Open a Book, Open a Mind…

by | Aug 1, 2019

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.”
― 
William Somerset Maugham

Education and books play important roles in one’s life. They broaden one’s vision by giving one the wealth of experience and insights without having to undergo particular incidents. Books have been my constant companions as I moved on with life and their authors helped me see and understand better the enigma of human existence. I have never travelled without a book and my personal library is my most cherished asset. 

My first serious book reading was The Memories of a Cat written by M.N. Roy (1887-1954). I struggled to comprehend the book but read it fully nevertheless. Then came two novels of Ayn Rand (1905-1982) – Fountain Head, followed by Atlas Shrugged. Both the novels made me sceptical of establishment, particularly politicians and big corporates, for the rest of my life. Three books of William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) – The Moon and Sixpence, Of Human Bondage, and The Razor’s Edge inspired me to be a writer. In 1985, as if by God’s hand, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Fritz Perls (1893-1970) reached me, helped me immensely to sort out my migraine headaches and led me to other self-help books written by Wayne Dyer (1940-2015), Robert Schuller (1926-2015) and Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993). All these books helped me enormously to assist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (1931-2015) write Wings of Fire in 1999. To be a good writer, you ought to be a good reader first. 

Then I read Alchemist of Paulo Coelho (b. 1947) in 2001 followed by all his books as and when they arrived. In 2004, I got The Glass Palace of Amitav Ghosh (b. 1956) and later read his other books – Sea of Poppies and The Hungry Tide. Three books of V.S. Naipaul (1932-2018) on India – An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilization, and India: A Million Mutinies Now gave me perspectives of being an Indian. My thinking is deeply influenced by Carl Jung (1875-1961). His idea of Unconscious, Shadow, and Archetypes is very real and I could feel it inside me. His Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I must have read four times and every time, I gained fresh insights. I feel everyone must read How We Live and How We Die, two books of Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) to appreciate the gift of life and the inevitability of death. 

My world view is broadly formed by Alvin Toffler (1928-2016) and Thomas Friedman (b. 1953). I have all their books, namely Future Shock; The Third Wave; Powershift; and Revolutionary Wealth of Toffler; and The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization; Longitudes and Attitudes; The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century; Hot, Flat and Crowded; That Used to be Us and Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations of Friedman. Amongst current authors, I admire Yuval Noah Harari (b. 1976) and his brilliantly written three books Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 lessons for 21st Century. Thanks to a wonderful biography of Steve Jobs (1955-2011) written by Walter Isaacson (b. 1952), Jobs is my ideal of a creative engineer. When I use Apple products – my iPhone, my MacBook, and my iPad – I can feel the genius of Steve Jobs in them. 

I am rereading these days, the books of M. Scott Peck (1936-2005) – The Road Less Travelled, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil and Further Along the Road Less Travelled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth. He skilfully established the concepts of discipline and spiritual development and the forces of evil and grace in a scientific way. I am deeply intrigued by the idea of a Personal God, presented in timeless scriptures of knowledge like the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramcharitmanas and the tradition of Bhakti Saints, epitomised by Sant Tukaram (1608-1650). It is very helpful to see real and true guidance, support and solace coming from one’s inner being rather than from any of the external sources. A person devoted to a Personal God is indeed anti-fragile, not prone to errors, and is peaceful within himself, by himself. Such a person is in possession of what this world can neither give, nor take away. Wise people write books to help future generations learn from the earlier experiences of mankind. Evolution is a spiral, not a circle and books make that happen.

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27 Comments

  1. Thank you Prof. Tiwari for sharing your wonderful journey of readings. Two books have inspired me – both of real life experiences. “Wings of Fire”, authored by you and Dr. Kalam, was an incredible story of a person’s dedication and love for his country. “Man’s Search for Meaning”, by Viktor Frankl, was an incredible story illustrating the power of love and belief in God. I will look forward to your continued writings on FB – always full of wisdom, humility and incredible thought! God Bless you Sir.

