Sunday, January 10, 2021

Reading in 2020

As an introvert most days of the week, I've always favoured a good book even over wholesome social interactions. Expectedly, this period in which the pandemic forced us indoors was good for reading.

Let me start with the book that caused the biggest "viewquake" for me. As a parent, the biggest takeaway from DNA was how little my parenting actually influences a child's eventual personality. Strangely, instead of making me feel helpless the realisation actually made me feel free.

* Blueprint – How DNA Makes Us Who We Are - Robert Plomin

I came across Jugalbandi in the Seen and the Unseen podcast where the host Amit Verma engaged with the author in a nearly 3-hr conversation on Indian politic's most fascinating pairing - Vajpayee and Advani. Most liberal portraits of these two men tend to paint them as simplistic good and evil pairing. Sitapati's storytelling lends so much more color, nuance and detail to them. Most interestingly, you understand why the combined biography makes sense, because so much of what transpired can only be explained as the result of that peculiar combination. As soon as I finished this book, I picked up the author's other biography of who I believe is India's most underrated Prime Ministers. 

Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi - Vinay Sitapati
Half-Lion: How P.V.Narasimha Rao Transformed India - Vinay Sitapati

There was more history in the portfolio this year. The popular caricature of Genghis Khan being an unsophisticated marauding conqueror always ringed false to me. It just didn't make sense that he could stitch together such a large empire without a method to it. This biography filled in those details for me. 

Among bloggers that I follow, Scott Galloway is one of my favourite thinkers. Much of what this book has to say was already said in his newsletters and posts, but it was still rewarding to read them together in this collection. 
We started a book club in office this year, and I credit my colleagues with introducing me to these books that I probably wouldn't have read otherwise.  

My relationship with self-help books has shifted over the years. I held them in contempt in my 20's, consumed them surreptitiously in my 30's, but now I'm a completely unabashed about reading them. Even the not-so-well written books give me a structured way of thinking about various aspects of life, and I can't see the harm from that. 
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg