Tiny Book Reviews - Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct 2021

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

This blog is a series of brief reviews and summaries of books I read every month. This platform provides me with an opportunity to write what I have read. It gives me a chance to give something back to the writer - in form of reviews.


If you are coming to this series for the first time, please click below for more blogs:

I have kept a target of reading 52 books in 2021. So far - as of 31st Oct 2021 - I have finished 43 books.


Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
1% improvement everyday is 3847% improvement in a year. - James Clear (Author of Atomic Habits)

I had few lean reading months after June'21. I was caught up in a lot of professional and personal priorities. I had less time to read books and even lesser time to write about them. However, whenever I could, I kept on reading. Even if it was a paragraph at a time. My reading average reduced. However in Jul, aug, sept and oct, I could finish 9 books. The above quote from James Clear kept me going.


In this blog, I will try to cover brief summaries of 9 amazing books I read in last 4 months.


1) Nanda Devi Affair by Aitken, Bill (4/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Kindle)


I love mountains. Mountains make you feel insignificant. That is the best realisation anyone can get in their lives. Mountains are source of livelihood for billions of people on this planet. Himalayas are around 2,400 kms long and is home to most of the highest mountains in the world.


This book is about one of the highest mountain in India - Nanda Devi. At 7,816 Meters (25,643 fts), Nanda Devi is the 2nd highest mountain in India (after Kanchenjunga) and highest which is completely inside India. The Nanda Devi mountain is Goddess Parvati according to the local beliefs.


The author covers the folklore of various villages and tribes of this region. The book also provides detailed accounts of his treks inside the Nanda Devi National Park.


This is a good book for trekking enthusiasts - as most of the today's popular treks are covered in this book. If you love treks, visit our trekking community - TrekNomads.


2) The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (5/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


This is a fabulous book on psychology and its effect on habits. If one wishes to imbibe a good habit, or get rid of a bad one, the rules/ideas in this book can definitely help you.


The author brings years of experience and research to help mortals like us understand habits and how we can change the way we live.


The writing style is simple, easy to understand and with a lot of examples. The book talks about what habits are, the components of a habit and how we can reprogram ourselves and change the habit loops.


Habits are choices we make everyday (like exercise, eating junk food, smoking, drinking, driving) and stop deliberately thinking about it. Habits are like automatic series of actions we do without using too much of brain. Habits are part of the evolutionary process of human brain. The brain do not want to invest a lot of energy in thinking about the same routine things day-in-day-out. That is the reason why we can eat, drink, drive (and multiple other things) without giving too much of thought to it.


Habits have 3 components in its habit loop:

  1. Cue - A trigger to initiate something e.g. eating junk food when stressed out. The trigger can be a place, time, person or emotion.

  2. Routines - Series of things we do when a cue is triggered. E.g. Trigger is wake up, routine is brushing teeth.

  3. Rewards - Rewards lets the brain know if a particular habit is worth remembering. Rewards can be food, drug, emotional payoffs, appreciations etc.

In case of deeply routed habits, the brain simply lets body execute a routine. Hence, it is difficult to change a habit till we consciously work to change it.


The main idea in the book is to change the routine while keeping the cue and rewards same to effectively control our habits. This is called the Golden Rule of Habit Change.


Please read this book and control your habits and let them not control you.


Other powerful book on habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear.


3) My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Hopkins, Claude C. (4/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Kindle)


The author - Claude C Hopkins, wrote this autobiographical book in 1927. The advice and thoughts presented in this book are still relevant for today's era of online advertisement. The book provides his experiences, experiments, failures and also his philosophy of the life.


One of the most notable achievement of his life was the Pepsodent advertisement assignment. The book provides details of his other famous assignments and successes.


This is a good book for startup founders and marketing professionals, who wants to understand the basic psychology behind consumer behaviour before designing their advertisement strategy.


4) Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (4/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


Malcom Gladwell, came up with an idea of 10,000 hours rule in his book, The Outliers. As per his hypothesis, anyone who can practise relentlessly for 10,000 hours - in a particular skill - will become world class in that given field. That is called "hyper-specialisation". The idea was very popular and was getting quoted everywhere. However, a lot of research on the topic debunked this myth.


