In the last episode of Conversations with Rakesh, someone asked me about my five favourite books. It was a challenging task choosing only five from a sea of favourites. I hope my picks inspire you to become a lot more curious.
My favourite genres include business and history and a little bit of fiction. In the previous episode, I spoke about how accidentally stumbling across The Godfather started my reading journey. It is also one of my favourite movies, effortlessly helmed by the inimitable Francis Ford Coppola. That work of fiction fueled my hunger for both books and movies.
Then I discovered the genre of business books, and I was hooked. Maybe that’s why my first favourite on this list is
Goal written by Eliyahu, Goldratt and Jeff Cox.
On a boring summer afternoon in my second year of college, someone introduced me to this book. I opened it to read the first page, and I was captivated! The book introduced us to a character whose personal and professional lives are falling apart with the persistent threat of his factory closing looming large. It is such a well-written book that extols the values of having a goal and passionately working towards it.
It has many technical bits, which I honestly skipped a bit, but I enjoyed the parts where the protagonist connects his operational issues to his family problems and vice versa. The book encourages us to break the shackles of conventional thinking to solve serious problems and introduces us to the critical theory developed by Dolratt, the Theory of Constraints.
If you own a company, work in a startup or are an MBA student, this book is an absolute must-read.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The second book is from another favourite genre of mine – Behavioral Sciences. This category is increasingly becoming important in today’s world, where we are being persuaded to shine the spotlight internally on ourselves in a bid to understand ourselves better. We spend much time comprehending maths, science, making machines and robots, earning more money, and building more houses. But we need to ask ourselves – how do we make decisions? Are we making the right decisions, and are there better ways of decision making?
This book states that our lack of understanding of ourselves leads to flawed decision making. The authors, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, were friends and did much research together. Tversky unfortunately died, and Daniel Kahneman got a Nobel prize for his work. The amount of books and concepts these two have spawned is phenomenal.
You can also watch the TED talks of Daniel Kahneman and other commentaries on the Prospect Theory developed by Kahneman and Tversky.
Incarnations by Sunil Khilnani
I love history, and it is terrible that, as a society, we don’t appreciate it enough. We think of it as a boring subject, only worth memorising for exams and forgetting later. History tells us who we are and how we came into existence.
That is why I love Sunil Khilnani’s book, Incarnations. A dear friend of mine from Jodhpur sent me this book, and I can’t thank him enough. A riveting read, it is the story of 50 people who shaped India. The book comprises small chapters – of four or five pages each – on individuals who had a role to play in creating our country going back thousands of years.
You can listen to these stories for free too! The BBC also has a podcast where Khilnani talks about these 50 people, and it is just as fantastic as the book.
What an absolutely chilling read. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this story so well that I have read it hundreds of times despite knowing the sequence of the events and the conclusion. I also have read the entire Sherlock Holmes collection; you can download them from Kindle.
I am also a fan of the stories’ audible version, which the hugely talented Stephen Fry has voiced. He modulates his voice depending on his character, be it Sherlock, Watson or other Irish folks. He makes the whole series even more enjoyable.
If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan like me, you will love this book and the audio versions. I also thoroughly enjoyed the programme Elementary on BBC, which has a unique take on Sherlock. Do give it a watch.
The History of Science in bite-sized chunks by Nicola Chalton and Meredith MacArdle
I chanced upon this book on Amazon and instantly connected with it. It talks about the lives of scientists, their inventions, mistakes, and discoveries that changed the world. It narrates the stories of the giants on whose shoulders humanity stands.
A movie that comes to mind when I read the book was The Aeronauts.
Other than these books, one of my favourite podcasts is Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell.
I’m a big Gladwell fan and have read all his books, watched his videos on YouTube, and listened to his podcasts. I admire his researching skills and the ability to tell stories that connect science, social and other important issues. He brings an amazing amount of logic to my life.
I hope you liked my picks! I encourage you to explore various genres and books and find the ones that excite you. Remember, reading is not a competition, and do it to dispel the darkness brought about by ignorance in our minds.
Cover pic credit: https://tcagley.wordpress.com/
Watch Rakesh talk about his favourite books here.