Following are the books that I read/listened to in January of 2017. The reviews here will be very biased since I picked up the books after hearing/reading a number of recommendations and was already interested in what they had to offer. Also because there are a million other reviews out there I am mostly going to focus on how each of the books ( funny how audio narration of a book is called an audiobook, how books have transcended the medium of paper ) made me “feel”. I will leave the unbiased analysis of the books to people who are better at it than I can ever hope to be.
The Graveyard Book — Neil Gaiman
This one I listened to on Audible. I have tried listening to a lot of audiobooks in the past and have realised that, for me at least, the ones that work best in the audio format are from the fiction/history/biography genre. This was my first fictional book in around 3–4 years. So much so that I cannot remember the last fictional story that I read. Recommended a number of times by Tim Ferris on his podcast I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. The best way to describe the book is “soothing”. It may be due to the fact that I got into fiction again after so long. There is an inherent simplicity to the writing. Feels like one of those stories you heard when you were growing up and it fills you up with joy and wonder. The story is about a boy called Nobody ( Bod ) who grows up in a Graveyard. There are simple life lessons if you look hard enough or you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. The author makes the maxim “ There is beauty in simplicity” come to life. I think the best books are the ones that ellicit some strong emotion in you after you have read them. And saying goodbye to Bod in the end was like saying goodbye to a dear friend.
A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts — Andrew Chaikin
This book takes you on a journey. A journey about what it took to journey to the moon. The sacrifices people made, the countless hours they put in, the lives that were lost to acheive one of the most remarkable milestones in all of human history. After listening to the book I realised how many unsung heroes there were. So many names that have been lost in the annals of space expoloration. You cheer for the astronauts. You feel their pain when they face a setback. This beautiful account inspired me, took me back to my childhood days when the answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was “An astronaut”. It also gets into why space exploration was derailed after the Appolo missions. How getting to the moon was just “another thing” after a while. I distinctly remember listening to the book, nearing its end on one of my runs and lost in thought. As I was snapped back to the present I wondered if me not paying my full attention to the book is in a small way similar to how majority of the public lost interest in the amazing feat. Whether you have ever thought about space exploration or looked at the moon, this book will transport your mind to our nearest celestial neighbour because we are and always will be explorers.
Tools of Titans — Timothy Ferris
Hindus have their Geeta, Muslims have their Quran, Christians have their Bible. I am, for the forseeable future, take this book as my religious text. I have been a listener to the author’s podcast for a long time now and I can’t highlight enough how much of an effect this guy has had on me. So much so that I had to get my hands on his new book as soon as it came out. As the name suggests the book contains a toolset/hacks/strategies of some of the smartest people in the world. Whatever your field of work, whichever area of your life you want to improve you will find something in the book that will resonate with you . The book has such a wealth of knowledge that you can take and start implementing it in your life from day one. Every paragraph, every sentence is gold. I was literally tired of highliting stuff that I found interesting. His conversational way of writing makes it a joy to read and you feel like you are a fly on the wall witnessing some of the most amazing interviews ever. This is one book that I am going to come back to again and again. Having finished the book I have decided to read one chapter per week and trying to imbibe what I find useful in my life. Thank you Tim Ferris for another gem.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — Robert M. Pirsig
I have long been interested in Buddhism and Zen partly because I think of it more like a philosophy than a religion and the crux of it i.e. being in the “present” has helped me in ways that I could never have imagined. This book makes you feel like you are riding a “sine wave”. You oscillate from the joys of beautiful landscapes, the bonding between a father and son on a motorcycle with their friends to the clash between rhetoric and reason which, at times, makes you think and unravel the spaghetti that your mind is. What I personally took away from the book, which I think will vary from reader to reader, was how being in the present affects your creative thought process. How creativity is more often than not a plant that germinates from the seed of one’s subconcious. An idea that I have come across a number of times now. The author takes you on a beautiful journey as he struggles with his identity and makes you struggle with him. And he beautifully encompasses some of the most confusing ideas of philosphy in the mechanical thing that is maintenance of a motorcycle. One book I am surely coming back to soon.
The Inevitable — Kevin Kelly
Deemed one of the most interesting men alive by Tim Ferris, Kevin Kelly brings his version of the future in your hands in this book. I picked up this book after I listened to one of his interviews ( this guy built his own house by the way — added to my bucket list ). In chapters which could be and have been plots of movies by themselves the author ( who is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine ) transports you to a world where technology is embeded with us literally. A future which you might love or might hate but will surely make you sit up and take notice. The best part being the detail with which he describes his version of the up and coming reality. If you have a modicum of interest in technology then you are going to love the book and if you do not you should read it nonetheless because some of the advancements mentioned are already taking shape. The book makes you realise that we are at the cusp of the digital age and in this shared and connected world our most interesting innovations lie in the near future rather than in the past. I feel lucky and grateful that I can choose to work on some of them and this book surely helped me in making the choice.