2011 Summarized – In Books

(Yes, I know it’s kinda late to be summarizing 2011 :-), but I still believe that if you have nothing important, intelligent or enriching to say, then it’s better not to say it. In other words, don’t blog just for the sake of blogging…)

Often what keeps me going through a tough day is looking forward to curling up in bed with a book at night. It is a fact (at least valid for the current state of human evolution) that we retain more of what we read in real, paper books, compared to e-books on a digital screen. Something to do with the tactile senses.

I read several interesting, thought provoking and highly influential books since last year (besides the usual classic Science Fiction). Some of the more noteworthy ones were:

  • 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot” by Prof. Richard Wiseman — I came across this in a reference at Coding Horror, and although I’m not a fan of non-fiction (and certainly not the How To sub-genre of non-fiction), I just picked up on a whim, and boy, was I hooked. I have been evangelizing it ever since, and more than a year later, I’m still discovering ways in which reading this book helped me break my [evil] habits and turned me into a better person.
  • “IGNORE EVERYBODY and 39 Other Keys to Creativity” by Hugh MacLeod — A friend recommended this to me (in fact, so strongly that she gave me her copy to read), and although sometimes a little opinionated, I found the advice very relevant to the times we live in, especially The Sex & Cash Theory.
  • I very quickly read “It’s not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be.” by Paul Arden. Although the book didn’t really resonate with me (maybe because I was still reeling from the in-your-face effects of IGNORE EVERYBODY), I found some of the ideas very insightful. For example, Paul made the case that out of five sales pitches in a week, the client is most likely to pick the one presented on Tuesday, because Monday was “too early, nothing to judge by”, Wednesday & Thursday were “like eating too much chocolate” and Friday was like “feeling sick”.
  • Meanwhile, Steve Jobs sadly passed away, and the time seemed to be right to read “The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation” by Jay Elliot & William L. Simon. I found the book to be very balanced, using storytelling to draw focus on best practices and insights that can be applied in our own organizations. Highly recommended if you think you or your place of work could do with a fresh dose of [now legendary] iNspiration.
  • I then started reading “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea” by Bob Burg & John David Mann, which was the first in a reading list recommended by Venkat during his inspiring talk at BarCampBangalore11 (#bcb11). This is a short book that extols the virtues of giving as the secret to success. If you’re in the business of making profit (who isn’t), this book will surely make you think.
  • There was some promising talk on Facebook about “Plunnge: Reinvention for the New Generation” by Rakesh Godhwani, so I got hold of a copy shortly after it was published. I’ve read many books, and no matter how badly they are written, no matter what subject they’ve been written on, I always find something, no matter how small, to learn from them. So over the years, I’ve never regretted reading a book (except maybe my school textbooks :-p ), but after a bit of a mental struggle, I was forced to admit Plunnge was the first one. Although the subject (essentially a collection of true stories about Indians giving up successful careers to pursue their true passions) is commendable, Mr. Godhwani’s attempt at writing is best described as “otherworldy”, and clouded the true potential of the book.  The writing is heavily biased & prejudiced, almost every single page has either a grammatical or semantic error (although I must concede that some of them are popular usage in corporate India) and there was just too much credit being given to individuals who were correcting their own bad initial career choices (most of all Mr. Godhwani himself – If there was one purpose this book served, it was that of being his personal catharsis). Apparently Peak Publish, headquartered in Derbyshire, U.K. is quite accommodating with the authors they pick. Initially I was so appalled I wanted to write to both publisher & author, but as I read on I realized that (a) the publishers published it, so obviously they didn’t find anything wrong with it, and (b) the author is so pleased with himself and the topic that obviously the finer details were not important to him. So what’s the point? Don’t let your filters fail, and skip this one.
  • To recover from “the Plunnge”, I went on a Malcolm Gladwell reading spree (who I think is a magnificent author), and read “Blink” and “Outliers” (which were somewhat related to the subject matter in “Freakonomics”) and that was time happily well spent. No matter where your interests or disinterests lie, if you’re human, you should read Gladwell.
  • A lot was happening around that time, and I thought it was a good time to revisit the old classic “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, probably the best piece of work written on dealing with Change.
  • Finally, I read the short story “Whispering Wind” by Frederick Forsyth (in his book of short stories called “The Veteran”) which I think is the perfect story. Forsyth fans and those discovering him now will equally be amazed at the level of excellence the Master Storyteller achieved with this story, especially considering that this isn’t one of the topics (or time periods) he usually writes about.
  • Recently I also finished reading “Bozo and the Storyteller” by Tom Glaister, which presents a unique, thought-provoking (and sometimes depressing) view of the human condition.

I got myself  a LightWedge to and will continue reading happily into the night…

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