Book recos needed

I’m in Bangalore next weekend. I’ll be in town from Thursday late night to Sunday afternoon. Apart from finishing off some pending official work and catching up with friends and relatives, one of my agendas for the trip is to finish up my book coupons, which I had won in various quizzes.

I have about 2.5K to 3K worth of coupons with me (not sure of the exact amount). Of this, Rs. 1000 is at Crossword, and will expire in February. I don’t know if I’ll be visiting Bangalore again before that, and I have no enthu to hunt for a Crossword store in Delhi, so I plan to exhaust them then.

The rest of the coupons are for the Premier Bookshop, which I am told is going to close sometime next month. So, I need to spend these coupons too next week. Which means that during the course of the second half of next Saturday, I’ll be probably indulging in the second biggest book binge of my life, the biggest having been in 2004, when I spent Rs. 4000 worth of coupons at Landmark.

Now, I don’t really know what to buy. I don’t have any books in mind that i really really want. So please to be recommending. To help you people with your recommendations, a few pointers from my side. I don’t want you to spend your valuable time and energy recommending books that I definitely don’t want to read, right?

  • I don’t read fiction. I have limited reading time, and want to utilize that to get fundaes in life. So, no fiction please
  • I think I’ve outgrown popular economics books, so they are out too. The last one I read was “why popcorn costs so much at the movies” and it hardly added any value. I think I know enough economics that I don’t need to read such books anymore.
  • I really liked books such as Guns Germs and Steel and A Farewell to Alms. Books that are essentially historical but not really history books. Scientific history or economic history or social history or whatever you want to call it. If you know some really good books in these subjects, do let me know
  • I think I’m still up for popular science. I really loved Six Degrees by Duncan Watts (it helped that I really love Graph Theory, which is the foundation of social networks theory), and have bought his other book on social networks (small worlds, i think, it’s called). Despite four odd years after movin away from technology, I’m still up for some physics or math or computer science, as long as it is well written
  • Don’t recommend any books on financial markets unless they are really exceptional. I’m currently reading Mandelbrot’s “The (mis)behaviour of markets” and though it’s a great book, I’m having trouble ploughing through it simply because it feels like work. Every great idea I come across, I start thinking “how can I create a trade based on this idea?”.
  • Remember that the books you recommend need to be available in India. And I’ll be putting only a single visit, and won’t have time to order books.
  • Remember that the Crossword collection is fairly crappy, and so I need recos for at least Rs. 1K that are available in all popular stores. If it’s a slightly specialized book, it won’t be available at Crossword.

The other big question that has come up in my head is about which bookshop to visit first next Saturday. They are situated about a kilometer away from each other. The thing with Premier is that it doesn’t enable easy browsing, so I’ll need to go there with a long list of books. Remember that I’ve to finish off all my coupons next week only.

On the other hand, Crossword is so crappy that most of the books on my list are unlikely to be available there, and so I’d rather put a visit to Premier after I’ve put visit to Crossword. Anyways, this is the least of my worries now. So go ahead and recommend. Write comments here. Create buzz on this post. Even if you have some questions for me regarding these, leave a comment here. I’ll definitely respond.

51 thoughts on “Book recos needed”

  1. 1)The Rise & Fall Of the Third Reich
    2)India After Gandhi(I guess you have read this)
    3) MOhandas by Rajmohan Gandhi-gives a good picture about the Life of M K Gandhi

    A few Kannada books
    1)Karvalo by Purnachandra Thejaswi-a story exploring the existence of living things in this universe(Fiction).
    2) If interested in autobiographies Bhitthi by S L Bhairappa-one kickass book, trust me!
    3) Americadalli Goruru by Goruru Ramaswami Iyengar

    1. i’ve read India after Gandhi. loved it.

      problem with Kannada books is that I’m not too good at reading Kannada. i’m too slow. so take a long time to read which can lead to NED.

