Sunday, January 12, 2014

2013 book list

Here’s the list of books I read in 2013 in chronological order with a short review of each.

Bold = Recommended
*Bold = Highly recommended


  • Danziger's Travels: Beyond Forbidden Frontiers by Nick Danzinger
  • Danzinger travels solo & often in disguise through Turkey, Iran, war-torn Afghanistan and China. Some of his adventures seem very thrilling, to the point of you questioning if they truly happened. Nevertheless, a entertaining read that tells you a lot about life in those parts of the world.

  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  • Pollan dissects the American food industry, going into the roots of what we eat. It’s scary to learn about the industrialized food “generation” process and how far-removed we are from the way our ancestors ate.

  • Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Young Indian-American sociologist pals up with some of the gang members of the Chicago underworld to learn about its socio-economic impact. It’s like peeking into The Wire. It does’t go very deep into the violence & impact of the underworld, and as a result is more of a fun read.


  • *Last Chance to See - by Douglas Adams, Mark Carwardine
  • Funny, yet deeply insightful. Adams & Carwardine go around the world to find endangered species. In true Douglas Adams style, he makes you laugh, but also makes you think as he talks about the impending loss of these beautiful creatures.

  • Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries  by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • A series of essays by NdGT about the cosmos. Very readable and funny. Having read similar books before, it wasn’t too educational for me, but I can imagine someone not very familiar with astronomy loving these. NdGT does seem a tad too obsessed with world-destruction scenarios.

  • *The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Not a real autobiography per se, but a collated set of writings by one of the greatest men of the 20th century. Highly recommended. I was greatly impressed by the man and the book. Read it now!


  • What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States by Dave Zirin
  • Series of articles about intolerance (racism, sexism, homophobia etc.) in sports and the athletes who fought against it. Its a good topic, but Zirin doesn't come off as a rational thinker and gives a very one-sided view of things which makes you question whatever he writes.


  • The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
  • Good science fiction. At 192 pages, a quick read. The time-travel bends your mind a bit, so be prepared.

  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
  • Foer goes from being a spectator to winning the US Memory championship in 1 year. He describes his journey and talks about how memory can be trained to remember almost anything. And you don’t have to be exceptionally smart to be a memory-guru. Delves nicely into the science of memory.

  • No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman by Christopher Sykes
  • Biography of the brilliant Richard Feynman. Feynman’s relentless drive to “figure things out” is amazing. I especially loved the bits about Feynman’s formative years. Feynman was a bit of a showoff though :).


  • Leaving Microsoft to Change the World by John Wood
  • John Wood’s drive and success are very commendable. The cause is definitely worth fighting for. The book does seem to be a bit of a publicity piece though.

  • The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • I expected a more autobiographical book, but it turned out more about science. Not much about NdGT's childhood and upbringing & what shaped him growing up. Having read 2 of his books, I think he's not as good a writer as Carl Sagan, but still very readable. The world needs more science “popularizers” like him.