Towards the end of 2017, I found myself falling behind on my habit of reading books. It wasn’t that I was not reading lesser than usual or not reading at all. It was just that I spent most of my time reading newspapers and magazines; mostly the latter, which is something I enjoyed very much. Due to this, when it came to reading books, I did not have much to be happy about.
It was during this time that I came across a friend using Goodreads to keep tracking of his “to read” list and progressing through them during the course of the year. I decided to follow suit and joined the Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge and set myself a target of 20 books. During the course of this challenge, I came across a wide variety of books across various genres - from inspiring memoirs, spellbinding narratives and political thrillers to some that were slow and painful to progress through and had to be dropped halfway. By the end of the year, I had read a total of 17 books and had a couple of abandoned ones in various stages of progress.
This post, after a rather long time, lists down some of my favourite books from last year’s reading challenge. In no order of preference, they are:
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
If I had to pick a favourite among the 17 books that I read last year, it would have to be Bad Blood written by the WSJ journalist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) John Carreyrou on the rise and fall of the infamous startup Theranos. When I mentioned some books that were “spellbinding narratives” above, I had this book in mind. I stumbled across this book while browsing one of Bill Gates’ reading recommendations. I was sold on his review and gave this book a try and boy, did I have a hard time putting it down. It was a spectacular read. I won’t be able to do justice to the review that this book deserves, so I recommend that you read Bill Gates’ review of it here.
Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warwick
Black Flags is another favourite. Written by another journalist, it offers a compelling history of the Islamic State. It details the beginning of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the circumstances in which it was formed following the US invasion of Iraq and its gradual metamorphosis into the Islamic State following the Syrian civil war. The book goes into a gripping narrative and masterfully intertwines history, current state of affairs with in a lot of operational details that makes this book a very interesting read.
Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Maj. Dick Winters
Anyone who has watched the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers, or read the book of the same name, is bound to be familiar with Major Dick Winters. This book is written by the late Major himself with author Cole Kingseed. While much of the larger storyline is similar to that of Band of Brothers, where it differs is in the perspective that it offers. Written in the first person, it takes a reader through the journey of Easy Company and provides a view of the war from the late Major’s vantage point. The book also offers fantastic lessons in leadership and the meaning of leading by example. One of the concluding chapters, titled Reflections, specifically deserves a rereading. It was delightful reading this book.
Some other favourites from my 2018 list include…
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
- A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India by Josy Joseph
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
- A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey
- The Defining Decade by Meg Jay
and some of the others from my 2018 reading list can be found on Goodreads here.