Few Loved Books of 2021

My Year in Books — 2021

2021 was a busy year with lots of disruption. Thanks to books, I always had a way to compartmentalize when there was so much grief and stress outside. I spent a lot of nights and early mornings cuddling with my two kindles and books, losing myself in them.

In 2021, my book choices were a revelation to me. This was thanks to breaking the Amazon.com recommendation filter bubble. I read more fiction, which I didn’t do more often but now I realise I should.

The year is still not over, so I am sure I will finish at least a couple more books using the holidays' downtime.

Until then here are the ones that I loved most. I hope you do too!

Non-Fiction

  • The Corner Shop: This was a unique book, interleaving the history of immigration in London and off-licence shops. What made it better was that a daughter of a shop owner wrote it, who had lived and breathed this life. This book, helped me understand the reason why I have seen racist remarks written on the sides of the off-licence shops in London. To be honest, though, I still don’t understand, why and how it serves the purpose.
  • The Fight: The Fight is a splendid book. The book is in the form of the genre called “creative non-fiction”. This genre became mainstream thanks to authors like Truman Capote, Hunter Thompson and Norman Mailer, the author of this book. The Fight tells the story of Ali and his famous bout with George Foreman, known in the folklore as “Rumble in the Jungle”.
    The book’s narrative transported me to Zaire where the fight happened with Ali’s and Foreman’s stories and insecurities. I could feel the fight happening in front of me. These words were magical!
  • Notes on Grief: Notes on Grief felt personal. It has been more than 2 years since I have met my parents. During this course of time, my father has had a stroke, he has been paralysed and is dependent on my brothers and my mother. I have not been there for him.
    At the same time, my family and I always knew that my not being there is in a way better because my travel could bring the dreaded Covid to my vulnerable father.
    Thankfully, my father is alive and still fighting to get better. In, Notes on Grief, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wasn’t so fortunate.

Fiction

  • Interior Chinatown: I have never read a book structured like this. And while I am writing this, it also dawned on me that I have never read so many books on races in a year. Anyway, back to the book — it is funny in the satirical sense. It hits you when you won’t expect it. Perhaps one of the best fiction I have read in ages.
  • Poems that make Grown Men Cry: It was a collection of poems, so putting it in fiction amounts to Blasphemy. But I am going to let it be here for my convenience. It was also my favourite book of this year and will spur me to read more poetry in 2022. There were poems from different poets of different nations and times but what caught my breath was this 3 line Haiku.
  • The Women of Troy: For reasons, I do not remember now, I started reading on Greek Mythology in 2019. I have been reading a few books every year since then and have come to realise that mythologies across the world are woven by the same common threads. The Women of Troy is a fiction that tells the story from the vantage point of Briseis and this is while Greeks are waiting to return home. It hits hard and exactly where it is meant to.
  • The Mermaid of Black Conch: To be honest, I only picked this book because there was an offer on it. But after I was done, I cried along with David on his loss. It is a book about love, loss, greed but more importantly about giving. This book stayed with me a lot longer after I read it because of how vivid the imagery in it was.
  • The Hobbit: An all-time classic! I picked Hobbit to read it along with my 7-year-old. But man! What a book and what a courage by Bilbo Baggins. Now, my 7-year-old and I are soon starting on the adventure of LOTR!

Business

  • Kitchen Confidential: Now, this book is not what one would expect on a Business Bookshelf. But that’s where it stumps you. Anthony Bourdain so eloquently details out the strategy and tactics of building a business in this book, that it blew my mind. He even speaks about the way you should hire, choose the tools to succeed. His mental models are universally applicable.
  • Working Backwards: This was a book written by two ex-VPs at Amazon on things that made Amazon unique from others. One pattern which emerges is, that Jeff Bezos builds and forces his team to build for scalable and predictable mechanisms. My favourite chapter in the book was about “Single Threaded Leadership”. I have been obsessed with accountability even before I read the book. This made me double down on the idea with a very clear framework.
  • Invent & Wander: Invent & Wander is a collection of chosen writings by Jeff Bezos. But what makes it unique is that it contains all the Amazon shareholder letters in one place. Every single letter is worth reading twice over. And when they are all read together, they string the pattern, which Jeff Bezos has reverse engineered and we all call it Amazon.
  • Good Strategy / Bad Strategy: I had been procrastinating reading this book, for ages. In fact, I went to Goodreads and found that I first shelved this book on June 2nd, 2012 🤦‍♂ So after 9 years, here we are and I have to say that it truly is a Lindy book. It gave me a great mental model of what exactly is a strategy that people can usually confuse with tactics. It also helped me understand how to sell a better narrative of the same strategy.
  • The Devil’s Playbook: The Devil’s Playbook is the story of Juul, the vape company. It got its start in Silicon Valley yet could never break the shackles of “dirty business” and had to sleep with the enemy. It also is a caution story of what happens when you “move fast and break things” when people lives are on the line. Highly recommended!

Now while I was auditing my list, it dawned on me, that the author I read most and enjoyed this year (2 books) has neither of his books on this list. So if you don’t like any of the books above, read anything which Matt Haig has written. His words are gold!

My complete list of 2021 read books is listed here.

Helping build Perkbox. Writes about Leadership, Startups, Product & People management. I blog to think.

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Ankur Sharma

Ankur Sharma

Helping build Perkbox. Writes about Leadership, Startups, Product & People management. I blog to think.

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