What I read in 2017- 1 (Non-fiction)

Thanks to my sleeping disorder and the age-old habit of going to bed with a book or kindle, I did manage to finish 30 books this year. There are several books that I left midway or just finished a few chapters and dropped them (or put them on to-be-finished-later list). While crime-fiction remains my guilty pleasures and preferred genre for light reading/in the flight reading, this year, I ended up reading some thought-provoking non-fiction and literary fiction. Although, I feel bad that I could not read some of the most talked about books this year. Lincoln in the Bardo, The gene, When Breath Becomes Air.. although these are the books still on my reading list and I hope to finish them in 2018. So here is the list of books that I read in 2017(Non-fiction).

  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche – Undoubtedly one of the most impactful and thought-provoking book that I read this year. In fact, it was more than reading. Every page, every chapter that I read forced me to go through lengthy ruminations and introspection. I have already recommended this book to many people who want to explore Buddhism or are looking to find some meaning and solace in life. This profound book helps you live better, be a better human being by dissecting our final destination i.e. death. Many people pick this book in the fag end of their life when death starts staring at them, but this is the book one should read as early as possible to live a better life. Although the title has the word ‘dying’ in it but this is a book about living.
  • At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell – Almost 18 years back, I got to know Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus by serendipity. I found second hand copies of their works (Being and Nothingness and The Rebel) in old book shops in Patna. At that time I only knew these names because they appeared in some quotable quotes in some magazines or newspapers. Though I liked the Rebel but I could not manage to go beyond the first chapter of Being and Nothingness (It is rated one of the most difficult books to read) till recently. But both Camus and Sartre intrigued me and I went to read some of their popular works later. ‘At the Existentialist Cafe’ is an intimate and interesting narrative of leading figure of existentialist movement: Sarte, Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Heidegger and others. As the author puts it “Their ideas were interesting but their personal lives are more interesting than their ideas”. After reading the book, one gets a very different perspective about the entire existentialist philosophy.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben – A fascinating read. My two-years at IIFM introduced me to many things about trees and forest by forcing us to read those horribly written sleep-inducing technical text books. Reading them was a compulsion. But this is the book which makes it so much fun to explore trees and their ecosystem. I strongly suggest that this should be the first book that a person who is interested in trees and forest should read.
  • The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J Levitin A very good resource for anyone who is looking to get cutting edge brain science behind how people organize their life and work.
  • Profit Over People by Noam Chomsky The book reminds of our often misplaced faith in the infallibility of the unregulated market. He produces a scathing attack on neoliberalism and points out the major flaws. Very good read to understand the limitations of the market led development and how big corporates play the market.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Coates’s letter to his son shows us what does it mean to grow up as a black kid in today’s America. Coates writing is brilliant and his portrayal of black life in America raises many questions.
  • How to Be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci – Last year, a friend talked very highly of The Antidote – Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking and I read it on his suggestion. This book got my interest piqued in stoicism. Pigliucci’s book popped in my book recommendations in Goodreads and I should thank Goodreads for that. This book clarified many of misconceptions about stoicism.

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