Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best Books I Read in 2010

I read a few books in 2010; that would be last year.

I read many that were not on my original list of intended books. Nor did I end up reading all the books that I had put down in my Intray, so to say. Several books were recommendations from our local library-wallah, Pratap. Some were from the Amazon Vine program, including three on this list. Most of the ones I did read were non-fiction. And most of the books I read had been published prior to 2010. It takes me a fair bit of time to get to the latest books it seems. That is not a complaint. That is not a regret. Books, unlike food or fashion, do not go bad with time. You do realize, that I am not referring to the paper the books are printed on but to the words and ideas and narratives that make up the book.
So, here is the list of the best books I read in 2010 - "best"is subjective here, you see.

Bailout Nation, with New Post-Crisis Update: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy
Bailout Nation, with New Post-Crisis Update: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy
This book is a wonderful combination of angry indignation, detailed research, and well organized content that spares no one in its critique of the financial crisis of 2008. Of the possibly hundreds of books that have come out so far and will come out on the global financial crisis, this is perhaps one of the 5 best books on the topic. Another one is "The End of Wall Street", also on my list below.
  Bailout Nation (my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)


The Art of Choosing
The Art of Choosing
The author does an excellent job of painting a vivid panorama of the diverse choices we face in life, from marriage to picking jams in a market. Some of the topics can elicit strong responses from people on either side of the debate, so it's a huge credit to the author that she presents both sides of the dilemma of choosing without taking partisan sides, while at the same time giving us an appreciation of the complex issues involved. Think Atul Gawande (Complications, Better) talking about the world of behavioral economics.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)



The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home
The author follow up on his best-seller, Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, with a creditable follow-on. While the topics covered are not necessarily new, some of the research is, and the findings still as useful in everyday life as ever.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)


The End of Wall Street
The End of Wall Street
Of all the books I read  on the financial crisis, and there are at least two more that I would like to read - Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy and All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis - this one by Roger Lowenstein is the best. It does not have the acerbic tone of Bailout Nation, nor the emphasis on characters like The Big Short, but takes you from before the beginning to shortly after the cratering of the world economy and the US financial sector.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)


Co-opetition
 Co-Opetition : A Revolution Mindset That Combines Competition and Cooperation : The Game Theory Strategy That's Changing the Game of Business
 This book is almost 15 years old, and reading it made me feel that it could have been published scarcely last week. Yes, it does not really talk about the math of game theory nor about the intricacies of game theory, but what it does do is give you an overarching reach of game theory into every facet of business. If you were to read only 5 books on strategy, make sure this is one of them. Michael Porter's Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors and Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance,  Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma, and Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Project would be other candidates for inclusion in the list of the best books on strategy.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
What can I say about this series that has not already been said. Well, there is a plot, the author takes time to etch each character, and the plot is gripping. A ripper of a yarn. And there are two more to follow in this trilogy.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)



At Home
 At Home: A Short History of Private Life
Writing about the evolution of the home can be a dreadfully boring task, for the author and reader alike. Not when the task is put in the hands of Bill Bryson, who makes this an absolutely fascinating, entertaining, and informative read. Difficult to believe, but you will not want to put this one down.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)


Jaya

The Mahabharata is the greatest tale ever told. There are enough subtleties in it to keep anyone interested in in the epic for a lifetime, and if you are a Hindu, or more than a lifetime. Everything is connected to almost everything else. Every action has a consequence, in often unexpected ways - a truer or more profound illustration of "karma" has never been written. The author, Devdutt Pattanaik, has done a remarkable job of extracting such pearls of wisdom and presenting it to the reader in a style that reminds one of Cliff's Notes - boxed explanations of key learnings and takeaways from each episode. An unconventional presentation of the epic, but very illuminating. Another book on the Mahabharata, but with a twist, was Gurcharan Das' The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma (see my review here). This one is also highly recommended, but given a choice between the two, I would choose Jaya.


Myth=Mithya
 Myth = Mithya A Handbook of Hindu Mythology
 What is the significance of the five heads of Brahma. Yes, he did have five heads. Why are Jaya and Vijaya, the doorkeepers (dwaar-paal) to Narayana, depicted with fangs? Why does Siva represent the god of destruction? Why do we worship Laxmi as well as Alakshmi, but in different ways? Every question you may have had about Hindu traditions and myths is answered here.In the typical rapid-fire style of the author.
(my blog post, my user review on Amazon.com)



Flipkart.com links to the books listed above:


© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.