2017 Reading List

Below is an ever-expanding list of books I read in 2017, along with a summary/review and a star-rating, with a maximum of 5 stars (*****)

Books of the Year: The ones I’d recommend are:

  1. Science Fiction – The Three-Body Problem Trilogy
  2. Fantasy – Six of Crows Duology, Abhorsen Trilogy
  3. Historical Fiction – Cicero Trilogy, The Nightingale, The Reader, and Code Name Verity
  4. Serious Fiction – The Sell-Out and Never Let You Go
  5. Happy, Warm Fiction – A Man Called Ove, The Five People You Meet In Heaven
  6. Non-Fiction (Biography) – Shoe Dog, When Breath Becomes Air
  7. Non-Fiction – Everybody Loves A Good Drought

Fiction:

  1. Fredrik Backman – A Man Called Ove – ***** – Ove is my favourite character. He’s so memorable. Like Edward from The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I think this is a great “gifting” book. He heals himself, allows others to love him, and learns how to love himself. If you want a book that’ll make your heart swell up, this is it.
  2. Fredrik Backman – Britt-Marie Was Here – ***** – This book is agonizingly warm. There’s something about Backman, and I really want to read all his other work. Britt-Marie is broken, but she moves to a place that is almost as broken as her. They complement each other so well – the character and the setting, and the book is heartwarming, funny, and motivates you a little. To move past your flaws. To work with them to overcome hurdles. And to lose yourself sometimes.
  3. Michael Grant – Front Lines (Front Lines #1) – **** – Female leads seem to be a trend in all these recent books I’ve read. I wonder why. It’s a great re-telling. The conflict is brutal, the character tracing and the friendships are well-forged, and all 3 female leads get equal booktime. I enjoyed this. I think I had exposed myself to a limited amount of Historical Fiction, and the alternative universes that are open to me are things I’m really getting into.
  4. Andy Weir – Artemis – **** – I enjoyed this, actually. Didn’t go into it with any expectations, post The Martian, and came out of it unscathed and happy. A female lead, a setting that isn’t the Earth, the development of a colony on the Moon. And a heist. It’s super fun.
  5. Ruta Sepetys – Salt to the Sea – **** – Four refugees and four drastically different stories. I think if you enjoyed Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, you’re likely to enjoy this book as well. It’s character driven, and a lot of research witha  brilliant plot. Also, shifting points of view.
  6. John Green – Turtles All The Way Down – *** – John Green has been an author who has divided me. I’ve loved reading his books, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to realize he’s very formulaic in his writing. The main character has a flaw which associates some form of social stigma with it, and all his books trace the development of that character to move past the stigma s/he is experiencing to become an “adult” or a “better person” by the end of the book. This is no different, honestly. Too many metaphors for my liking and it’s too philosophical in a lot of places. Teenagers do not talk the way his characters do. Paper Towns is Green’s best work, I feel, and the old Green feels lost.
  7. Ryan Gaudin – Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1) – *** – I thought it was okay, as a book. I mean, the premise was incredible, because I love reading alternative Histories, but, there were elements, like romance, that I couldn’t quite appreciate, because I didn’t understand why they were there. Strong themes of identity and such.
  8. Elizabeth Wein – Black Dove, White Raven – **** – I’m rating this a 3.8, so it’s rounded up to 4. Personally, I don’t believe this matches up to Wein with CNV. But, artistic comparisons to her previous works are not why I’m giving this a 3.8/4. The themes are classic Wein, but not very well fleshed out, and as is the norm with historical fiction these days, the book rushes the ending far too much, especially after working extremely hard to build a backstory that was worth reading, for 4/5 different characters. I think the complexity in the narrative is immense, and it could have been spaced out or constructed slightly better toward the ending. The plot is beautiful, and Wein must be complimented on that. I love brother/sister narratives. This book has cemented that. 
  9. Leigh Bardugo – Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – ***** – I am often confused by duologies because 2 doesn’t seem like a rounded number, in my head. My Goodreads review reads “Stop it, Leigh”, and she did. I really wanted a happy ending, but the book didn’t give me one. If you aren’t into sad endings, don’t read the book. Death sucks.
