Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reading in 2017

Cuckold - Kiran Nagarkar

It baffles me that Kiran Nagarkar doesn’t get the coverage that other Indian authors of English get. For me, Cuckold, is right up there with Midnight’s Children.

“Being in the right has got nothing to do with courage or exceptional bravery. The forces of evil will fight just as enthusiastically or fiercely as the armies of righteousness.”

Everybody Lies - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (Reading) 

Only 7% of the people who started Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow are believed to have finished it. That number for Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is 3%. How do we know this? Not through surveys, but the number of highlights people make while reading these books on Kindle. Everybody Lies tries to understand the human psyche through a surprisingly rich and revealing source, out collective online behaviour.

The Lost River - Michael Danino

Marking the one time that actual history agreed with most WhatsApp forwards on the topic, Danino comes to the conclusion that Sarasvati was an actual river that flowed through the northern plains, and its drying up could have shaped our destiny in a profound way.

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Couldn’t get past the first few pages of The Buried Giant but this one was unputdownable.
“I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”

Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know - Joseph Romm

In the age of trump and similar bozos ascending everywhere to positions of civilizational influence, I wish I could somehow make this book compulsory for everyone.

Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent - Pranay Lal

This book traces the journey of the Indian tectonic plate from its separation from Gondwana to its current uncomfortable union with the European plate. Lal so intimately brings to life the history of this land that at various points while reading the book I wondered why we haven’t cordoned off the entire subcontinent and declared it one mega museum.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow - Yuval Noah Harari

It may not count as a scholarly work, but I found Homo Deus to be incredibly though-provoking in so many of the disciplines it tackles.

Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor

Wrote a more detailed post on this one.

The Periodic Table - Primo Levi

Last year I fell in love with Primo Levi and the romance continued in 2017. In The Periodic Table Levi combines his musings on science and otherwise in the most delectable manner.

“[T]he chemistry and physics on which we fed, besides being in themselves nourishments vital in themselves, were the antidotes to Fascism … because they were clear and distinct and verifiable at every step, and not a tissue of lies and emptiness like the radio and newspapers.”

Aurangzeb: The Man and The Myth - Audrey Truschke

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve read so much Indian history these last two years when there has been such a broadside on historical facts. I almost feel like it’s every liberal’s duty to educate himself to counter the relentless rewriting of history that’s been happening in our country.

“In reality Aurangzeb pursued no overarching agenda vis-à-vis Hindus within his state. ‘Hindus’ of the day often did not even label themselves as such and rather prioritized a medley of regional, sectarian, and caste identities (for example, Rajput, Maratha, Brahmin, Vaishnava). As many scholars have pointed out, the word ‘Hindu’ is Persian, not Sanskrit, and only became commonly used self-referentially during British colonialism.”
Other books that I enjoyed:

...and the one that didn't make much of an impact.

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