For some reason, I had stayed away from reading Isaac Asimov. Probably because I had seen some of the poorly done movies based on his books. I finally gave in, and started reading Asimov … Foundation being one of the first novels I got my hands upon.
The story is set in the far future (as is true with most Asimov novels), where the world (or the galaxy in this case) is ruled by an uni-polar government. The human race has advanced far and wide across the galaxy, and has inhabited many planets (25 million and counting). Technology has advanced so much that it is making humans complacent, and hence the cause of its own decay.
This macro-view is held by a visionary (Hari Seldon), and he creates a mission to set two different worlds set at the ends of the galaxy to re-build the human civilization after its fall. The story takes us through the different phases any civilization will face in its rise to power. The government structures, the role of religion in controlling the masses, the role of science and trade in conquering other civilizations.
The original foundation trilogy is very well written and Isaac Asimov shows why till this date he is one of the top read authors.
One day, in office, I came across this list, the best sci-fi novels of all time (according to Reddit). I was pleased at first as I browsed through the list … I had read the first two of them … as I went down the list … not one read! I had heard about some of them (relief!, but not more than 2 of them finished reading!!).
Off I went to Flipkart, and started ordering … in that order on the list.
Fortunately, this book was delivered to me last Friday. I sat through Sunday and finished it, almost in one sitting (there was a brief nap in the middle ;-)).
The thing about sci-fi novels is that when the author is writing the book (this one was in 1985), he has very less idea of what the future would be like. The rate at which things are changing is too fast, even for the imagination of the author. This is where Orson Scott Card dazzles. He has managed to forecast a future where public opinion can be swayed (and controlled) by digital media, space training facilities, colonization of other planets. While this might have seemed a bit far out back then, these days most of these things are very much achievable.
Ender’s Game is about a young child’s (Andew Wiggin) struggle against a system pitted against him to graduate and eventually save the human civilization from an alien species. I think Starship Troopers has taken some inspiration from this movie. Ender (or Andrew) is a born genius who thrives well under hostile circumstances. So the powers that be decide that for Ender to really sparkly, he has to be thrown into fire. And he is tested, again and again. This book is not about a boy who beats them all, its about someone who beats them, then gets burnt out … but beats them anyway so that he can rest.
There is an Ender in all of us. The tired feeling that we feel when we get burnt out … that’s Ender’s state of mind through out the book. It’s also about prevailing over that and continuing in classic human fashion. There are sequels to the novel, but what I like most about this book, is the attitude with which Ender attacks each problem. Do read the book.
During my formative years, my parents took pains to ensure that I got access to a lot of books. As a baby I used to happily tear out pages from a book; the only reason my parents must have restrained themselves from taking that book away from me was the hope that one day I shall start reading the book instead of simply tearing it. Well, they were right, many torn books later, I opened a book and started reading it instead!! ’twas hand-me-down book which had been purchased on the footpath of Fort area in Churchgate. Malory Towers by Enid Blyton … Darrell Rivers and her stay at the Cornish school, it was almost magical (ala Harry Potter).
Then came the Famous Five and Secret Seven, soon followed by the detectives; Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Hercules Poirot and of course my favorite Sherlock Holmes. Every year my sister and I used to wait for vacations, because vacations meant – travel, bags of books, library subscriptions and lounging around all day reading books. Reading was a big help at various points in my life, to which I will always be grateful towards my parents.
Reading and especially reading at a young age tremendously boosts your vocabulary skills. The words which a lot of people mug-up using word-lists for GRE and CAT preparations, are already familiar to you since you have read them in one book or the other. Language suddenly is not a constraint but a medium to be leveraged. Think about it, the section which a lot of people fear is the Reading Comprehension (RC), this becomes your forte because of your reading.
Learning is not a pain
Since you can read faster, there is a chance that you understand things faster as well; Ergo lesser time to study ;-). In fact who knows you might even enjoy it!! (Although I don’t guarantee this!)
The amount of knowledge you pick up when reading through different books/magazines/articles is immense. Don’t believe me? Then try this simple exercise … pick-up a newspaper, any newspaper and just spend 15-20 minutes reading through any random set of articles. If you are not more informed then either you have been reading the daily funnies or the page 3 :-).
It helps you communicate better. Being well read is simply more topics to discuss :-). Ever stuck in a conversation where you have no idea what the others are talking about? Well that’s ignorance. Read and drive away that ignorance!!
Helps in exams/vivas
Often during my engineering vivas and exams, I used to hope for questions which were outside the syllabus. Simply because the question outside the syllabus were from more or less current events. Having done a lot of other reading, this always gave me an edge over other students (who were much better at studies :-D). When it comes to dealing with the unknown, the well read person is at a distinct advantage.
The great thing about reading, is that it’s never too late. You might say, that I do not have any exams to give, but reading still comes in handy. Reading helps you be more informed about things which are interested in. Without reading, you cannot write. If you are a creative person or are involved in a creative job, then you have to read. Think of it as one more avenue of getting your inspiration. Your personal muse.
Ahh, and more thing, this is a form of entertainment which is customized for you, the book you read is your choice … if you like magic – then the Lord of the Rings, satire – then the Inscrutable Americans, sci-fi then – Isaac Asimov or the Dune series, philosophy then – The Fountainhead, medical then – Any Robin Cook, legal – then any John Grisham … I can go on. So what are you waiting for!?! If you can read through this entire post, then you might as well go to the nearest book store and pick-up any book that holds your fancy!!
This on the New York Times, an article about how a librarian had to change her practice skill-sets from being an archive keeper of knowledge to someone who teaches the right way to access the right data.
How many of us still read books? Flip through their pages? Very few of the new generation do this … they prefer new age media to books. If the same concepts can be taught through videos, games, et al then why bother with reading the books?
If this is the world to come (and I am not fighting against it or complaining), then the article takes an interesting take on how old age practices have adapted themselves to the new age solutions.
I have been reading Reeves and Read’s Total Engagement: Using games and virtual worlds to change the way people work and business compete, this is as part of my work (I know, rocking job :-)). The whole idea started when we decided to see how individuals change their approach of work if they see their passion in their work (and not the other way round!!). One of my passions is games. Hence the book, and to see how games can be used in work scenarios in order to change the way employees engage with their jobs.
By the first set of chapters itself, the authors had me re-affirm my faith in games completely. The authors looked at around 800 different jobs available with the US Labour Department (O*NET), and identified around 50 0r so different capacities/skills needed to function in those jobs. Each of these skills was then explained as something that we (as gamers) do whilst playing our favorite games.
So why do we pay for doing the something for which we can also get paid for? Why cannot work become play? I strongly believe it can be made into a play-space. Imagine your job as a MUD :-)