Sunday, September 14, 2014

My top 10 books...

So this is the latest trend on Facebook. You get tagged by a friend to list down your top 10 books, or books that have stayed with you long after you have turned over the last page. And then you tag few of your friends to do the same. So I duly got tagged by Vikram last week, and since then I realized that I have hardly read anything lately :). Even then, instead of just listing down those 10 books, I thought it would be nice to write a few lines on each as well. This is just to explain why a particular book was/is one of my favourite. This also provided me with a chance to revive (for the umpteenth time) my blog ! :) So here goes..
1. A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
       -  Science was never so enjoyable. In his own inimitable style, Bill Bryson touches on virtually every topic (Universe, Geology, Chemistry, Water,  paleontology etc. etc.) and writes in a manner that even someone who just managed grace marks in Science at school would be able to understand and appreciate. Indeed, I would even go as far as to recommend that this be made compulsory reading in schools !!. I was particularly impressed by Bryson's ability to convert those large and incomprehensible numbers (millions of kms, tens of thousands of particles etc.) into something tangible (e.g. the size of fifteen football fields).
2. Mrityunjay - Shivaji Sawant
       - Mahabharat is a personal favourite of mine, and Karna has always been one of my heroes. And this Marathi book (a Hindi and English version is also available) takes you deep into Karna's mind as he battles the injustice that life has always meted out on him. Reading this, one cannot even imagine the pain that he would have gone through. Another book 'Duryodhan' by Kaka Vidhate is also nice.
3. The Goal - Elhiyahu Goldratt
       -  Back in the MBA days, if you were wanting to make a career in Operations/Supply Chain, it was blasphemy not to have read this. A concept (Theory of Constraints) was explained in such a simple way, that you wondered : 'Was this not so obvious ?'
4. Scott and Amundsen - Roland Huntford
       -  If you like geography and adventure stories, then this one is hard to beat. An account of the 'Race to the South Pole' in 1911 between the two gentlemen mentioned in the title, it transports the reader into the cold and icy wilderness of Antartica. The only thing that works against this book is its length (579 pages).
5. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
       -  Normally, a fictional book would not make it here (I hardly read fiction). But this mix of fiction and history (and the hype associated with it at the time) made me pick this up. And once started, this thriller was hard to put down. The reader can almost imagine the streets of Paris as Messrs Langdon and Nevue escape the Louvre that fateful night !
6. The Mathematical Universe - William Dunham
        - A slightly odd book to have in one's top 10 list. And that is because Mathematics is not everyone's cup of tea. But William Dunham simplifies it by having an A-Z of Mathematics (A - Arithmetic, E- Euler, G - Greek Goemetry, P - Prime Number Theory etc.). With a fantastic combination of history and maths, Dunham introduces us to the subject's greatest personalities and problems.
7. Sholay - Anupama Chopra
        -  A short and sweet account of the making of Bollywood's most iconic movie. While most of us know the movie by heart, it is fascinating to hear the many small anecdotes and stories associated with the making of Sholay. Anupama Chopra brings all of it to life. Of particular interest is the bit on how Amjad Khan got his life's first and greatest role.
8. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - William Shirer
        -  History has always been my favourite subject. And the Second World War is one of history's most defining, and saddest, episodes. And if you have to read only one book on WWII, this is it. However, be warned that this is a magnum opus (1000+ pages : I was emotionally drained when I finished it). It is almost like a daily account of WWII and describes Hitler's rise before that in great detail.
9. Azhar: The biography - Harsha Bhogle
         -  For a cricket buff like me, it was inevitable that one cricketing biography would find a place in the top 10. Picked it up at a Pune bookstore in 1998. Azhar was my favourite cricketer at the time (even after the match-fixing saga, he still remains a favourite for his batting abilities) and hence reading his biography was a no-brainer. And Harsha, being a contemprorary of Azhar since his early Hyderabad days, provides a great account of his early days as a cricketer.
and last, but definitely not the least ...
10. Mahabharat - Ved Vyas / Lord Ganesha
         -  Quite simply, the greatest story ever told and the greatest book ever written. Period.
A few other mentions:  'Barbarians at the Gate' (the RJReynolds take over battle bought to life) and 'Open' (Agassi's autobiography - an honest book if there ever was one).

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