious jerk helps.

The word normal seems almost alien here. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, but sooner or later writers tend to descend into some kind of “hell” that fuels their creative spirits. We as a culture benefit from this, of course, but not so much for those directly connected to the author. This begs the question: to create do you need to suffer?

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Written by niraj

March 11th, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Posted in books

A Very Small Reading Update

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In April 2013, I created a list of 65 books that I wanted to read – had to read! – within the next two years. As of today, I’ve read only four books on the list. I have a bit ways to go. It’s not like I’ve not been reading, far from it, but as is my habit I tend to stray from my path and read books that catch my fancy.

Nevertheless, I’m concentrating on the following five books and hope to finish them before the year is out. Three of them are on the list and the other two are not.

This  reading list does not include books about finance and investing which I’m doing as part of my self-education program to become a better investor/trader. This will be an ongoing thing and not impact my main reading projects.

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Written by niraj

November 16th, 2013 at 9:57 am

Posted in books,Uncategorized

Reading Update – May 2013

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I’ve just completed my last book – The Instant Economist by Timothy Taylor – on my reading list that I started way back in 2012. It has been slow go, especially at the beginning, but things picked up in 2012 after reducing time devoted to the “evils” of social media.

While I was finishing off once reading list, I was slowly—and ambitiously—compiling another that should take me till the end of the year and probably beyond it. The list is tentative, of course, and contains all types of genres, sizes, and lengths. There’s even a graphic novel in there. J

Anyway, here’s my list:

  • Little Green Men by Christopher Buckley
  • Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
  • 3 Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger
  • The Trials of Socrates by I.F. Stone
  • The Zeroes by Randall Lane
  • Hedgehogging by Barton Biggs
  • The Fifties by David Halberstam
  • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
  • Inside the Sky by Robert Langewiesche
  • Sahara Unveiled by Robert Langewiesche
  • The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
  • Taking On the Trust by Steve Weinberg
  • The Defection of A.J. Lewinter by Robert Littell
  • One Minute To Midnight by Michael Dobb
  • The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester
  • The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer
  • The Watchman by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
  • In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
  • The Declaration of Independents by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch
  • The Siege of Mecca by Yaroslav Trofimov
  • The Worldly Philosophers by Robert L. Heilbroner
  • Teachings From the Worldly Philosophy by Robert L. Heilbroner
  • Panic by Michael Lewis
  • Grand Pursuits by Sylvia Nasar
  • The Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton
  • Trotsky: Downfall of a Revolutionary by Bertrand M Patenaude
  • The Chief by David Nasaw
  • Best Music Writing of 2005 edited by JT Leroy
  • Ten Cent Plague by David Hadju
  • Extra 2% by Jonah Keri
  • Hitlerland by Andrew Nagorski
  • Stranded edited by Greil Marcus
  • Marooned edited by Phil Freeman
  • Let it Blurt by Jim Derogatis
  • Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs
  • The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor
  • The Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammert
  • Readme by Neal Stephenson
  • Quest by Daniel Yergin
  • The Whole Equation by David Thomson
  • True Crimes edited by Harold Schechter
  • The Ideas of Great Philosophers by William S. Sahakian and Mabel Lewis Sahakian
  • The Puzzle Palace by James Bamford
  • The Skeptic by Terry Teachout
  • The Pirate Hunter by Richard Zacks
  • Hedge Fund Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
  • Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson
  • Engineers of the Soul by Frank Westerman
  • A Mencken Chrestomathy by HL Mencken
  • Literary Rogues by Andrew Shaffer
  • India Becoming by Akash Kapur
  • Culture edited by John Brockman
  • Mastery by Robert Greene
  • The Information by James Gleick
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
  • Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • A History of Egypt by Jason Thompson
  • The Hemlock Cup by Bettany Hughes
  • The Creators by Daniel J Boorstin
  • The Discoverers by Daniel J Boorstin
  • Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
  • Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

Wish me luck!

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Written by niraj

May 3rd, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Posted in books,Uncategorized

Update on Reading Update Posts

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I will no longer post regular reading updates. I don’t see the point of recycling the same list of books month after month. What I will do is post a list I’m currently working through and only update when there is either a new list; or if I change my reading list for any reason.

