Reading

This is where I keep track of the books I’ve read with a short description on what you can expect out of it:

2020

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein
A rather refreshing read. Author talks about how the organized crime in Japan works. He shares stories from his time as a reporter for the police beat in Tokyo, his encounters with the Yakuza. Along the way, it touches upon the problems deeply rooted in Japanese culture concerning drugs, alcohol, and the booming sex industry. On the flipside, there’s subtle mentions to how the Japanese value friendship, kinship and loyalty. Recommended.

Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha *
I’ve read Gandhiji’s autobiography but Ramachandra Guha does an extraordinary job at putting forth the upbringing of the Mahatma. Our current political as well as social situation when juxtaposed with that of Gandhi’s time, will force you to think how back in time we’ve come. The burning of his effigies, the comparison and often times, the blatant defamation of him just goes on to tell how well aware people are when it comes to our own history.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Non-fiction after so long. This was a pleasant read to be honest. It’s about a quirky, not-so-social old man set in Sweden. It’s humorous a lot of times and turns to such subjects as life, loneliness and death. A good read if you’re into non-fiction.

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
We’ve all read how Sugar, processed in particular, is bad for health. I was in the same boat for quite a while but I didn’t know why this was the case. This books goes back, way back into the advent of sugar in our diets. It then traces it’s path while comparing the glaring increase in chronic diseases. It’s quite frightening what all Sugar is capable of doing to us and at the same time, and it’s quite surprising, the reason why it’s one of the most widely used substance in almost all the processed foods, is how corporations work and lobby for their interests.

Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana
I’ve tried meditation on and off in the past 2 years but never got around to fully understanding what the fuss is all about and in order to get a more clear understanding, I picked this book up on recommendation from a friend. This books is a thorough practical guide to mindfulness, it talks about it’s origins and specifically discusses “Vipassana” meditation. It also helps as a how-to guide if you’re just starting with meditation. The author has a pretty good writing style. Recommended.

A Guide to the Good Life by William B Irvine
Gentle introduction to modern Stoicism. The author mentions various strategies, practices and ideas that you can take home with and implement in your daily lives. It also clears up a lot of misunderstanding around the Stoic philosophy of life. A good read on the topic.

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
A very inspiring personal account of an individual with a harsh childhood resulting in little to no self-confidence in himself which eventually led him to a life many despise yet live today, a life with no virtue and no goals. David Goggins turned his whole life around with sheer determination. He mentions a goal in every chapter which will help the reader to pursue his/her goal in life. But apart from these goals what really stood out were the incidents of his struggle, failures and eventual success.

The Story Of Tea by E. Jaiwant Paul
A beautiful, short and interesting read on tea. Being a big fan of tea especially the lighter themed ones, this book presents you with quite a bit of trivia, both historical and modern, on tea. It talks about the history of tea since it’s accidental inception, to the modern day tea industry.



2019

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Quite a good read on running as a passion. Haruki Murakami takes this opportunity to talk about running as one of his hobbies and also reflects back about his life choices and how he ended up where he is right now. Some really interesting parts are where he talks about why running is perfect for someone(introvert) like him and the importance of failure and preparation. There’s a lot to be learnt from this, worth a read.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
A collection of letters between a struggling writer in the US and a book dealer in London. The correspondence starts off very formal but soon after, it evolves into a friendship that is cherished by parties on either sides. It also gives the reader an account of life in London in the post-war era and also the immense love for reading in some people. A delightful short read.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
Honestly, way too repetitive and boring at times, too much hype around it. Sure, I learnt a thing or two but disagreed with most of what it said. Most of the suggestions seemed very bizarre and not practical at all.

Becoming by Michelle Obama *
Michelle Obama talks about the struggles you have to face for being a minority and how she and Barack, both, overcame the obstacles to be successfull in life. Despite what we know about the Obama family, the book talks about growing up in an african-american neighborhood with a family that pushed for good education and a practical yet meaningful approach to life. A must read.