  10. Leigh Bardugo – Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) – ***** – Fantastic book. It was super fun to read, and super quick, because the story is really, really rich in it’s detailing. The characters are well drawn out, the plot is amazing, and things are built up supremely well. It draws you in so much, you want to become friends with the characters and be in their squad. There are too many anti-heroes, and you can find fault in all of them. It’s an epic. Needs re-reading to fully appreciate I think.
  11. Lloyd Alexander – The Chronicles of Prydain #1-#5 – **** – The first book in the Prydain series wasn’t great, but this was another means of escape from The Three-Body Problem, which had destroyed me for far too long. I went through a slump because I couldn’t pick up new books for a while without processing that series. So I revisited Prydain. It’s probably one of the earliest fantasy books I remember reading, and I quite enjoyed a re-reading as a 19-year-old.
  12. Liu Cixin – Death’s End  (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #3) – ***** –  One day read. Do it. You must. Will you cry? Maybe. Will you be surprised? Yes. No review because I am incapable of articulating how good this book was.
  13. Liu Cixin –  The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #2) – ***** – I can’t think of a book that has squandered more of my goodwill than The Dark Forest in recent memory. I was devastated. It’s a sequel beyond comparison, and it is far, far different from the first book. It’s no “continuation”, it’s a beast of it’s own. Very few characters repeat themselves between the books. The book lived up to all my expectations, and keeps Fermi’s paradox at it’s core. It’s no comfort read, and the themes are dark, escaping, and brooding.
  14. Liu Cixin – The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past #1) – ***** – Drop everything you have to read this book if you enjoy Science Fiction. This is hard Sci-Fi. Not a space opera. Proper hard Sci-Fi. It’s published in Chinese originally, but subsequently translated, and I’m so glad it was. Three-Body is essentially the story of two scientists, Ye Wenjie, an engineer working in a top-secret military base during the 1970’s, and Wang Miao, a nanotechnologist in current day China. While events in current day China unfold for Wang, the story of Ye is told in alternate sections. The story is interesting and frightening, all at once, and you can’t place your finger on a singular theme within the book. It just makes you think far too much about Politics, Philosophy, and Science.
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe) – ***** –  I read this to escape The Three-Body Problem, which I am posting a review of above. Read it if you haven’t.
  16. Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go – **** – 4.5/5. Plot is unusual in it’s structure. Loved how he interweaved the main/cutting plot point of the story around a backdrop of a more peaceful, more appealable story structure – boarding school/girls coming of age. Very enjoyable – probably what made it more mass-market appealable? Good writing. Smart technique. Quasi-sci-fi. I refuse to buy this as hard core Sci-Fi. Characters: Incredibly well drawn out at different points in the narrative. Good contrast between characters -especially in their reaction to new developments in the story. His use of description is excellent, especially at the start of the novel with Tommy, I thought it was very cinematic. At some points, drawn out and slightly slow. Acceptance is a strong theme, probably the only theme in the novel. Can classify most other themes as falling within it. Would recommend. It’s a quick read that gets you thinking. A lot.
  17. Garth Nix – Abhorsen (Abhorsen #3) – ***** – I wish Lirael was written with Abhorsen into one full book. It would’ve been so much easier to enjoy, personally. Great ending to the trilogy. It was shocking to say the least, especially after Lirael. Imagine if Eldest was the conclusion to the Eragon Cycle. That’s how good the book is. 10/10 recommendation.
  18. Garth Nix – Lirael (Abhorsen #2) – *** – Not a good stand-alone read. You need to read Sabriel first, and have to complete Abhorsen almost instantly. The story was great, but the execution wasn’t as good as it could have been. The characters here aren’t well drawn out, so if you’re heavy on character inclusion and development, I wouldn’t recommend this.
