The lockdown has surprisingly, been quite busy. Office work has continued unabated and daily chores, usually outsourced, have been taken on by family members. Kids having to stay indoors has meant that strategies have to be devised to keep them occupied away from the TV and screens as much as possible. Reading books have offered me a valuable break away from the blue screens and a refuge for the mind to park itself away from the worries of COVID-19. Not necessarily read during the lockdown, here are a list of books that I have read through in the past few months:
- The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
- American Kingpin by Nick Bolton
- Empire of the Moghul: Raiders from the North by Alex Rutherford
- Empire of the Moghul: Brothers at War by Alex Rutherford
- The Anarchy by William Dalrymple
- Black Edge by Sheelah Kolhatkar
- The Monkey Theory: Conquer your Mental Chatter by Sfurti Sahare
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- Mind Master: Winning Lessons from a Champion’s Life by Viswanathan Anand
The last book in the list is my latest pick to read through and Vishy Anand, India’s first Grandmaster of Chess has good lessons sprinkled through the book. It took me a few chapters to get used to the pace of the book since it does not follow a traditional chronological autobiographical approach. Instead, the book is built around various topics/ lessons and anecdotes that fall into the appropriate category. There is chess terminology sprinkled right through the book and that part does fly over the head. Other than that, the lessons such as preparation being key to success, hard work trumping talent, the need to adapt with changing times and more such are embellished with examples by Viswanathan Anand from his own experiences, which make it an interesting read. A couple of points stood out for me:
- Chess players go through intense preparation for a major match with their team. In a sense, the chess scene is not that different from a tennis match. Chess players rely on their team of seconds, managers and perhaps even lawyers to be successful in what they do. Tennis, while also an individual sport, lends success to the formation of a strong team around the champion. Perhaps there need be no more proof needed that winning takes team work, irrespective of the accolades going to a single person.
- Computing power has had such a tremendous impact on the way that chess is played. The book is replete with particular “lines” being explored and work being done day and night to find an elegant solution. Software has been used to find solutions in a few hours, that would earlier take a few days. Laptops and raw computing power are being used to find different positions on the chessboard and the ability to learn these and apply them at the right time can make all the difference between winning and losing.
Comparing with other autobiographies that I have read, I’d easily place Anand’s book in the top 5. There is something to be said about these sportspersons who battle immense odds to succeed in their field. Individual Indians’ success in sports have been few and far between. Their stories, such as those of Abhinav Bindra and Vishy Anand, deserve to be read and applauded. Respect, appreciation and admiration for those that succeed in sports coming from a country where sports has, in the past, not been a fancied activity!