Book Review – The Firm by John Grisham

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“𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦.”

John Grisham

What if the company you worked for was a front for the mafia?

What if your dream organization was shady and incriminated you after certain years working there?

That is exactly what this amazing book is all about!

One of the most intriguing stories ever written by the brilliant writer Grisham!

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A Harvard Law Graduate with a poor background, looking for climbing the ladder of the corporate world is recruited by THE FIRM. A house, a BMW, over 70K+ salary a year (in the 90s) and so many perks that it was baffling and too good to be true.

Soon, the story follows the protagonist and his family getting stuck between the safety of their lives and the constant pressure from the FBI to stand as a witness. The Firm is shady and a front for the Italian Mafia. The Firm has everything, every ounce of information about you to incriminate you in case of contingency.

What do you do when your life is thrown apart, just like that?

You will experience the journey from the protagonist’s eyes. The surge of emotions, the high stakes, and a life and death situation. You can actually feel it as you continue reading this masterpiece of a book.

The plot keeps you on the edge of your seat as it keeps getting better with each chapter. Every time a new twist, a new turn to keep you wanting for more and more. The ending is bitter-sweet and very realistic compared to what is expected by the readers.

Read this thriller novel for an exciting adventure in the world of Law Firms through the life of a man who has everything one could ask for in this world and yet nothing at the same time!

10/10 will recommend this book!

Note : If you want to reach out to the author of this post, click here.

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Roomies by Christina Lauren

Summary :

Note : If you read about my last post on The Joshua Bell Experiment, you’ll find the theme to be very similar or almost the same.

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Roomies by Christina Lauren introduces us to Holland, a young woman living in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City and working with her Uncle Robert (who is her uncle by marriage to her Uncle Jeff) at a Broadway theatre where he’s the musical director for the hottest show in town. Holland has had a thing for this subway busker for close to 6 months now. Not only is he hot and Irish, but also a great musician. 

Over the last 6 months, she’s memorised his schedule and his movements and she tries to justify it by telling her uncles and he bestfriend (Lulu) that it’s all about his music. They are finally formally introduced when he saves her from an attack on the subway, but disappears when she files an official report.

She laters learns more about him and his problems and tries to help him out by introducing him to her Uncle Robert. However, she must do something practically illegal and reckless in order to help them out. 

Read the book to find out how it unfolds, because I don’t want to give out any more spoilers.

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My Thoughts :

So after a couple of months of reading some serious books and work journals, I felt the need to mix it up and do some light/happy reading and what’s better than a nice romance novel eh?

To me, most of these are fairy tales with their co-incidental love and happy endings. It may or may not be real (depending on whether you’re a believer or sceptic) but they certainly make you feel good. I think I have figured out what makes a romance novel work. 

It’s the way the characters fall in love. How they come close. How they connect. How they have their own inside jokes and little couple things. I think it is the process of love and how well it is portrayed that really makes the readers swoon. If you ask me, any story that makes the readers root for it’s protagonists is a story worth reading.

If so, this books ticks all boxes, because it does make you swoon.

It has 2 adorable central leads (which you probably will get slightly envious of), a dreamy supporting cast of a bestfriend and the most loving uncles; all stitched into reality with a scenic New York City, the broadway and some interesting drama. The book scratches the surface of the reality of immigration and illegal immigrants just enough to make it believable but not too technical. 

What is also unique is that this is not one but a writing duo, Christina Lauren. Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings are long-time writing partners and best friends according to their bio on christinalaurenbooks.com. I simply love that idea!

Writing a book with your bestfriend. It is something intangible that you’ll share for life, along with bouncing ideas off each other and having the best of both worlds. 

Is this book a must read? Probably not (especially if Romance isn’t your genre).

But is it a good and fun read and nicely written? For sure!!

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Life’s Amazing Secrets by Gaur Gopal Das

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Summary

While navigating their way through Mumbai’s horrendous traffic, Gaur Gopal Das and his wealthy young friend Harry get talking, delving into concepts ranging from the human condition to finding one’s purpose in life and the key to lasting happiness.

Whether you are looking at strengthening your relationships, discovering your true potential, understanding how to do well at work or even how you can give back to the world, Gaur Gopal Das takes us on an unforgettable journey with his precious insights on these areas of life.

Dasji is one of the most popular and sought-after monks and life coaches in the world, having shared his wisdom with millions. His debut book, Life’s Amazing Secrets, distills his experiences and lessons about life into a light-hearted, thought-provoking book that will help you align yourself with the life you want to live.