  19. Garth Nix – Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) – **** – This is a well-written and enjoyable fantasy, occasionally a little on the grim and gruesome side.  Garth Nix creates an intriguing and imaginative fantasy world. This is also the first book in a series, but at least this one doesn’t leave you hanging off the edge of the virtual cliff. It works quite well as a stand-alone read. I could’ve stopped the series here without hesitation.
  20. Markus Zusak – I Am The Messenger – **** – Everyone likes the start of this book, even the middle, but I sense not many people were satisfied with the ending. The book ended up becoming a self-help/philosophy/introspection guide before I knew it, and I usually love those kind of books (I’m partial to Mitch Albom just because of that), but lots of scenes aren’t clearly elucidated and requires you to revisit previous pages to understand it clearly. A blinder of a first chapter though.
  21. S.J. Watson – Before I Go To Sleep – **** – Supremely well-researched, I think. A proper psychological thriller. The book is about a woman called Christine who wakes up every morning with no memory of who she is. Through labeled pictures and the help of her husband, every day she pieces together her life and learns of the accident that made her this way. But then a visit from a mysterious doctor leads her towards the private journal she has been writing to herself – a journal that tells her things might not be as they seem and the one person she should be able to trust could be lying. It grips you till the end – and I think I’d like to watch the movie soon.
  22. Brandon Sanderson – The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) – ***** – Strong comeback in the series. The 2nd book frustrated me because it didn’t resolve much and ended up leaving me very confused. This one wraps it all up – like perfectly tied shoelaces with the aglets pointing forward. Even small things from Book #1. Read the series, it’s worth immersing yourself into. The world is extremely well crafted.
  23. Brandon Sanderson – The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) – **** – The series started off really strongly, but this didn’t live up to my expectations of plot development as much. The last 100 pages are incredible. Middle Book Syndrome hit me, I guess.
  24. Brandon Sanderson – The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) – ***** – Fantastic storyline, amazing characters. Very gratifying first book in a series, because it’s standalone, insofar as it’s enjoyable on its own, but leaves you wanting more, in terms of both plot and character development. The language is very YA.
  25. Kristin Hannah – The Nightingale – ***** –  Another 3000 recommended blinder. I stayed up to complete the book, and every page seemed to go faster than the previous one. The plot was gripping, the narrative style was engaging, and I learnt a little more about the War through this, specifically the Vel d’Hiv round-up. A must-read for everyone who enjoyed “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.
  26. Carlos Ruiz Zafon – The Shadow of the Wind – ***** –  This is the first novel that I’ve read which contains a very explicitly earmarked story within a story. The boy, Daniel Sempere, in his quest to discover Julian’s other works, becomes involved in tracing the entire history of Carax. His friend Fermin Romero de Torres, who was imprisoned and tortured in Montjuic Castle for having been involved in an espionage against the Anarchists during the war—himself being a government intelligence agent—helps Daniel in a number of ways, but their probing into the murky past of a number of people who have been either long dead or long forgotten unleashes the dark forces of the murderous Inspector Fumero. What I loved about Zafon’s writing is his ability to unravel two stories at once. The grand narrative never stops developing while the finer details are slowly described. The other amazing bit about it is how circular the entire plot is – beginning with Daniel entering the Cemetery, and ending with Julian. Thank you, 3000.
  27. Elizabeth Wein – Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) – ***** – Someone important loaned me their copy of this book. I’m a massive Historical Fiction geek – but often I’ve found most books conveying similar themes of love and loss, and none of them do it in a style that is engaging, or keeps me second guessing. That’s what this book did. The writing style is beautiful and utterly refreshing, and transitions in plot points are extremely smooth. What works incredibly well is the characterization of Verity’s capturer (is this a spoiler?). A must read.
  28. Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why – *** – A problematic, conflicting review. While the book speaks about suicide, which is something very little literature touches upon, it slowly ends up characterizing the concept as a massive guilt trip. This is problematic because of the target audience to this book, potentially individuals who fall within the YA category – individuals who are slowly developing their own understanding of such issues. Reading this grossly changes your perception of that in an incorrect manner, and that’s dangerous. A quick read, but passable.