  2. A thousand miles journey truly begins with one step…
    your exemplary writing of texts that you have published is a clear indication of the passion you have at sharing truths very easy to see but hard to remember and practice, the role you have played in helping each of us to see who we are, while serving with so great a humility in whatever line of duty or office will outlive your life span.
    Comprehension and retention of literary material is a serious problem for those of us who never practiced to, yet you are honest enough to remind us that you at times read a book four times to simply understand what was the author’s message to reader…may we also learn never to shelve a book before we know what specific message it contained.
    Of a truth God Almighty is interested with each one of us making up the human race! everything else is immaterial.
    May we grow to develop such personal relationship with him that when we find reason to pray, we may talk to Him as a Friend!
    Blessings your way

  3. भंवर में डूबती क्लिष्ट मानवीय सोचों को जिस सुगमता से आप अपने लेखन के माध्यम से नई राह दिखाते हैं, वह अत्यंत ही सराहनीय है। एक सुलझे विचारों वाला मस्तिष्क ही जीवन की उलझी गुत्थियों को सुलझाने में सक्षम होता है। अत्यंत ही कल्याणकारी भाव हैं प्रोफेसर तिवारी जी इन लेखों में।
    सादर

  4. Great article Sir, Reading books plays an important role in shaping ones thought. Thanks for sharing the list from your experience…interesting thing about reading books is there is no limit ( age, time, etc. etc.), and given todays digital technology, we can carry multiple books in the same device….its a great privilege to be associated with you and get your insights even as the books are written at your desk.

  5. Agreed! All books serve up a little bit of magic that is needed for life. Reading entertains, educates, informs and transforms lives. I knew it only after reading the manuscript of “Wings of Fire” authored by Dr Kalam and you. Honestly, that’s the first book I read in its entirety. One reason being, I was expected to go through the book to see if there was anything that needed to be edited. Though I knew I stood nowhere to even comment on the thoughts of two great thinkers, I had to go through it as part of my job. Fragility of my brain’s ability to go beyond the manuscript, I realised, but it gave me the skill and desire to read a book with sustained attention and appreciation. The real-life experiences conveyed did impact me more than I could comprehend. In awe, I read it once more and it was better the second time round. “APJ Abdul Kalam: A Life” authored by you after Kalam Sir’s passing away enthralled me with key points of a meaningful relationship, totally unique and different between you and Dr Kalam at various points of times. In fact, Dr Kalam instilled in me the habit of reading and today my association with Dr B Soma Raju, another voracious reader, helps me keep that habit intact. I wish you happy reading and writing, an ideal tribute to writers and readers across the world.

  6. As your student at University of Hyderabad I loved your classes and later your books played important part in my career. Meeting Dr Kalam with you is my most cherished memory. I read your Facebook posts daily and it is like my Continuous Education. Now that I have taken up teaching profession, I can’t emphasise more the importance books play in shaping up a life. “Wings of Fire” is my all time great.

  7. Namaste Sir, Thank you for sharing the library of books that you have imbibed in your life experience.

    From Objectivism to mysticism, your inner library is replete with the spiritual and the material, the ideal and the practical and your experience through worldly travel and association with Kalam Sir and other saintly beings reflects in your words.

    And that is why I feel, sir, these words of yours, which carry the weight of actual experience, have the power to ignite young minds and grant wings to the aspirations of the youth for posterity. One aspect of your words is that they are like roses without thorns and guide and give only a positive light to even young and inexperienced readers. However, this is not the case with all authors. I felt some books poked like thorns. “Veronica decides to Die” and “Atlas Shrugged” did create a mental disturbance in my purist mind. While Ayn Rand made me observe pseudo mind games everywhere, Paulo Coelho made me question the purpose of existence for many months. Only later i understood, that they too had a role in moulding my unformed mind.

    Among the galaxy of great authors you have mentioned, I very much enjoyed your mention of Sant Tukaram. The words “It is very helpful to see real and true guidance, support and solace coming from one’s inner being rather than from any of the external sources.” perfectly fit him.

    Sant Tukaram received great inner support and guidance, so much so that, when he was ostracised by the learned community, he continued his inner quest and advanced to unimaginable zeniths. His words of wisdom continue to guide seekers centuries after he completed his earthly existence.

