Recommendation — Books read in 2020

I started the year with a target of completing 52 books, I was able to reach 50.

For the complete list you can refer to https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2020/18286248

To follow me on GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/18286248-jai

Below I present my recommendations from these 50 books.

Top 5 books (All Genres)

Creating this list was difficult. Lot of books in the list were very well written. Each author pushed the boundaries in its own domain.

Presenting my biased view :-

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams By Matthew Walker — For years everyone has been struggling to find the reasons of why we need to sleep. Sleep from an evolutionary perspective does not make sense. It increases our chances to die at the hands of predators when our limbs and senses were not working. So why wasn’t the gene that enabled sleep removed from the pool? Why some people not able to rise early? Is this driven by determination or is it driven by genes? What are other factors not in our hands? The book written with all the information now available due to advancement in technology tells the answers with a very well written narrative. You would appreciate sleep more once you know the benefits of it. Its not without a reason people who live long, sleep like a baby.

The Selfish Gene By Richard Dawkins — A classic. Words cannot describe the beauty of this book. The book made me understand how the probability of human in the current state may seem infinitesimally small, the probability of improving upon something is reasonable, thereby evolution getting us to our current stage. It is similar to how we are building internet. The probability of internet in its current state may look like an impossible invention, but knowing how we have built it, one step at a time, is a human invention and not divine. The book is difficult to follow initially and if you stick around for a while you will come to love it and will become a fan of Darwinism. It will open up a whole new perspective on evolution.

Code Complete By Steve McConnell — Writing code is one part of the job. Writing code that others can read without using expletive is an achievement. In order to become the one where you escape, go through this book. It will help you understand why your leader says to write small functions. What is cognitive complexity and why is it important? What the Sonar rules state and why are they stated in this manner? This book can be read by both beginners and professionals in software engineering and love programming. It will enable you to become highly productive and enable your team to continue to be productive without the increased cost of development. If you want to improve your skillset, then learn from the best, Steve McConnell.

Behave by Robert Sapolsky — This book is not for the faint hearted when you pick it. It is a lengthy book and superbly interesting. The author is able to keep the reader hooked till the end. Do we have free will? Or are we destined to behave in a pre-determined manner? Does are face display our decisions even before we take them? What are the factors that create our behaviour? Why do we continue to take the same decisions even when we know they take us down the same path? Do you want to understand the reason why you are the way you are and what you can do to change it, if it is even do-able? With the latest research on how brain functions, Robert brings out the best of available information in an gripping read.

Thinking Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman — A master book in psychology. Do you want to understand the brain in decision making? Why should you not work at mathematical problems while driving? When can you make sound decisions? How intuition plays a role and does all intuition result in correct answers?

If I could extend the list

How Not To Die by Michael Greger — The sad reality of todays world is we die more from diseases that are avoidable by eating. We consume food, but the choice of food is the result between energy and lethargy. We consume medicine, the need for the medicine arises because we eat the wrong type of food. We can live longer and healthier by making small modifications into our diet. Did you know turmeric can help avoid cancer? The benefits of flaxseed? Do you think 120/80 blood pressure to be normal? Then why centenarians have lower blood pressure than normally acceptable by us? A book that will bring you back to eating fruits and vegetables and increase your lifespan(statistically) by decades.

Other books that are worth reading :-

Head First Design Patterns By Eric Freeman and Elisabeth Robson — If you are a programmer and working on code that has more than 4–5 classes, you need to understand how to design them. The book is a masterpiece in helping you learn the commonly used design patterns and when to apply them. It is a must to understand the programming lingo.

Collapse By Jared Diamond — What can we learn from history. The author knows his field in and out and in a compelling narrative, has written beautifully upon the civilisations that are now extinct. Each civilisation peak was higher than the previous ones, yet the learnings were missing, and each went extinct (by human actions). We the human species are capable of much more destruction than we give ourselves credit for. We have grazed the ground free of shrubs, bushes and trees. We have driven out the flora and fauna, and are responsible for extinction of innumerable species. Are we on the same path as the previous civilisations? Will we meet the same fate? With technology and written accounts now available, will we be able to read the slow changes in the environment we are making and turn the ship around? Will we turn around (the path of destruction) before its too late or is it too late already (and we are doomed)? This book is worthy of reading to know how we think we are better then everyone who came before us, and yet we are the same without the learnings and burning the candle at both ends.

