Adding Vibrancy to Prosaicness — 2021 Reading List

Senthil Padmanabhan
4 min readJan 10, 2022
An illustration of adding vibrancy to prosaicness
Image credit Paul P. Joseph

2021 has gone in a swift. Another year into the pandemic, many of us feel that life is becoming prosaic. There are many ways to bring back the vibrancy, and one such is good books. Continuing with my three-year tradition, publishing the list of books that I thoroughly enjoyed and found genuinely impactful.

  1. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker — Sleep is one of the most essential yet most underappreciated aspects of human wellness. This book goes behind the science and enormous benefits of a good night’s sleep. Most of us have a busy life and take sleep for granted, and hopefully, this book should change that perspective.
  2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill — Only a few books stand the test of time, and this 1937 classic is definitely at the top. Though the title infers money, that is not the book’s goal. It is about the commonalities of hand-picked individuals who profoundly impacted this world — a must-read for people of all ages.
  3. Noise by Daniel Kahneman — Inspired by the author’s earlier book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” I picked up this book. Again some brilliant insights into the human mind and how our decision-making process works. The takeaway point is that human intuition, something that we are all proud of, may not always be the right tool for decision-making and can indeed lead to bad judgments.
  4. Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain by Betty Edwards — Though the book focuses on drawing, it has a much deeper meaning of life. Our brains have two complementing hemispheres: the left verbal, logical, and analytical, and the right visual, spatial, and perceptual. Over time we all tend to get dominated by the left hemisphere and exercise less of our right side. The downside is that we lose creativity and are afraid to tackle the unknowns or take on big challenges. This book gives you practical tips on how to shut down your left side and look at the world using the right side when such situations arise. To some extent, this book runs contrary to the previous one, “Noise.” Here it demonstrates the power of the nonverbal, intuitive right side of your brain.
  5. How to Have Impossible Conversations by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay — A simple and quick guide to discuss controversial topics in a world fueled by polarized information.
  6. Narrow corridor by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson — A good reminder of why an extreme society, either in the left or right of the political spectrum, will not work in the long run. A proper balance between the state and society is essential for a population to thrive. It also reminds me of Milton Freedman’s famous quote, “Judge a system by its results and not intensions.” I also loved his description of the American state as a shackled leviathan.
  7. Range by David Epstein — This book runs contrary to the popular notion that specialization is key to success. To be honest, in the earlier days of my career, I truly believed that fast growth could happen only by the depth of knowledge rather than breadth. However, as you grow in your career, you soon realize that broad thinking helps you connect the dots and accomplish things in this modern fast-changing world. The author has done extensive research in this area, which I found fascinating.
  8. Deep Work by Cal Newport — Distractions surround our world. We live in a constant slew of notifications (social alerts, emails, Slack, texts, etc.) throughout the day. It has become an expectation both professionally and personally to be online and responsive. However, the author rightfully argues that accomplish something meaningful, we need to be void of distractions and entirely focus on the task at hand. I hope organizations take it seriously and block chunks of time or set expectations, where employees can be free of any distraction.
  9. Atomic Habits by James Clear — There is a reason that why everyone raves about this book. It provides a treasure trove of tips to build good habits. To me, the bigger takeaway point was that many of us wait for the next big thing to happen in life. In reality, though, it rarely happens. However, on the other hand, continuous tiny improvements to your daily routine can have a much more significant and long-lasting impact on your life.

The next set of books in my queue are Numbers Don’t Lie, Upheaval, and How Not to Be Wrong — looking forward to a more curious 2022.