    “That meaning of the Veda, Only I claim to verily understand and know
    Carrying the burden of the texts on their heads, the others can go
    The experience of sweetness that comes from taste, by seeing one cannot share
    May the porters for their labour of carrying the goods receive their due fare” – Tukaram Gatha 2266

    Reading your article, I also understand the importance of experience that needs to accompany words and hope that my words gather enough life experience. Thank You Sir, Seeking your blessings, Pranam!

  8. Great sir! Books are always been my best friends from childhood till today. Books played vital role in whatever I am today. I can write because I have read lots of books. Totally agree that if you want to be good writer you must have to be good reader first. And know many successful people of this society, I found one common thing in them that they love reading. And good books are part of their life. Reading such a great man like you is also a good luck!!

  9. Dear Sir, Books are fundamental if one wants to grow beyond straightjacket education that can get you employment but ends its purpose there. I have already read “Wings of Fire” when you took our class to meet Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and after meeting him I realized how truly the book portrayed him. My best take of all your books is “A Doctor’s Story of Life & Death.” Your Face Book posts are like a continuing book, keep writing.

  10. I cannot agree any less you, Tiwari saab, as reading good books is like a conversation with the finest minds. The more that you read, the more things you will know.

    Books are a window to another world, books can also be a reflection of the world. In the Day of acquaintances, books are your real companion, they are your one true friend.

    Your beautifully worded piece indeed gives an insight to your mind filled with knowledge which reflects in your character. Thank you for reminding us that – ” A book is a gift , you open again & again”

  11. Sir, thank you for sharing your experiences and giving us this wonderful list of books to read. Its all the more important for people to read these books given the stress of day to day life. I think what it also does is opens up people’s minds to various possibilities. Its very important that the next generation cultivates the habit of reading because it will not only encourage positivity but will also help them in dealing with the ever increasing complexities of life.

  12. You have been an inspiration to many persons who were associated with you. With your books, we surely hope many more who are not directly associated with you, will also gain tremendously by the wise thoughts. Definitely “Open a book, Open a mind” is more so relevant to the younger generation too, as Tech advancements are reducing the direct conversations and In person meetings, thereby spending more time with books, bring in motivation / new thoughts / mind gets calm and you are ready for a new day.

    Thanks for sharing the list of books and please keep adding to your list and writing and it surely will keep enlightening many of us around the world,

  13. According to a Yale study, people who read books live for around two years longer than those who don’t. Reading exercises the mind and as very rightly pointed out by Prof A. Tiwari also gives us the opportunity to learn priceless life values learned by others over decade but only in a short span of time. It is the most powerful tool one will ever come across

  14. In today’s fast paced digital world our mind and thought process gets triggered with technology that we are often surrounded by. However, a mind gets ignited while reading and this is precisely why book reading / listening is still the best way for inculcating the value and importance of creativity. The tougher aspect is the process involved in writing a book and the imagination that dwells into the author to create a narrative that will ensure the reader gets engrossed with the book. I was fortunate enough to witness Prof Arun K Tiwari writing the book “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam: A life” soon after the demise of our former President in 2015. The entire process was an eye opener for me as I began to understand the intricacies involved and the perspective created based on the narration in the book. In fact the theme of the book underwent several iterations in my room which involved intense discussions with the author and it was interesting to note the perspective created with every such discussion. The thought clarity about the way to live life and the purpose for which we as human beings come into this world that emerged to me with this book is invaluable. Although I myself am not a good reader, the blessing that has come to me is to witness this entire process which definitely has opened my mind and gave me the conviction to pursue the path of identifying and more importantly following the true values of life.

  15. A book is like a best friend who will never walk away from you. Books are packed with knowledge, insights into a happy life, life lessons, love, fear, prayer and helpful advice. I grew up reading “Wings of Fire” and carry it with me wherever I go.

  16. I became intersted in books after meeting you, when I joined at Care Foundation. ‘Wings of Fire’ changed my outlook. It is a transformative book. I saw you writing “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam: A Life” and witnessed the hard work that goes in to writing a book. Your decision to interpret Gita and Ramayana for young people was great. There is no other way people like me are going to know what is written there. Stay healthy and keep writing.