  2. 1. The Naked Ape (and its follow-up The Human Zoo) – Desmond Morris

    2. India: A History – John Keay

    3. Phantoms in the Brain – V S Ramachandran

    4. Killing Yourself to Live – Chuck Klosterman

      1. 1 is usually termed as ‘sociobiology’ – but generally speaking, yes it is anthropology only

        4 is a kind of a road-trip travelogue, where Klosterman visits places where famous rock tragedies have occured – like where Cobain committed suicide, where Duane Allman crashed his bike, the Great White fire tragedy, the hotel room where Sid Vicious killed Nancy etc. But the book is hardly about any of these tragedies, but more about women in his life 😀

    1. of course it is
      i wrote the post in a bit of a hurry, hence.

      thing is that I don’t really enjoy reading fiction. I don’t think i have the patience for it.

      1. Fiction, if written well requires far less patience, and provides potentially far more fundaes than non-fiction.

        Incidentally I owe most of my fundaes on 17th and 18th Century European history solely to the Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson

  3. Here is one book I enjoyed a lot recently. “The Pixar Touch, the making of a company” by David A Price. Hope it is available at your bookstore.

    Considering you like screenwriting, I should seriously recommend Alexander Mackendrik’s “On Filmmaking”. Have not found a better textbook on the subject.

    The standard text is of course Syd Field’s… have you read that?

    Probably a long shot, but try and see if any of Edward Tufte’s books are available.

    Charles Koppelman’s “Behind the Seen, how walter murch edited cold mountain using apple’s final cut pro” (I think, that’s the extended title). Very good insights into how an editor works, how movies get made, and how new technology is adapted.

    I know you don’t want fiction, but since you mention lack of time as one factor, I would ask you to consider some Will Eisner graphic novels.

    1. which of these is the easiest to read, and the most basic? i haven’t read any books in this field, and won’t mind reading one, if it’s going to be “accessible”. if i were to read one of these books that you’ve recommended here, which one would you pick?

      1. It’s about how one man, a clockmaker, solved the problem of determining longitude at sea in the eighteenth century- a problem that eluded the greatest scientific minds of Europe at that time.

        It’s about how we recognize and remember the scientific behemoths of past eras, but forget the numerous lone geniuses who have solved some of the greatest engineering problems of the past three centuries.

  4. Second the reco about fiction – to quote an israeli author, Amos Oz, “Read novels, dear friends. They will tell you much.”

    As for science books that have fundaes, I have, or atleast used to have (JK has my copy now), this book called “Galileo’s Finger: 10 great ideas in science” – by Peter Atkins (the physical chemistry book guy). I found it very good.

    1. as i have mentioned in the reply to the other comment, the reason i don’t read fiction is that i don’t have enough patience. (i’m writing a separate post on it now) thing is that i’m used to reading blogs, where there is a good likelihood of a strong funda every 500 words or so. which i’m not sure i’m going to find in fiction. but if you can recommend something which has lots of fundaes, i can try that

  5. For film, I would anyday recommend Alexander Mackendrick. Accessibility should not be an issue at all. But it is certainly not a light read. It is a textbook, so I keep going back to it for fundaes all the time.

    For quick consumption, Pixar Touch! It chronicles the history of the Company, many fudaes extractable! About 300 pages, and I finished it in one go.

    1. hmmmm thanks. i’ll probably pick up one of these. but again, the only thing is how much enthu i’ll have to read a technical book.

  6. Hi – Good evening. My first comment after following your blog roll for long time now.

    1. Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – I believe it’s a must read. Sometimes I feel this book is better written compared to Paulo Coelho’s celebrated work – The Alchemist.

    2. It’s not about bike – My journey Back to Life – Lance Armstrong – will give you an account of individual struggle.

    3. Unheard Voices – Harsh Mander (former IAS)- A must for every Indian – especially those who are highly placed (like you) and have capabilities to make the lives of folks around better. This is a collection of true stories of the other India.

    4. Sunday Sentiments – Karan Thapar -May give you a perspective of an intelligent journalist mind’s(read Karan’s)take on other intelligent/influential folks who made an impact on the lives of people of this country.

