Friday, January 3, 2014

Books Read - 2013

I have given below a list of books that i managed to read in 2013. Essays and Blog posts read don't get mentioned here :-) I have provided short note about each of them and also provided my recommendation.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely: Human beings are not as rational as they think of themselves to be. This book takes the work of Kahneman and Tversky and takes it to everyday happenings. Prof Ariely uses every day examples to drive home the point that we are irrational human beings, without compromising on the academic rigor ( with references to the experiments).  Ariely cites many experiments and examples, and shows that we often get things wrong because we frame things the wrong way, mis-judge probabilities, apply heuristic rules of thumb that don't always work, or we just plain let our emotions rule. Must Read

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely: You cannot control dishonesty by increasing the chances of getting caught or its penalties. Those remedies, which are the basis for much of our regulatory and enforcement policy do not control dishonesty. In the real world, according to this book, we all cheat a little, but not so much that it causes us to comprise our self-image or integrity. That is the principle finding of this book. Interesting Read

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home  by Dan Ariely:  You may call this a sequel to Predicably Irrational. Dan Ariely, recounts a series of experiments that he and his colleagues conducted to explore such questions as: What makes work meaningful and, conversely, what can make it dull and unsatisfying? Why do people procrastinate? How does a person's self-image influence whom he chooses to date? Why is revenge so sweet ? In what ways do our emotions impel us to make self-destructive decisions? Interesting Read

Agile Estimating and Planning by Michael Cohn:  A must read for anyone who is interested in Agile methodology. This book pro I have shared some thoughts based on reading the book here and here . This is the kind of book a person will go back to as a reference. Must Read

Tantu: The Loom of Life by H L Bhyrappa: Provides a snapshot of the fight between ideology on one side and the realistic(??) increasingly corrupt on the other side. The conflicts are used to examine the moral fibre of the society. It spans the decades between post independence and declaration of emergency under Indira Gandhi. Must Read

The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum : This book starts with  how photography is connected personally to the photographer.  It then moves on to the elements of composition with great examples. Reading this book and thinking about what the author has to say helps you to connect with photography. This is a connection that is more than just simply carrying a camera. Must Read

Photographic Eye - Learning to See with a Camera by  Michael E O'Brien & Norman Sibley:  This book is written for film camera and hence may be a bit dated. But it lays an excellent groundwork with lots of examples to get a person started with the right way of taking pictures. It takes the reader through Lines, Shapes, Negative/Positive Space, the grid, etc and lays an excellent groundwork with lots of examples (objects that you see around in our day to day life) to get you started with the right way of taking pictures. Must read when one gets into photography.

David Busch's Mastering Digital SLR  Photography 3rd ed  by David D Busch. Reading This book  is like taking a beginners class in photography. This book is written in  easy to understand language. Interesting Read

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (Voices That Matter) by David duChemin: This book eloquently reminds us that vision, creativity, sensitivity and thought are and always have been at the core of making meaningful images. Must read if you are serious about photography

Learning to see creatively by Bryan Peterson - This books helps you answer "what is it about this scene that i want to express?" and "how can i convey that feeling/idea in a photo?". For most of us, these may sound like simple questions. But experienced photographers know that answering these questions mean the difference between a snapshot and a good/great photo. Interesting Read.

The Autobiography of an Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda: There were certain sections that i found difficult to believe in.  But this is the kind of book that opens up itself to people who are spiritual. I found it an interested and inspiring book. Interesting Read.

Omnivore's dilemma by Michael Pollan: We never think from which oil field the petrol that we use comes from. Oil is a fungible commodity. For a country like india, which has got a rich food tradition, if the same fate befalls the rice/wheat/chicken they eat (it has already started in urban areas), then the health of the country is in serious danger. This book deserves a separate post as it carries some important lessons and most important of them being 'why eating food in a place like McDonald's is doing serious dis service to your body'. Must Read though the book is america centered

Food is your Best Medicine by Henry Bieler: For a society that is conditioned to pop in a pill for every symptom, in this book, the author, who was a M.D in Medicine, talks about how the proper use of diet can be used to cure illness. This book is based on the records of the patients he treated. Food is your medicine is a deep belief and your body is what you eat is a belief in Indian system of Medicine. Interesting Read

1Q84 The Complete Trilogy by Haruki Murakami - A short review of the book can be found here. Must Read. 

The Joy of X - A Guided Tour of Mathematics, from One to Infinity by Steven Strogatz: In this book the author presents various mathematical concepts and elements in a fresh way and without dumbing it down. The book has six parts, each presenting certain elements of mathematics: Numbers, Relationships, Shapes, Change, Data, and Frontiers.  You will understand how algebra got its name, about Moebius Strip ( you cut the strip in the middle and end up with one strip that is twice as long and not two moebius strips), and about some interesting properties of inifinity through the parable of Hilbert Hotel.  Interesting read.

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson: This book gives an insight into a very complex character. For me, what stood out through out the book was Jobs' ability to simplify  and focus. Probably this was the reason why the quote "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, was on the Apple's first  Brochure.According to Issacson, Jobs, aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering complexities and not ignoring them. To quote Jobs “It takes a lot of hard work, to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.” A small post about this book can be found here. Must Read

A Tale of Two Transformations: Bringing Lean and Agile Software Development to Life by Michael K. Levine : In this book, author Michael K. Levine  talks about how Lean and Agile were used to improve the software development performance of two organizations. He tells the story of the transformation of two different organizations through two protagonists whose people management styles are quite different.The parable format allows bringing in the human elements ( the fears, the egos and the greed) and makes the story all the more interesting and realistic. This is because anyone who has undertaken a change will know that bringing about  change without handling the human elements is just talking theory.  My detailed post about this book can be found here and here. Interesting Read

Books that deserve a Passing Mention

The Shiva Trilogy ( Immortals of Meluha, The Secret of the Nagas and  The Oath of the Vayu Putras by Amish Tripati: I am indifferent towards this series. If you really have time to kill, then may be, may be, you should read the first two and give the last one a miss. 

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: This is a page turner for a wrong reason. If you have read a couple of Dan Brown books, you will know how it is. He uses the same template and just in a different setting. If you still want to read this, the choice is yours :-)

Books that I started and yet to be complete

Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Rickards: What is a currency war? How is it fought and why is it fought? what happens when it is fought? why is it feared? I hope to get answers to this questions and a lot more, when i complete reading the book.

From the Outside Looking in: Experiences in 'Barefoot Economics' by Manfred A Max Neef: I have just started this and completed a chapter. This is a book that views the problems of poverty and marginalization from a human angle. This books deserves a detailed post once i complete reading. I am sure this will be one of those books that i will come back to read again and again.

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