A list of the books I read last year, with a short summary of my first reactions:
1. Jeffrey Archer – Cat O’ Nine Tails – Somehow had missed this set of funny, crime stories, each with a twist; am glad I read it
2. Eric Van Lustbader – Angel Eyes – Lustbader writes another of wannabe-Ludlum thrillers; but fails yet again. I couldn’t get past 100 pages, despite trying.
3. Louis L’Amour – Hondo – Nothing centers you, provides you with unflinching values, as well as a typical well-written western. And L’amour is the best storyteller of that genre
4. Douglas Adams – Salmon Of Doubt – No one does it like Adams! And he proves it with this medley of scattered unpublished works
5. Atul Gawande – Complications – Gawande looks at medicine & the practice of it with a sympathetic eye, making us see the richness, the complexity & the courage
6. Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman – Long Way Round – Although I finished this journey with McGregor & Boorman, it just tasted too commercial to me. Not enough drama, not enough insight into their travails.
7. Gurcharan Das – Difficulty Of Being Good – An interesting take on various concepts of Dharma as espoused in Mahabharata, with a commentary on the relevance to our present
8. Sidin Vadukut – Dork – laugh out loud story of a charmless loser mba’s first year out of college; would have been more fun if he had some redeeming qualities
9. Robert Dugoni – Jury Master – I don’t remember anything 2 months after reading it (except that I finished it, which is saying something); kind of says it all
10. Louis L’Amour – End Of The Drive – L’amour really goes to work with the short stories in this volume; each a glowing beauty
11. Junot Diaz – Brief & Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao – Didn’t work for me, despite some good growing up parts & expat angst
12. Rama Bijapurkar – We Are Like That Only – Neither technical, nor accessible to a layperson; I do hope not all our business writers are like that only
13. Captain Gopinath – Simply Fly – A well-written story of a truly amazing journey of a poor boy to richness & glory, based on hard work, courage & persistence
14. PG Wodehouse – Ring For Jeeves – All jeeves books are fun, but the master in this one was no match for bertie wooster
15. PG Wodehouse – The Little Nugget – a rollicking crime saga – kidnapping a brat was never this much work, or this much fun
16. Alain deBotton – Pleasures & Sorrows Of Work – A leisurely ramble through the various jobs, exploring the meaning of work in our lives
17. Dave Barry – Dave Barry Hits Below The Beltway – Great satirical comment on US politics; Not Barry’s best though.
18. Alan Folson – Day Of Confession – Boring; too long; good premise but old
19. Urmila Deshpande – A Pack Of Lies – Moving coming-of-age story of a lonely young woman
20. Pat Conroy – My Losing Season – “Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass”. One of the most lyrical & moving studies of life I have read; among the best books ever!
21. Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish – Siblings Without Rivalry – Very helpful; some good techniques; not all will work, but you’re sure to find some that will
22. Tal Ben-Shahar – Happier – Some interesting & potentially useful exercises, but lots of not-fully-explained flights of logic; assertions not borne by any study/research/facts
23. Jeffrey Archer – And Thereby Hangs A Tale – Archer’s getting old & jaded; this was a total waste of money
24. Agatha Christie – While the Light Lasts – 9 terrific stories; not all of them are detective fiction
25. Peter Block – Community: The Structure of Belonging – Required a lot of attention, and frequently meandered into areas of faith; but towards the 2nd half laid out a lot of methodologies for engagement & identification; worth a read for all managers & those interested in building a community
26. Agatha Christie – Poirot’s Early Cases – Re-read, just because I wanted to taste Poirot again. No disappointments.
27. Umberto Eco – Travels with a Salmon & Other Essays – Hilarious & thought-provoking at the same time; made me wonder why I discovered Eco so late in life; each essay was a delight in craft
28. William K. Zinsser – On Writing Well – Invaluable; not just tips & tricks, but great inspiration to get your writing juices flowing
29. Daniyal Mueenuddin – In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Stories of love, loss, deceit & longing set in Pakistan Punjab; eloquent & heartfelt
30. Po Bronson – Nurtureshock – Overturns quite a few assumptions we make about kids, learning & development
31. Michael Lewis – The Big Short – The master of financial non-fiction returns to the subject which made him famous, profiling a few people who not only saw the 2007 crash coming, but figured out a way to profit from it. Makes you wonder if the wall street was corrupt, foolish or both!
