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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood -- A book review

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is based on trying to answer a simple question. What would happen if you suddenly overturned every single triumph of the feminist movement and went back a hundred years or a five hundred years. I bought this book based on the recommendation of a youtube channel called "Books on Toast" ( Do subscribe to this channel if you're a book lover by the way!) And, it is definitely a very intriguing read. The story is exactly as described in its synopsis. A world where women are not allowed to read, work or be anything of their choice. A world where they are the properties of powerful men, where they are viewed only as baby making machines and protected only as long as they are fertile.
The premise is definitely interesting. The story is pretty fast paced and keeps you hooked till the end. The scenes and events of the story are told in such a way that you feel wit…
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Can you ever question your belief in God?

Your religion is decided for you based on the family you're born into almost immediately after your birth. This is further reinforced during your childhood with the various customs and rituals that you're part of, each one involving prayers to a higher being. Then, it is no surprise that you get brainwashed into believing in God. After all, it is the biggest fantasy or myth that your parents and your community have indulged in and have made you a part of, so much so, that it becomes part of your identity. Later when you experience more of the world, learn more science, see more sense in logic than unfounded beliefs, you start to question the existence of God. You notice how the fallacy of the religious belief begs the question that if God created man, who created God? You probably have already imbibed so much of the belief both consciously and sub-consciously that any loss in this faith comes across to you as a desertion of your own identity. How then can you ever break away …

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins: A book review

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book reads like a story therefore making complex concepts simple and interesting. Dawkins establishes very early on that the genes today in all of our bodies are essentially just versions of the earliest replicators. The argument of why the gene is selfish and how every single behavior of every plant and animal is dictated by the genes selfish nature to multiply makes for an interesting read.
Reading it today, more than 40 years after it was written, some of the scientific achievements of mankind that seemed speculative and futuristic at the time are now already in use. For example, he talks about something similar to what became IBM's deep blue (first chess-playing computer to win against the reigning world champion), maps that could give you the best route and today we can't think of going anywhere without Google Maps. Also, one of the chapters is called memes because of its traditional meaning, which is, &quo…

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: A book review

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pachinko is a story spanning four generations of a Korean family living in Japan during the tumultuous 20th century that saw the annexation of Korea by Japan and the two world wars. The story of the family is pretty tragic. They deal with poverty, discrimination, suicide, forced imprisonment, all consequences of war and hatred from Japanese.
What I liked about this book is that it tells you a lot about what happens when people are displaced and try to make a new place their home in the time of war and chaos. I admit my ignorance in that I had never heard of the term "Zainichi" which literally means foreigners living in Japan. The Zainichi even though born and raised in Japan are not considered Japanese citizens. They were made to choose between North and South Korea after the Korean war of the 1950s even though they have not known any country other than Japan. These people have faced a lot of discrimination and negative stereo…

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak: A book review

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Last Suppers has an intriguing premise. It is set in prison grounds in Louisiana with the protagonist, Ginny (a young white woman, who I though was black until about halfway through the novel for some reason :P), is charged with preparing the last suppers of death row inmates, a task that she takes very seriously. All of the death row inmates welcome this last touch of humanity and request various dishes that remind them of their families or their childhood. But, the latest death row inmate, Samuel, refuses it sending her on a quest to retrieve the recipe of his favorite dish from his family. Samuel's refusal and erratic behavior opens a whole can of worms from her own past from the time when her own father was murdered and the accused had been sent to the electric chair. It is, as I said, a very interesting premise. It keeps you engrossed from the very first page.
But, its only drawback is when the author chooses to…

Call me by your name by Andre Aciman: A book review

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up this book only because it won an oscar. All I knew before I began reading this was that it was a love story between two guys - a seventeen year old and a twenty four year old. I had not even watched the trailer, and therefore had no idea what the story was going to be like. I could imagine why a gay themed story was raking up nominations, so I thought I'd give it a try. But the story itself was way too ordinary. I might have enjoyed it if I was a teenager. Maybe it was meant for one and I wasn't the target reader after all.

The story is set in a small beach town in Italy in the summer of 1983. A family that includes a seventeen year old boy, Elio, hosts a new research scholar every summer. This year it is the charming Oliver who has come all the way from America to work on his book. Oliver is so charming and seemingly has such airs about him that he is likened in attitude to a movie star. Love blossoms ev…

Advocating for science

A country's expenditure on research and the attitudes of its citizens towards science and technology are one of the leading parameters of development of a country. India spends about 0.65 % of its GDP (world bank data for 2015) on research and development, a number that has not changed much in two decades. The Indian educational system too on the other hand does not help in creating scientific temperament. The education is mostly a means to secure a job, any job, however far removed it might be from the field you've studied. 
These issues are even more apparent when you interact with people not related to the field. There is a lack of curiosity about science even among educated people. In fact, some are also of the view that it is a waste of the taxpayer's money. They go so far as to complain about the fact that their tax money is being used to fund PhD scholarships of students in Indian institutions. This, when the government's own defense and space research related …