Book Review : When I Was 25 : The Leaders Look Back by Shaili Chopra, a Big disappointment.
Shaili Chopra’s latest offering, “When I Was 25: The Leaders Look Back” is a book you are instantly drawn towards. The moment you read the title, you are hooked; but don’t get roped in just yet.
The concept is fascinating – leaders of the world talk about how it was to be young and stupid. The author seems legit – a popular personality of the journalism world. So far the book appears promising. Even though you’re a little disappointed when you take a look at the names of the ‘leaders’, you decide to give it a go and it’s all downhill from there.
The book consists of thirteen chapters which briefly describe the life-stories of thirteen successful Indians, namely Uday Shankar, Adi Godrej, Dimple Kapadia, Shashi Tharoor, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sadhguru, Zia Mody, P.Chidambaram, K.P.Singh, Jay Panda, Kalpana Morparia, Vikram Talwar and Sandeep Khosla, most of these politicians and business tycoons. This is preceded by a short introduction by the author.
To say that the author isn’t a good story-teller would be a polite understatement. She fails to move fluidly from one event to the other leaving the reader disoriented time and again. Moreover, the book has many silly grammatical and spelling errors which clearly suggest a lack of thorough proof-reading. Considering this is a published book by a supposedly celebrated author, a sloppy attitude in this regard is unwarranted and simply irksome. What makes matters worse is that even when the text is grammatically correct, it is often needlessly complicated. For instance, “Sandeep Khosla had nothing to lose and that brought him self-belief, his designs confidence, and a market in Mumbai.” from page 191, is quite a twisted sentence that the book could have done without. Another situation of recklessness presents itself on page 185 where I stumbled across the phrase “sectors like xxxx”, assuming the author used it as a substitute for “Foreign Exchange”, it’s not an acceptable abbreviation. I may seem a bit harsh here but as a writer I find it very bothersome that a book is published without respecting the basic rules of the language.
The thing that bothers me the most however, is that the beginning of the Vikram Talwar chapter, page 177, “Some people know….something that works” reads awfully similar to the beginning of this article on businessinsider.com from March 2013 (Here) which is the first Google result for “When I Was 25”.
Despite the rigid and repetitive vocabulary, I did find a few instances to be inspiring. However, I certainly would have enjoyed it better had she chosen a less controversial group of leaders to write about and had the writing not been so frayed at the edges.
Ms. Shaili Chopra comes across as a perfunctory author at best. I hope she is more assiduous in the future and wish her luck. As far as “When I Was 25” is considered, I’d say it’s definitely a no go.