Books that I gobbled in 2015

This are the books I read in 2015. The books that I pick up for reading come from various recommended sources.
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Zero to One: Note on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future

by Peter Thiel,Blake Masters

About the book:  What valuable company is nobody building? The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them. It's easier to copy a model than to make something new: doing what we alre...


Notes:  My second time reading the #book. This is how books should be written.

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The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

by Nick Lane

About the book:  The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all? 37 illlustrations


Notes:  If you know a bit of biology, this book is gold!

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Shantaram: A Novel

by Gregory David Roberts

About the book:  "It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.


Notes:  Finally, I was able to read this book!

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Elon Musk

by Ashlee Vance

About the book:  In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs—a real-life Tony Stark—and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new “makers.” Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’s life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits. Vance uses Musk’s story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk—one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history—is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy. Thorough and insightful, Elon Musk brings to life a technology industry that is rapidly and dramatically changing by examining the life of one of its most powerful and influential titans.


Notes:  Interesting #book. Written like a thriller. shows how detailed oriented a person has to be to do something big.

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Blue Ocean Strategy

by W. Chan Kim,Renée Mauborgne

About the book:  The global phenomenon, embraced by business worldwide and now published in more than 40 languages. This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about the requirements for strategic success. Since the dawn of the industrial age, companies have engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share, and struggled for differentiation. Yet, as this influential and immensely popular book shows, these hallmarks of competitive strategy are not the way to create profitable growth in the future. In the international bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes not from battling competitors, but from creating "blue oceans"—untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Such strategic moves, which the authors call “value innovation,” create powerful leaps in value that often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. Blue Ocean Strategy presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any company can use to create and capture their own blue oceans. A landmark work that upends traditional thinking about strategy, this bestselling business book charts a bold new path to winning the future. Published by Harvard Business Review Press.


Notes:  Wow, what a lucidly written book. After Zero to One, perhaps my favourite business book.

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Economics in One Lesson

by Henry Hazlitt

About the book:  A million copy seller, Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is a classic economic primer. But it is also much more, having become a fundamental influence on modern “libertarian” economics of the type espoused by Ron Paul and others. Considered among the leading economic thinkers of the “Austrian School,” which includes Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich (F.A.) Hayek, and others, Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), was a libertarian philosopher, an economist, and a journalist. He was the founding vice-president of the Foundation for Economic Education and an early editor of The Freeman magazine, an influential libertarian publication. Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson, his seminal work, in 1946. Concise and instructive, it is also deceptively prescient and far-reaching in its efforts to dissemble economic fallacies that are so prevalent they have almost become a new orthodoxy. Many current economic commentators across the political spectrum have credited Hazlitt with foreseeing the collapse of the global economy which occurred more than 50 years after the initial publication of Economics in One Lesson. Hazlitt’s focus on non-governmental solutions, strong — and strongly reasoned — anti-deficit position, and general emphasis on free markets, economic liberty of individuals, and the dangers of government intervention make Economics in One Lesson, every bit as relevant and valuable today as it has been since publication. From the Trade Paperback edition.


Notes:  First edition of this #book came out in 1942 but the lessons contained hold so much true even today.

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Flash Boys

by Michael Lewis

About the book:  Argues that post-crisis Wall Street continues to be controlled by large banks and explains how a small, diverse group of Wall Street men have banded together to reform the financial markets.


Notes:  Fascinating read. This page turner #book explains how human incentives play today at the Wall Street

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Proust Was a Neuroscientist

by Jonah Lehrer

About the book:  Is science the only path to knowledge? In this sparkling and provocative book, Jonah Lehrer explains that when it comes to understanding the brain, art got there first. Taking a group of celebrated writers, painters and composers, Lehrer shows us how artists have discovered truths about the human mind - real, tangible truths - that science is only now rediscovering. We learn, for example, how Proust first revealed the fallibility of memory; how George Eliot understood the brain's malleability; how the French chef Escoffier intuited umami (the fifth taste); how Cézanne worked out the subtleties of vision; and how Virginia Woolf pierced the mysteries of consciousness. It's a riveting tale of art trumping science again and again.


Notes:  Fantastic book!