  17. What a great selection of books. Books are my constant companion in life as well. There is no better gift than a book. There are so many choices of books available today, but only a few are truly lifechanging. Forgive me, Dr. Tiwari, but I would add a bit of entertainment in your list of these great books. One of the most entertaining, addictive, and exciting books I have ever read is Stieg Larsson’s trilogy about the girl with the dragon tattoo. Thank you for sharing the books that influenced your thinking!

  18. I can directly corelate the amount of knowledge you possess to the number of books you read. Indeed a commendable job to read so many number of books and the grasp is clearly visible when I had interactions with you. Keep motivating sir and it’s always a pleasure to gain important life lessons from you.

  19. Great journey sir. I tell people to develop a hobby of reading books unrelated to their professions. Although I personally couldn’t develop that habit, always giving excuses to myself – but reading your blog is re-inspiring me to cultivate that habit. Thank you sir, you are an inspiration. God bless you and your family.

  20. It is such an inspiring piece of work by a person whose love for humanity is immensed and unequalled. God bless him always for today and beyond!

  21. It is such a marvel to get the road map to a lustrous treasure at a place.. Such a bliss.. Great thanks to you Sir. For the titles I have read they are a real bliss and I owe that obligation and respect for sharing the other ones..thanks to Bhatnagar Sir too for sending this to me.. True regards..

  22. This truly is inspiring. When you read a good author’s work, you are actually meeting all the Souls, who have deeply influenced the author. Thus, we experience a deep sense of elation, each time we read someone who writes with total conviction and write from experience, and more importantly writes for people and Universal upliftment.

    Bhagwaan Swaminarayan writes in the Vachnamrut, “Revere this book as my form.” Each book is an extension of the author and all the people, who have influenced the author. That’s why it makes such an interesting and inspiring reading going through your blog, as each word is a reflection in a way of all the great Souls, who have touched you, especially APJ Abdul Kalam sir. In fact, such is your oneness with Kalam sir, that reading your works or having an opportunity to talk to you is almost like being in the presence of Kalam sir.

    Tiwari sir, each word of your writings has the fragrance of humility and has the sincerity of effort to Inspire people towards positive growth, not just 9n a worldly plane, but also on a deeper Spiritual level.

    Again and again, I am reminded of your line..”Wise people write books to help future generations learn from the earlier experiences of mankind. Evolution is a spiral, not a circle and books make that happen.”.

    Thank you sir for the Inspiration.

  23. The essence of your fascinating posts is the list of books you have read. Whenever I read your blog or FB posts … some transformation gets ignited.
    No doubt books are true friends and portable knowledge bank, but to develop reading flair among youngsters specially children is a big challenge.

  24. Sir, when we were growing up, reading was enforced upon children. Sometime food would be given after reading for a certain time. The present trend of leaving children’s education to schools and course books is depriving them the basic understanding of life. If one has to grow in life, books are the only medium. I personally like your books interpreting our scriptures. At least few souls will find their way through them in this world flooded with information but not a drop fit for drinking.

  25. Books are real companion. Charles W. Eliot once wrote: “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

    This blog of yours is really fascinating as written by an author of repute and describing about the books by others. You are blessed with a wonderful memory sir. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on diverse issues. Its very good teaching for us.

  26. Books are the best friends and act as a parachute to the brain. The more you read the more the parachute opens and the more you rise with the power of knowledge. It also allows you to comprehend other points of view without an arguement. Your take on books is really amazing and more so because as an author you appreciate so many authors around the world. I always look forward to tout blogs as they bring in a novel perspective on the subject.

  27. Never imagined cranial box can house a Library full of Books! Titles you have mentioned in your blog are incredible. What’s amazing it’s retrieval at your will that too with growing age. This is certainly a Divine blessings to you to share good thoughts with your friends and well wishers. Please carry on disseminating knowledge through books, blogs, conversations and social media. Its a great service to reach the unreached. Fortunate to spend some quality time with you….Wishing all the best to your future PEN Works, I happen to be a Pen Worshipper so looking fwd to read more…..

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