Updated: Jul 4, 2021
"Best way to thank the author is by writing a review"
I have decided to read 52 books in 2021. Please read my blog on the books I have read in 2020 - with a brief review/synopsis. Also, please read another blog on how to read more books, based on my personal experience.
In 2021, so far (as of 11th March) I have completed around 13 books. I am on track to complete the 52 book pledge.
I had planned to write a review of all the 52 books in Jan'2022. However, I thought the blog would become very big and I would not be able to share wonderful books I am reading with my friends and connections on a timely basis. Hence, I decided to write a blog every month about the books I have read in the previous month.
Here are the books I read in Jan and Feb 2021. Happy Reading!
I am a big fan of Pixar movies (who isn't?). This book provided me with an opportunity to go behind the scenes on how some of my favourite movies were made - Toy Story 1/2, Cars, Monster's Inc, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo to name a few.
Apart from this, the book also provides core principles on how organizations should be managed. This is yet another book that highlights the importance of people in the organisation. Pixar leaders kept their people ahead of their customers and investors and their people created magic. When one of their most senior leaders were found guilty of misconduct, Pixar (and then Disney) leadership took strong calls to support their people.
The final chapter - a tribute to Steve Jobs - was very heart touching and provided a different perspective on the great man's personality - which is different from the popular notions.
A good book to understand how to lead and navigate complexities organizations and why culture is more important than numbers.
2) The Dhandho Investor: The Low-Risk Value Method to High Returns by Mohnish Pabrai (4/5)
This is a very simple book which talks about value investing concepts through various examples. The writing style is simple, the research is good. The author also brings examples from his own business.
The most important chapter in the book is the last one. In the end, the author expresses that if you are living to maximise your wealth, you are living a suboptimal life. The real meaning of living a great life is not just about earning money. Giving back is far more important than earning. Good, light book.
I have managed customer success functions in the past. I was Chief Customer Officer in one of my previous organization. To my knowledge, it was one of the first time an executive was given this title. My colleagues were asking me what a CCO does. The good news that my answer was almost in line with the role of CCO provided in this book.
This is a very practical book that talks about the importance of customer success in any organisation. Customer Success has overlap with a lot of other functions e.g. account management, post-sales, customer support, and marketing. This book provides boundaries for customer success function and how it should be built and managed.
Few downsides: The book becomes repetitive at times. Additionally, the authors should have added more real-life examples from the industry.
I recommend this book for CEOs, CBOs, people who want to choose customer success as a career and CCOs (of course!)
4) Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up and Make a Difference by Kathleen Kelly Janus (4/5)
We started our NGO (www.treknomadsfoundation.org) in Nov'20. We want to do something positive for the remote mountain village communities in Indian Himalayas. We had earlier hiked to these villages for the last 3 years and have done our bit in terms of livelihood, medicines, trail cleaning, livelihood support, disaster rehabilitation etc. However, we were looking to do something big and more impactful. With that in mind, we started our NGO in Dec'20.
While we had the intent, we had absolutely no idea how to build such an organization. Social Startups are just like any other startups with a difference in the intent which capital would bring. While in regular startups, the capital infusion is for growth, in social startups, the capital for larger (and often) intangible socital good. Funding in a social startup is a regular challenge, as they cannot generate their funding through sales or other means.
So, I turned to read books about social startups. This was the first book I read. The book is a simple, detailed handbook (with examples) on how to scale your social startups. What to do and what not to do. The author brings examples and provides a practical step by step approach to the chapters. The book also provides references to a lot of successful social organizations for more reading and research.
5) Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy by Parth Detroja (4/5)
The authors: Parth, Neel and Aditya are very talented young product managers. They have written a really simple, yet informative book on technologies and events that are shaping our world/lives currently. Their writing style is easy to understand, straightforward and yet powerful. They have done a tremendous amount of research in writing this book.
The book talks about things like how companies like Google, Facebook, Spotify, Amazon, Tinder etc work. How smart cars function and what is the future. Difference between Chinese and Western Tech giants. Digital Payments. Internet. Cloud Computing. Big Data. Robotics and its future. and many such relevant topics.
This book is for non-tech people who do not want to go into gory technical details of all the topics covered. It provides a brief, yet good overview of these topics. A must-read book for mid-level managers, non-tech founders, product managers and anyone who wants to strike an intellectual conversation with other non-tech friends at parties/meetings and show off!
6) The 5 am Club by Robin Sharma (2/5)
This is a very preachy and longish book. The book highlights simple concepts required to be successful in a fictional story narrative with scores of diagrams, jargons and lots & lots of quotes. The books makes a powerful concept very filmy!
The ideas highlighted are not just about benefits of rising up early every day. But are about how to be successful and a better human being overall.
The book highlights the benefits of waking up early, exercise, reading, love, self-growth, learning, helping, caring, habit formation - to name a few. A lot of these concepts are put in a diagrammatical format.
