My favorite book reads of 2016

At the start of the year, I had set a target of reading 12 books for the year. Thanks to Kindle, which makes reading an even more convenient and enjoyable experience, I was able to progress faster than what I planned. Below are the top 5 books I read, that I’d strongly recommend to everyone. I hope my brief review also helps you deciding whether these are meant to be in your reading list or not.

 

1. The Gene: An Intimate History The Gene

But can humans responsibly “enhance” our own genomes? – Siddhartha Mukherjee

This book is an amazing read about the basic unit of heredity that all of us are carrying hidden deep inside the building blocks of our body. Grasping the contents does NOT need any serious biology background and it’s a great read explaining how evolution occurred, how similarities and differences surfaced as part of the evolution.

A gene in the biological world, as described by the author is much like atom and byte in the physical and computational worlds. All three are fundamental to the understanding of those respective worlds.

The author goes in depth about several hereditary diseases, treatment case studies and even picks examples of hereditary diseases affecting people close to him. To summarize, the whole book is about past, present, and future of genetics – the study of heredity. It’s amazingly written!

 

2.  The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

The struggle is where greatness comes from. – Ben Horowitz

In this amazing book, Ben Horowitz walks the reader through his experiences of building his companies and the challenges he faced during the journey. This book is about his opinions on what to be careful about when dealing with ‘hard things’ as that’s the hard thing about hard things – there is no recipe for dealing with them. The author reasons that the hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

This is a book which I’d recommend to every person in the tech industry in general, and people in tech startups in specific. It gives insights into various things which, especially early in your career, are NOT intuitive. This gives a glimpse of situations from both sides of the table. It’s a must read for managers!

 

3. Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think

For the first time in history, our capabilities have begun to catch up to our ambitions. – Peter Diamandis

As the title suggests, this book depicts a future full of an abundance of everything which we face scarcity of, at present. The authors walk you through recent innovations and those that are underway. And how using them we can solve world’s biggest problems.

The authors focus on exponentially growing technologies which have already started showing an enormous impact on basic needs such as food, water, energy, healthcare and education. Many of the problems the world faces today are inter-connected, such as, availability of energy (electricity) reduces burning of biomass resulting in a radical improvement in health, ecology, and also frees women and children from gathering biomass providing more time for people to get jobs and education, allowing more and more people to come out of poverty at a fast rate.

With all the optimism, the book balances the rosy picture by walking you through challenges we’re likely to face with the exponentially growing technologies. Challenges such as Bioterrorism, Cybercrime, Robotics and AI-induced unemployment.

 

 

4. Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future

 What important truth do very few people agree with you on? – Peter Thiel

This masterpiece by Peter Thiel is about how to build companies that go from 0 to 1 – creating something new. Peter, based on his experiences of being a co-founder (of Paypal and Palantir) and investor in startups (which includes Facebook and SpaceX, besides hundreds of others), shares the patterns he has noticed.

The book is mostly about how startups usually differ from big companies, how a small group of people can innovate faster than big dysfunctional companies and eat into their business, and how entirely new markets get created.

Peter stresses that building a monopoly is the easiest way which benefits everybody and creates sustainable profits for the creator. Every monopoly is unique, but they usually share some characteristics such as proprietary technology, network effects, economies fo scale, and branding. He discusses how to get there by starting in a niche and scaling up from there.

 

 

5. Annapurna: The First Conquest of an 8000-Metre Peak

It is possible to win against all the odds if you just keep trying.

The above quote from the book brilliantly sums up the challenging journey of Maurice Herzog and his team. This book is one of the greatest adventure stories describing the conquest of Annapurna and their race against time during an even more challenging descent as the monsoon hits the mountains.

I read this book during my month long travel in Nepal. I was hiking Annapurna circuit + Annapurna base camp and reading this book with a backdrop of the majestic Annapurna provided a great context and connect. The book is full of goosebumps moments!

 

 

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