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Books I enjoyed in 2017

📅 2018-Jan-03 ⬩ ✍️ Ashwin Nanjappa ⬩ 📚 Archive

Compared to my movie watching, that tanked this year, I was able to read more in 2017 than in the previous year. The books I picked came from various sources. Some of them from friends, whose taste I now know matches mine. Some are from the best lists that appear at the end of the year on websites. And some are serendipitous picks, books that I came across when browsing at the library.

Classics are always a safe bet. You need a bit of effort in the beginning to adjust to the pace, language and story-telling style of our race from a century or two ago. But once you are set, they are pretty much guaranteed to give you a good time. Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was not surprisingly a great trip down childhood. It is also a great way to experience living in the US of that time and place.

Though I had watched a couple of movies based on John le Carre, this was the year I first read his books. Both The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Call for the Dead were engaging reads that show the actual workings of spy machinery.

Nectar in a Sieve was a random pick that was quite an evocative story of hardship in pre-Independence India. I do not think I can read too many of such books, but once in a while is okay.

Kazuo Ishiguro was another new find this year. His writing turned out to have the power to transport me, a skeptic, to fantastical lands and mysteries. And what do you know, he got the Nobel for Literature just a few weeks after I quite enjoyed The Buried Giant.

This year I chewed through one more Space Odyssey book by Clarke. 2010: Odyssey Two is pretty much like a movie sequel, taking similar journey and explorations as the original. But his writing and the intriguing premise keeps me hooked. A guilty pleasure.

I also finished the dystopian triad by reading 1984. Is that a collective scream of finally! that I hear? I was a bit doubtful that Orwell could bring anything new to what is already there in Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. Boy was I proven wrong. The vivid descriptions and jargon of Big Brother world are excellent and the story is actually quite horrifying.

Another shocker was The White Tiger. This is a book that I had meant to read since Adiga won the Booker. Late to the party, but enjoyed it immensely.

A final book that was delectable is Masters of Doom. I have a secret craving to learn the inside workings of the tech industry. This one about John Carmack and John Romero has all the tension of a thriller and holds many lessons for the boom-bust cycle of the industry.

That is about half the books I read this year, the full list can be seen here. I would not recommend the rest. Some of them turned out to be overrated (like The Catcher in the Rye), some whimpered in the final act and the rest I found to be too verbose (like The Three-Body Problem). Verbosity is not a problem in itself, most classics are immensely verbose, but you need to offer something in return to keep the reader invested. A similar number of books I abandoned midway losing interest, including works by famous authors like Rushdie. I always have the hope, maybe false, that I will return someday to these books.

2017 was a good year in books, I hope I can have a similar 2018. I always have an eye out for books that I might enjoy or learn from. Please keep sharing your books on social media and writing about them on your blogs! :)