Sunday, September 7, 2014

10 books that influenced me

A very close friend of mine “nominated” me on Facebook to put this list together. Since Facebook for me is ephemeral (I still love to document my thoughts and life here), I decided to blog the list.

An intellectual exercise indeed. I spent greater part of my weekend ruminating and here is the outcome. I am aghast to see that almost all the books are prescribed “reading materials” in education. What that means is – I don’t read much (or at all!) fiction. That should partially explain why you find me so boring. Anyway, in no particular order, here is my list:

The Dorling Kindersley Science Encyclopaedia

If there is one reason I am what I am, I have to give credit to this book. My parents bought this book for me during my primary school days (1990s), and I got hooked. This book was my source of “all information” till I discovered Google!

Applied Cryptography

This book was a recommended reading for an Information Security course in my Engineering. I loved it so much that I ended up reading it again after I started to work, just to get a kick out of reading Bruce Schneier’s humorous way of presenting a particularly dry subject. Have followed his blog ever since!

Principles of Economics

I always found Economics to be extremely boring till I read this book. It is practically un-put-downable. I read this book during my MBA and I ended up neglecting other subjects during this term just cause I wanted to complete reading this book. And then I wrote the Economics of Love.

Power of Habit

One of my recent reads. Opened my mind to all this procrastinating and not sticking to schedules and plans that I keep doing. Interesting take on how our life is practically ruled by our habits (good or bad!). The Target Pregnancy detection fiasco is also explained in detail in this book.

In Search of Stupidity

This book is a must read for everyone who criticizes companies for their idiotic decisions in hindsight. A humorous account of how big companies managed to screw it up big time and wipe themselves out. If you have read all the happy books about companies succeeding (Built to Last, Good to Great, In Search of Excellence … ) it’s high time you read this one.

Understanding Michael Porter

Did a lot of Michael Porter during my MBA. Understood some theories, confused some others and ignored a few more. Then I saw this book. Pre-ordered it, and loved it. If you wanna understand the “theory” of strategy, I will highly recommend it.

The Data Warehouse Toolkit

Yup a rather technical book. But if you are struggling to understand what is OLAP and why we need star schemas to keep data to analyse, this is the go-to book. The author is amazingly eloquent and the entire concept is made easy to digest and appreciate.

Show me the Numbers

This book completely changed my understanding of Business Intelligence and Design. A must read for every person who has to routinely work with numbers and present them as a part of their job.

Why does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?)

Theoretical Physics has always intrigued me. I wanted to read a book to at least get a very layman understanding of theory of relativity, string theory and the likes. I browsed this book in a bookshop and bought it to go home and spend a considerable amount of time to “study” it. Helped me understand a lot of concepts. Highly recommended to all Sheldon Cooper fans.

Da Vinci Code

The only fictional book on my list. This book really got me hooked to the Internet, Wikipedia, Renaissance artists and the history of Christianity. While the story is celebrated, the side plots are laced with partial truths amongst all that fiction. Really made me spend a lot of time to figure out what is the truth and what are the controversies. Made me spend 4 hours staring at the Mona Lisa.

That pretty much concludes my list. Special mention – Harvard Business Review, Joel Spolsky and Seth Godin. I think I have been heavily influenced by the short (30 odd page) articles that are written in HBR, the nuggets of wisdom shared by Seth on his blog and in his books and Joel on Software – the go-to guide for all Software problems.

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