Here’s a list of five books that I’ve read in the past year or two, enjoyed quite a bit and would recommend:
- Blank Slate by Steven Pinker (Non-fiction). If you’re even slightly interested in the science of human nature, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, or behavioral psychology, you’ll love this book. And if you’re not, after reading this book I am sure you will become quite interested! After rejecting the theory of tabula rasa, Pinker goes on to explain the reasons (not justifications) behind gender inequality, racism, and even nazism. (I used to joke around with my wife that every chapter, if not every page, in this book gives me an intellectual orgasm!). Wittily written and quite persuasive, this book remains as my most favorite non-fiction book.
- The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide by Douglas Adams (Science Fiction). There’s no other author whose writing style I’ve enjoyed more than that of Douglas Adams. (I am referring to the joy that comes from jocular and often whimsical phrases like “In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”, and “Arthur and Trillion had the fixed expression of rabbits on a night road who think that the best way of dealing with approaching headlight is to stare them out” and “The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about.”) This book, which includes stories like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the Universe and Everything, is a delightful read.
- The Last Mughal by William Dalrymple (Non-fiction). I’ve already written my thoughts on this book earlier here.
- Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (Fiction). A Mumbai noir that takes you on a journey to the Mumbai underworld and gives you an inside look into the lives of the Mumbai police force. The intertwined and rather epical stories of a Sikh cop and a gangster are quite gripping, exiting and often melancholic. With 900 pages, this book is an unlikely choice for picking up from the shelf, but once you do, it’s hard to put it back! After finishing this long drama of crime and punishment, I was left with a feeling of yearning for more.
- The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen (Non-fiction). A historical analysis of the argumentative nature of the Indian mind. Sen argues (being an argumentative Indian himself!) how, contrary to Western perception of Indian philosophy and tradition as mystical and spiritual only, Indians have a long tradition of skepticism and rationalism. He lays out his arguments along with some great examples like Asoka, Akbar and Nehru, among others. With fascinating insights into the philosophies of religions of Indian origin (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism), Sen’s well written book is bound to impress the reader.