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Books Gyaan

What’s that one book that will totally change the way I look at things?

I asked this to my Facebook and Instagram followers. They responded. I am listing down all the recommendations that I received (arranged by categories).

I have added few from my own experience too (* marked). From the recommended list, unless otherwise stated, I’ve not read them. That also means my categorization could be faulty in some places. If you spot such categorization errors, please do point them to me and I will rectify.

Also, ideally you should buy a book to read but if money is an issue, here is the torrent of bookstores where you will find 99% of the books.

Though I recommend don’t download all of the books below (you will just save them in a nice folder and then never read anything). Download & read one (or few) at a time.

And one last thing – if there is a perspective-altering book that you think must be in here, let me know; will add.

Category 1: Why the world is the way it is / why we act the way we do

  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) by Yuval Harari (have read)
  • Irrational Man (1990) by Bill Barrett
  • Guns, Germs and Steel (1999) by Jared Diamond (started)
  • Factfulness (2019) – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling (have read)
  • The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins (started)
  • *Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011) by David Graeber

Sub-category: theories

  • on how brain works – Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann (started)
  • on how nature works – The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
  • Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris
  • on how randomness works – The Black Swan – The Impact Of The Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • on creativity – The Courage to Create (1975) by Rollo Reece May
  • on how morality works – *The Righteous Mind by Jon Haidt
  • The Art of Dying – by S. N. Goenka & others
  • The Mind Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein
  • How we die by Dr Sherman Nuland
  • Ways of seeing (1972) by John Berger
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
  • The Power of Moments by Dan & Chip Heath
  • *Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Category 2: Life Philosophy

  • Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E. Frankl 
  • Sidhartha, Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse

Sub-category: the ones where the author writes whatever needs to be written to propagate his theories on the right way to live life (generally put together from a mix of existing theories)

  • Blessing or Curse – you can choose, by Derek Prince
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (Stephen Mitchell’s translation)
  • Life is beautiful by Tony Martin
  • The subtle art of not giving a fuck by Mark Manson
  • The power of intention by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
  • The Heartfulness Way: Heart-Based Meditations for Spiritual Transformation by Kamlesh Patel
  • Inner Engineering by Sadhguru
  • Jinnsutra volumes 1,2 & 3 by Osho Rajneesh
  • Gyanyog by Swami Vivekananda

Sub-category: religious

  • The Bible
  • Bhagwad Gita

Note: Personally, I am not very interested in the last two sub-categories. They tend to become preachy and their only basis are stories and storytelling. But may be if I read enough, I may change my opinion.

Category 3: Science

  • The Baloney Detection Kit by Carl Sagan (or any other book by the same author)
  • The Body: A guide for occupants by Bill Bryson
  • Surely you’re Joking Mr Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character – by Richard Feynman
  • *A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • Physics problems by IE Irodov

Note: I know the last one is an odd one out, but those who needed to solve the problems in the book (especially mechanics), would recall that once you learn how to solve those problems, you do end up developing a new perspective of looking at things.

Sub-category: intersection of science and philosophy

  • Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra

Category 4: Fiction

Pre 1900:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Anna Karenina by Tolstoy

First published between 1900-1950:

  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • The Outsider by Albert Camus
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schulz
  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka (have read)
  • Of Mice and men by John Steinbeck
  • As I lay dying by William Falulkner
  • Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantazakis
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

First published between 1950-80:

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Post Office by Charles Bukowski
  • The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig
  • One hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (have read)

Post 1980:

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (have read)
  • Mars trilogy by Kim Robinson (Sci-fi)
  • Dark Forest trilogy by Cixin Liu (Sci-fi)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • *Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
  • *Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Category 5: Health

  • Pure, White and Deadly: How sugar is killing us and what we can do to stop it by John Yudkin
  • Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert Lustig
  • Lies My Doctor Told Me: Medical Myths That Can Harm Your Health by Dr. Ken Berry
  • The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung (also Life in Fasting lane)

Note: this is not my area of interest in the present; may be will dive into these in the future.

Category 6 – How to…

  • be more productive – Four hour week by Ferriss Timothy
  • do good parenting:
    • Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting – by Pamela Druckerman
    • The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary
  • get what you want – The Secret by Rhonda Byrne (have read)
  • unclutter your life – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Category 7 – Comic Books

  • Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson (who has not seen at least some strips?)
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Category 8 – History

  • Freedom at midnight – by Dominique Lapierre
  • Africa: A Biography of the Continent by John Reader
  • Ten thousand Miles without a Cloud by Sun Shuyun
  • After Tamerlane: The Rise & Fall Of Global Empires by John Darwin
  • Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty by Robert K. Massie
  • *India After Gandhi – Ram Guha

Sub-category: autobiographical that tell us something about history / historical events

  • King Rat by James Clavell (World War 2)
  • *Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita (a Kashmiri Pandit’s take on his exodus).

By this time, if you have forgotten what * is for – it is to denote the books that were not recommended to me by anyone, but I’ve added to the list based on my personal experience.

Category 9 – Theories on society, its biases, its beliefs etc.

  • Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
  • Everyone Loves a Good Drought by P. Sainath
  • *The Republic of Religion by Abhinav Chandrachud

Category 10: Business

  • Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlinghamis
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  • Ben Jerry’s Double Dip: Lead With Your Values and Make Money by Ben Cohen
  • Made In Japan by Akio Morita And Sony
  • *Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban (on Ranbaxy fraud)

There are two more categories in which nobody recommended me anything, but I would like to recommend them to everybody.

  • 11 Communication & storytelling
    • The Communication Book: 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day by Mikael Krogerus.
    • Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert Mckee
    • Made to Stick – by Dan & Chip Heath
  • 12 Relationship – The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

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Update – found a recent thread on Twitter asking the same thing – this may give you few more recommendations (may update my list with the extra suggestions below).