Review

One of the first things I have concluded since reading this book is that Gaur Gopal Das is a very learned man with decades of wisdom, to be able to share his knowledge in such an easy and relatable way. It is quite clear that he chooses his words wisely and is not impatient or judgemental. In some ways, he seems like a therapist or a very wise confidant every person needs, except he is a life coach who has chosen the monk way of living.

It begins with Gaur Gopal Das having a conversation with his troubled friend and explaining to him further how every life is like a car that needs to be balanced on four wheels. These 4 wheels are as follows:

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  • Wheel 1 : Personal Life
  • Wheel 2 : Relationships
  • Wheel 3 : Work Life
  • Wheel 4 : Social Contributions

He then goes on to explain each of these wheels with very simple and extremely relatable examples. GGD seems like nothing but a very simple close friend who’s mastered the art of living life happily. He imparts knowledge and messages through the simplest of experiences in life and at no point do you feel the messages get preachy or unrealistic.

Quite honestly, a lot of what is being said is something you’ve heard at some point in your life but just not put together so sophisticatedly and in this context. Every chapter starts with a beautiful quote by legendary people and ends with a summary of the chapter.

The book imparts knowledge through a network of tiny stories or experiences and connects them through a simple central story, which is nothing more than an earnest conversation between two people. It is like a movie which has many tiny independent subplots which are slowly stitched together into the main plot.

It is so simple in the way it conveys it’s message and yet so refreshing. It is neither a heavy read, nor a lengthy one. It’ll take 5-6 hours to finish this book and yet, come out of it fresh and enlightened. 

A part of me simply wants to summarise this book, like how we make notes, so that it’s easier for people to read. But apart from copyright infringement and it being ethically wrong, I think I would never be able to capture it’s essence and just make it as significant (not really) as some educatory notes. I’d definitely recommend this book to every person I know!

Some quotes that resonated with me :

“When we treat inanimate objects, like buckets or our possessions, with disrespect or insensitivity, we will end up treating people the same. At one point in my life, I seemed to be losing a lot of my friends and I heard this advice from one of my guides. Insensitivity becomes part of our general attitude, and our instinct does not discriminate between things and people.”

“‘Watch your thoughts, they turn into words. Watch your words, they turn into actions. Watch your actions, they turn into habits. Watch your habits, they turn into character. Watch your character, it turns into your destiny.’ It all begins with a thought.”

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Book Review : Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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This book had been on my shelf of unread books since over a year now. I’d bought it over amazon when it was available at a throwaway price of simply 89 rupees (approx $1.125). Although I did not know what the book was about when I ordered it, I knew there was a critically acclaimed and widely successful movie based on it, which basically told me that it couldn’t be a bad one. After reading it, here’s what I thought : 

The title of this book has a deeper meaning to it than just 3 words that have now become synonymous when tied with each other, mainly due to the success of this book. It is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia).

These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.

The book starts off with the beginning of a midlife crisis for the author, crying in her bathroom and praying to God, something she’s never done before. Although she’d never prayed before, she found a great sense of calm and relief through it and that’s how her search for happiness through devotion and spirituality begun.

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The author had almost everything any middle aged person could aspire for – Money, career, friends, etc. However, a terrible divorce and a breakup later, with no clue of what to do ahead, she decided to take a year off and spend it across 3 countries over a period of 4 months each.

It is important here to note that Elizabeth Gilbert had been a successful author before this bestseller and had some money saved up and took an advance on a promise to write another book about her experiences. (On a personal note, as important as it is to take time off to discover yourself; taking a year off and living in 3 countries needs a lot of financial planning, especially if you have someone dependent on you. Debt can never be a solution in these cases and it is important to have a concrete plan!)

Moving on, the book is equally divided into 36 chapters each, for all the 3 countries she visits. The writing is nice and at times appears so dreamy, that you’ll find yourself falling in love with the country and the idea of it. Although, while it appears dreamy, this is also one of the most candid books I’ve ever read.

The author does not shy away from talking about her weak moments, her troubles and challenges, her hardships and about everything else which is very real that not many people talk or like to share about. The candidness along with the author’s humour make it a fun read almost through the whole book.

There were a few parts in the middle that seemed dull or filled with too much ‘philosophy/spirituality’, which I personally couldn’t relate to. But that’s truly subjective and one who’s ever been through heartbreak or wanted to take a sabbatical should be able to relate to this book quite well.

In conclusion, I’d not say it’s a ‘must-read’ because it’s not for everyone, however it is definitely a good book and a good read!

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The Forty Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak

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As a historical fiction zealot, I simply loved this book and it is said to have been Elif’s most read book, so to speak.

