Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Jennifer E. Smith
Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Published: 2012 by Little Brown
Pages: 236
My Rating: 4.5/5!

This isn't a book based on a research report, which is what I understood that people thought when they asked what book I'm reading, considering the smirky smiles and raised eyebrows. Or wait, they just might be teasing. I've become really dense these days so I wouldn't even have got to know. Anyway, this is Fiction. A story of a seventeen year old girl named Hadley missing her flight by four minutes at JFK airport, meeting this charming British boy named Oliver, both traveling to London. I'm not much of a romantic book reader, but this book was recommended more than once and it would have been foolish to ignore it just because it seemed like a love story. All of them aren't overly cheesy, y'know? ;)

Goodreads Blurb!
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it. 

My Thoughts!
I think I was very comfortable with the book since page 1. Teenage characters, realistic lives, drama: perfect setting for a story's beginning. Hadley's in a hurry to reach the airport, has an argument with her mom on the way, but anyway misses her flight by four minutes. What could possibly change in four minutes of your life? The book says, a lot! Who knew Hadley would find an adorably swoon-worthy (no, I'm not drooling. Not yet) guy who falls in love with her, just because she missed her flight? The next flight takes Hadley and Oliver in adjacent seats to London. The story spans a time period of 24 hours and half the story is based in the airport and the flight, filled with interesting conversations, observations, humor, intellectual talk, personal stories, the 'falling in love' moments and sentences that made me highlight them so very enthusiastically! (Not in a real, paperbook, genius! I was reading this one on my Kindle!)

The story is beautiful. I don't think of it as just a love story, but based on family as well. How hard it is for a seventeen year old to not see her father in over a year and then to see him getting married to a woman who isn't her mom. I thought I'd always hate how she had to face this situation, but the book tackled it well, I suppose, because to some extent, it did manage to convince me how it's okay. Oliver's story made me love Oliver even more somehow! The book's very well written, not complicated, but amazing dialogues. I mean! The last book where I loved the dialogues the most was The Fault in Our Stars (Looking for Alaska too) and then this book! It's not as good as in TFIOS, but it's awesome at another level. I wish I could find a guy like Oliver, who'd talk to me like that! ^_^ (Nope, not cheesy at all. Super fun, in fact).

Needless to say, I loved the characters since they were so well described in the way they behaved and what they spoke. It's been described so picturesquely that it's not really hard to imagine it all like it's happening around you. I suppose if you can feel what the characters might be feeling, it's a pretty good indication that the book's doing well. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is one such book that made me recommend it to friends just a few pages into it. I loved the story too, mostly because of it being realistic. Even the 'love at first sight' thing doesn't seem far-fetched. And I think that is why I'm liking this book so much. It just goes against how I thought a romance book would be like, but it wasn't. It was just so cool! :D The end made me go, "Oh wow. This is nice. But it seemed to end too fast. I wished the Oliver-and-Hadley-in-the-end scene could have been extended, but it's okay. Because then I realized this book has a sequel, This is What Happy Looks Like, which I'm going to read soon! 

Here are some quotes from the book I absolutely loved! Maybe these would make you pick it up yourself! ;)

"In the end, it's not the changes that will break your heart; it's that tug of familiarity"

"There's always a gap between the burn and the sting of it, the pain and the realization"

"He's like a song she can't get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn't think she could ever get tired of hearing it"

"After all, it's one thing to run away when someone's chasing you. It's entirely another to be running alone"

"Cheerfulness and contentment are great beautifiers"


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Click by Ori Brafman, Rom Brafman

Rom and Ori Brafman
Title: Click, The Magic of Instant Connections
Published: 2010 by Broadway Books (Random House)
Pages: 190
Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology
My Rating: 3.5/5!

Goodreads Blurb!
You know the feeling. You meet someone new—at a party or at work—and you just hit it off. There is an instant sense of camaraderie.
 
In a word, you “click.”

