Saturday, November 25, 2006

Boring Preface and amazing essays

Back in 1998, when I just joined college, one of my teachers - Mr. Param Dev Sharma (popularyly known as PD) talked about reading a book cover-to-cover. It was the first time I heard of the term. He was referring to doing that to K & R, the very popular textbook on C programming.

Over a period of time, I had got into a habit of starting any book with the preface, the back cover introduction and any forewords. It was pretty good because you often got good anecdotes, got to see how the author got around to writing a book and in general would prove to be an interesting read. You can say the pre-content-reading is often fun. One of the most interesting pre-content-read is that of Freakonomics. It has a bunch of really interesting anecdotes not found in the book, specially about the Absence of Unifying Theme of Dr. Levitt.

Last month, I had picked up the Argumentative Indian by Nobel Laurate Dr. Amartya Sen. I started off with the preface and it was one boring preface about some philosophical perception about Indians argumentative nature, derived by a bunch of academic researches. I was bored to death and I thought the money spent was not worth it. So, last week, after a very long day at work, I was not feeling sleepy and I picked it up (in the absence of any other good read on my shelf) and picked up a random chapter - "India and the Bomb" to read.

To say the least, it was one of the most interesting reads and an extremely well thought-up, deep analysis of the consequences of India's nuclear tests on 1998. I could not drop the book down till the chapter ended, even when I was very conscious that I am going to get only a short sleep before another long day at work.

All in all, I would conclude that I should be a bit circumspect about judging books by their preface and that Amartya Sen has come up with a jewel of a book in Argumentative Indian.

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