Ten Kilorupees of Books

That’s what I won when I won the Chennai landmark quiz two weekends back, along with Kodhi and Aadisht. Ten kilorupees of book coupons to be cashed at any Landmark book store. Correct that – it’s one coupon worth ten kilorupees. Which means that I’ll need to spend all of it at once. In another words, I’ll need to binge. And that I’m not a big fan of.

Over the course of the last one year, I’ve done several mini-binges (purchase of 3-4 books at a time). Let me list out the books that I’ve bought as part of these binges. Maybe that’ll help you recommend what to buy this time around. Standard rules apply. I’m not a fan of fiction. Have outgrown popular economics. Still very interested in popular science level stufff. History. Geography. General fundaes. And oh, I’m also a member of a lending library in Bangalore called Goobe.

I’ve marked the books with stars (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best).

Online shopping on Rediff, September 08:

  • The (mis)Behaviour of Markets – Benoit Mandelbrot; ****

Binge at Landmark, Gurgaon, September 08:

  • Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis; ****
  • More Sex is Safer Sex – Steven Landsburg; **
  • Games Indians Play – V Raghunathan; *

Binge at Premier Bookshop, Bangalore, before it closed; November 08:

  • The Human Zoo  – Desmond Morris (yet to read)
  • The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins *****
  • An artist and a mathematician (a book about the fictional mathematician Nicholas Bourbaki; forgot the author) ** (halfway through)
  • India: A History – John Keay *****
  • Longitude – Dava Sobel ** (halfway through)
  • The Stuff of Thought – Steven Pinker ** (language too tough; not able to get through it)

Landmark, Gurgaon; New Year’s Day 2009

  • Discovering the Vedas – Frits Staal; ****
  • The Maths Gene – Keith Devlin ;***
  • Small Worlds – Duncan Watts; ** (halfway through)
  • The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins; ****
  • Collapse – Jared Diamond ; ****
  • Entry from backside only – Binoo K John; ****

There were no more binges for a while. But I bought the following books as one-offs

  • The Language Instinct – Steven Pinker; * (not able to get started)
  • Imagining India – Nandan Nilekani; ****
  • The Book of Hindu Calendar Art – Devdutt Patnaik; ** (halfway through; very weak so far)

And then, in June-July this year, I did a couple of small binges at Blossoms (once with Udupa, Gajju and Siby; and once with Mukka). Collectively, I bought the following books

  • Walking on Grass – Iain Banks (yet to read)
  • The Politics of Change – N K Singh *  (atrocious)
  • Thug (yet to read)
  • The Professor and the Madman (about the making of the oxford english dictionary; yet to read)
  • The Age of Revolution (not sure of title; book is about 19th cnetury europe; yet to read)
  • Beyond the Blues – Aakash Chopra *****

Broadly, I’ve liked the books by Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins. Not able to get through Steven Pinker. Hate Douglas Hofstadter (again, very tough to go through). Had borrowed Dr S Radhakrishnan’s commentary on the Upanishads and again found it unreadable – language too tough. Recently read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (borrowed from library) and find it excellent. However, Goobe has decent collection of graphic novels, so I’m not willing to invest in buying any of those.

So I’ve told you about the books I’ve liked, and not liked, and found atrocious, in the last 12 months. Now I have in hand a coupon worth Ten Kilorupees and want to make good use of it. I plan to do it in 2-3 passes. First pass at Landmark (later today), I’ll just browse. Second pass, I’ll reserve and order for the books that I want. And in the third pass (when I’ll go by car) I’ll buy the books. So, dear reader, recommend. Tell me what you think I should read. I think I’ve given you enough information to help you help me make an informed decision.

Oh, and I’ve run out of space in my bookshelf. I also need to figure out where I’ll store the new maal.

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.