  29. Jandy Nelson – I’ll Give You The Sun – **** –  I found the perfect playlist to read this book with, which is perhaps why I loved it so much. If anyone’s interested, look for gentR’s Slow Songs 2017 on YouTube. The second thing you should know is that this book was recommended and given to me by a twin. I gave up my entire evening to read the book, and it is the best decision I made today. While there are things I loved about the book, I felt like the ending was very rushed and extremely happy-go-lucky everything is now perfect with the world. There are themes within the book that leave you longing for more detail. What stands out the most is how effortless the writing seems, and how effortless it is to turn pages.
  30. Eliezer Yudkowsky – Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality – ***** – Yes. This counts as a book. My first piece of fanfiction, ever. And what a book to read. Took me way back to my hiding my Harry Potter under my Geography textbook days, but brought out a side to every single character I never thought I would think of. Considering I relate closest to Ravenclaw, I was quite happy Harry got sorted in there, because some of the things he questions are hilarious, but also too real to be true.
  31. Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values – *** – I didn’t enjoy this. It’s extremely polished, but there are lots of literary links, and philosophical leaps that Pirsig fails to make for me. The only thing I would say though, is that it gets you thinking.
  32. Andy Weir – The Martian – ***** – Meticulously researched, supremely well written, and incredibly funny, almost surprisingly, about an astronaut left behind on Mars, who is presumed dead. Watch the movie only after you read the book. You’ll appreciate both the book & the movie a lot more.
  33. Isaac Asimov – Foundation (Foundation #1) – **** –  You aren’t an SF head if you haven’t gotten into Asimov. And if you haven’t gotten into Asimov, you’re missing out. For the first time since LOTR, I found myself caught up in a world of words, like no other book has ever made me feel. To put this in perspective, this book was first published in 1951, and it’s still relevant today.
  34. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – **** – Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. I cannot believe I waited so many years to pick this up. Adams holds up a mirror to humanity, something you only recognize as you reach the ends of the book.
  35. James Farner – 1914 (The War Year #1) – *** – A misstep. I expected the book to be exclusively what the latter half of the book was, a thrilling depiction of the Great War. While reading war books, there’s a great aspect of humanity and human emotion I pick up on, and this book failed to produce any of that. There’s a lot of time spent on character development in the first half, unnatural amounts of description, and while that bodes well for the trilogy on the whole, it isn’t great for the book in itself.
  36. Sidin Vadukut – God Save the Dork (Dork Trilogy #2) – *** –  A far cry from Dork #1, but retains Vadukut’s sense of humour, Management references, to his time in the Gulf – the book is packed with laughs.
  37. Sidin Vadukut – Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese (Dork Trilogy #1) – **** – Sidin Vadukut’s “Dork” was fun and entertaining. On a not so serious note, the book describes the protagonist’s journey while working for a consulting company. Robin “Einstein” Varghese aims to gain a promotion in a short period of time.His transition from a B-school to working for a consulting company, experiences and (mis)adventures while undertaking the tasks, his encounter with loveliest lasses including his batch-mate Gouri Kalbag and particularly the buxom babe called Megha,fantasising about love-making with those lasses, his constant use of profanity against his colleagues, pontificating about his own ‘innate’ ablities and other kind of histrionics (I think I mentioned all of them) are mind boggling and hilarious.
  38. Mitch Albom – The Five People You Meet in Heaven – ***** – The book that induced the most feelings in 2017. One sitting. That’s all it took for me to navigate through Edward’s life, and understand that everything we do has a reason. Albom is able to effortlessly weave a circular story – linking parts of Edward’s life with his past, his present, and at the conclusion – his future. Structurally, one of the most astounding books I’ve read, and one that I will remember for a long time to come. The best part of the book was the ending, how unpredictable the fifth person Edward would meet was. I always thought it would be the girl, or Edward’s mother. Marguerite was predictable, but no one else was. Highly recommended, with a cup of tea, monsoon weather, and a warm blanket. Some tissues to wipe your tears will help too.