 
From the bestselling authors of Sway, Click is a fascinating psychological investigation of the forces behind what makes us click with certain people, or become fully immersed in whatever activity or situation we’re involved in.   
 
From two co-workers who fall head over heels for each other while out to dinner and are married a month later (and fifteen years later remain just as in love), to a team of scientists who changed the world with the magic of their invention, these kinds of peak experiences, when our senses are completely focused on the moment, are something that individuals—and companies—strive to achieve. After all, when you’re in the “zone,” you’re happier and more productive. Why is it that we click in certain situations and with certain people, but not with others? Can this kind of magical connection be consciously encouraged?  Is there a way to create such peak experiences, whether on a date or in your job?  
 
According to Ori and Rom Brafman, there is. In a powerful, story-driven narrative that weaves together cutting-edge research in psychology and sociology, the Brafmans explore what it means to “click”: the common factors present when our brain and senses are fully engaged. They identify five “accelerators” that increase the likelihood of these kinds of magic connections in our work and relationships.
  
From actors vying for a role on a popular TV series to police officers negotiating with hostage takers, we learn how one can foster an environment where we can click with another person and shape our thinking, behavior, and emotions. 
 
A fascinating journey into how we engage with the world around us, Click will transform our thinking about those moments when we are in the zone and everything seems to fall into place.

My Thoughts!
Close your eyes for a few seconds and think about one person in your life with whom you share a special bond, someone you met and 'clicked' with. Most probably instantly. Someone whom you saw and realized you have something in common, if not something in common, you'd feel a sense of being connected to them somehow. There is/was at least one person you thought of, right? Probably you're best friends now, or that's how you felt about your partner when you first met, or your colleague you get along well with, or even the security guard you wish a 'Goodmorning' to every day. This book is all about such connections, the basis behind this wonderful phenomenon, numerous studies and their results, real-life examples, reasons and logic as to how we connect and how we can make them stronger. 

The book starts with making the reader aware of this 'magic', describing in detail the euphoric sensation we experience when we click with someone and the pleasure center of our brain lights up! This makes the reader first build a connection and 'click' with the book itself, before we read any further. I remember when I began reading, I found it so amazing that I had immediately texted another reader-friend that I'd love this book! I could relate to it from the beginning. How cool is that? :D  Supported by numerous fantastic examples, the book explores the topics of vulnerability and how it builds trust, the power of proximity, resonance, similarity, environment, some people who are naturals and how this quick-set intimacy is capable of bringing out the best in us! 

"In the magic of the moment, we tend to see the person with whom we click in the best possible light. He or she, in turn, sees us in a similar light, and being seen that way makes a world of difference."

This is one of the best topics covered by the book, which has the most practical use for the most common of readers. I did have people in my mind with whom I connect well with while reading and when I got to this topic, about how we are better able to bring out the best in ourselves and in each other because we're more motivated to perform well, I realized how true it is! It works so neatly at the subconscious level that you wouldn't even realize it's happening. And when you realize how big a potential it has, it makes you want to work even harder because you're the most comfortable with those whom you click with and you can explore without any inhibitions. One of the best examples about this "Personal Elevation" in the book is that of Peter Mathews and Linda Schele who met in Planeque while wandering around in the jungles; Peter, a 21 year old working on a project involving identifying Maya hieroglyphics, Linda, an impulsive girl on an impromptu Christmas trip to Mexico to study Maya art (they met at a conference in Planeque). They clicked as soon as they met and in the last couple of hours after the three day conference was about to end, they decided to have a go at cracking the ancient writings, which experts had been trying to decipher since decades! Within those two hours in close proximity, they felt so charged up and elevated that they actually cracked the codes! They interpreted the writings successfully and broke two hundred years of history. How awesome?

Now, for a reader, the book's writing is quite simple and easy to understand. Even though it has a psychology background, there are no specific roll-your-tongue terms used and anyone with a non-psych background can read and understand the concepts easily (although I admit. Since I have studied a bit of it in college, it was pretty much easy to read in a flow without looking up any terms! :D And I have a similar class to the one described in Stanford's MBA program. *feels like Bond* ). The examples are plenty and very well explained, though in some places you might feel like they're going on and on about the same thing. Sometimes it feels repetitive, but I guess the concepts overlap because they're not really homogeneous. 