This book gives us the totally opposite perspective. It says that in life, in order to succeed, you do not need to focus too narrowly on a particular skill. What will help you is a range of experiences and perspectives - while working towards your skill. Also, to become world class, you need luck, talent, enviornment and obcourse a lot of hard work!


The author provides a lot of examples and stories to prove this point in the book.


This is an interesting read and will definitely help in providing different perspective to how we solve real life problems.


5) The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel (5/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


This is an absolutely amazing book on money and personal finance. The basic concept of the book is that managing money is not an exact science - which is governed by rules. Money is managed by people and hence money management is more or an art than science.


The author provides stories and anecdotes to lay down his principles on money management. Following are key learnings of the book.

  1. Different people have different experiences, environments, circumstances and hence see money and investments differently. Invest based on your current circumstances and risk appetite.

  2. Luck and risk are two sides of a same coin. Don't attribute everything you have achieved to hard-work or personal strength. Don't take risks which can completely ruin you.

  3. Learn to fix your financial goal post. We always want more at every stage. Too much of more makes living life irrelevant. We do not enjoy what we've achieved when we are constantly seeking more. Greed is bad.

  4. The power of compounding. $81.5 Billion of Warren Buffet's net worth of $ 84.5 Billion came after his 65th birthday. His investments paid off significantly when they were left to mature for a long period of time. Invest early and let the power of compounding do wonders for you.

  5. Staying wealthy is more important than getting wealthy. The world is full of wealthy people losing everything they have - due to risks, luck, circumstances, bad choices and greed. Staying wealthy requires discipline, humility and planning for plans which do not work.

  6. In financial world, major events are the main focus for any change. However it is the long tail of minor events which defines the real outcomes. A financial genius is the one who does average things when world around them is going crazy.

  7. Money's biggest intrinsic value is to give you freedom. If more money means more goods, houses, cars and expenses, then it's a never ending tail chase. The biggest goal of earning money should be to own one's time.

  8. People try to get respect through money and things it can buy - cars, houses, vacations, cloths etc. Other people do not give respect if you have any of these. If respect and prestige is the aim then spending money on materialistic things won't give you that.

  9. Wealth is what you don't see. Real wealth is not spending too much of it on things that don't matter. Spending money to show people how much money you have, is the fastest way of having less of it. There is a big difference between a wealthy and a rich individual.

  10. Saving money with a consistent savings rate is the best method to get wealthy. Let the power of compounding do wonders for you. Expenses = Income - Savings

  11. Reasonable > Rational. Don't be too rational always. At times we have to be reasonable with money. It is fine to create experiences with the money you've earned. Plan for the spends.

  12. In finance world, history seldom defines the future. Don't get hooked on to past financial performance of stocks, mutual funds, companies. Prepare yourself for surprises. The biggest events of the future may not have happened in the past.

  13. Always keep room for error in your plans. Even the best laid plans do not work. The real planning is to keep a plan when things don't work the way they were supposed to work. Don't concentrate your risk - diversify. Don't take a risk, which can completely destroy you.

  14. Change is inevitable. Change is constant. Keep planning and keep improvising.

  15. Nothing is free. The price of investing is not dollars or % brokerage. The real price of investing is fear, greed, volatility, regret, doubt and uncertainty. Ready to pay the price of success.

  16. Bubbles form when the a lot of money is invested in short-term returns very fast and long term returns are ignored. In investing, when everyone starts talking about an instrument, it is the best time to run away from there.

  17. When it comes to investing, pessimism is more pragmatic than optimism.

  18. We know only 0.000001% of the world events. However, we tell stories to ourselves and listen to others stories when it comes to life or investing. Don't listen to stories and stick to basics.

The above takeaways may not give you a complete narrative of the book. I recommend all to read the book and get better insights on wealth and money.



6) The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (4/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Kindle)


This is a heartbreaking fictional story of two Afghan boys who are childhood friends. The story is narrated at the time of Russian invasion of Afghanistan (1979 to 1989) and during the rule of Taliban - once the Russians and Americans were out of Afghanistan.


The key themes explored in this book are friendship, love and courage. The story is of salvation of the main protagonist's lack of courage shown when he was a kid. This lack of courage - when he was a kid - haunts him till his adult life. Later he gets a chance to correct what he wronged. However it is too late.


