A few books I read in 2018

2018 was a good year. I got to meet some awesome people, travel to some incredible places, and read some great books. I haven’t updated this blog in a while, so I thought I’d write a brief post about the books I liked this year.

In January, I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Shashi Tharoor shortly after he launched his book, Why I am a Hindu. I had read his fantastic book Inglorious Empire just a few months earlier, and I was eager to see how he was going to counter the BJP’s political interpretation of Hindutva. While Why I am a Hindu begins with a rundown of the various Hindu traditions to show how diverse the religion is, the second half dives into the politicization of religion and Hindutva in the last few decades.

Getting my copy signed by Tharoor

I also remember chatting with Mira Kamdar in January about my book project on Indian millennials when she recommended two books to me, Dreamers by Snigdha Poonam and The End of Karma by Somini Sengupta. I could not thank Mira more for her recommendations. Dreamers is a fascinating and unputdownable book with the stories of seven young Indians which crucially gives the reader a front seat to their desires and ambitions. The End of Karma, written by former New Delhi bureau chief of The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, takes an excellent look at the ‘hope and fury of India’s youth.’ I personally loved her account of Anupam Kumar, the son of a rickshaw driver who aspired to get into IIT. While he didn’t finally make it there, her chronicling of Anupam, who went on to become a student of Anand Kumar (also the subject of Hrithik Roshan’s forthcoming movie, Super 30), captured every little detail in documenting the struggle to succeed and break out of poverty in India.

I then read two older books – Nandan Nilekani and Viral Shah’s Rebooting India and Ravi Venkatesan’s Conquering the Chaos – which were honestly super helpful as I was launching my startup. Venkatesan’s book, in particular, really helped me in figuring out some of the nitty-gritties in doing business in India and turning challenges into advantages.

Michael Auslin’s The End of the Asian Century was lying on my bookshelf for ages, so I decided to finally read it this year. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t finished the book earlier because I worked at the American Enterprise Institute, where Auslin was also based, while it was being edited. It really is a must-read book for anyone interested in tuning out the fluff pieces on Asia dominating the 21st century to get a realist account of how its internal challenges may hold it back from truly achieving its potential.

Starting in the late summer, James Crabtree’s The Billionaire Raj was creating a ton of buzz and there was rarely a day that went without seeing a tweet on my timeline praising it. It had glowing reviews, and its subject – of India becoming an oligarchy – was super interesting to me. I finished the book in less than three days. It was almost addictive. It begins in truly filmi fashion, describing a car crash taking place in South Bombay, but then contextualizing it with the wealth of its alleged owner, showing the reader how invincible Indian billionaires are today. The rest of the book continues its unique style of combining a vivid narrative with solid research to really give the reader a deep dive into the inner workings and shady dealings of India’s billionaire raj.

{On an unrelated note, I also had a hilarious Twitter incident when billionaire Harsh Goenka tweeted out a photo of the book praising it. The funny thing was that I had actually taken the photo he had tweeted, on the desk of my bedroom at home. How did he get that photo and why didn’t he just take his own? Hilarious questions which I may never get an answer to (unless Harsh is reading this!)}

But on a more serious note, Crabtree’s book is a riveting account of how the immense wealth generation in India since 1991 was made possible, and how its biggest beneficiaries were able to use the system to their advantage.

I wrote most of this post in sunny Bali, where I ended 2018 with Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans and Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. While super different, I loved both books. I’m finding Ferris’ Titans really helpful in streamlining areas of my life which I could make more productive. 21 Lessons is a book anyone interested in understanding how AI and technology can disrupt the 21st century. Although a little apocalyptic at times, it also has enough optimism for you to not believe that the world is ending tomorrow.

And finally, I am either starting or in the middle of: Factfulness, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Staggering Forward. Message me below if you want my thoughts on them!

Hope you guys have an awesome 2019! Please enter your details below to subscribe to my #woke #millennials newsletter – I promise you won’t regret it

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