  39. Paulo Coelho – The Zahir – ****  –  An intriguing read, in true Paulo Coelho style. I enjoyed it, purely because of the way Coelho is able to bring words and scenery alive, but, at the same time, found the book becoming extremely slow in parts – owing to excessive use of dialogue, amongst other things. A very powerful story, and true to it’s word, a story of how obsession and languishing emotions prevent us from moving on in life.
  40. David Peace – The Damned Utd – **** – My first time reading a sports novel. I’m a massive football fan, and I have a lot of prior knowledge about Mr. Clough, the league, and other such football related things – which made the book a lot easier to follow, especially with the continuous shifts in narrative from the past to the present, between Clough’s time at Nottingham Forest, and his time at Leeds United. Superbly well written, highly articulate, and very enjoyable. Would recommend you watch the documentary first, if you do not have a passion for football. Will help you understand the emotion of the book a lot better. Compliments it well
  41. Bernard Schlink – The Reader – ***** –  Impossible to put down. What a gripping read, sat and read it in one sitting. Loved how Schlink (and the translator) changes the style of writing within each Part – distinctly with sentence length, tone, and narration style, moving toward lesser dialogue and more inner reflection, to track the growth of Michael through the novel. Enables us to connect with him deeper, and take away a lot more from his reflections of Nazi Germany.
  42. Michael Connelly – The Scarecrow – *****  – Read it. You must.
  43. Sebastian Faulks – Birdsong – **** – I believe I erred in picking up the second book of a trilogy without having read the first part. Was nonetheless captivated by the storyline, a warm mix of historical fiction based off of World War I, and romance. Hits you in the feels.
  44. Daniel Villasenor – The Lake – **** – The Lake is the story of Zach Brannagan, a graduate student of philosophy in the midst of a nervous breakdown. In this setting, he meets Michael Lazar, a psychiatrist who pushes Zach to discovering his history, but leads him to The Lake, an orphanage in Louisiana. A masterful longform essay on the fine lines between abstraction, absurdity, and sanity.
  45. Garrison Keillor – Wobegon Boy – *** –  This started out very promisingly, but dipped as the story went on. Found it dragging at a lot of places, and I generally lost interest by the end. You don’t need to read the first book in the series to pick this up, and it is enjoyable to some extent – but at a lot of places, you will feel like putting the book down.Remarkable use of description, Keillor is really able to contrast John’s attitude with Alida’s & Jean’s – especially around the part where Alida leaves for Norway. Got me reading Wikipedia entries about Lutheranism & beliefs/wings of Christianity. Any further reading suggestions along these lines would be great!
  46. Jean-Paul Sartre – Nausea – **** – Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence, and only Sartre can make such a terrifying subject so pleasurable to read, even romantic at times. Would recommend for those who are desirous of venturing into nihilism.
  47. Paul Beatty – The Sellout – ***** – Favourite book of the year as of 22.03.17. I started this in a book cafe in Mumbai, and finished it after borrowing a copy from a batchmate. So many themes: a troubled childhood, Black identity, civil justice, father-son dynamics. I couldn’t get enough of this book, and every word caught my attention as I read the book in two parts. Must-read because it’s a brilliant satire of what Trump’s America is becoming like.
  48. Caro Fraser – The Pupil – ***** – A fabulous read about a pupillage in the London Bar. Fast-paced, filled with drama, twists, and a wide-range of themes, including homosexuality.
  49. Paul Torday – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – **** – Quite enjoyable, very humorous. However, gets slow and technical around the middle, and is rather dry in some bits. Found myself swimming in jargon at one point.
  50. Michael Dobbs – House of Cards – *** – I didn’t like this too much. Got really slow in places, and I had already watched the show, so perhaps that’s why.
  51. Robert Harris – Lustrum (Cicero:II) – ***** – What a marvelous read. Explains the second-part of Cicero’s quest and charts his rise to the top.Would recommend a reading of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar side-by-side.
  52. Robert Harris – Imperium (Cicero:I) – ***** – I loved this. So quick. No time wasted on absurd details. Cicero’s anguish is well-depicted. Quite a thrilling storyline.