32. Warren Ellis – Crooked little vein – Hilarious satirical detective fiction; not to be read while eating or drinking
33. Atul Gawande – The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right – Gawande takes on the myth of heroic loneranger & defends the checklist as a means to fostering better communication, teamwork & identifying critical must-do’s. Short, crisp & awesome.
34. Salil Tripathi – Offence: The Hindu Case – Salil’s long essay on the rise of hindu fundamentamentalism will be a must-read for students of culture, history & sociology for all times to come; the arguments against hindutva have never been made so cogently, coherently & convincingly.
35. Caspar Melville – Taking Offence – Melville takes on multiculturalism & “judeo-christianity as defender of free speech & antidote to islamism” in this nuanced essay
36. John Grisham – Theodore Boone – Grisham disappoints once again; the story seems to build up well, but goes nowhere; lame-duck ending, rather as if he was chasing a deadline
37. PG Wodehouse – Mulliner Nights – Delightful stories with a subtle humor & wit, early Wodehousian, pre-Jeeves; good fun!
38. Francis Spufford – The Child That Books Built – Spufford revisits the books he read as a child, and examines their role in shaping him as an adult. While the book had a lot of “aha!” moments, overall it didn’t really hold my attention, esp. in the second half
39. Louis L’Amour – Night over the solomons – Adventure stories written by L’amour; not as good as his westerns
40. Kevin Eikenberry – Vantagepoints on learning and life – Simply written; has a certain homely charm to it. But if you’ve read scores of “self-help” books already, might be worth skipping, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the genre
41. Simon Singh – Trick or Treatment – Incisive, no-holds-barred look at alternative medicine; even more important as a primer to the scientific method & importance of clinical trials/testing. Particularly scathing in its critique of Homeopathy & Chiropractic
42. Niall Ferguson – The Ascent of Money – History of money, and it’s ascendency to its pre-eminent position in the world today; fascinating, full of really great asides & anecdotes, but needed a better editor – I found myself dozing off every few pages.
43. Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse-Five – A satirical take on war, laying bare its atrocities & horrors; though not as good as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
44. Roald Dahl – The BFG – Dahl tells a simple story exceedingly well. Laugh-out-loud funny, with jumbled up words, this is one to be read aloud
45. John Medina – Brain Rules – Interesting rules, except when Medina tries to give prescriptions for schooling & business without having tested out the alternatives
46. Joe Hill – 20th Century Ghosts – Spine-chilling stories, although not all of them work equally well; some stories give you a jolt at the end – just the way I like it!
47. Lynne Truss – Going Loco – Had to give up mid-way, since it got to be a drag. Truss might be great when she is ranting about others’ inadequacies at using a language, but she doesn’t know how to tell a story.
48. Brian Fugere – Why Business People Speak Like Idiots – Cuts through the bullshit of today’s management jargon to say it like it is; short, incisive & laden with great examples
49. Brian Tracy – Eat That Frog – “Q: If you have 2 frogs to eat in the morning, which will you eat first. A: The ugliest one!” And that about sums it up. But to say that would be to do this simple (not simplistic) book injustice; it reminds us of some timeless principles of time management & productivity.
50. Stieg Larsson – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Larsson knows how to tell a story; better than Ludlum & Clancy at their peak; a page-turner that leaves you wanting for more.
51. Iravati Karve – Yuganta – Karve gets you hooked from the first page, with her unusual look at the characters & situations in Mahabharata; a must-read for all those who think they know their text.