Bringing Out the Best in People By Alan Loy MCGinnis — Its difficult to lead people. Its difficult to help them realise their potential and bring out the best performance. The leaders who bring out the best from their people is the one everyone remembers. He/She is the leader who puts your interests above his/her and puts you at the centre. He/She is a leader who knows the right amount of pressure to be built for you to succeed. A book that is must for every manager in any segment. Its also a book for every one who works with other people.

India’s Most Fearless By Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh — One of the most famous movie of 2019 was ‘URI’. It displayed the amount of valour and courage that goes when you are fighting with un-named enemies, when you are fighting to protect your country, your people. The book has very well written chapters on many such people who have put their country before themselves. Today when we are selfish enough to put all our interests above anything else, these people seem to belong from a different planet. Their stories are awe inspiring and create fear in the minds of the enemies. I cried multiple times during the book, was moved by the amount of their inner strength and learned the right way to lead. A book that is a must for everyone. If you are an Indian, you should definitely read this book. I would go on to even say this should be a mandatory read for every Indian.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen R Covey — This is a classic book that has taught the importance of time management and productivity. The book in easy to follow steps tells the 7 steps of increasing your output from the day. A book that you should read to know why and how to continue to invest in yourself. To learn what is important for you and how to achieve that.

Backstage by Montek Singh Ahluwalia — Montek Singh was leading the planning commission and has been a well known figure in the Indian circle. For the people born after liberalisation it is difficult to know a time when cars were built in fixed numbers irrespective of the demand. When the supply was tightly controlled through the license. Well after this book, I had a better understanding of the term license raj. It takes you through India’s journey from a time when we were dependent and consumerism was non-existent to a time when we have abundance and consumerism is the word of the day.

Influence The Psychology of Persuasion By Robert B. Cialdini — Our brain does not work the way we want it to. There are hidden motives that influence us. We all have limited capacity and we cannot question each and everything. So we develop shortcuts to function. These functions can now be used to influence and make us take decisions which we may not even be aware of.

The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Volume 1) — The book questions our existence from a philosophical standpoint. It provides a contrast to the Darwin theory of evolution (the book never challenges it) and hence makes an attractive combination. Swami Vivekananda was one of the greatest scholar of philosophy and has in depth understanding of the Indian literature. His speeches captured in the book makes for a very compelling read. The book never preaches religion and hence could be read by everyone. It tries to answer the question of why we are here? How compassion and empathy is the only solution? How all religion preach the same? How we can become better versions of ourselves and how we can learn that we all are created from the same materials and are all one.

The Invisible Gorilla By Chirstopher Chabris and Daniel Simons — If you haven’t gone through the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo&t=2s&ab_channel=DanielSimons. I recommend you watch this before proceeding further. This experiment was the pioneer of how we have selective attention. We have biases and illusions that we have built around ourselves. We display much more confidence than we know. We think we understand better than we actually do. We are under the assumption that memory is perfect. This book will shatter your illusions and will question everything you think is true. A master book to know how you have been deceived by your own brain and you continue to play into its hands.

Distributed Systems Principles And Paradigms By Andrew S Tanenbaum and Maarten Van Steen — Both of the authors are renowned in their fields. The book presents the theoretical aspect of the challenges and their solutions when thinking about distributed systems. The chapters 6 through 10 are a must read, where you come to better appreciate the challenges, and know that there are no easy answers when building a system. A book for advanced developers in the software engineering field.

Have you read any of the books above? Do you want to pick a book from the above list? Which one are you planning to read next?

I am passionate about designing and developing complex systems that impact people’s life. A avid reader and a believer of multi-disciplinary teaching.

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