Books

I liked reading…

2020

Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America
by Kendall Brown

Read for: 

All about Japanese gardens and their adaptations in the US

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A Room of One’s Own
by Virginia Woolf

Excerpts: 

  • “…if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves…”
  • “masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people”
  • “…when I ask you to earn money and have a room of your own, I am asking you to live in the presence of reality, an invigorating life”
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    An Un-stretched Canvas
    Essays by Shankar Palsikar, Vasudeo Gaitonde, Prabhakar Barwe and Prabhakar Kolte

    Excerpts: 

  • “…I began an inquiry into the existence of the correlation between sacred chants and colour. This was something that necessitated a major change in my artistic process, at a technical as well as structural level… I realized that yoga practice would bring me to the answers I sought, and acted upon it. The thought of success or failure never once touched my mind and I was able to experience the force”
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    Milk and Honey
    by Rupi Kaur

    Read for: 

    Raw poetry

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    Autobiography of a Yogi
    by Paramhansa Yogananda

    Some excerpts: 

  • “The Hindu scriptures teach that the first duty of man is to keep his body in good condition, otherwise his mind is unable to remain fixed in devotional concentration”
  • “trees that bend low with the burden of ripening fruits; it is the barren tree that lifts its head high in an empty boast”
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    Become What You Are
    by Alan Watts

    Some excerpts: 

  • “we want to enjoy ourselves, and feel that if we forget ourselves there will be no enjoyment – an entertainment without anyone present to be entertained”
  • “because they take themselves lightly, angels can fly”
  • “The world of form and illusion which the majority take to be the real world is none other than the play of the Spirit…man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun”
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    The Shadow Lines
    by Amitav Ghosh

    Read for: 

    The flow of the narration feels like being on a wave – with glimpses into various character’s lives, perspectives and the intermingling of their lives in the presence of historical events. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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    Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life
    by Hector Garcia and Albert Liebermann

    Read for: 

    Thought-provoking. The book refers to Viktor Frankl’s work, which is a very good pre-read for this. Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” is my favourite book and is included earlier on this page.

    Some excerpts:

  • “Only staying active will make you want to live a hundred years”
  • Stress leads to degeneration of cells, like pathogens do
  • Frustration can be a catalyst for change
  • “The happiest people are not the ones who achieve the most. They are the ones who spend more time than others in a state of flow.”
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    Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE
    by Phil Knight

    Read for: 

    A must-read. Fabulous story-telling. Phil Knight takes the reader in completely, sharing his journey in such an open manner that one comes out feeling as if they have lived his story. Some excerpts:
    “Geese in the rear of the formation, cruising in the backdraft, only have to work 80 percent as hard as the leaders.
    Front runners always work the hardest, and risk the most.”

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    The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe
    by Anuschka Rees

    Read for: 

    Although this book is about clothes, its philosophies extend to life (and what we let in). Some excerpts:

  • “(Your style is) a reflection of your experiences and the associations you picked up over the years”
  • “Allow yourself to go down rabbit holes”
  • “The way you shop is nothing but a set of habits you have picked up over the years…” to become a more thoughtful shopper, slow down the process so as to give yourself more energy and deliberation time to make better decisions.
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    2019

    Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It
    by Chris Voss

    Read for: 

    An extensive array of powerful strategies distilled from a Former FBI hostage negotiator’s real life experiences.

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    Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
    by Brene Brown

    Read for: 
    Some points that stood out for me:

  • What stands in the way, becomes the way.
  • Live into your values. Show up with whole hearts, pay attention and be curious.
  • The armour is too heavy a price to pay, so don’t keep an armour.
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    The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change
    by Charles Duhigg

    Read for: 
    Some points that stood out for me:

  • To change habits, identify the trigger leading up the habit and the reward. Then change the way you respond to the trigger, in a way that the reward is still met. New behaviour should have something similar at the beginning and the end.
  • Small wins convince one of bigger wins.
  • Keystone habits, once changed, trigger other habits to change.
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    How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age
    by Dale Carnegie

    Read for: 
    Realistic and grounded. Some key points:

  • “Each additional happy friend increases a person’s probability of being happy by 9%. An extra 5000 dollars in income in 1984 dollars increased probability of being happy by 2%.”
  • Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.
  • Interest is on the surface. Engagement is deeper and based on a person’s core values.
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    Love, Loss, and What We Ate : A Memoir
    by Padma Lakshmi

    Read for: 
    Life has so many possibilities. If one has the openness, the experience of multiple lives can be lived in a single lifetime. The author has lived thus, beautifully, and shared it with us.

    Some excerpts:
    Chutney was useful for reasons of “time, weakness or inertia”

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    Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain
    by Michelle Babb

    Read for: 
    Everyday meals full of nutrition, taste and variety, incorporating minimal cooking. Key points: The book considers Mediterranean style cooking, which avoids processed foods and includes fresh vegetables, to be the go-to approach for brain health.