    5. The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran – If you haven’t read it yet.

    Happy reading.


    1. hi. thanks for the comment. i think this post is bringing out comments from all those who’ve been silently following my blog so far.

      thanks for the recommendations. what is The Prophet about?

      and i’m not convinced that Karan Thapar can be classified as an intelligent journalist.

      and what do you mean by “the other India”? Somini‘s india?

  7. If you like travelogues, I recommend Naipaul’s non fiction books…I’ve read his books on India and Islam…

    An Area of Darkness
    India – A Wounded Civilization
    India – A Million Mutinies Now
    Among the Believers – An Islamic Journey

    Haven’t read anything quite like it.

    1. haven’t read any travelogues. don’t know how i’ll like them. wonder which one will be a good start in this genre

      1. Try Dalrymple. “In Xanadu” (follows the Silk Route), “City of Djinns” (on Delhi) & “The Age of Kali” (subcontinent) are great reads.

  8. If you liked ‘Guns, germs and steel’, I’d very strongly recommend ‘Collapse’ and ‘The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee’ by the same author.

    1. monkee recommending chimpanzee book! strongu manja strongu wonly.

      i just hope these books aren’t too deep into anthropology. and that they have SOME fundaes…

    1. ah ok. good stuff.

      thanks to this post i have recos for much more than i have book coupons for. so i’ll probably save this for buying at landmark gurgaon at a later date

    1. steven strogatz was Duncan Watts’ collaborator on social networks right?

      and i hope this is better than James Gleick’s Chaos, which i found to be unreadable

  9. i presume that you currently stay in Gurgaon and just in case you dont get time to visit Crosswords in Bangalore, You can visit their Gurgaon store. It is located on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway in Galaxy Towers. I think the public transport in GGN still sucks, so if you take any of the 6 seater phat-phatti to GGN bus stand, you can locate the same as soon as you cross 32nd Milestone.

    1. i have a car here (in gurgaon) so traveling around won’t be a problem. in any case i’ve to go to the MGRoad-BrigadeRoad area in Blore as part of a ritual, and have to put premier also. so will probably put the crossword there.

      and phatphatti is 6 seater? i see at least 15 people traveling in it at a time

  10. Influence: the psychology of persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Despite the cheesy title, this is the most readable and fundae-packed psychology book I have ever read.
    Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal is a great intro to evolutionary psychology.
    If you like philosophy of mind “Mind’s I” is a great anthology of essays/short stories and I picked it up in one of the chain book stores like Landmark, though can’t remember which.
    My non-fiction list is up here – almost all of them are books I liked.

    I am so glad to hear that fiction bores you. I have been through this exact same experience and can barely read a few pages of fiction these days before getting frustrated.

  11. If you like social history, you should consider reading “The Last Mughal” by William Dalrymple. It is very interesting and is not the usual hackwork about Indian history or 1857. What adds more value to this book is that the author did some original research with “The Mutiny Papers”, a large collection of documents that were only rediscovered recently.

    I saw that someone above recommended “Gang Leader for a Day”. Depending on your world view, the book is one of two things
    It is a badly written and boring book
    It is reinforcement reading
    I doubt if you would care for either.

    Another recommendation would “Theory of money and Credit” by Mises.

  12. Science – u can try ‘Selfish Gene’ by Dawkins & ‘The Red Queen’ by Matt Ridley….both r v strong books on evolution, biology etc Dawkins is very strong as he applies game theory/eco fundae to explain animal/plant behavior….not ur fluffy freakonomics kind of eco

    Somebody had suggested lance armstrong’s autobio….hajaar strong it is

    History/Politics – ‘O Jerusalem’ is quite good….about the formation of israel. ‘Red Dust: A Path Through China’ is also supposed to be awesome….a behind the scenes look at the real china….havent found it in any bangalore bookshop though

  13. I recommend “Gods debris” by scott adams. I loved the book. It is a very small book, but very thinking oriented. Quite some science facts are involved and i have heard 2 other people praising the book.

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