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Agnostic Khushwant

by KHUSHWANT SINGH,Ashok Chopra

About the book:  Instead of entering into a pointless debate on whether or not God exists, it is more important to bear in mind that belief in the existence of God has little bearing on making a person a good or a bad citizen. One can be a saintly person without believing in God and a detestable villain believing in Him. In my personalized religion, there is NO GOD! Khushwant Singh, over the decades, has built up a reputation for coming up with something new and controversial in each book, and he does not disappoint his readers this time too. He begins with a chapter on the ‘need for a new religion – without God’, in which he questions the relevance of God. He then moves on to describe how religion has proved to be more harmful than beneficial and, in the process, debunks astrologers and the breed of so-called ‘godmen’. However, he is not dismissive of religion. Through his lucid writing, he brings out the beauty and significance of holy books such as the Bhagvad Gita, the Quran and the Granth Sahib. He provides relevant extracts to highlight the poetry and the music in such books. The author next tries to dispel the prejudices held by many non-Muslims against their Muslim compatriots by giving down-to-earth examples. He also emphasizes the importance of the Ramzaan fast. Khushwant Singh’s description of the life and times of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh and his in-depth analysis of the Granth Sahib throw new light on a particularly troubled period in India’s history. The chapter devoted to the interaction of the author (a confirmed agnostic) with the Dalai Lama (probably the world’s most renowned spiritual leader) makes for fascinating reading. Here’s one book containing a wealth of knowledge and information that you would want to read or consult again and again.


Notes:  Some very repetitive topics in this book but interesting anecdotes about Quran and Sikhism.

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We are Like that Only

by Rama Bijapurkar

About the book:  Taking cues from economics, demography, history, culture, philosophy and good old common sense, Rama Bijapurkar makes sense of the complex and inscrutable Indian market-the many Consumer Indias, their diverse and schizophrenic consumer behaviour and the way to make your company's fortune in this billion-plus market. Irreverent and insightful, this book answers the questions to twelve key facets of Consumer India. Bijapurkar explains why the Indian consumer market is 'like that only', why it will not change in a hurry, and what it takes to develop a winning 'made for India' business strategy. 'Rama has developed a very strong case for learning about India on its own terms before investing. This book is a critical read for anyone considering building a large presence for themselves in India.'-From the Foreword by C. K. Prahalad, author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid


Notes:  Was hoping for a more compelling storytelling in this book.

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Being Mortal

by Atul Gawande

About the book:  Is it time the medical profession rethought its approach to the old and terminally ill? In what way? Should doctors be trained to prepare people to die rather than simply be kept alive as long as possible? In Being Mortal, Atul Gawande addresses these questions and argues that an acceptance of mortality must lie at the heart of the way we treat the dying. Questioning, profound and deeply moving, Being Mortal is a must-read.


Notes:  I haven't read a more morbid book, but I love this very aspect of it. If we can handle death well, all will be well

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Blockbusters

by Anita Elberse

About the book:  What is behind the phenomenal success of entertainment businesses such as Warner Bros., Marvel Enterprises and Manchester United - along with such stars as Jay-Z and Lady Gaga? Which strategies give leaders in film, television, music, publishing, and sports an edge over their rivals? Anita Elberse, Harvard Business School's expert on the entertainment industry, has done pioneering research on the worlds of media and sports for more than a decade. Now, in this groundbreaking book, she explains a powerful truth about the fiercely competitive world of entertainment: building a business around blockbuster products - the movies, television shows, songs and books that are hugely expensive to produce and market - is the surest path to long-term success. Along the way, she reveals why entertainment executives often spend outrageous amounts of money in search of the next blockbuster, why superstars are paid unimaginable sums and how digital technologies are transforming the entertainment landscape. Full of inside stories emerging from her unprecedented access to some of the world's most successful entertainment brands, Blockbusters is destined to become required reading for anyone seeking to understand how the entertainment industry really works - and how to navigate today's high-stakes business world at large. 'Convincing . . . Elberse's Blockbusters builds on her already impressive academic rsum to create an accessible and entertaining book.' Financial Times


Notes:  I highly recommend this book. Packed with tons of insights. Loved each page of it.

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Phantoms in the Brain

by V. S. Ramachandran,Sandra Blakeslee

About the book:  Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. His bold insights about the brain are matched only by the stunning simplicity of his experiments -- using such low-tech tools as cotton swabs, glasses of water and dime-store mirrors. In Phantoms in the Brain, Dr. Ramachandran recounts how his work with patients who have bizarre neurological disorders has shed new light on the deep architecture of the brain, and what these findings tell us about who we are, how we construct our body image, why we laugh or become depressed, why we may believe in God, how we make decisions, deceive ourselves and dream, perhaps even why we're so clever at philosophy, music and art. Some of his most notable cases: A woman paralyzed on the left side of her body who believes she is lifting a tray of drinks with both hands offers a unique opportunity to test Freud's theory of denial. A man who insists he is talking with God challenges us to ask: Could we be "wired" for religious experience? A woman who hallucinates cartoon characters illustrates how, in a sense, we are all hallucinating, all the time. Dr. Ramachandran's inspired medical detective work pushes the boundaries of medicine's last great frontier -- the human mind -- yielding new and provocative insights into the "big questions" about consciousness and the self.