On one hand, this book sheds light upon the life of a 40-ish American woman stuck with her bigamous and treacherous husband, and on the other hand, it elucidates the miraculous life lived by one of the greatest mystics and dervishes to ever walk upon earth – Shah Shams Tabriz. 

Sham of Tabriz was born an unusual person; he always did something or the other that depicted his presence on earth a colossally complex mystery. He left his home and became a wanderer exploring fors and againsts of this largely polarized world. There is a wide array of characters in this novel whose life changed 360 degree after they met Shams.

This book also lifts the curtain on how Rumi, one of the greatest poets in the history of humankind, began his voyage towards Sufism. Rumi wasn’t the Rumi we know in this day and age; he once had a mania for mainstream Islam which isn’t even in close proximity with sufi Islam. He was one of those many clerics who didn’t know a thing about connection with God and yet gave lengthsome sermons after cramming thick religious books. When Rumi came across Shams, that was his moment in the sun and that’s exactly when he ran into his actual self and ascended the pinnacle of his journey towards the divine. 

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She knew that her husband of 20 years had slept with several women without making it look like one heck of a deal, and that she’d been pretending to be perfectly naive of his extramarital affairs all these years. The Jewish-American woman despite everything tried her best to make this nauseating relationship linger until she bumped into ‘sweet blasphemy’ – a book based on sagas of Shams Of Tabriz which ultimately took her to where she was destined to be. She broke her toxic marriage and went ahead to be with her newly found love; and that’s the serene climax of this novel.

This book is sure to give you goosebumps plenty of times, devour it if you haven’t devoured it until now.

This review was written by our guest author Annie Zehra. She’s an educator, writer and an avid reader of historical fiction and fantasy fiction. Connect with her via @annieewrites.

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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

The story revolves around a guy (our lead) who goes by a few names ranging from Lindsay/Lin who later gets his Indian name ‘Shantaram’ while on one of his adventures in a village in India.

Shantaram is about a man who in one life was a robber/thief and who escapes a maximum security prison in Australia, somehow finds his way to New Zealand, forges his passport and flies to Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Leaving his past life behind, he starts afresh and somehow immediately falls in love with everything the city and its people have to offer.

As a man who is keen to start a new life and thanks to his unique sense of belongingness in the city and due to his limitations on travelling further, he starts living in the city more like a local than a foreigner. He finds a bestfriend/little brother in Prabakar who shows him the way through the city.

From entering the city as a fugitive to spending months in a village with Prabakar, moving from a cheap hotel to the slums due to financial constraints, falling in love with a woman who’s conflicted about it within herself, getting beaten to near death in jail to finding his way into the mafia, learning about their trades, making paternal and brotherly ties with people and finding himself in Afghanistan to keep his word, this man will do everything you ask him to.

One of the things that makes this book very different for me from others, is the number of characters it has and their presence. Normally, a book may have 2-3 lead characters and the rest supporting characters that occupy not more than a chapter at max barring a few. Shantaram differentiates itself from the rest in this aspect, thanks to the occurrence and reoccurrence of a varied number of characters with a strong presence and with their own stories.

Gregory David Roberts does an excellent job of pacing this book all through its 1000 pages. The book becomes extremely interesting and fast in a few chapters, whereas takes a turn when the characters talk about life and philosophy which makes a reader think and ponder about their own life and living. But this isn’t even what makes the book so interesting.

It isn’t about the journey of Lin’s life, neither about the philosophy that it discusses nor about love or family or any one particular aspect. The entire writing in itself is so simple and yet so extraordinary that it just manages to catch you. There is just something so special about the author using simple words to touch your heart. The way the book manages to take you on its journey and create a word picture is extraordinary.

Shantaram is for everyone. Whether you like fiction or non-fiction, whether you prefer a thriller or a mystery, whether you like self-learning books or whether you like books that make you think; Shantaram has it all. Amongst the 100 books I’ve read, I haven’t come across something like this and I am here to tell you, this is the best book I’ve read in 23 years of my existence, and a book I cannot recommend enough.

-The Travellothoner

Still Me By Jojo Moyes

The third Lou Clark novel by Jojo Moyes, following the number one international bestsellers Me Before You and After You. You can read their review here:

Me Before You : Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

After You : After You By Jojo Moyes

About the Book:

Lou Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is hurled into the world of the super-rich Gopniks: Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past.