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Written by niraj

April 5th, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Posted in books

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Reading Update – Mid-February 2013

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Unlike my previous reading updates, I will dispense with oft-repeated excuses why I’m not reading more. The excuses will be the same and will continue to be same until I say otherwise. Nevertheless, in keeping with my new year resolution, I’ve been reading much more.

So without further ado, here is my reading list as of today:

  • An Empire of Wealth by by John Steele Gordon
  • The Litigators by John Grisham
  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
  • The Instant Economist by Timothy Taylor
  • Francona by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy

Two of the books are leftovers from my June 2012 reading list, but I’m proud to say I finished three out of the five listed:

  • Special Assignments by Boris Akunin
  • Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
  • The Islamist by Ed Husain

Trying to get into the habit of reading more than one chapter – of reasonable length, of course – a night. More on the weekends and whenever free time permits.

I will also be augmenting my reading by listening to unabridged audio books I picked up for a song at a local discount store. Since my drive to and from works is about 90 minutes, I should better use the time for edification rather than listening to repetitive sport talk radio. One can only hope, of course.

My reading list doesn’t include countless magazine and news articles, blog posts, white papers, and things I find via social media.

I will no longer give a target on when I will finish the books as I will be automatically setting myself up for failure. Better to let things happen when they happen.

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Written by niraj

February 15th, 2013 at 11:45 am

Reading Update

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Here’s my latest reading update. Not that I’ve been reading anything of late (or blogging, for that matter). Social media is rudely intruding on both , to the point that it’s making me dumber than shit, if that’s even possible. My goal for June is simple: to read five short books. Here’s my stack:

  • The Instant Economist by Timothy Taylor
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Thomas Klein
  • Special Assignments by Boris Akunin
  • The Islamist by Ed Husain
  • Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski

Fortunately for me many of the aforementioned books are partially read. Some are even close to completion. Yet I’m so lazy I have abandoned them for the most part. Let’s see if I can finish them by end of June.

Wish me luck.

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Written by niraj

June 1st, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Posted in books

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Kindle: Some Limitations

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I’m currently reading Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabiaon my Kindle and have encountered problems and limitations the reading device offers; though not displeasing it’s definitely annoying.

  • Often times I have encountered words that are treated as one when they are clearly suppose to be separate. For example, ‘and less’ reads as ‘andless’, which is not correct. This is due to the publisher’s sloppiness.
  • Since this is a biography, it is littered with footnotes. Accessing footnotes on the Kindle is a chore, as they are listed at the end of the chapter instead of the bottom of the page in the printed book. Kindle does offer a hyperlink, but it doesn’t link to a specific footnote, just the general one. Again this is due more to the publisher’s laziness then anything else.
  • This books contain a plethora of pictures which are just not as clear or vibrant on the Kindle as they are in the book. This is an example of the Kindle’s many limitations. Digital ink is great for words but lousy for pictures.

The technological limitations is an hindrance, but I still love my Kindle, knowing full well the technology will only get better with time.

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Written by niraj

July 15th, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Posted in books,science/technology

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Books: Recent Acquistions

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I’m slowly acquiring all the books written by late Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski. I have three of his brilliant books in my possession:

  • Another Day of Life
  • Shah of Shahs
  • Travels with Herodotus

I’ve only read Shah of Shahs. A brilliant piece of literary journalism about the fall of the Shah of Iran during the 1979 revolution. After I read it, I said to myself: I want to write like him. Even though these books are English translations (Kapuscinski only wrote in Polish), his genius shines through. Like many writers, his power is the economy and elegance of his prose.

I highly recommend him.

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Written by niraj

July 1st, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Trailer: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The trailer for the American version The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is finally out. It looks really, really good:

Wired has more details on the movie here. It’s good to note that it is being directed by David Fincher, so it will be dark and twisted– and very good! The movie won’t be released until December 2011. This leaves me plenty of time to read all three of the novels and watch the Swedish versions of the films.

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Written by niraj

June 4th, 2011 at 12:47 am