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli
The author briefly explains the most important theories in Physics that have led us to our understanding of the world and beyond. He explains such concepts as black holes, generaly relativity, quantum mechanics, the cosmos talking about the history, the current status and it’s future. He also questions our understanding of time. At the end, the author talks about humans, how we perceive the world around us, how and why we devis the theories we devise, the relation between myth and science, and the demise of humans, our species. A really good read.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Heard a lot about this book before finally deciding to read it. It makes you stop and think about things that you can relate to directly. The pleasures in life, how we succumb to them and finally there’s the realization, but it’s too late by then, which is one of the underlying lessons of this book, i.e the importance of time. A good book.

Ikigai by Hector Garcia
This book is about the Japanese concept known as Ikigai which roughly translates to “the happiness of always being busy”. It follows with a visit by the authors to the island of Okinawa which has the highest life expectancy in the world and discovering the secrets of the people living there, It talks about how the Japanese people don’t stop working and moving regardless of their age. The authors visit various people in the town of Ogimi, Okinawa who are above 1years of age to talk about some of their habits. These include examples such as eating until you are 8full, practicing mindfullness, the Okinawan diet, doing yoga, taichi and drinking green tea. A good read.

I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Apart from the trite title, the book has a lot of good information on handling your personal finances, especially for someone who doesn’t know anything about the topic. The book expects you to follow through with 6 actionable items. The author can be very casual at times but in general, ends up giving you a sensible piece of information on which you can act upon. There are also anecdotal evidences of the mentioned plan along with the required facts and figures. A good read.

36 Views of Mount Fuji by Cathy N. Davidson
Another book on Japanese culture, this talks much more about the Japanese life and it’s people than the one by Donald Keene. There was an equal divide in this book wherein one part talks about what’s so good about Japan that so many people admire it. And the second part talks about the lesser known darker secrets of the Japanese society which is at times, tough to read but nevertheless, insightful. A very good book and a very laid back style of writing. A good read.

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
One of the best book I’ve read until now. Simply talks about how sleep is one of the most important part of life. Everything stated in this book is backed by research, there’s also reasoning to many of the phenomenon which many thought were inexplicable. Do yourself a favor and read this gem of a book, can’t stress enough.

Chronicles of My Life by Donald Keene
Another book on foreign culture, Japanese this time. The author by accident gets interested in Asian culture, first Chinese and then Japanese. He tries very hard to go to Japan and when he eventually does, he’s struck by the sheer simplicity of the Japanese people. He talks worryingly about the westernization of Japan, how the native Japanese art, music and literature is getting lost among the youngsters. He’s visibly worried about too much cars on the streets, too much fashion in the Japanese societies, the diminishing interest of people/tourists in Japanese temples. A good read.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
I’m interested in reading about different cultures and I picked this up for the same reason. The author has a very witty way of writing, very humorous. In terms of the content, the author talks about her life in Denmark for a year studying the traits of the Danish people trying to figure out why Danes are the happiest people on the planet. Early on in the book, it was conveyed that while people in the US fight for more money, the Scandinavians fight for more time, for themselves and for their families, which I think is the perfect analogy.

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Picked this up for two reasons, 1) It talks about the author’s journey towards trying to master a new language which she fell in love with, and 2) She moves to Italy to delve into a new/foreign culture to be more close to it’s language. It was a relatively short read but yet very insightful. The author shows both the good and the bad side of being a foreigner in a foreign land. She recounts her encounters, her struggle while settling in Italy. This books is originally written in Italian and the translator, Ann Goldstein, did a great job translating the subtle emotions and feelings the author tries to convey in her somewhat “childlike” hold of the Italian language.

Deep Work by Cal Newport
Cal Newport broadly puts forward two ground rules for a focused life, intense concentration and avoiding distractions. He mentions the positive effects of choosing “network tools” and the importance of deep work today. He also lays out strategies that have worked for professionals and academicians, including himself, which aim to help you do productive deep work and to get rid of distractions in this modern and connected lifestyle. Some of these strategies, such as alloting specific time for internet usage and scheduling your whole day and no shop talk after a specific time in the evening, are backed by examples and are worth trying.