  53. Chinua Achebe – Things Fall Apart – **** – It’s pretty clear why Achebe is identified as a leading author of African literature. Two inter-twining stories, both quite tragic, trace Okonkwo’s fall from leadership within his tribe and a clash of cultures. Very, very enjoyable.
  54. Anthony Doerr – All The Light We Cannot See – **** –  Doerr tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy who meet in occupied France, and their tale of survival following World War II. My favourite thing about the novel? The romanticism he attaches to despair.
  55. Michael Schmicker – The Witch of Napoli – *** – A very unconventional novel for my reading. I didn’t enjoy the novel very much, although it did reflect the debate between Science and religion extremely well. Appreciate the fact that the author restricted the debate solely to the possibility of an afterlife.

Non-Fiction: 

  1. Burton Stein – A History of India – **** – This is a book that explores cultural tensions better than most, and introduced me to consequences of politics a little better than other Histories I’ve read. It’s incredibly well structured, and I’d recommend it as a good reference reader. Bonus points for Mughal History chapters.
  2. Paul Kalanithi – When Breath Becomes Air – ***** – This book clutches at your heart. The foreword had me tearing up, and once I finished the book (just after my flight landed), I was uncertain what to do with myself. The book is far less about dying and far more about being alive, and staying alive, and what that means. What is means to be a person, to be human. It’s a memoir of a nice, honest man, and his contemplation about neuroscience and the intersection of the brain and the heart.
  3. Eugene Rogan – The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East – **** – The recurring image of World War I, at least in the United States, is focused on a specific region and method – mud and trenches in Flanders Fields. This entirely ignores the vast campaigns in what is now called the Middle East, ranging from North Africa to Basra in what is now southern Iraq. What Rogan does is highlight this incredibly well. And you learn so much. Read.
  4. Lance Armstrong, Sally Jenkins – It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life – *** – There is no more remarkable story of surviving cancer than Lance Armstrong’s, and perhaps there is no better athlete in history. His rise from poverty and being raised by a young single mother is quite impressive too. However, his depiction of himself is extremely self-centered, to the point that an autobiography shouldn’t be. Read this and then watched the Oprah episode where he came clean. I used to own a Livestrong band – a nice Yellow one, when bands were in vogue, so that hit home quite hard.
  5. Ashlee Vance – Elon Musk: Inventing the Future – ***** – Vance does a marvellous job with the resources at his disposable. Getting permission to speak to Musk, and subsequently getting Musk and several others to open up about the inner workings on Zip2, Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, and Hyperloop makes the book a wonderful read for those interested in business. As an author, Vance also carefully ensures that he dissects parts of Musk’s personality that aren’t available in the news, while portraying a balanced image of Musk, taking into account several criticisms the Tony Stark-esque figure has often attracted. What I specifically enjoyed was the classification of chapters – which, while not chronological, ensures maximum focus on a particular theme in Musk’s life. All in all, a must-read. Gets you wondering about what you’re doing with your life while one man tackles some of humanity’s most dangerous crises.
  6. Elizabeth Kolbert – The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History – **** –  This book both awed and depressed me.From page one, Kolbert writes an impressive survey of how destructive mankind has been to the planet. We’ve messed up. Read the book to understand how poorly we’ve done.
  7. Will Durant – The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World’s Greatest Philosophers – ***** – Read. Re-read. Repeat.
  8. Piyush Pandey – Pandeymonium: Piyush Pandey on Advertising – **** – Piyush Pandey has done some phenomenal work in advertising but I wish his explanation of the creative process was a little more than “client told us to expand the market and I dug into my childhood memories to do so”. There’s a lot more to advertising, I’m sure, but read the book to turn through time and understand how beautifully Ogilvy operates.
  9. Simon Sebag Montefiore – Jerusalem: The Biography – **** – Read it. It’s a book you will end up reading as a piece of fiction. The amount it teaches you about multiple cultures is unmatched. Truly, a good book. Also the book I dawled over the most: 3 months.