Recommended: This is a beautiful book if you want to understand the concepts of interpersonal relations and their practical use in the most simple ways. It doesn't even feel like a burdensome, educational book. It's fun and the examples would help you connect. Personally I found myself looking at my relations with others and to understand why I don't click with certain people. And how I could improve on it! 

Thank you Random House publishers for this book! :)  


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classic Talk # 2: The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway
Title: The Old Man and The Sea
Author: Ernest Hemingway
Written in: 1951, published in 1952
Accredited with: The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and cited as contributing to the Nobel Prize for Literature to Hemingway in 1954!
Pages: 144

"It's silly not to hope. It's a sin, he thought". This line from the supposedly outstanding short story by Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and The Sea perfectly summarizes what was one of the most pivotal themes for me in this book: hope. 

Set in the seas of The Gulf, this is a story about an old man named Santiago, a boy Manolin and a big marlin (a kind of fish). It's a story of the old man's struggle as he sets out to fish after 84 days of no luck, full of hope and determination. Because of family pressures, Manolin is unable to accompany him, although he cares deeply for the old man and helps him get ready for the journey by bringing him fresh sardines for the bait and getting the equipment ready. The old man sails off in his skiff and it is after hours of baiting and waiting when finally he feels the line get stiff. Finally he's caught some fish, although he might have been a big fish because he started swimming on its own course, taking the old man and the boat along with him. The story is about this journey, about the man in his aged demeanor and his habit of talking to himself (because he's alone now), about how he struggles to catch this big fish, bigger than the skiff itself! 

The old man's thinking to himself, talking to himself and in this one can observe how different it might have been had the boy been with him, as the old man also observes. They could have taken care of everything together, but as it was, he was being rowed by the fish far into the sea for almost three days. Most of the writing is internal dialogue, the man talking to himself or to the sea or to the fish and thinking back to his small shack in the small village where he lives, thinking of the boy and thinking of life. What I found so.... peculiarly cute (I'm sorry if this word doesn't fit the actual literary understanding, but this is just my perspective) was how Santiago respected the fish too. He understood that as a fisherman he has to kill them, but that's the way it is to be. Natural. "He is a great fish and I must convince him, he thought. Thank God they are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and able".

Isn't the cover gorgeous?
I have this one! :D
Santiago offers hope, like I mentioned before. He's tired and his hands are bleeding and cramped, his shoulders ache and he had to eat raw, distasteful fish, but he still holds on to the big fish because that is what is meant for him to take. Even afterwards he's battling back home, fighting more creatures of the sea, yet he's hopeful. Apart from the hope angle, I found parallels to his philosophical thinking. "I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on sea and kill our true brothers".

With all these thoughts for company, he's contemplating if what he has done and been through at the sea was right and if he was worthy of it. This is one thing I was sad to see. From how I interpret it, when the old man continuously thinks it was wrong for him to go so far out, it says if you have stepped out of the zone society has created for you, even if you don't feel you can't do it, if you fail you would think you did the wrong thing because what you did wasn't expected from you. I don't know, that's just one way I interpreted. Although yes, it does show him as a victor in the end, it being a "victory in defeat" so I guess it makes up for it. "But a man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated."

This is a beautiful story, albeit a short one. That's what makes it simple too, I guess. I loved the way it was written, although at some parts I thought it was repetitive, but they turned out to be the old man's thoughts and I suppose it is supposed to reflect the way he was thinking. I got this book sometime last year but got around to reading it now. For my 2013 Reading Challenge, I had decided to read up classics, but I've managed to read just three of them. :| I hope to make up for it this year itself! Classics are just so.... classic! ;)
  
PS- This book has been made into a movie twice! Once in 1958 and once in 1999. You can watch the 1999 movie on youtube here.


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