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard Feynman
This was not what I expected at all. I mean sure, It’s a book about the life experiences of a nobel prize winner Physicist but Dr. Richard Feynman is much more than that. Apart from being really interested in Physics, he pursued various interests throughout his life. For instance, he learnt Portugese, he learned how to play drums and played at shows, learnt drawing and had his own art show and even played in a samba band and a bunch of other things. At the end, the author also talks about how science is being affected by the mindset of people who think less about the essence of it and rather the fame they hope to get out of it. One thing that I took away from this book was to put in efforts learning about things that truly interest you.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan
A very short read. This book puts forth the fact that nutritional science is very young compared to other sciences and that we still don’t have answers to questions arising from the effects a particular nutrient on our body. With that aside, there are a total of 64 simple and easy to remember rules that one should follow while eating. Some of these rules are based on science and some are based on what has been proven to be useful to us humans hitherto (नुस्खे). All in all a quick and goodread.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
This was a very long read. Walter Isaacson provides insights and corrections at times in the book. It is a somewhat neutral view of one of the founding fathers of America. It talks about how America was built, the importance of industriousness, frugality and civic sense in a society and nation in general. There’s also the quintessential underlying story of rags to riches but in a more serious context. I especially liked Franklin’s habit of writing things down, having a schedule and a process for even the most mundane of things. If you don’t intend to read the whole thing, I suggest you read up on Franklin’s 12 virtues which he talks about in great detail in his autobiography.

Factfulness by Hans, Ola and Anna Rosling *
This book proves you wrong at multiple levels, it shows you how wrong you think of the world you are living in. Also, the fact that the world is not divided between “us and them” anymore and that the correct way to categorize nations is by income levels. It also teaches you how to look at data, numbers, facts and graphs altogether and how not to draw incorrect conclusions from them. I particularly loved the anecdotes the author used throughout the book to convey his thoughts. One interesting thing about this book is how Ola mentions the fact that his father spent the last few days of his life with the drafts of this book, it tells you the love of that man towards his work.



2018

The Ramayana by R.K. Narayan
I’m not religious but I’ve been meaning to read this for a while. Since childhood, I’ve heard the Ramayana in one form or another, in parts and slots. I never had a chance to read it or watch the whole thing. R.K. Narayan does a really good job putting Kamban’s poetic version into a prose. There’s a lot to learn from this epic, such as the importance of being true to your own self, being disciplined and having principles.

Functional Programming in Python by David Mertz
I’m curious about functional programming. It’s helps to look at things from a different perspective. Although, this is not a conventional book on functional programming as it talks about writing functional code in Python, which in itself, is a multi-paradigm language, but it does forces you to think functionally while writing Python code. It also goes on to talk about 3rd party libraries which allow you to write functional Python code.

Free as in Freedom 2.0 by Sam Williams
Being a GNU/Linux enthusiast, I was always curious about the GNU project and this lead me to read this book. It is evident that the work done by the FSF has been greatly undermined and probably the only reason why many of us don’t realize the contributions of the GNU project and the FSF community. Also, think twice before you refer to that distro on your system as “Linux”.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Very different from the stuff that I’ve been reading lately. The author gives a very crude account of her childhood with some disturbing yet not so uncommon details. Also, lots of vexed issues are discussed throughout the book and it’s pretty evident why this book is all the talk amongst people lately.

Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi by Katherine Frank *
One of the best book I’ve read on modern Indian history. Talks about one of the greatest leaders of our country, with some flaws. There are certain bits that you’ll read twice before you even begin to understand what had happened. Must read.

The Linux Command Line by William E. Shotts Jr.
Can’t say much about this one, it’s a great book about the linux command line. Covers a bunch of commands and gives you a subtle intro to shell scripting. Loved reading this. It’s divided into three logical units, so you can pick any one of them and start right off. It’s a long read but very informative nonetheless.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking
Not because it had my name on it, I read it because I’m interested in European culture and how they do things. It talks about Hygge, which is an important part of the Danish culture, there may not be a concrete definition of it but it refers to the feeling of being happy, cosy and comfortable with a close circle of friends with coffee in one hand while the thunder rumbles outside. Read it if you are interested in such things.

When Breath Becomes Air * by Paul Kalanithi
Amazing, thrilling yet saddening in so many ways. You can tell when the author picks up the pace because he knows if he doesn’t then there might not be enough time to finish the book. Touches upon so many elements of the human life in such a way, it carries you through the whole journey. Must read.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Easy and relaxing, it gives you an insight about the japanese culture. All those talks about evening strolls and the japanese coffee places feels like an experience itself. It also talks about death, life and relationships. Overall, a good book and a fun read.