I generally don't read fiction books. However, I wanted to learn more about Afghan War and its people at that time. This book provides glimpse into this.


A must read book if you love fiction, human emotions and thrillers.


7) Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler (3/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


Nudge is a book about the choices we humans make and decisions we take in our regular lives. Small things like the mobile and laptop settings we keep, financial decisions - savings, health insurance and other similar things we do in lives.


The book introduces us to a concept called "choice architecture". A choice architecture is the way we present, arrange or influence the way we do things. Choice architects can be ourselves or external people like product managers, policy makers and government in general. Choice architects nudges people towards the certain desired behaviours.


The book help readers understand how nudges can help us exercise regularly, save more, eat less and understand the hidden nudges by the businesses and external choice architects.


This is a good book to read for product managers, technology leaders and founders to understand consumer behaviour and how they can add nudges to their products.


8) Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll (5/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


The Author, Steve Coll, is an American Journalist and Pulitzer Price winning author. He has written hard hitting and well-researched accounts of American war in the Afghanistan from 1979 till 2018 in multiple books.


This book covers the history of the Afghan war from 1979 to 2001. The book gives detailed accounts of the roles of Russia, CIA, Pakistan, ISI, Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.


The book is divided into 3 parts:


The first part is from 1979 to 1989 - Russia's occupation of Afghanistan, US and Saudi funding to overthrow Russia by helping Islamist extremists and the role of ISI (Pakistan's secret service) in executing the Afghan uprising against the Russians - with US and Saudi money, weapons and technology.


The second part is from 1989 to 1998 - American surprise retreat from Afghanistan, the deteriorating relationship between the CIA, Saudis and the ISI. The rise of Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda after the withdrawal of the Americans.


The third part is from 1998 to 2001 (9/11) - The threat of Islamic terrorism on USA, covert operations by the CIA to prevent terrorist attacks, role of Clinton and Bush administration toward Afghan terrorist organisations and the Taliban and the role of Pakistani leadership.


The book is a very hard hitting account of how Pakistan played the Americans in helping to solve the Afghan problem (Taliban and Al Qaeda). It also highlights the issues in US policy making, their shortsightedness, egos and lack of decision making. The book provides detailed accounts and roles of other Afghan fighters like Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.


Afghanistan is a very unlucky country. The country has always been at the receiving end of their own infighting, Pakistan's selfish agenda, invasion by British (1800s), invasion by Russians, NATO forces and now the Taliban. The common people, women, children are the worst affected. Let us hope and pray that normal, happy life returns in Afghanistan for all common people.


This is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand what is exactly happening in this country and why it is and will affect the entire Asia.



9) The 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires: How to Achieve Financial Independence Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy (1/5)

Get a copy now: (Amazon, Audio Book, Kindle)


This is book is like a blog. It is very small book (104 pages). I am surprised that it is highly overrated and over priced. The book provides 21 pointers to become successful. These pointers are common sense and is covered in folklore and multiple other books. A better book to read on this subject it, "Think and Grow Rich - by Napoleon Hill". You can read the complete review/summary in my previous blog.


I will list down all 21 principles covered in the book here. You can read them here and skip reading the book. These principles are mostly self explanotary. (Thank me later!)

  1. Dream BIG DREAMS

  2. Develop a Clear Sense of Direction

  3. See Yourself As Self-Employed

  4. Do What You Love To Do

  5. Commit to Excellence

  6. Work Longer and Harder

  7. Dedicate Yourself to Lifelong

  8. Pay Yourself First - Best book to read on this Subject "Rich Dad, Poor Dad"

  9. Learn Every Detail of the Business

  10. Dedicate Yourself to Serving Others

  11. Be Absolutely Honest With Yourself and Others

  12. Set Priorities and Concentrate Single-mindedly

  13. Develop a Reputation for Speed and Dependability

  14. Be Prepared to Climb From Peak to Peak

  15. Practice Self-Discipline In All Things

  16. Unlock Your Inborn Creativity

  17. Get Around The Right People

  18. Take Excellent Care of Your Physical Health

  19. Be Decisive and Action Oriented

  20. Never Allow Failure Case Studies To Be An OptionPass the "Persistence Test"


This is all for now. I am reading a few interesting books in Nov. Will write about the next set of books next month.


Happy Reading!

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