2. BUY it! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · Entrepreneurship · History · Technology

BR 167: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: If you have any interest in technology whatsoever, this book is a must read. Awesome awesome 140 odd year journey starting from when Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace conceptualized the modern computer.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. History favors writing about the individual but great innovations were always made by teams that worked incredibly well with each other.. and almost always built upon the good work done by many others.

2. A collection technology change makers have been at the intersection of the arts and sciences (e.g. Steve Jobs). The big learning here is that diversity of skills, interests, etc., are really productive. The greatest tech innovations have come about when diverse minds came together.

3. Artificial intelligence has always been two decades away.. (;-))

Book notes here

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History · Money

BR 132: The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: This is the sort of history book I enjoy. Hot on the heels of “A Splendid Exchange” and “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” this book is fantastic for those interested in understanding the story behind the financial infrastructure that exists today. Given the increasing spotlight on financial instruments (thanks largely to their failure), this is compulsory reading for anyone interested in understanding the real “infrastructure” of our development.

Top 3 learnings:

1. The world would NOT be a better place without our financial evolution. Credit and debit are critical to the growth of economies, businesses, and are the foundation to economic progress. Finance has underlined the big shifts in our societies. For example, the era of colonialism (or the first attempt at globalization) was only made possible by financial innovation – the dutch VOC was the first “public” company with a swath of public shareholders. The British emulated the Dutch and did it better.

2. War is the mother of all things. War was the real reason behind financial innovation. The concept of the bond market was created to fund wars between Italian states, the stock market was invented for better success in colonial wars.. and finance also played it’s part by being the real cause for wartime success and failure. The British triumph against Napoleon and the defeat of the south in  the American civil wars were determined more by financial causes than any other.

3. Credit is critical for growth. The biggest benefit of the modern day financial system is that a larger proportion of the population are able to escape the clutches of loan sharks who charge interest rates upto 11 million percent and thus keep the poor poor.

Book notes here

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History

BR 118: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I am guessing the original (Chinese) version is one with stories behind the principles. My audio book was a short 1 hour 2o minute listen with a summary of principles. Thanks to the absence of stories, they didn’t really stick. Age old war wisdom though.

Top 3 learnings:

1. You only move as a general when your odds are favorable. Bravado is foolish. At every point, it’s about staying rational and improving your odds.  A general is not the same as warrior..

2. Everything in life is about a few basic things. 3 basic colors give rise to a whole spectrum of colors – similarly, war (and, as an extension, everything else) has a few very basic principles. Ensure you know them well.

3. Control of communication and discipline is incredibly important if managing large groups. “Never attack an army whose banners are upright.”

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research

BR 91: The Lessons of History by Will Durant

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: A truly fascinating read. I was debating whether or not to put this into Category 1. It just missed the cut.

The most fascinating thing about this book, for me, is that this is literally historian Will Durant’s thesis – a thesis of his life. Will and Ariel Durant try to put together the lessons they have learnt from all their studies and bring it all together brilliantly.

Top 3 Learnings:

1. Competition is a natural order. We only collaborate to compete better. The world is Darwinian. Character only arises once basic needs are met.

2. What was a great trait in the past is likely to be a weakness in the present. For example, a very virile brute of a man would have been THE asset in earlier times when physical survival and passing on your sperm mattered most. In today’s world however, he would just be a dumb mannerless brute.

3. Resources (like intelligence) are always scattered unfairly. As a result, a small proportion of the world will always control it. There is no such thing as equality in nature.

4. As a result, religion matters greatly because it is what ensures the masses keep faith. (Will Durant predicts a period of social unrest within decades because of falling faith in Christianity in the 1960s when this is written and my jaw dropped as I thought of the period of social unrest we are having right now)

5. Respect for tradition is something he feels he would take more seriously if he had to ‘do it all over again.’ It is the tension between youth and old age that advances our civilization after all and he acknowledges that as he’s getting older, he has increased respect for traditions.

Some of his observations and predictions are truly amazing. And as you can see from the extra 2 learnings, this was a fantastic book!

 

PS: It’s been a while since I’ve updated this. Lots of exciting books but a lack of time. More to follow..

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History

BR 74: Worlds at War by Anthony Pagden

CategorySHELF it (All Categories are 1) Read ASAP! 2) BUY it! 3) SHELF it 4) SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Note – I couldn’t finish this book thanks to some corruption in the audio of the 3rd part. From my experience of 2/3rds of this massive massive book – it starts very well with fascinating insights about the greeks, the romans etc and then fizzles once it enters into the middle ages and become a collection of facts, names and dates.

The first part was excellent. The second part not-so-great. Still, likely a book worth reading if you love history..

2. BUY it! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research

BR 65: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

Category: 2 – BUY it! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Very interesting book – this is Jared Diamond’s reasoning and analysis on why the world is the way it is.

I did feel the ending was abrupt for some reason. The book had me asking for/wanting more!

1. Read ASAP! · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History

BR 55: A Splendid Exchange by William J Bernstein

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: There are many different kinds of books. Some, like the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective people’, can change the way you think about life and yourself. Those are very impactful, of course. But, if you are looking for a book that would change the way you looked at the world, it’s history and how it ended up in it’s current state, there are probably few books that can match ‘The Splendid Exchange’. This is a classic!

The book is a story of the world from the eyes of trade, and traders. In essence, it is a history of the world presented from a different (and you might argue, more balanced) lens.

If I had to mentally think of a list of the best books I’ve read, this book would be right up there – regardless of genre or type.

Add on Mar 16, 2016: Thoughts of reading this book still gives me goosebumps. I feel like I should go back and re-read this at some point.

3. SHELF it · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History · Novel Concepts and Interesting Research

BR 33: Great inventors and their inventions by David Angus

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: I think it’s a book to read just to broaden horizons and understand how some of the things we tend to take for granted first came into being. It has lots of short bios of many great inventors like Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, The Wright brothers etc and takes us through their struggles as inventors and their eventual success.

Interesting read. There are better biographies out there though.

3. SHELF it · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History

BR 26: To Rule Mankind and Make The World Obey – A History of Rome by Frances Titchener

Category: 3 – SHELF it (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: Good book. I learnt a lot from a tale of the Roman empire! A few of the things I remember are why humans began wearing clothes (it was a sign of position in society – i.e. the kind of clothes), how empires ran into ruins the moment appointing heirs was only restricted within the family among many others.

What to expect: A nice lecture series from a good history professor. Fun facts and a good learning experience..

1. Read ASAP! · Bio/Autobiographies · Book Review Actions · Book Reviews · History · Leadership

BR1: The Virtues of War – A Novel of Alexander the Great by Steven Pressfield

Category: 1 – Read ASAP! (All Categories are 1 – Read ASAP!, 2 – BUY it!, 3 – SHELF it, 4 – SOMEDAY it)

Comments: There’s only 1 word for this audio book – ‘Riveting’! While the narrator definitely plays a huge part in making this book such a fascinating read, let’s give due credit to Steven Pressfield for an inspirational take on Alexander’s life.

What to expect: A detailed story of the life of the all-conquering Macedonian monarch, Alexander the Great, with lots of excerpts and stories which you are sure to remember for a long time. The book gives us an in-depth understanding of the personality of the great conqueror and is a definite lesson in leadership!

Add on Mar 16, 2016: 9 years after reading the audio book, I’d still recommend the audio book thanks to fantastic narration. I remember the experience of listening to this book well and it still gives me goosebumps.