In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets – not all her own – that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

My Thoughts:

I wonder, when Jojo Moyes first created Louisa Clark in Me Before You, if she had any idea just how larger than life this character would become. Even after three books, I still feel as though Louisa has plenty to offer and at this point I’d happily pick up a fourth book about her (you know that wouldn’t have been the case earlier if you’ve read my previous reviews). I enjoyed Still Me slightly more than After You. In After You, Louisa was very much still finding her feet after the loss of Will and now, since reading Still Me, I feel as though After You was a bit of a bridge connecting the Lou from Me Before You with the Lou in Still Me. They really are a lovely set of books, so heartfelt and entertaining.

Starting exactly where the previous book left off, this is a nice and simple read. It highlights the perils and excitement of living in NYC, the hardships and opportunities. This was a wonderful story, filled with all of the things we love about Lou, combined with a New York atmosphere that was so richly detailed, I could envisage it perfectly.

Going from a stable job to being unemployed, to finding a niche for herself to finding her way through the journey, while making relationships and warming people up to her with her kindness, this book just shows how things pan out for happy-go-lucky people.In the end, it has a nice ending, a typical one, one might say. But it is a love story after all. Some lines that had an impression on me personally:

“There are so many versions of ourselves we can choose to be. Once, my life was destined to be measured out in the most ordinary of steps. I learnt differently from a man who refused to accept the version of himself he’d been left with, and an old lady who saw, conversely, that she could transform herself, right up to a point when many people would have said there was nothing left to be done.

I had a choice. I was Louisa Clark from New York or Louisa Clark from Stortfold. Or there might be a whole other Louisa I hadn’t yet met. The key was making sure that anyone you allowed to walk beside you didn’t get to decide which you you were, and pin you down like a butterfly in a case. The key was to know that you could always somehow find a way to reinvent yourself again.”

-The Travellothoner

After You By Jojo Moyes

Review for The prequel, Me Before You : Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

The Sequel – Still Me : Still Me By Jojo Moyes

Disclaimer : Avoid reading the Italics, it may contain some spoilers. 

“After You opens with the protagonist, Louisa Clark, working in an airport in London. In the time since Will Traynor’s suicide, she has bought a flat with her inheritance money from Will but has been stuck in an unfulfilling job at an Irish-themed bar. 

One night after work, Louisa climbs up onto her apartment building’s roof, while thinking about her grief over Will’s death. She is startled by a girl’s voice causing her to stumble and fall two stories down her building. Paramedics take Louisa to the hospital. Louisa returns to her hometown of Stortfold to live with her family. Once she is feeling better she decides to move back to London and her family agrees on the condition that she attends grief counselling sessions.

After a counselling session at the Moving On Circle, Louisa bumps into Sam, one of the paramedics who saved her life after she fell from the roof, and they start dating. Due to some unfortunate misunderstanding, Louisa mistakenly thinks of Sam as a womanizer.

One night at her flat, Louisa is visited by a teenage girl named Lily Houghton-Miller who claims to be Will Traynor’s daughter. Louisa makes attempts to introduce Lily to Will’s family while Lily’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Lily arrives drunk in the middle of the night, borrows items of clothing with sentimental value from Louisa without asking, and invites strangers back to the flat for a party without Louisa’s permission. When Louisa discovers that her grandmother’s jewellery has been stolen, she kicks Lily out of the flat.

Meanwhile, Louisa confronts Sam about his womanizing behaviour and discovers the misunderstanding. After this misunderstanding is cleared up, their relationship becomes more serious and Louisa worries that she is betraying Will. Louisa discovers that Lily has planted a garden for her on the roof of the building. Feeling guilty about their argument, Louisa visits Lily’s family home in order to apologize, only to discover that Lily has gone missing.

In a chapter told from Lily’s perspective, the reader discovers the explanation for Lily’s erratic behavior. Louisa is offered a job in New York but she turns it down in order to take care of Lily. Shortly afterwards, Will’s mother, Mrs. Traynor, enrols Lily in a new boarding school and Lily moves out of Louisa’s flat.

Sam is shot in a gang-related incident in London and the prospect of his death makes Louisa realize how much she loves him. She is offered another job in New York. If she takes it up or not, you’ll have to read the book to find out.”

To begin with, I am quite pleasantly surprised at how this book turned out to be. I personally always love it when movies/books continue where the prequel left off, and not take a different tangent.

If you’ve read my review of the prequel, you’ll know I started dreading it towards the end and had to force myself to finish it. And it was not a fine moment to realise it was actually a trilogy, because I knew I would have to finish it (thanks to my ocd).

But this book, although starting off slowly and sulkily, picks up into a nice story. I already feel far too familiar to Louisa and always imagine Emilia Clarke smiling or frowning or doing her bit. In my head, I have associated Sam (a nice character added in this book) to be someone like a Josh Duhamel.