It's like bringing together most of the advice from all the self-help books and combining it into one single book. I did not like the book much.
7) Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo (5/5)
This is an awesome book. I have studied and read economics a lot. Either micro or macro. Recently started reading about behavioural economics. However, this book covers a totally different type of economics - the economics of the poor! How poor spend their money, what decision they make, the biases and how small nudges at the right time, can change their lives. These are some of the questions asked and answered in the book.
I have learnt good concepts on how we can eliminate poverty by removing a family from the dreaded "s curve". The book talks about how to work together and improve the lives of billions of fellow humans who are below the poverty line across the globe. Very interesting book.
8) Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth (3/5)
This book explains a very simple but powerful concept about grit. Grit is working towards long term goals and not giving up when faced with obstacles. In my life, grit has played a huge role in things I have achieved (and not achieved). Grit is extremely important when we feel that we are not going anywhere with what we planned. These plans can be achieving professional success, getting fitter, quitting alcohol, making a project successful, working on a relationship etc.
The author takes this simple concept, and through her years of research and interviews, puts her thoughts, ideas, success stories, theories in this book. The most powerful thing which the book tells is that grit can be developed. Another revelation in the book is that talent alone is not required to make one successful - hard work is more important.
I am giving 3 stars to this book because I felt that this seemingly simple yet powerful concept was dragged a little too much in the book. Also, adding few questionnaires, exercises for personal development (like a handbook), would have helped the readers.
Overall a good - one-time read book.
This is one of the best books I have read on leadership. Robert Iger takes us through his journey on how he started as a small program executive to becoming CEO of one of the largest media and entertainment company in the world. He also takes us behind the scenes on acquisitions like Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films, 21st Century Fox etc.
Through this story, he highlights a few very important leadership principals.
Optimism - a leader should be optimistic about the future. No one wants to follow a pessimist.
Courage - Ability to take risks and make hard decisions.
Focus - look at the large picture while paying attention to details.
Decisiveness - ability to take hard decisions at the right time. An indecisive leader is a dangerous leader.
Curiosity - the ability to discover new markets, opportunities, people.
Fairness - Empathy towards people is very important. When it comes to customers, shareholders and employees, many CEOs ignore the employees. Which according to me is a big mistake.
Thoughtfulness - Process available information, take multiple opinions and think properly before taking a decision - while not delaying the decision.
Authenticity - Be genuine, honest and trust people.
The relentless pursuit of perfection - If you are in the business of making things, then make them great. Perfection does not mean perfectionism - it means not accepting mediocrity.
Integrity - Integrity is not performing within boundaries of rules. Rules can be misleading or incomplete or with loopholes. Integrity means be truthful and work for the greater good. The purpose of an organization is not just increasing shareholder value, but stakeholder value. Stakeholders are: Employees, Customers, Suppliers, Shareholders and Society.
10) Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker (4/5)
This book is a complete handbook on sleep. It covers almost all the topics related to sleep. Sleep requirement, benefits, harmful effects (due to less sleep), the effect of alcohol/caffeine on sleep, sleep-related diseases and even how society is ignorant of the need for sleep. Concepts like why adolescent should not wake up early and why elderly should sleep early are really unique. The author brings his 25+ years of experience to this book.
Even though the book deals with a scientific topic like sleep, the author does not make it complex. The writing style is easy to read and understand. At times, the book tries too hard to explain a simple concept. The author is really passionate about sleep. He argues that sleep was a very important element in the evolution of Humans and is more important than fire/wheel.
I have seen people boasting about their ability to sleep less. They stress the fact that they sleep only for 3/5 hours and still are efficient, hardworking and fit. I always had my doubts, but after reading this book, I am convinced that persistent lack of sleep will lead to major problems. I advise these individuals to definitely read this book and sleep for at least 7-8 hours.
11) Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison (5/5)
This is a very powerful book. The book covers the life journey of the Author and his social organization (Charity Waters). The book highlights the dire need for helping people who are struggling with clean drinking water. According to WHO, around 33% of the world's population do not have access to safe drinking water. Almost 50% of the diseases in poorer countries are waterborne. That makes clean drinking water a huge priority. Charity Water is doing just that. They are working across the globe to provide wells, water solutions to millions of people in Africa, India and other countries.
The book has a very engaging and emotional narrative. Generally, when we read a social cause book, we expect a lot of grumbling and complex policy ideas. However, this book is like a Hollywood movie plot. A nightclub promoter becomes one of the biggest change agents. The stories given in the book are very touching.
I would definitely request everyone to read this book. This book will motivate you to become change agents in small ways. It will encourage you to donate to social causes. This book is also a very good source of information on how to run a social startup.
Thats all folks! I could get a chance to read really good books in first 2 months of 2021.
Will be back with next set of book reviews in early April.