  10. Bipan Chandra – India’s Struggle for Independence – **** – Read it.
  11. P. Sainath – Everybody Loves a Good Drought – ***** – My Biology teacher got this for me just before I left to Law school. This book encompasses a number of oxymorons. At one moment you feel like laughing at the mindless policies of the government and various commissions, whereas at the very next moment the pain of the helpless catch your imagination making you feel thoroughly depressed and heartbroken. A very lucid description of the poor of India with a pretty detailed version of the problems faced by them. My favourite part: it’s realism.
  12. O.J. Simpson – If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer – *** – I watched the ESPNFilms Documentary on O.J., and I knew I had to read this book. An intricate account of the relationship between Nicole and O.J., prior to that fateful death, but an overly dramatized version of events post the time O.J. was caught. I was surprised by the lengths he went to – describing alternate theories that were spread by the media. The lowe-r rating is is because of the fact that the style of writing makes you want to turn pages, but you never enjoy it. Very Chetan Bhagat-esque, minus the romance.
  13. John Sweeney – North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State – ***** –  John Sweeney takes some incredible risks in presenting this work to the outside world. Posing as a Professor at the London School of Economics & Political Science, Sweeney gets an insider’s take on the lives of North Koreans. Supplemented with the BBC documentary, a very comprehensive look on propaganda, the use of rhetoric and imagery, a comparison to 1984, and a lot more about a country we barely know anything about.
  14. Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics – **** – An excellent explanation of Economics, would highly recommend it as reading alongside Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, to get part of your brain working. A very heavy emphasis on approaching economic ideas as outcome based evaluations in the short-term and the long-term – has benefited my approach to debating greatly.
  15. Sigmund Freud – The Psychology of Love – ***** – I believe I have some bias, for my interest in Psychology was at its peak when I read this book.
  16. Denys Thompson – Discrimination and Popular Culture – *** – A junior of mine at University lent me this book. I quite enjoyed how focused each essay was, especially because areas of discrimination are difficult to delineate, and in contemporary times, we often find authors mixing up various parts of their argument, which quite detracts from the essence of what they’re trying to convey. A low rating is largely because it didn’t retain my interest, and it was far too verbose.
  17. Noam Chomsky – On Anarchism – **** – Chomsky’s argument about Anarchism is one that helps us identify what his personal principles are – and that is what I enjoyed reading the most. Definitely not a primer on Anarchism by any means, and I often found myself having to open up Wikipedia and Stanford’s Philosophy pages to understand some of the phrases, or authors that he refers to. I appreciate the fact that Chomsky includes the excerpts he relies on from other authors, such as Marx – it means that you don’t necessarily have to cross-reference, and it provides ample context to what he is stating.
  18. Terence Mauri – The Leader’s Mindset: How To Win In The Age of Disruption – ***** – Reminded me a lot of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, with a lot of real-life examples, and a phenomenal exposition of leadership tactics and strategies. A must-read for people down in the dumps.
  19. Oliver Stone & Peter Kuznick – The Untold History of the United States – **** – A very intriguing challenge to the narrative that is propagated traditionally of the United States. Constructs an amazing foundation for understanding Bush-Cheney policies, and is a good foreshadowing for an analysis of Obama.
  20. Romila Thapar, A.G. Noorani & Sadanand Menon – On Nationalism – *** – I was rather disappointed to find that none of my questions about Nationalism were actually answered. However, provides a nice historical analysis of roots of nationalism and patriotism in the country.
  21. Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything – ***** – I had read this earlier, but I had to re-read it. My Biology teacher from school gifted this to me, and it blew my mind. An all-time favourite. I love the way Bryson constructs a picture of our fascinating world – covering History, Philosophy, the Sciences, and everything that’s related to the human species.
  22. Phil Knight – Shoe Dog – ***** – My best friend recommended this to me, and I downloaded it immediately. Read through it in one sitting. A phenomenal, tour-de-force, read. Knight works hard on making his life relatable for all of us, and that is something I appreciate hugely. A tale of Nike, but so much more. I’ve taken away a new outlook to life after reading this.