Notes:  Just one word for this #book: wow!

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Work Rules!

by Laszlo Bock

About the book:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERWALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER The Globe and Mail Top Leadership and Management BookForbes Top Creative Leadership Book From the visionary head of Google's innovative People Operations comes a groundbreaking inquiry into the philosophy of work-and a blueprint for attracting the most spectacular talent to your business and ensuring that they succeed. "We spend more time working than doing anything else in life. It's not right that the experience of work should be so demotivating and dehumanizing." So says Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations at the company that transformed how the world interacts with knowledge. This insight is the heart of WORK RULES!, a compelling and surprisingly playful manifesto that offers lessons including: Take away managers' power over employees Learn from your best employees-and your worst Hire only people who are smarter than you are, no matter how long it takes to find them Pay unfairly (it's more fair!) Don't trust your gut: Use data to predict and shape the future Default to open-be transparent and welcome feedback If you're comfortable with the amount of freedom you've given your employees, you haven't gone far enough. Drawing on the latest research in behavioral economics and a profound grasp of human psychology, WORK RULES! also provides teaching examples from a range of industries-including lauded companies that happen to be hideous places to work and little-known companies that achieve spectacular results by valuing and listening to their employees. Bock takes us inside one of history's most explosively successful businesses to reveal why Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work in the world, distilling 15 years of intensive worker R&D into principles that are easy to put into action, whether you're a team of one or a team of thousands. WORK RULES! shows how to strike a balance between creativity and structure, leading to success you can measure in quality of life as well as market share. Read it to build a better company from within rather than from above; read it to reawaken your joy in what you do.


Notes:  If you are as fascinated by Google as I am, this #book is a must read.

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The Insanity Defense

by Woody Allen

About the book:  A complete collection of prose writings by the acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, actor, and director features selections from his best-selling works--Getting Even, Without Feathers, and Side Effects--that offer the author's trademark humorous asides on such topics as sex, death, religion, philosophy, psychology, and the human condition. Original. 25,000 first printing.


Notes:  What a hilarious #book. He writes so well.

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Debt - Updated and Expanded

by David Graeber

About the book:  Now in paperback, the updated and expanded edition: David Graeber’s “fresh . . . fascinating . . . thought-provoking . . . and exceedingly timely” (Financial Times) history of debt Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom: he shows that before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors. Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.


Notes:  Oh goodness, what a book! Blown away by it.

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The Sixth Extinction

by Elizabeth Kolbert

About the book:  Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Elizabeth Kolbert combines brilliant field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the gripping stories of a dozen species ? including the Panamanian golden frog and the Sumatran rhino ? some already gone, others at the point of vanishing. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy and Elizabeth Kolbert's book urgently compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


Notes:  What an amazing #book. Makes me want to become a palaeontologist.

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What Technology Wants

by Kevin Kelly

About the book:  Profiles technology as an evolving international system with predictable trends, counseling readers on how to prepare themselves and future generations by anticipating and steering their choices toward developing needs.


Notes:  Tons of overgeneralisations and BSing in this #book but very interesting anecdotes.

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Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

by Robert M. Pirsig

About the book:  Acclaimed as one of the most exciting books in the history of American letters, this modern epic became an instant bestseller upon publication in 1974, transforming a generation and continuing to inspire millions. A narration of a summer motorcycle trip undertaken by a father and his son, the book becomes a personal and philosophical odyssey into fundamental questions of how to live. Resonant with the confusions of existence, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a touching and transcendent book of life.


Notes:  First time I read this #book, I was 15 and it appealed on romantic level. This time, it gave a deeper satisfaction.

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It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow

by Jason Jennings,Laurence Haughton

About the book:  Conventional wisdom once told us big companies are unbeatable... and eat smaller competitors for breakfast. Not anymore. These days It's Not the Big that Eat the Small... It's the FAST that Eat the Slow! Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton discovered what separates today's icons of speed from everybody else. They asked questions like: What is the difference between speed and haste? Where does business go to spot trends before the competition? How can leaders help people stop dreading high velocity and rediscover the thrill of deciding, acting and staying fast? And studied the world's fastest companies like: H&M Europe's fast fashion phenomenon now poised to threaten apparel stores in America. AOL who gulped down Netscape and Time Warner in record time. Charles Schwab the new dominant name in discount and on-line financial services. The results are in this sensational book... a national bestseller, translated all over the globe and universally praised. Would you like to make speed a competitive tool in your business? Here's your roadmap!


Notes:  Not a beach #book. Full of cliched business teaching. Had to finish to calm my frustration. now I can enjoy my beer.

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