10 amazing books I read in 2017

Here is the list, without any preamble.

  1. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World by Tim Marshall : This book serves as an introduction to the fascinating world of geopolitics - a guide to understanding international relations based on the geography and history of nations around the world. The first chapter on Russia is perhaps the most fascinating account I have read - it helps you understand why Putin acts the way he does. Each of the ten chapters is dedicated to a specific region of the world - US, China, Russia, South Asia, Europe,etc.

  2. Business adventures by John Brooks : a collection of essays about the American financial world ranging across a wide array of topics - the birth of Xerox, how Ford screwed up with Edsel, David Lilienthal, the guy who brokers the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, how the US Income tax was born & influenced countries around the world. John Brooks does a great job at telling entertaining stories about what may seem like dry and boring themes.

  3. Ashoka: Satrap of Taxila by Ashok Banker : A pulpy story about Ashoka quelling a rebelllion in Taxila while dealing with betrayals and palace intrigues. Keep in mind that this is pure historical fiction as a lot of “facts” we know about Ashoka may just be “legends”. Banker has taken liberties in his prose - Ashoka has a step-mother who is of Persian origin and a grandmother of Greek origin. The book also features Chanakya and his spies. A cool snippet I learnt is that Kalinga may have been a republic during Ashoka’s time.

  4. Lean in by Sheryl Sanbderg : A great book to read about how women think and feel in the corporate world. I think it is a must read for men because you realize that even though you may consider women to be your peers, the world is often stacked up against them. Sheryl takes us through a collection of colorful stories from her life - some were stories that I could very well empathize with, and some that were eye opening for me

  5. The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World by Matt Gross : If you are tired of reading about American folks traveling to the ends of the earth meeting different peoples and marveling at their innocence and happiness this book is a good cure.

  6. The Crown & other stories by Tagore : The first story, The Crown, is about a royal betrayal in a war between Tripura and Burma. I found this extremely fascinating - Tripura fought wars with Burma? Who knew! It makes sense since they are right next to each other. On more research, I found out that Tagore frequently wrote for the kings of Tripura - Tripura also speaks Bengali, if you were wondering. Tagore was a favorite of at least 4 different kings of Tripura and often wrote for them.

  7. Persepolis : an auto-biographical graphic novel about a girl growing up in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution and its aftermath. A gripping account laced with humor and self-deprecating satire. Reading this convinced me more of the uncertain nature of our fates - a single act of interference in a country’s affairs can lead to repercussions for decades.

  8. Badshah Khan by Eknath Easwaran : a gripping biography of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan - popularly known as Frontier Gandhi. As a kid, I loved his name - it starts & ends with a Khan! I first read about him while studying about the Indian Independence in school and often wondered who he was. Khan was a Pashtun and hailed from perhaps the most unstable region in the world - Pashtunistan - a land split between the modern nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a kid growing up in India, I did not think anything special of a non-violent Muslim leader. But in today’s times it is perhaps more relevant. In the book, the author takes us through encounters with Khan, Gandhi, and the history of the Pashtun Land, beset with rebellions against the British Colonial forces since the 1890s.

  9. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny : this is one of the wackiest books I have ever read. The plot reads like a modern version of Star Wars - fantasy in space, in this case on a different planet - but with many of the characters named after Indian/Hindu gods and goddesses. The protagonist is Buddha - not like the one we know of, but also not unlike him. Buddha is nicknamed “Sam”, short for “Mahasamatman”! A very entertaining sci-fantasy novel.

  10. Never let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro : Kazuo is this year’s Nobel Prize winner, so I wanted to give him a try. Written in the first person by a female protagonist, the plot is mildly dystopian and is at its heart about a set of “special” school kids dealing with drama in their lives. The book is charming to read although a gradual sense of something amiss starts to creep in.

Four of the books (Business adventures, Lean in, Persepolis & Never let me go) were recommended to me by my dear wifey.