Let me begin by making a few honest confessions. I may not be the best judge for books in general, neither I am a critic, a Literature graduate nor a self-proclaimed ‘voracious reader’. I am a new reader (increasingly a passionate one) and I largely represent the generation that was fed more with academic books than novels; where Maths and Physics were more important than English. Always. And for most of my childhood, English was the second or rather the third language, until  I entered a more professional realm in my life.  Nevertheless and surprisingly so, books have played a very important role in shaping the person I am today and perhaps to an extent what & how I will be in future.

“What I truly believe and do often comes from the books I read. “

In 2016, I went through nearly 100  books, which is almost like one new book in every 3 days. Includes new releases, classics across several genres. And while you may think numbers don’t quite matter, I found it rather interesting to go through so many books in different genres to truly discover the reader in me.  And then I read this.  

“Don’t let what you read be tied to who you are. Just be a reader.”

Nevertheless, I have put together my list of 10 best books of 2016, in no particular order.  Hoping that you find the reader, the adventurer in you. Sooner than later.

Happy reading !

For the entrepreneur (thinker) me:

1. Alibaba – The house that Jack Ma built

Rags to riches story in entrepreneurship always draws me in. How people with seemingly insignificant background or even basic education create business legacies & empires that shape & reshape the global economy forever. So when I read this biography of Jack Ma, the man who built Alibaba — one of the largest companies, an e commerce empire on which hundreds and million of Chinese consumers depend — I was blown away. Literally. This man is everything an entrepreneur should be.  Humble origins, beginning as a teacher, dealing with early failures and creating a lasting impact with Alibaba. This book is not just inspirational but a hardcore bundle of information about the global business & entrepreneurship scene of today.

Jack Ma – A part Bill gates, part Steve Jobs, part Larry Page, part Sergey Brin and a part Mark Zukerberg, all rolled in one.

Jack Ma
Jack Ma (Pic Credit: Vulcan Post)

2. Dream with your eyes open – By Ronnie Screwvala  

I was always a film & TV enthusiast. Having grown up in the 1980s & 1990s of India, the changing media industry has allured me more as a business professional than as a viewer. And that is whÿ I picked up this book

It taught me three things: TV, media & entertainment business; Screwvala’s very interesting journey as a first generation entrepreneur spanned over decades  and most importantly the thing that this book repeatedly talks about and stays with me is :

An entrepreneur’s obsession to scale & make businesses sustainable.

3. My Gita – By Devdutt Pattanaik

Gita is one timeless concept that I will recommend everyone and  from all walks of life. And fortunately, with several interpretations, translations & re-telling available in today’s time, we no longer need the not-so-convenient-read of the original texts. This book is just one of the many interpretations of  Gita. Very logical, often mathematical & infographical and comes from one of the leading authord in this genre today.

 Gita will continue to have countless interpretations for the years to come and its lessons and perspectives will remain timeless.

Devdutt Pattanaik (Pic Credit: thecommonmanspeaks.com)

3. Leadership lessons – By Robin Sharma

Leadership is not an easy feat. And you realize this very early on in life. Right from the time you start taking your own decisions to a stage when people depend on you, look to you for suggestions. Every individual has a mind of her own. Has dreams, passion, wants to be recognised for the work she has done. And that is why learning a few leadership lessons can take you a long way, both professionally and personally. My personal take out from the book :

Leadership is not just about leading other people, it is first about leading yourself!

4. Arise awake –  By Rashmi Bansal

I have read almost all her books in the last 4-5 years. In fact, she mentors me like many aspiring entrepreneurs through her books. These are stories that are real, conversations that are real and inspirations that are necessary. This latest book by Rashmi Bansal is about young / student entrepreneurs. And their journey from classrooms to boardrooms. Companies that are started in college campuses move to rented apartments and finally turn into path-breaking ideas, technology and large corporations.

