Notable Books

This is a notable book I read and reviewed. Click to see more such books.
On this page I have a list of notable books I have read since 2009. Notable as in books that I read in a particular year and liked, for a variety of reasons. I have posted a longer blog post reviewing each book in this list.
The years covered in this list below are 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

2013 Books
Also see this post.

  1. The Joy of x, by Steven Strogatz
  2. The Lost River: On the Trail of the Sarasvati, by Michel Danino (also on Centre Right India)
  3. Land of the Seven Rivers, by Sanjeev Sanyal (also on Centre Right India)
  4. India's Bismarck, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, by Balraj Krishna (also on Centre Right India)
  5. The White Man's Burden, by Winthrop Jordan (also on Centre Right India)
  6. Mahabharata, Vol. 7, Translated by Bibek Debroy
  7. Sita: An Illustrated Retelling of the Ramayana, by Devdutt Pattanaik (also on Centre Right India)
  8. Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King
  9. Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, by M.J. Akbar (also on Centre Right India)
  10. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
  11. The City of Dvaraka, by S.R. Rao (also on Centre Right India)
  12. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
  13. Blindness, by Jose Saramago
I read and reviewed one more book after I wrote this post - The Blood Telegram, by Gary Bass - on American diplomacy in 1971 at the height of the Bangladesh genocide. I consider it one of the notable books I read in 2013. If I had to slot it in the list above, I would probably place it between The White Man's Burden, by Winthrop Jordan and Mahabharata, Vol. 7, Translated by Bibek Debroy.

2012 Books
(also see this and this post for more information)

  1. India's Culture and India's Future, by Michael Danino
  2. Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis
  3. Unabridged Mahabharata, Translated by Bibek Debroy (Vol.1Vol.2Vol. 3Vol. 4Vol.5 (12)
  4. The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power, by Tariq Ali
  5. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone---Especially Ourselves, by Dan Ariely
  6. Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, by Mara Hvistendahl
  7. The Parliamentary System, by Arun Shourie
  8. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, by Christopher Hitchens
  9. After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam, by Lesley Hazleton
  10. Bali and the Ocean of Milk, by Nilanjan P Choudhury
  11. Londonistan, By Melanie Phillips
  12. Valmiki's Ramayana", Translated by Arshia Sattar
  13. Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, by Paul Offit
  14. Time Stops at Shamli, by Ruskin Bond
  15. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture", by Peggy Orenstein
  16. Good Ol Charlie Brown, How I Hate Him!, by Charles M Schulz
  17. The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov
  18. How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough
  19. Durbar, by Tavleen Singh
  20. Adi Parva - Churning of the Ocean, by Amruta Patil
2011 Books
(also see this page for a fuller explanation for each book on the list)

2010 Books
This is a list of the best books I read in 2010. Not necessarily books that were published in 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl with the Dragon TattooWhat 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

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


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 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 links to the books listed above:

2009 Books
These are the best books I read in 2009.

1. Visual Display of Quantitative Information

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information Edward Tufte is a legend in the world of information visualizations. This book is a classic in the field. It is perhaps the single most accessible book on data visualizations. You are given a tour of the history of visualizations, the seminal contributions of people such as Playfair, Tukey, and others, a rogues' gallery of sorts of awful visualizations, a peek into small-multiples visualizations, and an exposition of the principles of good graphic design and visualizations. A must-have book for anyone interested in good data visualizations.
(my blog post)

2. The Hot Zone
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story
This is a frisson inducing tale of devastation - past and possible - that some of the deadliest, and yet simplest, viruses can wreak. Written like a sophisticated bio-sci-fi horror-thriller, except it is based on true events. Terrifying and fast-paced beginning, and then settles into a more measured and slower pace.

While the author states that the "book describes events between 1967 and 1993", the two main events of interest described, take place in Kenya in 1980 and in the weeks following Thanksgiving Weekend in the US in 1989.
(my blog post)

3. The Shadow of the Great Game
The Shadow of the Great Game : The Untold Story of Indias Partition
Highly recommended, very well researched, and equally well written and presented. This book uses recently unveiled papers and documents, stitched together by the author, a former ADC to Lord Mountbatten, to put forth the point that there was much more going on behind the scenes during India's Independence struggle, and the partition of the country that happened than has generally been known or believed.
(my blog post)

4. Nurture Shock

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
Excellent book that covers a wide range of topics, all on children and parenting. Read with an open mind, and be aware of the illuminating power of as well as the limitations of research.

This is a book that's very broad in its coverage. It attempts to cover, in one chapter each, an aspect of child development, citing plenty of research done in recent times to support arguments and theories put forward. Each chapter covers a topic - confidence, sleep, lying, racial attitudes, intelligence, sibling conflict, teen rebellion, self-control, aggression, gratitude, and the acquisition of language. Existing theories are explained, and new emerging research is cited and used to explain each topic. The wide variety of topics covered also means that parents will have plenty of material to go over, irrespective of how old their children are, and while teenagers are not likely to pick this book up, it would help them also a lot.
Kindle link, my blog post

5. Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness
Immensely relevant and revelatory findings, extensive notes and references, rapid-fire style of writing, and replete with anecdotes, references to medical research, topped off with gobs of humour.
(Kindle link, my blog post)

6. A Case of Exploding Mangoes
A Case of Exploding Mangoes (Vintage)
Wickedly funny, acerbic wit, well narrated plot, reasonably fast pacing. The mention of a mysterious character named OBL will appeal to many in the west, while the foibles of those in power will be more than familiar to people in the sub-continent.
(Kindle link, my blog post)

7. Upanishads
The Upanishads (Classic of Indian Spirituality)
2.3.3 Know the Self as lord of the chariot,
The body as the chariot itself,
The discriminating intellect as charioteer,
And the mind as reins.

2.3.4 The senses, say the wise, are the horses;
Selfish desires are the roads they travel.
When the Self is confused with the body,
Mind, and senses, they point out, he seems
To enjoy pleasure and suffer sorrow.

(Kindle link, my blog posts))

8. The Corporation That Changed The World
The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multi
The book and the author's contention is that the East India Company had a lot in common with the corporates of today, especially with the likes of Enron and Worldcom, and that a lack of appropriate corporate governance and weak oversight on the part of the government contributed to excesses therein. Specifically, "the drive for monopoly control, the speculative temptations of executives and investors, and the absence of automatic remedy for corporate abuse."

(my blog post)

9. Buy, Buy, Baby
Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds
Marketers market at children. Advertisers use and target children. Makers of toys, cartoon shows, and more know that children are a lucrative market. And that if you cannot get to the parents, get to their wallets via children. It may appear to be wrong, and it may militate against our sense of right and wrong, but it happens, all the time. This book attempts to document, expose, and reveal how, when, and possibly why this happens.
(my blog post)

Links to books available at
  1. The Visual Display Of Quantitative Informations from
  2. The Hot Zone from
  3. Shadow Of The Great Game The Untold Story Of India' from
  4. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children from
  5. Stumbling On Happiness from
  6. A Case Of Exploding Mangoes from
  7. The Upanishads from
  8. The Corparation That Changed The World from
  9. Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents And Harms Young Minds from

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.