In my opinion, any person who’s grieving or has grieved in the past, be it at a permanent loss of a partner, a breakup, or just a broken relationship can feel the pain and emotions of the story. It isn’t extraordinary, it isn’t magnificent, but it is simple, sweet and relatable. I found myself vouching for characters and hoping that the story goes a certain way. Also being the sucker that I am for happy endings, I wasn’t disappointed.

I personally haven’t been in the best of spirits lately, and that is why I picked up “Me Before You” in the first place. Because in the end, love stories give you a sense of joy and hope, which the first book didn’t do, and I suppose that was added to my overall disappointment for that book. But this book did just that.

Unlike the previous one, I am looking forward to reading the final book, and I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

-The Travellothoner

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Note : You can find a review of the second book of this series here – After You By Jojo Moyes

Still Me : Still Me By Jojo Moyes

I recently read this trilogy and I’ll be attaching links to the subsequent books soon. I’ve written a small summary after which I have directly jumped to the review:

“Me Before You begins with its protagonist, Louisa Clark, losing her steady job at a cafe. Since her family’s financial situation is increasingly worrisome, she takes the best available job in her small town: care worker for a quadriplegic man. The man is Will Traynor, a former London businessman who has been seriously injured in an accident. Will is bitter when Lou first meets him, and subjects her to cruelty and ironic asides. However, the two eventually begin to connect, sharing jokes and treating one another with straightforward honesty. Will encourages Lou to explore interests outside of her comfort zone, while Lou gives Will practical assistance and helps him to feel less depressed.

After several weeks on the job, Lou overhears a conversation between Will’s mother and sister. She learns that Will has attempted suicide once and is still determined to commit physician-assisted suicide. He has agreed with his mother that he will wait six months before going to Switzerland to take his own life. Lou, who has grown fond of Will, is so upset that she nearly quits her job. She returns on the condition that she be allowed to take Will on a series of “adventures” in the hopes of brightening his outlook and convincing him to stay alive.”

Disclaimer : It is a good book worth a read if you aren’t aware of the plot in entirety. I have reservations mainly because I was very aware of the plot.

I did not particularly enjoy this book for multiple reasons. Not that it’s bad in any way, but this is the exact same plot as in the movie “Guzaarish” starring some prominent actors like Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai and Aditya Roy Kapur released in 2010 in Bollywood, The Hindi Movie Industry.

So there wasn’t anything in the book that surprised me. At some point, I was reading the book simply to finish it, and mind you, that took quite a while. I have grown used to reading Nicholas Sparks or John Green, where the books are shorter and are a 2-3 day relaxing read at max.

This book is significantly longer. And I really dreaded it when I found out it was a trilogy. I knew I’d end up reading it (OCD) but I’d do it forcefully. And I really have no intentions of finishing them soon, cause the first book took a lot of determination to finish.

Having said that, it’s not a bad book at all. I like how everything is explained in detail including emotions, which can be a very difficult, capable of getting a “hit or miss” kind of reaction. I did have a lump in my throat towards the end of it, and I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been aware of the plot beforehand. But that’s the thing in this case, this plot is known to way too many people to be able to enjoy it.

-The Travellothoner

Zero To One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Note: This is my first time doing a book review. I have started doing book reviews in an attempt to practice and continue writing more and more. It also gives me an added motivation to continue reading.Which is why I am adding a book review category on my blog. I hope you like it and I’d love to know what you think about it.

I wrote a review for this book a little differently than how I have been writing others. I normally read an entire book and write a review. However for this one, I’d read a few chapters, write a gist and then read another and write more. Then finally I compiled it all to write this. This book is incredible in terms of the knowledge it imparts. I have learnt/been forced to think more in the first chapter itself than in the last few weeks combined.

However I personally feel that the book has let me down slightly in terms of the high standard it sets in the first chapter. There are some concepts/lessons in the chapter that a common man (including me; a finance student) couldn’t understand. It probably needs a level of exposure to economics that I and probably neither do a lot of my peers have.

However, it is a must read for every person out there, irrespective of them being an employee or an entrepreneur. The author talks about skills and ideas that can add value to our professional lives on a day to day basis. It has some basic concepts that one needs to be reminded of and some other concepts that are really helpful and thought provoking.

The author has also incorporated a ton of examples and facts that make the book all the more engaging and entertaining. I asked my father who has been an entrepreneur and a Chartered Accountant since 30 years to read it, which tells you how much I recommend this book. It’s concise, well written and I loved reading it.

-The Travellothoner