A Trusted Companion of 2020 — Books

Human evolution to COVID
Image credit Paul P. Joseph

For the last two years, I have been publishing a list of books that I genuinely find impactful. But 2020, like many, has been quite different for me. This year profoundly made me realize how valuable books can be in your life. With everything happening around you, good books tend to become your trusted source of companionship. They obviate the constant influx of distractions and make you think and reason the world even better. In 2020, I again got a chance to read up on a wide range of subjects, and below are my recommendations.

  1. How Not to Die by Michael Greger — It was fascinating to read the science behind the food we eat. The author has done immense research on healthy eating. This book can be life-saving, literally, for many. Though I have not done everything the author suggested, I am slowly changing my food habits for the better.
  2. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — I have heard so much about this book that I broke my non-fiction rule to read it, and I am glad I did. The lead character teaches many valuable lessons in life that we take for granted. It isn’t easy to put this book down once you start reading.
  3. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman — Brilliant insights into the human mind. It is unbelievable how fragile the human decision-making process is. No wonder the author won the Nobel prize for economics, even though his primary specialization was psychology. Among the books that had the most impact on me, I would rate this as number one. The second one being Sapiens.
  4. The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek — A thought-provoking book on leadership and management. Just like how a growth mindset helps individuals, the author proposes an infinite mindset for organizations. For an organization to be truly successful, they have to look beyond the balance sheet and not be constrained by time or resources. And how do they do it? This book has the answer.
  5. The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier — A good follow-up to The Infinite Game. In recent years there has been an ongoing debate on capitalism, the fabric of many societies. I picked up this book to delve into that topic. Milton Friedman published the Free Market Manifesto 50 years ago, which set the path to modern capitalism. A lot has changed since then. Any manifesto is subjective to interpretation, and the author believes some took Friedman’s guidelines to an extreme. With the new voices now, I trust capitalism will evolve in the right direction, where the system serves employees, customers, community, and then shareholders and not the other way round. I can already see it happening.
  6. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell — In light of the recent BLM events in the US, a friend suggested this book. There are fundamental flaws when strangers communicate, but our whole justice system relies on that flawed communication. I was amazed by the author’s work in explaining this. A must-read for those who want to understand the crux of the issue rather than looking at it superficially.
  7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell — The book can be summarized by the inspirational quote, “Good fortune often happens when opportunity meets preparation.” The thing, though, we often overlook the fact that opportunity is not evenly distributed.
  8. The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim — A colleague recommended this book. To thrive in the new world, every organization, big or small, tech or non-tech, has to go through a digital transformation. This book provides a glimpse into that journey in a very entertaining way.

As we wrap up 2020, a famous saying usually attributed to Charles Darwin comes to my mind. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This year has been a good reminder that things do not always happen the way you envision it to be. We should all learn to adapt to changes, which is the only way for us to survive and eventually thrive — on that note, wishing you all happy holidays and a happy 2021!

Vice President, Technical Fellow at eBay

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