Rashmi Bansal
Rashmi Bansal (Pic Credit: Dainik Bhaskar)

5. Black Swan – By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Black Swans = Random events. Some change our lives & give a whole new direction.  From wars, to financial crisis, to elections, to natural calamity, this book gives us massive material on world history and how a few Black Swans change the course of history forever. Personally, it did a little magical thing to me, it taught me to be “rationally happy” and not just emotionally.

This book tells us how to stop trying to predict everything and take advantage of uncertainty.

For the reader (perpetual dreamer) me:

1. One Indian girl – By Chetan Bhagat

Any book by Chetan Bhagat is like elections, there will be a strong opposition and a stronger winning party campaigning in completely polarized direction. I am not a big fan of his books, but I make sure I read some of them because more than anything, it gives me a pulse, a thought, a trend that is so dominant in our society. The book was a super quick read.  Feels like those mundane conversationx you have with your friends and family but still drawing out something significant, thought provoking. For me personally, this book did just one thing.  Radhika – the protagonist, the Ivy league, 6 , 7 or 8 figure salary earning investment banker taught me :

“There is nothing that a woman cannot achieve. And sadly, we settle for far less and always go with the safer option that doesn’t upset or perturb people around us. And this for the longest times, which should just STOP”.

Chetan Bhagat. Picture Credit: indiatoday.intoday.in
Chetan Bhagat (Pic Credit: indiatoday.intoday.in)

2. Lanka’s princess – By Kavita Kane

Kavita Kane is one of my personal favorite in this genre. Her USP is not just in finding the lesser known (and largely women) characters from mythology, but is also in the way she tells their story.  Her narrative is extremely compelling. The kind of physical, mental detailing of characters she does is impeccable and that results in ideas and perspectives that are hard hitting. In Lanka’s Princess, her portrayal of Shurpanakha — the infamous sister of Raavan in Ramayana, brings alive the little but eternal questions around women and to me also on parenting (surprisingly so) ;

“How a girl child should be raised & how imparting a sense of “Self confidence” is more important than embellishing her physical being.”

3. The great Indian obsession — The untold story of Indian engineers – By Adhitya Iyer

This I confess is almost like my story. Technically not a fiction, more like a narrative fiction as it is called. And I am so glad that someone finally has written this.  I have seen the trials and tribulations of many engineers so up and close that this book had to resonate with me. More than that, the indepth research this young author has done about the entire education system in India and its past is excellent. The root causes, the possible solutions that he gives are noteworthy. Hope his ideas find the right audience and we see the change and be the change like that many engineers of this generation are trying very hard.

In India, many of us first become engineers and then anything else! So true but little unfortunate.  

4. The Entrepreneur’s Wife: A Survival Guide – By Aradhna Sethi

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. This is one of those lesser known gems that I found in my Kindle subscription this year.  And I was so much entertained to read this super candid and humorous account of this lady. The trials & tribulations of a woman, a wife and interestingly, an entrepreneur’s wife. “A girl in her late 20s, when she stepped out of her sheltered maternal home and into her new life as a wife in a country far, far away from home, little did she realise that she had, indeed, stepped on to the merry-go-round of life that would spin her world into shades of neon colours to muted tints – and so much more. Her husband decided to quit his corporate job and become an entrepreneur! This changed her entire existence and peppered her life with flavours she never imagined!”

aradhna sethi , author
Her different roles in life inspired her to writing: Aradhna Sethi

5. Honest Season – By Kota Neelima

I don’t really understand politics a lot and frankly, my knowledge of politics is abysmally low considering the Bengali genes I have. This was not a book on politics though, this was more like a political thriller. A story that can take you to the inner recesses of the mind of a journalist, politician and highlights different shades of their characters, morality a sense of right and wrong.  References so close to reality that :

 As a reader I felt blessed to have the gift or rather an escape into fiction when frankly (from the very little I know) the fact is much harder to digest.

Views expressed are the authors

She The People
She The People