1984 by George Orwell
How fortunate we are to live in a society like this, this makes you think not once or twice, but thrice about the society and how it functions. Although, it’s a dystopian vision, there are instance where you can’t help but relate it to your current situation.

5/3/1 by Jim Wendler
A great routine. But it was better off as a blog post, although I can understand the benefits of having a book. Anyway, read it if lifting is your thing, I learnt a fair bit about lifting from this book.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
This book is basically the title being paraphrased repeatedly in different ways. Could have been a blogpost and done much better. I don’t get the hype around this, it was average.

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella
Some very important life lessons coupled with the transition of Microsoft from the old evil corp to the new community friendly organization, this was a delight to read. The part about Satya Nadella’s childhood and his growth was particularly interesting.

The Story of My Experiments With Truth * by Mahatma Gandhi
Apart from the usual stuff about Gandhiji that we find almost everywhere, this book talks about Gandhiji as a person, a student, a family man and later a father figure of our nation. There are accounts of his peculiar diet, his preferred method of medication and therapy and his immense love for reading. Must read.



2017

Animal Farm by George Orwell
This is a masterpiece, so elegantly written, it makes you stop and think about the uncanny resemblance the characters in the book share with some people we meet in real life, every few pages. A small but an interesting and humorous read.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Overhyped. Some parts were good and some felt overly dramatic. This might be due to my high expectations from this book after reading about this almost everywhere. Just didn’t felt exhilerating enough.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This was good, pretty gripping in fact. Unlike other crime novels, it was relatively slow paced and only picked up pace at the near end. The style of writing was good and very different.

Automate the Boring Stuff with Python by Al Sweigart
I wanted to get into Python and this book was suggested by a lot of people on a lot of places where I asked for suggestions. Very easy going and the best thing about this is the projects that you do while going along. These projects are unlike other textbook projects, you use them in your daily routine and learn a lot from them.

The Google Story by David Vise & Mark Malseed
How it all began, from a typo to a verb, this is the story of how Google came up to be what it is today and how it has changed over the years. An inspiring account of an amazing product and an amazing team. Also, this book made me win two prizes in a GDG event, so there’s that.

Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick
Kevin Mitnick talks about his escapades with the FBI and how he tricked, or rather, fooled a bunch of people while he was on the run using social engineering alone. There are bits about how all of this affected his personal life and relations with his own family. He then proceeds to talk about how eventually he became famous and went from being chased by the FBI for a good portion of his life to hosting a popular TV show.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrsson
A thrilling sequel to the original. Although not as gripping in the first half, it picks up a sudden pace immediately after the second half at which point it’s hard to put it down. Again, read anything by Stieg Larrsson if you’re even remotely interested in the crime genre.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Was okay, felt overly-stretched and still comes out as such a small read. Nonetheless, it has some great advice if you’re seeking any. I picked it only because of all the praise around it but was left underwhelmed.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrsson
Probably the best book I’ve ever read. What a flow it carries. The characters are off-beat and the plot kept it all tightly together up until the very end. Stieg Larrsson is an exceptional storyteller. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It’s pretty much evident why this book tops the crime/thriller categories so often.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma*
I made drastic changes in my lifestyle after reading this book and it was all for the better. There is some great advice in this book such as how to be a better vesion of your own self, how to pick up new and good habits and more importantly, how to make them stick with you. Must read.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A very different kind of story-telling. You are taken introduced to the plight of this young woman and the struggle she has to face during her marriage. Makes you sad, and in a weird way makes you cheer up at little wins of the characters in the story. Khaled Hosseini picks out the smallest of details of human nature and lays them out for the readers.

iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon by Gina Smith
This was an amazing read. Steve Wozniak is such a genius, if it weren’t for him, there’d be nothing for Steve Jobs to sell. That’s what I understand from the book. Classic hacking anecdotes, university pranks and the rise of the personal computer, it has it all.



2009

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The very first book I read front to back. Finished this in 3 days because I had to return it to the school library and I was afraid to leave it unfinished. It was so fascinating to read this. Apart from the part which deals with the visit to the chocolate factory, the one thing I still remember about this book is the value of family, this was so subtly put into this book it’s hard to miss. Must read.