My Year in Books - 2021

Here’s what I read in 2021 - in order of what I liked most (highest rated first):

1. The Wright Brothers

cover image Author: David McCullough
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Wright Brothers is an exhilarating account of inventing flying machines. It gives deep insights into the Wright family and their relationships. It brings out the value system that the two brothers grew up with and maintained throughout their life. The spirit of endeavor, immaculate study & experimentation is inspiring.
David McCullough’s writing style is endearing. The book deserves an extra star for stunning photographs of the first flyers of humankind.

2. Tuesdays with Morrie

cover image Author: Mitch Albom
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Morrie has a very stoic take on life, death & everything in between. I didn’t know it’s a memoir before completing it.

Reading Morrie talk about death without any self-pity was illuminating. Mitch Albom succeeds in not letting the book become preachy.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2)

cover image Author: J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Apart from a couple of irritating characters, I was hooked throughout. I found it more engrossing than the first one given that the world was already built. I had a magical Sunday with this book.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

cover image Author: J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Unputdownable. It’s witty and pulls at just the right strings of the heart. Only one complaint - I should have read it way before!

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4)

cover image Author: J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Loved it! But a bit less than Azkaban.

6. Why Socialism?

cover image Author: Albert Einstein
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Einstein’s paper is condensed and touches upon an individual’s relationship with society. Paragraphs like the following show great foresight:

“…the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

7. The Psychology of Money

cover image Author: Morgan Housel
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sound, easy-to-comprehend financial advice. This book’s “wisdom per page” is through the roof.

I especially liked the last two chapters where the author elaborates on his own financial journey & how the changing economy has broadened the economic divide leading to growing populism.

8. आज भी खरे हैं तालाब

cover image Author: Anupam Mishra
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

तालाबों के इतिहास और पानी के संरक्षण पर लिखी कोई किताब इतनी ख़ूबसूरत हो सकती है, ये मेरी कल्पना से परे था। ये किताब भारत के तालाबों, उन्हें बनाने वालों, और बनाने की रीतियों में छुपे विज्ञान से आपका परिचय कराती है।
ये किताब उन तालाबों की याद दिलायेगी जो आपके बचपन के इर्द-गिर्द थे, पर अब गायब हो चुके हैं।

9. The Discovery of India

cover image Author: Jawaharlal Nehru
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Nehru is a romantic and India is his muse. “Discovery of India” has sublime prose & eloquence. The book feels like being on a historical tour of India with a guide who is hopelessly in love with her.

More than the historical tidbits, I liked his interpretation of them. His statesmanship shines through these interpretations.

The chapters on last 100 years could have been shorter but that’s understandable as that timeline coincides with his own life. Inside accounts of the freedom movement are interesting.

His writing shows that politics’ gain was literature’s loss.

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3)

cover image Author: J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Is there a better place to spend a weekend than at Hogwarts? I think not. Also, I’m a sucker for this kind of humour:

‘Certainly, certainly,’ said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling. ‘Let me draw you up a chair –’ And he did indeed draw a chair in mid-air with his wand, which revolved for a few seconds before falling with a thud between Professors Snape and McGonagall.

Looking forward to visiting platform nine and three-quarters for the fourth year!

11. सत्यजित राय की कहानियां

cover image Author: Satyajit Ray
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

सत्यजीत रे का यह कहानी संग्रह बेहद दिलचस्प है। सभी कहानियाँ रहस्यात्मक या हॉरर का अंश लिए है। कई कहानियों का अंत काफी अप्रत्याशित और रोमांचकारी है। दो कहानियाँ मुझे खास तौर पर पसंद आई - फ्रिंस और घुरघुटिया की घटना

इस किताब ने एक अनोखे किरदार से मेरा परिचय कराया है - फेलुदाफेलुदा आपको सत्यजीत रे की कई और किताबें पढ़ने पर मजबूर करेंगे।

12. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives

cover image Author: David Eagleman
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book has some thought-provoking short stories with a philosophical blend. Each of the first 20 stories is a gem. A few of them in the latter half aren’t as engaging. Narcissus was my favourite story.

Overall, the book provides ample food for thought. Some of them will linger long in your mind.

13. Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

cover image Author: David Reich
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

An enthralling scientific work that explores the genomic revolution. The story of human migration is fascinating and very lucidly written.

“Our particular ancestors are not the point. The genome revolution provides us with a shared history that, if we pay proper attention, should give us an alternative to the evils of racism and nationalism, and make us realize that we are all entitled equally to our human heritage.”

14. The Art of Captaincy

cover image Author: Mike Brearley
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A light, gentle book on Cricket, captaincy & leadership. Some of the memoirs are pleasing - especially the ones involving Botham.

Cricket is the backdrop but Mike gives a generic understanding of team dynamics, protecting individuality & leading well.

15. विकलांग श्रद्धा का दौर

cover image Author: Harishankar Parsai
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

आपातकाल के राजनीतिक परिदृश्य में लिखी गयी कहानियाँ हैं। उस वक़्त के समाज को आइना दिखाती इन कहानियों में कमाल का व्यंग है।

16. Mastering Prioritization The Ultimate Guide for Product Managers

cover image Author: AirFocus
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book includes 7 frameworks for feature prioritization. Most of them are obvious & you might already be using them without knowing their name. But it was good to go through them in a structured form.

17. The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self

cover image Author: Alice Miller
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A good read delving into early childhood & how parents’ behaviour shapes a kid. It will nudge you to read more in psychology.
However, the content could have been organised better.

18. नमक का दरोगा

cover image Author: Munshi Premchand
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

प्रेमचंद की सादगी और सरलता संजोये एक छोटी सी कहानी।

19. Profiles in Courage

cover image Author: John F. Kennedy
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Profiles in Courage is an account of ten American senators who showed exceptional courage in trying circumstances. These are stories of men with integrity who didn’t get their due in the public domain.

It has good insights into American politics and succeeds in showing why things are not as black & white as they appear from afar.

20. Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, #3)

cover image Author: Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Good fun! Though the humour gets repetitive after a while. It gave me some chuckles but unlike the second book, it doesn’t excite me to read the next one in this series.

Written on December 31, 2021