52. Daniel Gottlieb – Learning from the Heart – Great in parts, preachy in others; I struggled with it.
53. Paul Harding – Tinkers – Harding should have avoided quoting at length the passages from the Horologist’s book & concentrated on telling the story which was deeply moving by itself. An old man re-looks the world around him with a new eye, as he lies dying; makes you imagine your own death quite vividly
54. Goscinny & Uderzo – Asterix & the Class Act – Interesting vignettes from the life of a childhood hero; biff tchac paff! A Sunday afternoon well spent.
55. Alfred Hitchcock – Most Wanted: This First Lineup – As the blurb says, these really are very special stories from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, 1980-1985. If you like a good puzzle, a good shivery tale of suspense, a hardhitting crime story, a ghost or two, here they are.
56. Alain de Botton – The Architecture of Happiness – de Botton turns his critical eye to the the history and psychology of architecture and interior design, looking at buildings across the world. En route he analyses why a certain form appeals to us. Got to be a drag after a while, esp. when he started pontificating.
57. Gillian Tett – Fool’s Gold – Tett tells the story of how the invention of CDO’s, a tool to reduce risk, led to creation of such enormous risk that it brought down the global economy within a decade. Awesome tale, well told.
58. Alfred Hitchcock – Shrouds & Pockets – Mystery stories, with interesting twists & turns; not all of them work, but the ones that do, do oh so well!
59. Martin Rowson – Giving Offence – Rowson engagingly, amusingly tells you how to give offence so that the offended party, should they have a sense of humor, would be left with no choice but to laugh along with you.
60. Ken Robinson – The Element – There’s a reason Robinson is rated the best teacher/thinker in the field of creativity; and this book tells you why. Although the last chapter is his rant against the state of education today, something which could have been done better, or best left out!
61. Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness – A gift from dad at a most appropriate time! Hsieh talks about the importance of finding your purpose & aligning it with profits, while narrating his own fascinating personal history of Zappos.
62. Tom Holt – Snow White & the Seven Samurai – Holt is the master of humor fantasy. Period! Absolutely must-read!!!
63. Ben Goldacre – Bad Science – Goldacre’s rant against the charlatans who missell “science” is a must-read for all parents, teachers, students, public health officials, and anybody interested in science. Which should very well include everyone. He turns his critical eye on homeopathy, placebos, pharma industry, media & spares no one.
64. Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio – Stories – All new stories which transcend genres, hand-picked by Gaiman & Sarrantonio, with one brief in mind “and then what happened?” A really good read.
65. Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler – The Art Of Happiness At Work – A rapid read, based on discussions between Cutler & Dalai Lama on how to achieve happiness at work. While repetitive & tedious in parts, it’s still recommended as a lesson in self-discovery. Read on a trip to Mcleodgunj, the seat of Dalai Lama!
66. Tom Peters – The Little Big Things – Peters does it again! And this is probably his best effort at bringing to attention the “little” things that matter in life, and in business. An absolute must read for every executive, every leader!
67. Jeffrey Deaver – Twisted – Really twisted stories; Deaver is the master of thriller fiction. Each story ends with a twist, and even when you know this, it’s usually hard to say where it’s going to come from!
68. Dan Ariely – The Upside of Irrationality – Ariely has made a career out of studying the myriad ways in which real people behave irrationally; however the book left me unmoved. It wasn’t anywhere as well written as I’d expected it to be and most of the better examples were repeats of those read in Ariely’s previous opus. If you’ve read Freakonomics, just stop right there!
69. Rosemary Border – Ghost Stories – 6 ghost stories, selected for eighth-graders; good fun for a rainy night; not as much fun for grown-ups
70. Frederick Forsyth – The Cobra – An intriguing new take on a tricky new subject for the master of espionage thriller; but it doesn’t hold as much delight as the cold war stories Forsyth told. The new trend of realism in thriller fiction leaves you a little disappointed towards the end; and the characters are just not very well drawn
71. Neil Gaiman – Neverwhere – Gaiman writes a fantasy reminiscent of Lewis Carrol & Narnia of a man who falls throught the cracks of a large city & comes to love the “Below” where life has more meaning than his life “Above”. Escape, tragedy, horror or just fantasy, you decide!
