Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Saturday, October 17th, 2020 | Books

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali is a religious text on the practice of yoga. By yoga, I am referring to the full definition of yoga in the Hindu tradition and not merely the asana practice that is popular in the West.

It is made up of 196 verses. I read the longer version that has been translated into English by Sri Swami Satchidananda who also provides extensive commentary on the verses. This was very helpful to understanding. The text is broken down into four books and his commentary on the first two books made them reasonably accessible whereas the second two books, where commentary is limited, were more challenging.

My favourite concept from the book is the idea that anger is a package that you have to accept delivery of. And if you choose not to accept the delivery, the sender is stuck with it. If only it was that simple in real life, of course, but certainly an attitude I would like to cultivate.

Bhagavad Gita

Thursday, October 15th, 2020 | Books

The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu scripture and is the best-known and most widely read Hindu text. It forms part of the Mahabharata epic and is believed to have been written in the second century BCE.

It tells the story of a dialogue between a warrior named Arjuna and the Hindu god Krishna.

In general, it has a pretty agreeable message. Rejecting monastic life, it calls on us to do our duty in the world while renouncing personal benefit and working towards selfless service. It also offers an attractive afterlife package: life is not one single test that ends in heaven or hell, but a test you can take as many times as you need until you pass. Indeed, even the fear of slipping backwards is removed.

That said, it is easy to see why Christopher Hitchens argues that there is no “answer in the East”. In the first chapter, Arjuna lays down his arms at a great battle. In chapter 2, Kristna tells him that it is his duty as a warrior to fight and that if he does not fight, the other warriors will laugh at him. Nothing like a bit of peer pressure from god to make you go to war. Some have argued the battle is a metaphor for the spiritual battle of good and evil, but this is not widely accepted, especially as the characters in the battle form a major portion of the Mahabharata.

What I like most, though, is that it is short and interesting. Compared to say the Bible, which is really long, or the Qur’an, which is just page after page of repeating that there is definitely only one god and you’re going to be published if you believe anything different.

The Murder at the Vicarage

Monday, August 24th, 2020 | Books

The Murder at the Vicarage is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie. It is the first one I have read to feature Miss Marple.

I have heard plenty of jokes about the death rate in St Mary Mead and I do wonder how exactly so many novels will be spun out on the topic. Maybe she travels? Anyway, I enjoyed the book.

Murder on the Orient Express

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020 | Books

Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie. It features Hercule Poirot and revolves around a passenger being murdered on the famous train that Poirot happens to be travelling on.

It has a nice twist (spoilers: there’s a twist!) although not quite as intriguing as And Then There Were None. I was not in love with Poirot as a character initially but I have since warmed to him. Overall, an enjoyable read.

And Then There Were None

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020 | Books

And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie. It was another punt on my unused Audible credits as recommended by Elina. It was the first Christie novel I have read and does without her two famous characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

I really enjoyed it. In many ways, maybe I should not have started with such a good Christie novel as it has massively set my expectations for the other books I am reading.

Blood of Elves

Friday, August 21st, 2020 | Books

Blood of Elves is a fantasy fiction book by Andrzej Sapkowski. It is the first in the Witcher series and having a bunch of Audible credits I took a punt and bought the first three. I did not pay off massively, but it was an enjoyable read.

The audio is quiet which is annoying as I have to listen to it at maximum volume. The story is okay, but not as gripping as A Song of Ice and Fire which is the nearest thing I could describe to to in my admittedly limited reading of fantasy.

The Roasting Tin

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 | Books, Food

The Roasting Tin is a cookbook by Rukmini Iyer. It promises “simple one-dish dinners” and it delivers. I like it. Stick a bunch of ingredients in a roasting tin, stick it in the oven and in an hour or two you will have nice food. Not much messing around and nice results.

There is optimum roasting time. The short roasts were a bit dull, and I didn’t get great results from the really long roasts which I think come out better if you slow cook them. But the range of an hour or so seems to be the sweet spot for this book. I recommend the five-spice pork chops and smokey sausage supper, both of which make excellent and easy to prepare meals.

Mindful Running

Monday, August 17th, 2020 | Books

Mindful Running: How Meditative Running can Improve Performance and Make you a Happier, More Fulfilled Person is a book by Mackenzie L. Havey.

It’s a nice read. Nothing suer-new or much I did not know, but if you don’t practice mindfulness already or use it in your running, this would be a recommended read.

It was also a good reminder of what Havey calls our “True North Goal”. The thing that keeps us going regardless of what races are coming up. For many of us, it will be to stay on top of our physical and mental health, to challenge ourselves, to show ourselves we are stronger than we thought. A timely reminder given almost all of the races in 2020 are cancelled.

The Prison Doctor

Sunday, August 16th, 2020 | Books

The Prison Doctor is a book by Dr Amanda Brown. It is an autobiography (or maybe a biography given there is a co-author, although it is written in the first person) that discusses her times working in prisons.

After a spat over the new GP contract, she leaves per practice and goes to work in a young offenders prison, Wormwood Scrubs and later a women’s prison. It’s an okay read. Well written.

Quicksilver

Saturday, August 15th, 2020 | Books

Quicksilver is a historical novel by Neal Stephenson. It is part of the The Baroque Cycle, although I don’t really know what that is.

It jumps around which kept things interesting. The pace differs. Lots of details about the ships, not much about the plague or the fire. Overall, it was enjoyable, and I will probably end up reading more of the series.