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    Cinderella Ate My Daughter
    by Peggy Orenstein

    Read for:  Who knew that originally, Blue was considered a more feminine colour. No wonder so many Disney female characters have blue attire – Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel. Pink was a pastel hue for red, symbolising strength, not girlishness. At some point, marketing messages bulldozed this.

    I was concerned this book was going be a 200-page-long-rant but it turned out to be pretty interesting for parenting/sister-ing. The author vents out her frustrations relating to the “girly-girl” culture, Disney princesses and its impact on young girls.

    I had recently visited an American Girl store – it is a toy brand for young girls, which (dare I say) feels apocalyptic. You could easily spend 500$ customising a doll, getting her a change of clothes, some accessories and salon treatment (for the doll!). I find out now that the brand’s original objective was to connect young girls to the real life by sharing stories and values of women from various periods of American history. Ironically, it has somehow now moved into promoting consumerism, despite the simple values it was meant to connect girls to.

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    The Geography of Bliss
    by Eric Weiner

    Read for:  The author, a self-proclaimed unhappy person, dons his journalist hat and moves from country to country, exploring which place is happy and possibly why. Some interesting observations:

    “By telling us that happiness lives inside us, it’s turned us inward just when we should be looking outward. Not to money, but to other people, to community and to the kind of human bonds that so clearly are the sources of our happiness.”

    “Commuting in particular has been found to be detrimental to our happiness, as well as our physical health.”

    “What you’ve danced, can’t be taken away”

    “We can’t love a place, or a person if we always have one foot out of the door”

    “The golden thread – a path appears. Faint at first but increasingly clear if you are willing to look closely”

    “There is a question… the answer to which identifies your true home. That question is, where do you want to die”

    These are associated with happiness: Trust, gratitude, friends, family.

    “The good life cannot be mere indulgence. It must contain a measure of grit and truth”

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    The Art of War
    by Sun Tzu

    There are many versions/editions of this book, so you may want to explore various editions before deciding which one to read. I read a highly abridged version of the original text, which suited me well as I was looking for a quick introduction to the manuscript. Some insightful excerpts:

    “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns”

    “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”

    “The good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision”

    “Regard your soldiers as your children. Spoilt children are useless for any practical purpose”

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    Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World
    by Eknath Easwaran

    Read for:  I feel lucky that this book found me, so had to make sure I share it.

    If you value balance, peace and compassion, this book is calling out to you. While the speed of life can easily scatter our energies if left unchecked, the author shares useful approaches to removing noise, cutting out unnecessary distractions and making simple choices to move to a more centred living.

    I found it to be amazing and cannot recommend it enough. Do read it if you get the chance!

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    The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It
    by Kelly McGonigal

    Read for:  Very practical and very useful. This book gives exactly what its subtitle says. Some notes:

    “In the quest for self-control…guilt, stress, and shame – don’t work. People who have the greatest self-control aren’t waging self-war.”

    “The most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports…reading…spending time with friends or family…The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking…Rather than releasing dopamine and relying on the promise of reward, the real stress relievers boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals..”
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    Pride and Prejudice
    by Jane Austen

    Read for:  Dreamy, romantic fantasy, connecting one to an alternate beautiful world. Beware – this may onset a lot of daydreaming! Some excerpts:

    “You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity”

    “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”
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    Women’s Power
    by Vinoba Bhave

    Read for:  The author’s progressive thoughts about women empowerment despite other impending national challenges is an inspiration. Some excerpts:

    “Experience shows that the advance of any creature can be achieved only by the own strength of that creature”

    “It is a form of theft to refrain from speaking when it is necessary to speak”
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    I Too Had A Dream
    by Verghese Kurien

    Read for:  A definite must-read for every Indian and anyone interested in the development sector. It is not often that one comes across such a hero, and even less often that one gets to know the balanced story of their journey. Candidly shared, Dr Kurien’s life stories, vision and values are bound to inspire. Some excerpts:

    “Any sensible government must learn to unleash the energy of its people and get them to perform instead of trying to get the bureaucracy to perform.”

    “Each one of us has a responsibility, as a member of our nation’s privileged elite… we must hold ourselves accountable for that future…act not only as advantaged individuals but as concerned members of our society. Criticise and correct.”
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    Into The Shoes
    by Yash Jain

    Read for:  The parallel lives of the main characters help the reader navigate and discover various angles from which to look at the challenges in the education system, and the possible opportunities. The interactions between the characters are heartwarming. Straight-from-the-heart and thought-provoking!

    2018

    The Case for India
    by Will Durant

    Read for: Every young Indian should read this book to remember the struggles of our forefathers. Many facets of India from when it was a part of the British Empire are not prominent in the modern memory – this book enlightens the reader with these.