72. Daniel H. Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Pink looks to behavioural psychology, including Ariely’s experiments, and applies it to “work”. Human beings need, nay demand, autonomy, pursuit of mastery & connection with a higher purpose, in today’s world! Invaluable!
73. Robert Levine – A Geography of Time – Levine does a thorough job of analysing & reporting how different cultures behave with respect to time, but loses the reader in the second half of the book when he starts showing off his erudition.
74. Christopher Hitchens (Ed.) – The Best American Essays (2010) – Not all of them will work for everyone, but the ones that do will move you, inform you, shed new light & make you see things in ways you didn’t think possible. A no. of them are still available online, but the complete collection is a gem to be treasured.
75. Amish Tripathi – Immortals of Meluha – Amish weaves a captivating tale from fragments of forgotten Indian myths, twisting them & making them far more engrossing than you would expect. I can’t wait for the sequel.
76. Umberto Eco – Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco isn’t an easy read in the best of times; I started this novel in Oct, and read it in parts through till Dec; the humor & the classical alliterations were wonderful.
77. Samit Basu – Turbulence – This was the first book by Basu that I read, and I’m sorry I waited this long. A sci-fi fantasy thriller told with wit, humour & sensitivity, it will leave you thinking for a while.
78. Tom Holt – Flying Dutch – Another masterpiece by Holt; the man is an absolute utter delight & I’m fast turning into his biggest fan alive!
79. Floyd Skloot – In the Shadow of Memory – What happens when you lose your memory; when parts of your brain are corrupted, ravaged by disease, unable to make the connections that make you the unique human being you are. Skloot tells a personal story with vigor, bringing the pain alive with sensitivity & erudition.
80. Tom Holt – Faust Among Equals – Tom Holt takes yet another piece of modern mythology/classical literature & turns it into high comedy. Read it to discover how it’s done!
81. Stan Slap – Bury My Heart At Conference Room B – Every company in the world rates employee engagement as one of its top 10 problems; yet only a handful seem to get it right. Slap shows you why, and what you as a manager can do about it (Hint: it’s about rediscovering & living your deepest, most cherished personal values at work)
82. David Stone – The Echelon Vendetta – David Stone is a find; this is a spy thriller reminiscent of Ludlum, but with much better drawn characters.
83. PG Wodehouse – Right ho, Jeeves – Wodehouse was the master of “comedy of errors”, and this one is a true masterpiece.
84. Dave Barry – Dave Barry is not making this up – Dave Barry writes about a host of issues with candor, wit & truthiness.
85. Steven Pressman – The War of Art – Procrastrination or Resistance, as Pressman calls it, is the biggest enemy of creativity & getting anything done. In this small volume he shows you how to recognise it, and how to beat it! Invaluable advice!!
86. Dave Barry – Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits – These really ARE Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits! And if you have to read one comic book this particular month, read this!
87. Jeffrey Pfeffer – Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t – Do you think Organizational politics are a “dirty game”, and you are not cut out for it? Would you still like to get power, and more importantly, hold on to it? Pfeffer shows you how. The first step is conquering your own fears.
88. Jai Arjun Singh – Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro – The history of the cult comedy hindi movie of all time; Jai’s research is impeccable & his story-telling flawless; he made it really come alive for me
89. John C. Bogle – Enough: True Measures Of Money, Business And Life – Bogle rants against the greed & superficiality of today’s world; didn’t deserve a book, although somebody needed to say what he is saying!
90. Stan Lee – The Mighty Thor – Book 1 – Not too impressed; Thor is a brutish creature with no finesse or brains.