Reading Challenge 2019 – My List and Short Reviews

Somewhere mid 2019 I realised the need to kick my bu** on my reading habits. Too much time spent on browsing Netflix and amazon without much meaning. So took upon a challenge to complete 25 books before year end and I’m signing off with 28. I’m sharing short reviews here.

This is not in any specific order. And also I chose to read the list of books after some basic review and hence none of them will be like a yuck! so, don’t expect a dramatically negative view. I’ll try to give a broad view of my takeaways!

A BIG thanks to all who read this post and please do share your comments and more importantly your favourite book. Feel free to add your views about any of the above books in the comments section. Do connect with me on Goodreads @ goodreads.com/tosanks

For those of you who want to quickly jump and check the fiction list, you can identify by dark background and white text of the title.

1. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Goodreads Average – 4.09
My Rating – 4

This is one of the classic management books that most of us would have come across at some point in time. While I had read this during my B-school days, more out of compulsion, I recently came across this and wanted to give it another try. The years of experience post college helped me to connect with the cases covered in the book. I like the fundamental criteria of sustainable/sustained growth of companies that the author researches. The common threads and traits identified in such companies through out the book are amazing. More importantly the concepts covered are quite simple without any heavy faux-intellectual jargons and technical terms to overwhelm the reader. I personally connected with the traits of humble leaders and grounded and really liked that this is one of the key factors for sustainable growth. In the present day of celeb CEOs who like to become the face of everything, reading about the reiteration of humbleness was good.

It is a fairly easy read and given the fame of the book you can google the basic concepts and takeaways. However, reading it feels like a journey and will help in internalising the same. My takeaways are the Leadership traits, The hedgehog concept and The Stockdale Paradox. So, go ahead, pick this up and you’ll not regret!

2. An Era of Darkness by Shashi Tharoor

Goodreads Average – 4.16
My Rating – 4

I know what you are thinking, seeing the book and the name of the author. I also had the same inhibitions while I came across this book. Basically the author’s current political affiliation and the toughness of language that he is famous for, played in the mind before picking this up. But no regrets at all. This book doesn’t have any of his current political dispositions and is a good collection of research and analysis about the colonial era. These works have been his claim to fame and the book shows how good he is at this. But yes, be ready for some tough words and sentences in your way. With the larger picture in mind, the slightly tough language is quite endurable. In fact, with a little bit of diligent effort, you can pick up better and expressive vocabulary as an added advantage. When it comes to the content of the book, it is really good. We have grown up with basic historical events as taught in school curriculum, which we learnt by rote and regurgitate for exams and this book gives beautiful interpretations. He intersperses research and his opinions and the output content is quite convincing. For example, his take on how the British era methodically killed industries, education, innovation, etc are nicely elucidated. So if you want to go beyond Whatsapp forwards and nationalistic tweets for a history lesson, give this one a read. If you’ve noticed some heavy words in this short review, you can blame him for my indulgence in a soupçon of schadenfreude. Net net, tough one, but good one!

3. The Greatest Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

Goodreads Average – 4.24
My Rating – 4

After a book on Indian History I was in the same flow to read some vintage stuff and started reading a few. One was heavy and the other was very stupid, so stopped midway. That’s when I stumbled upon this book. I reckon, this would be a mandatory reading at senior school level and I had a tinge of reservation while I started, but ended up binge reading. The writing style is quite simple however the contents are deep. Some of the contents are quite difficult to appreciate while in school as a mandatory reading or perhaps it gets better with reader’s age! Either way, I found the stories quite profound now. The stories do not have any major twist or action but more pragmatic and slice of life scenes. The core concept of each of the story is quite strong, it throws some light on contemporary social trifles, political tyranny and abject poverty of those times. Some of the elements are quite relevant even during our modern times. He is considered a great writer for a reason and this book provides a simple view of a great mind like his. It may not be an exciting read in a flight, but if you are on a beach and want to have some “me time” this book would really help you to have one! Few of his stories have religious references and if you are a non-believer it may not strike a chord; but I felt the core philosophy is strong even if you were to assume the God as one of the fictional characters!

4. Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Goodreads Average – 3.84
My Rating – 4

For those who are interested in behavioural theories and its impact on various situations in our general day to day life and work situations, this book provides good insights. This de-constructs some of the strategies that large corporates adopt to subtly play with the consumers’ behaviours and choices. For example, the way healthy food, if placed at eye level vs chocolates and cookies placed in a difficult to reach place can encourage shift in eating habits or the way product variants are launched with features that make consumers believe are critical and important are good to know. This also helps to formulate some of the strategies in conflict resolution, negotiation and general coaching and leadership and interpersonal technics in our work place. The learnings from this book can be applied to situations with your children too. One of the things I felt try worthy is to place a lot of books around the house which makes it easy to access instead of one tall book shelf. A friend of mine tried this and her child has shown measurable reduction in screen time and increase in reading. While the concepts mentioned here may sound like a dry and dreary subject, the author has handled it well. The Author Richard Thaler is a Nobel winning Economist and his contributions to human centered economic theories changed the way some of the traditional economics’ thought processes. This book doesn’t have any of the typical Nobel winning complex theories and in fact the author(s) have narrated and brought out the concepts in a simple way. This book is a definite read if you are interested in becoming a smart buyer and an effective people’s person at workplace.

5. The 21 Day Miracle by Ed Rush

Goodreads Average – 3.9
My Rating – 2

While I was reading some heavy stuff, this book kept popping up on my Kindle recommendations and the same time I had been wanting to read some book on habit change. While I have heard good views about the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and is in my ‘to read’ list, I thought this book will be similar and started reading. This book turned out to be the worst among the lot during the year’s reading challenge. Constantly through the book, the author talks down upon the readers and I would have preferred a humbler approach and tone. While reading, you can actually feel a typical Hollywood action movie scene where a megalomaniac general is shouting instructions at his soldiers. The author also defies all rules of argumentation and keeps repeating what he thinks, again and again in circles without a shred of a research or scientific evidence. You may be wondering why I’ve given 2 stars and not 1; I feel the concept and the tools, despite the short comings of the tone, are ok to try out in personal and professional life. While lot of us want to change habits, this book provides some tool guide to the process. This can be a quick read while travelling, but don’t have high expectations though!

6. The Brain : The Story of You by David Eagleman

Goodreads Average – 4.25
My Rating – 5

If you are interested in pop- science books and more specifically if you have been inquisitive about the power of brain, this is a good book to read. There are few TV shows around the same concepts and many youtube videos. If you ardently follow those, then the book may seem a bit of a repetition, if not, it is sure to make you sit up and concentrate. Despite the author’s neuroscience background the book flows in a very general manner to be able to make the non technical reader grasp well. It starts with the basics of the brain, it’s functions, how memory works and also touches upon some human-tech solutions. It is useful understand to some of the ways to influence behaviours after knowing how they work. Another point of intrigue is on a perspective that the senses that we experience are what the brain tells us and in reality they may not be existing, say, a color that human see may not be what a bird sees. Similarly, the author touches upon some unique brain conditions, where senses get interchanged, decision skills being impaired, etc. My personal favourite is the chapter on various technologies under research that aim at augmenting human capabilities. For eg., a wearable device which can send vision signals to the specific portion of the brain and make a visually challenged person see through these pulses. I would definitely recommend this book, being one of my favourites in this years’ list of mine.

7. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Goodreads Average – 4.02
My Rating – 5

This is one of my personal favourites of this years’ reading list. If you are looking for a bit of  philosophy, coming of age, searching for meaning kind of a reading, this one is for sure the one for you. This is actually a short book and is quite an easy language, unlike few other books of the same genre. The author is a Nobel winner and not for a moment tries to intimidate the readers with his literary profundity. And more importantly this is not at all preachy which is a usual pitfall in similar books. This encapsulates the life journey of a young man and the various tribulations that he goes through in the process. He also makes mistakes, indulges in worldly pleasures and is in constant search for meaning. The book has exchanges with various different types of characters with differing value systems and how Siddhartha absorbs these in his journey. It is not that he is a messiah and is changing everyone coming his way. While there are few references to god, I think even if you are a non-believer, the book would provide some independent perspectives in your own search! Definitely recommend to pick this one as a part of your reading list.

8. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Goodreads Average – 3.92
My Rating – 4

One of the days we were having some discussion among friends about the advantages and challenges of gut feel based and detailed-analytical decisions. During this discussion someone brought out the reference to this book and I added to my ‘to read’ list. The author is quite famous and has published a ton of books, so I was a little wary initially to avoid another typical book about a fad. The book turned out alright instead. The writing style is quite informal and the content is quite good. He touches various points of quick decisions that happens naturally. He takes examples around how opinions are formed basis appearances, analyses some experiments with speed dating, etc. He also links some of the concepts to marketing and management and it helps to build avoiding stereotypes in certain situations, like in sales you never presume the prospect’s buying decision. The book brings out some areas where daily snap decisions happen as a routine, like a hospital emergency room or a fire rescue unit. There are lots of business and practical scenarios that make some of the otherwise boring psychological concepts interesting to read. If you are a Gladwell fan, you’ll certainly like this, even otherwise this book is certainly recommended.

9. After The Quake by Haruki Murakami

Goodreads Average – 3.78
My Rating – 3

After a bunch of serious stuffs, I wanted to pick up a fiction and picked this up. This is a bunch of short stories by Murakami, set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in Kobe, Japan. This brings out everyday emotions of normal people laced with the tragedy of the earthquake. This is one of the simpler reads of Murakami. A disclaimer here, I’m a fan of Murakami and have liked most of his book. Of course there are some books of his that are a little difficult to read for the uninitiated. I’ve always been intrigued by the author’s writing style and complexity of the stories. This book has six short stories and each has a different flavour and soul to it. If you haven’t tried out Murakami yet, do try this book, you may like it.

10. The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office by Jeffrey Archer

Goodreads Average – 3.90
My Rating – 3

It had been eon since I had read some of the popular fictions and this came up in my kindle recommendations. This is a part of series of short stories (quite a long short story though!) published by Archer in 2018. This story is a light read and if you are one who grew up with these types of fictions you’ll like this. But this is not like one of the best works of the author. You could read this if you follow this author and want to keep yourself updated with his works. And if you are one of those who grew up amidst LOTR, Percy Jackson types, you may not enjoy this. Sorry for being presumptuous here. This is set in contemporary time period and it would be difficult to connect with the plot and the scenes. This is more like ‘on the go’ kinda reading. If you are not a fan of Lord Archer, go ahead, else you may give it a pass!

11. Weaponized Lies by Daniel J. Levitin

Goodreads Average – 3.77
My Rating – 4

I was listening to a podcast in the backdrop of Cambridge Analytica Controversy and about the various trends around fake news, post truth, gas lighting, pseudo-facts, etc and serendipitously came across this book in one of my other readings. This book primarily discusses the importance of critical thinking and how to independently interpret and understand data all around us. The author takes basic statistical, arithmetic and logical principles and shows how some of the major publications, journalists and politicians change the narrative to suit their agenda. The author has shared a lot of practical examples to show different perspectives of an information and to show how the narrative is manipulative. There are a few case studies which consolidates the various points of the author and showcases the fallacies of argumentations. The book also has an appendix with few pages of Bayesian Rules and application which is useful to brush up some high school math knowledge. The author tactfully avoids a political tinge to his arguments and keeps a balance in his story. If you are like me, frustrated with the cacophonous prime time debates, cynical news paper articles and doom saying twitter and facebook feeds, you should definitely pick this book. This really opens up the ability to identify and question patterns in media narratives and form your own opinions. I personally feel, with the proliferation of information, the ability to think independently will differentiate people and this book is a good primer. It is not a drabbing boring math reader, so you’ll like the flow of the book too. One of my favourites this season, Go for it!

12. Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella

Goodreads Average – 3.78
My Rating – 3

It had been some time I had read a corporate/management book and read about this book in some article. I’m quite wary of the typical CEO autobiographies which are peppered with ego centric alpha male achievements and less of meaningful takeaways. This book is unlike the usual CEO memoirs. It is good to know the human side of Satya who comes across as very humble and practical person and the priorities that he explains reflect the same. Now, it is possible that this was a part of some PR stunt where they controlled the narrative but still the writing exudes genuineness. This was published when he was relatively new in his role and brings out some of the mistakes that he had done and situations that he had been at fault and apologised. For example, his take on pay equity and gender neutrality at work place and they way he encouraged enterprising approach to dynamic competition are good takeaways. It’s a good quick read, not much of heavy strategic stuffs.

13. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Goodreads Average – 4.46
My Rating – 5

Rarely, you come across a book that blows your mind away and this book was one such this year! This was recommended by one of my good friends and even offered to lend his e-book. I had just completed the previous book and had been a while I touched pop science. This is a great read and the flow is so beautiful that I binge read it like any other thriller. You get the experience with very little non-fiction and this is certainly one to provide you that. The author is a neuroscientist and a psychologist and is a strong sleep evangelist. This is not one of those habit changing self improvement books, so be ready for some high quality content. He uses his years of research and experimentation to narrate the importance of the most ignored aspect of the body functions – Sleep. I was quite inspired by this book, I ended up digging up further researches on sleep. It is intriguing to see the reduction in quality of sleep across the world and this may end up an epidemic. Yet, there is no major movement to get this corrected. This is one of my favourites this season and I would really recommend each of you read this book. Laced with some additional reading and research, I wrote my own short piece on this, you can find it here. I sincerely urge you to treat sleep with utmost importance and identify sleep problems early on!

14. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Goodreads Average – 4.06
My Rating – 3

I know, I can sense your reaction when you are reading the title and looking at the book image. I was on a pop-science rampage and this popped on my goodreads reco while I was reading the earlier book and was intrigued. I read this book with a curiosity, given that I had not read this author earlier and the reviews online were mixed. But I appreciate the authors’ efforts in researching for this subject. She has specialised in various other pop-science books and while she may not be technically qualified on the subjects, she seemed to have done a deep journalistic research for her books. This book is quite interesting in that aspect. Basically this book touches on various areas of cadaver usage in medical and pharmacological researches across the world. For example, it was interesting to read the way cadavers were used to test automobile safety! There are squirm-worthy moments in the book when details of usage of certain parts are being described. This also covers interesting history of cadavers’ usage for medical science, points in time when it was illegal and how a certain set of practitioners started grave-digging and smuggling cadavers for their research. Some of the facts can make you sound smart in a cocktail party, just make sure you avoid talking about it when people are eating. I liked the chapter where history of transplantation is covered and specific facts about medical trials of head transplantation that went awry. Parts of the book are a bit of a drag, but overall it satiates curiosity. It is not one of my favourites because of the writing style which I felt was too informal and author trying to be too humorous. Otherwise, I liked the subject and the content of the book. If you think you have the stomach for this book, try it out!

15. Irreligion by John Allen Paulos

Goodreads Average – 3.67
My Rating – 3

This is an interesting book on religion and the author who is a mathematician and has published various books on mathematics and using the same in various walks of life. This book is his argumentation against religion and he postulates hypotheses and derives the same through various other readings and facts. The style of argumentation is quite interesting and it will be good to pick up some of the same for your own arguments, not necessarily for the same subject. Now, you may be thinking what a nerd would I be to pick up a mathematician’s book for a pleasure read, at the risk of being judged, I strongly feel this is a good perspective to read. Part of the book will be bouncers, but notwithstanding your position on the subject, this is a decent book to try out.

16. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Goodreads Average – 4.06
My Rating – 3

This year, I was exposed to articles on sustainability, single use plastics, global warming, etc and in that streak, I picked up two books. One of it is this and the other one I’ll cover as part of 2020 list, when I finish it in Jan. This book has been written in German originally and the author is a forester who has written on various ecological subjects. This book is quite an interesting interpretation where the author equates trees in a forest to a community and brings out various social and cultural aspects. The way trees communicate, show affection, protective of their likes, etc are quite interesting to read. This changes the view that we tend to have on trees and forests. This humanises trees to a large extent and the reader is sure to start feeling empathetic after reading this book. The author covers trees that are common in German/European region and probably because it is translated, it is not coming across as a gripping read. Also, these theories are not really scientifically proven and are mere interpretations as observed by the author over his decades of experience in forests. So, this is an interesting perspective and sure to leave a responsible reaction towards environment in the readers. Not for a breezy reading in a flight, would require a bit of an effort though!

17. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Goodreads Average – 4.11
My Rating – 4

This is a bit philosophical and deconstructs the psychological process in any activity that we may take up. This is in line with one of my favourite teachings from The Bhagavad Gita – Focus on the efforts, not to worry about the results. The author builds a model around optimum effectiveness in any effort by comparing the skill/competency and the Challenge. The author argues that an immersive experience in the efforts will result in a great happiness and in turn result in better output. This is also congruent to some of the eastern philosophies and the author, being a psychologist backs it up with his research, experience and theories. I felt happy after reading the book, and would definitely recommend this for your next reading. Given the hyper demanding work environment and increasing stresses, concepts like this are really breath of fresh air. This is apt for a calm read during a vacation and helps to introspect and build a personal game plan!

18. How To Invent Everything by Ryan North

Goodreads Average – 4.16
My Rating – 4

Oh, this is one of the coolest books that I’ve read in recent times. It is a little stout book, so can be a bit intimidating. But I was really impressed with the way the author simplifies (greatlysimplifies) some of the scientific and mathematical theories and adapted it in a very innovative way. The narrative is quite creative, this assumes the reader to be a time traveller who is stuck in pre-historic period and the author builds the chronological story of various inventions from Language to numbers to agriculture to machinery. While it can be a bit nerdy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book. One good aspect is that you can pick up any chapter at random and read about it. It will be a good book for children as well. Things that we take for granted today have been a big deal at some point in time. For example, imagine how difficult it would have been to communicate a million years ago with just grunts and gestures!

19. Friend & Foe by Adam Galinsky, Maurice Shweitzer

Goodreads Average – 3.89
My Rating – 4

The authors are social psychologists and researchers and deconstruct the traditional thought of compete vs cooperation. They bring out various practical studies and examples of various real life work situations. Basically the argument is that humans are not binary in their approach to compete or cooperate and a combinational approach would really bring the best in personal and professional lives. This gives a direction to be balanced in when to compete and when to cooperate and be effective in the long run. The narrative is quite light and interesting to read. This brings out common aspects that all of us are exposed to – comparisons, stereotypes, are we being too competitive, how are relationships built, etc. How to use power and when to cede it for a more cooperative phenomenon is another interesting perspective. Overall it is a good book for increasing our professional and personal effectiveness. Since there are no high brow models in use, it will be good to pick up a random chapter and read at leisure too.

20. Innovators Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen, et al.

Goodreads Average – 3.99
My Rating – 3

When we read about various start ups and innovations around us, I am sure one question comes to our mind, why couldn’t company X do it? Or if I can think of this solution why can’t the service provider think of and solve it? The author precisely gives his take on such dilemmas from the companies’ perspective. Given that ever product line has huge investments into them, companies usually face dilemmas in investing in new disrupting solutions. An early investment may result in failure which will be costlier for a large company and at the same time every company today is gripped with Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). I am certain some of us in our work places come across such dilemmas quite often. The author also provides a simple model to evaluate some of these decision points. The only downside to the book is that the author has focussed mostly on the computer chip industry and few other manufacturing innovations. The content feels quite dated to read in 2019 with innovations hitting the consumers in dozens. Still the broad structure is read-worthy and some of the repetitive examples around Chip industry can be overlooked. If you job entails reengineering, innovation, digital transformation, etc, try this book out.

21. Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Goodreads Average – 4.37
My Rating – 5

The author is a Swedish physician and speaker who has worked in various countries and in various international projects through WHO. It is really amazing the depth to which he and his family has been going to dispel some of the myths that have been floating around the world through media narratives. He provides a beautiful and constructive way of interpreting various socio-economic indicators of the world, contrary to the doomsday cynical image that we come across regularly. There are various creative data representation that the author has propagated and it is refreshing to go through the perspectives that he is bringing about. He starts the book with a questionnaire about some key world statistics and narrates how educated, informed people across countries have misconceptions about them. He has brought out the incorrectness and also clarifies those in a very lucid and enjoyable fashion. For example, he dispels the common classification of countries that first world, third world etc and argues that the countries fall more into a continuum and needn’t necessarily be generalised like how we are taught. He argues against the US vs THEM thought process that is quite common among the learned too. By far one of the best eye opening book that I read this year and it really gave a very fresh perspective. I would seriously say this is a must read for all of us and for those who are interested in further data analysis, he has a not-for profit website which provides a data repository of countries across the world. Do pick this book up for your reading list.

22. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Goodreads Average – 4.15
My Rating – 3

This is the second book that I picked up of the same author after going through some reviews and recommendations. This book traces achievers in various fields and identifies some common factors that make them so. He also critically questions some of the common beliefs for success like the 10,000- hour-practice rule and how more cultural, geographic and other factors do play an important role in an individual’s success. While it is interesting to read through some of the thoughts, overall I feel the book lacks the thoroughness of a detailed research. This is more like his (probably his team) observation of various available information and is putting together a hypothesis. I wouldn’t consider this book a very intelligent writing, but would certainly appeal more to the popular non-fiction genre. Unless you are Gladwell fan, you may give it a pass.

23. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Goodreads Average – 4.10
My Rating – 4

This is part of my non-fiction break and turned out to be a good fiction choice. This book was first published in 1985 and in the recent couple of years this has picked up momentum probably due to the current political scenarios across countries. This is a dystopian fiction set in an imaginary time period where the rulers have a tremendous control over people and more importantly women. They are categorized according to their age and physical condition and are assigned various tasks in the country. The author beautifully draws the journey of the protagonist from free existence to the controlled. While the protagonist is shown as someone who has accepted the situation and abides by the rules, it also contrasts with the behaviour of a friend of her who is a rebel. If you like dystopian stories and narratives about high control political environments, this is definitely a book that you shouldn’t miss. The Author has shown a great temerity in showing the transition from a free society to a religion driven controlled society and the impact on slice of lives. I personally enjoy this genre and loved the book and would certainly recommend. If you are in for more such readings, try out 1984 by George Orwell, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury to name a few.

24. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Goodreads Average – 3.97
My Rating – 2

I saw this book flashed in all book stores and in all airports as best sellers. The title also was quite intriguing and hence I picked this up. But it turned out to be a damp squib. This is supposed to be a self-improvement book which aims at providing practical guide to look at successes and how we can accept situations and work on them. But as you read into the book, the hollowness of the book is quite stark. The author’s personal achievements to hand out such words of wisdom are also unclear. Just to sound uber cool, the author keeps using the F word in almost every page and you can actually feel as though you are watching a third rate Hollywood movie. Clearly this is the worst book that I read this year. This has been selling by millions, so probably I’m missing out something here. You may try it out still, it’s an easy unintelligent read over a flight journey.

25. An Economist Walks Into A Brothel by Allison Schrager

Goodreads Average – 3.60
My Rating – 4

The title of the book is a little quirky but it turned out to be a good book. The author is an economist and in this book she brings out basic concepts of Risk Management through practical examples. The examples are quite unorthodox as mentioned in the title and she pulls off the connection to complex financial theories quite well. If you need to know the science behind financial decisions, this is definitely a book to go for. It will also be useful in your own personal financial decisions after understanding the basic concepts. After reading this book, you’ll be able to look at the decision making process through a good risk-reward evaluation and it will be useful in personal and professional walks of life. But if you are already an expert in risk concepts, then the book may end up being too basic, but the treatment by the author is quite entertaining. This is worth reading and would recommend!

26. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Goodreads Average – 4.45
My Rating – 4

In the current era of big billion start ups, this book throws light on one of the biggest frauds in that space. The author is a journalist and the book is narrated like a story and is quite gripping. The book traces the story of the startup tech company, Theranos, how at a point it time it was considered as a panacea for medical tests and how it turned out to be one of the biggest frauds of all time. While the author has dramatized some elements of the story, the broad crux of the story is quite interesting. It is sure to leave you with a surprise of how so many corporates and large investors could be conned for so long. The irony in the entire story is that the promoter has been in a state of denial about the wrong doings and till the end passionately believed that she had the worlds best solution for medical tests. This is a definite read and would certainly recommend. The author has repeated few of the contents multiple times perhaps to emphasise, but the writing style is a little dragging in parts. But certainly the amount of investigative research that the author has done is praise-worthy. Do pick this up and it gives a ring side view of how some of the billion dollar start ups operate.

27. The Trial by Franz Kafka

Goodreads Average – 3.97
My Rating – 3

I wanted to end the year with a couple of vintage fictions and picked up this. I’d read Metamorphosis by the same author few years ago and the style of the author is quite interesting. This book also lives up to the adjective after his name. The book traces the travails of a banker who gets embroiled in a court case. He gets arrested for a case that he is not aware of his wrong doing and he tries to understand the way to resolve. In the process he receives advice from the weirdest of people who have some linkage to the court proceedings. He also engages with an invalid lawyer who explains that he can only keep postponing the decision of the case, but never come out of it. This set in the early part of the century, still seems to depict the current situation of court cases in India. As all Kafka reads, I feel it is a difficult one to read, though it is a fairly short book. If you are in for some vintage stuff, do try this one out.

28. Another Country by James Baldwin

Goodreads Average – 4.28
My Rating – 4

I wanted to end the year with a fiction and read this book by James Baldwin. I came across this author recently and this is the first book of the author that I read. Apparently the author took almost a decade plus to finish this book. It is a good read, set in the 60-70s US where the racist gaps driven by color was still prevalent. This story has lead characters who are liberal with their sexual and race orientation and it traces the social fabric of the contemporary time when such liberal thoughts were frowned upon. The subliminal entitlement of white youth and the challenges faced by the colored are subtly brought out by the author. I am sure to pick further reading from the author for my upcoming list. I really liked the way the author handles sensitive social aspects and weaving in with the lives of simple people in the narrative. This is definitely a recommended read.

A BIG thanks to all who read this post and please do share your comments and more importantly your favourite book. Feel free to add your views about any of the above books in the comments section. On to the next list shortly!

3 thoughts on “Reading Challenge 2019 – My List and Short Reviews

  1. Love love love the choice of eclectic books! And the cool reviews with them. Keep it coming! There isn’t a year when I don’t complete 20-24 books at a minimum but not one book is common between us in 2019 : )) my fav book this year has been the “book thief” and “the secret letters” . the bookthief – I really missed, like physically missed the characters after I finished reading it. Love love love. Poignant. Clearly goes for the heart. gorgeous writing & take on trying times. The second book is an old book – was a beautiful read and just what I needed at that point in my life – gives u a perspective on simple lessons in life – my fav Offcourse being “the purpose of life is to love. How well you live comes down to how much you love. The heart is wiser than the head. Honor it. Trust it. Follow it.” I don’t know why people who don’t read don’t read – there is a whole world out there of amazing authors and perspectives !!

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  2. Great Going Sankaran. You are truly an inspiration for budding leaders. It’s really a comendable job done by you and an achievement in itself. I wish to inculcate this habit in me. Have already started but some how got deviated in continuing the same for longer span. Let me start it again. Some tips and advise to me are always welcome!

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