    Some excerpts:
    “one-fifth of the human race – suffering poverty and oppression bitterer than any to be found elsewhere on the earth”
    “since English manufacturers destroyed the domestic industries of India…for half the year 80% of the Hindus are unemployed through no fault of their own”
    “…a century of unmitigated rape on the resouces of India…They taxed the provinces under the Company so exorbitantly that two-thirds of the population fled…fathers sold their children to meet the rising rates.”
    “(Gandhi) wonders what is the purpose and fruit of this Western bustle and “overproduction,” this strange mechanism for concentrating wealth, in which the rapid production of goods leads to universal depression and poverty”
    “When the West is sick to the heart of its “progress” and its prosperity, its machines and its speed, it will turn to India to be saved.”
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    The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World
    by Peter Wohlleben

    Read for: the mysterious life of trees. Surprising facts and methods of the trees. Discover an entire new world of this creative, methodical and ancient life form.

    There are many lessons for us to learn.

    Some excerpts:
    “Isolated trees have far shorter lives than those living connected together in forests”
    “If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age”
    “As almost no habitat on Earth offers ideal living conditions, it’s actually got more to do with the tree adapting than the niche being ideal”
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    We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love
    by Robert A. Johnson

    Read for: Re-balancing perception of Romance and finding a sustainable and accepting approach to relationships, without the hue and cry that has become common.
    Not for: Anything related to casual dating.
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    Mahavira: Prince of Peace
    by Ranchor Prime

    Read for: Accessible mythology. Beautiful illustrations. Much to reflect on.
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    Dream with Your Eyes Open: An Entrepreneurial Journey
    by Ronnie Screwvala

    Read for: Engaging fast-paced narration, honest reflections. Readers will find it very easy to connect to the content, which is very relevant to the current economic environment.
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    Men and Ideals
    by C Mahajan


    

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    The Man Behind the Wheel: How Onkar S. Kanwar Created a Global Giant
    by Tim Bouquet

    Read for: The inspiring story of persistence, courage and vision that led to the building of the Apollo empire. Go the distance is not just a brand tag-line, but also an underlying philosophy that the entity has followed to reach its respectable position.
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    Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
    by John Gray

    Read for: Eye-opening and clear perspective into gender-specific idiosyncracies in relationships which everyone is bound to face at some point
    Not for: Not a guide to falling in love, but definitely good tips on treating it right
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    Psychic Powers (Collins Gem)
    by Carolyn Boyes

    Read for: An over-arching and interesting perspective on spiritualism that connects everything from meditation to reiki, and positive thinking to voodooism
    Not for: Actually becoming a (professional) psychic
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    Zero to One: Note on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future
    by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

    How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: And Say Yes to More Time, and What Matters Most to You
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    by Patti Breitman

    Read for: You CAN reclaim your personal space
    Not for: Subtle and graceful ways to say no – so many of the suggestions in the book are rude, that a more appropriate title might be “How to say no by being rude”

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    2016-2017

    The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
    by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


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    Outliers: The Story of Success
    by Malcolm Gladwell


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    Mastery (The Robert Greene Collection)
    by Robert Greene


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    Man’s Search for Meaning
    by Viktor Frankl


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    To Kill a Mockingbird
    by Harper Lee


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    A Short History of Financial Euphoria
    by John Kenneth Galbraith

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    2013-2016 (approx)

    The Opposite of Loneliness
    by Marina Keegan
    Read for: The youthfulness in the writing and the author’s honest portrayal of her age (there are no words supporting pretentious ideals over-reaching for the age).
    Not for: The benefits of a self-help book!


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    The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
    Read for: Meditative Reading and reflections on living in the present.


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    Measuring the World
    by Daniel Kehlmann


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    Big Babies by Michael Bywater
    I did not read through this book page by page. It became quite an effortful reading when the author’s endless cynicism continuously dismissed any outside opinion. While delving into the ‘childishness’ of present day grown-ups, the author himself is entrapped into playing an argumentative game of a child.
    In one of the latter sections of the book: “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Mother”, i.e., how to ‘grow up’, the author puts forth some rather interesting reflections, such as denouncing relativism, not trusting estimates, or indulging in manners and that not to associate skills with moral. However, he poses serious thought-contradictions when he professes “writers know everything”, literally and by implication of his tone. Incidentally this is one of the better sections of the book.
    Literary Review called him ‘the funniest man in England’. Either I personally don’t share a similar sense of humour, or, my unmet expectations result from finding this book in the wrong section of the library (Psychology).
    Read for: Wit
    Not for: Psychological analysis (as I did!)
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    Sexual Fluidity by Lisa M. Diamond
    Read for: Novel understanding/Breaking stereotypes/Personal Reasons
    Not for: Reinforcing homophobia


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    Midnight’s Children
    by Salman Rushdie
    Read for: ‘Magical realism’. And of course it won the Booker of Bookers prize.
    Not for: Historical account!

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