What books should you read in 2019?

(A list we put together for our annual anti-offsite ‘Incite’, based on a post we wrote for our smartletter)

Have you thought about what should be in your reading portfolio this year? It helps to think of curiosity and learning like food and nutrition. You need some essentials on a daily basis, you need a mix of various 'knowledge' groups, and you need a system that encourages your fickle mind to resist temptation and stick to the plan.

We recommend dividing this up into five baskets:

1. Classics: Books that have stood the test of time are more likely to contain influential ideas that will remain relevant tomorrow.

2. Future Relevance: Books that put you ahead of the curve.

3. Other ‘cultures’: Find a different culture or niche to learn about.

4. Re-reads: Re-establish contact with books (these are books we’d like to re-read)

5. Random Picks: Open the door to new ways of thinking.

… and here are our recommendations for this year:


'Factfulness' by Hans Rosling

WHY: So many people find it difficult to believe that we, as humans, are actually getting better all the time.

'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman

WHY: A timeless book that tells us why we think the way we do!

(‘21 Lessons’ was also recommended by Incite participant Harun Tavawala)

'How to Be a Stoic' by Massimo Pigliucci

WHY: Stoicism has been practised and preached by great thinkers from as early as the Roman King, Marcus Aurelius. But it's often considered to be too philosophical and cut-off from reality, practicality and the demands of the 21st century. It can't be more further from the truth.

'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankl

WHY: This book tells us about life in a Nazi concentration camp and finding a purpose to one's life.

'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

WHY: It tells us about human character and the dilemmas one faces in decision-making.

'Animal Farm' by George Orwell

WHY: An allegorical novella, which is as relevant today in the times of fake news and propaganda as it was back when it was written.

For Future Relevance

'The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don't' by Nate Silver’

WHY: Tells us how to make decisions with the fullest data available and being a discerning observer.

'Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes' by Maria Konnikova

WHY: Drawing on recent research from psychology and neuroscience, Konnikova presents ways to sharpen one’s methods of observation and deductive reasoning.

'The Gene' by Siddhartha Mukherjee

WHY: Genetics and the progress made in gene modification is going to have a wide-ranging impact on our future.

'Mindset' by Carol Dweck

WHY: We are not aware about what the future holds for us. So how do we prepare for it? The first step is to understand and develop the mindset which helps us grow - all the time!

'21 Lessons for the 21st Century' by Yuval Noah Harari

WHY: Yuval Noah Harari has written extensively about the history of Homo Sapiens and what we could evolve into. But what does the immediate future have in store for us and how do we deal with it?

(‘21 Lessons’ was also recommended by Incite participants Tanay Ingale and Kanika Nema)

'How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life' by Scott Adams

WHY: Timeless career advice on building resilience which will help you deal with the changes and shocks you'll face in your career

From Other Cultures

'Karma Sutra- Adventure Of A Street Bum' by Rajendra Menen

WHY: A book which introduces the other culture to you - it's so easy to paintbrush them out of your view. A book like this can help you understand the lives of the hijras on the streets of India.

'Waiting on the Outside: My Son's Journey to Federal Incarceration and a White Supremacist Prison Gang ' by Sharron Godzinsky

WHY: There are many books written by prisoners but here's a take by the mother of a prisoner who talks about the tell-tale signs which became a pattern and eventually led to her son's incarceration. This book also gives you an insight into white supremacists.

'The Suicidal Mind' by Edwin Shneidman

WHY: What goes through the mind of a suicidal person?!

'Pimp: The Story of my Life' by Iceberg Slim

WHY: An account of one of the most well-known pimps and how he did what he did!

'IPL Vignettes' by Linus Fernandes

WHY: Here's an insider's account of one of the biggest sporting extravaganzas in the world today.

'Fixed!: Cash and Corruption in Cricket' by Shantanu Guha Ray

WHY: Talks about the corruption in cricket which has changed The Gentleman's Game.

'The Divergent Trilogy' by Veronica Roth

WHY: One of the dystopian series that teenagers are reading (besides the usual HP, LOTR, GoT, Game of Thrones). Find out what gets them interested in a world like this!

What we’d re-read

'Made To Stick' by Heath Brothers

WHY: We read this many years ago and are big fans of everything written by the Heath brothers. This book gives a simple checklist for making your communication sticky.

'Influence' by Robert Cialdini

WHY: A book which Cialdini wrote many years ago that aimed at improving buyer-awareness about how advertisers managed to influence their decisions. This book has been 'weaponized' by marketers and sales teams over the years.

'Sapiens' by Yuval Noah Harari

WHY: The book that Harari shot to fame with. It tells us about how we evolved as a species and got to where we are today. It's a book that deserves a re-read from time to time just so that we know how it all started.

'Mahabharata' (the version by C Rajagopalachari is perhaps easiest to find and read)

WHY: A timeless story that you must have read or watched from your school days. Revisiting such stories with the changed world-view you now possess will help you see the same stories in a different light.

'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams

WHY: A trilogy in five parts that was recommended to many teenagers and young adults. Some of you may have read it and enjoyed it then.

'Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand

WHY: A controversial book that is highly recommended to young adults. These books are meant to be timeless but are they?

Random Picks

'The Game' by Neil Strauss

WHY: Introduces you to the world of ‘Pick Up Artists’.

'The Mind at Night' by Andrea Rock

WHY: We often take sleep for granted. This book will tell us more about the importance of sleep and the role it plays in our lives.

'The Poisoner's Handbook' by Maxwell Hutchkinson

WHY: Knowing about ways in which people have used poisons over the years gives a new meaning to the line - What doesn't kill you will make you only stronger.

'Consider the Fork' by Bee Wilson

WHY: We are not only what we eat but also how we eat it. Use of cutlery at the table may have changed our dental anatomy.

'The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us' by James W. Pennebaker

WHY: Even the mundane can be interesting if you study it deeply enough. Pronouns and other function words can indicate social status and compatibility. Did you know that lower status individuals tend to use first person pronouns more than higher status ones?

From Incite Participants

(Krishna Vishwanath) ‘The Undoing Project’ by Michael Lewis on long-time collaborators Kahneman and Twersky (who also wrote ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow).

WHY: Good discussion on human mental fallacies.

(Omkar Yarguddi) 'Good to Great’ by Jim Collins

(Ankita Verma) 'Peoplewatching’ by Desmond Morris

(Prajakta Panshikar-Divekar) 'A Field Guide to Getting Lost’ by Rebecca Solnit

(Sreejith Moolayil) 'The Power of Habit’ - Charles Duhigg

(Srikanth Adiga) 'Hot, Flat and Crowded’ by Thomas Friedman

WHY: It is an eye opener since I had not studied global warming in depth and its potential to change the world in the immediate future.'

(Nikhil Jagtiani) 'Never split the difference' by Christopher Voss

WHY: A book on negotiation strategies and tactics from one of the FBI’s best hostage negotiators.

(Dhananjay Muli) 'Homo Deus’ by Yuval Noah Harari

(Anupam Goyal) 'Designing your Life' by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

(Sanasi Kelkar) Any textbook of Social Psychology like this one!

WHY: The material in many of these popular books are already covered in them

Do you have a book on your 2019 wishlist or something that you read in 2018 that you’d like to recommend? Please leave a comment.