• Pranav Gupta

My top 4 books in 2019



After a gap of nearly 9 years, I finally got back into the habit of reading again since last year. To my surprise, I managed to finish a total of 12 books in 2019. Although each book had their own strengths and weaknesses, there were four in particular that stood out to me.


Here’s my list for 2019...


4. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE


There are innumerable books out there on self-help and entrepreneurship that repackage the same ideas of the “surefire path to success” in different ways. Shoe Dog, on the other hand, is like a breath of fresh air. The book is a riveting tale and reads almost like a novel. You get absorbed into the story and all its characters. Except, it’s all real!


Rather than provide tips & tricks on running a successful business, Phil Knight lays it all bare. It’s a story of grit, passion, determination and a little bit of luck. He talks about his journey right from the start, from selling shoes out of his car to building a multi-billion dollar company. He does not shy away from discussing the never-ending problems that seem to pop up at every single turn - from getting shipments on time to dealing with the bankers for funding to managing his team. To me, it was nothing short of a miracle that Blue Ribbon Sports (which was later changed to Nike) didn’t end up getting bankrupt. It’s a great read for anybody, but if you’re looking to start a business then Shoe Dog is a must read.


3. Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet


I decided to read this book because I was looking to learn more about renewables. So when I started googling, this book popped up in almost every reading list, and rightly so!


Taming the Sun provides a comprehensive picture of solar energy and Varun Sivaram makes a compelling case for why it will take innovations on three fronts - financial, technological & systemic innovations to achieve solar’s true potential. It’s meticulously written yet easy to understand and definitely worth a read for anyone looking to see what the future might hold for solar.


2. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power


This book was recommended to me by a friend and I decided to give it a try. It’s a thick book (900+ pages) on a dry subject - oil. Yet, I was amazed at how engrossing this book was.


The Prize starts off with the discovery of oil in north-western Pennsylvania in 1854 and ends with the Gulf War in the 1990s. It does not go into the technical details of extracting and refining oil; rather the people, corporations & nations that had a significant role in its development and the ensuing power dynamics & international conflicts. Some of my favorite parts were the chapters on the role of oil in World War 2, and the oil crisis in the 1970s that forced nations to look towards alternative sources and energy efficiency.


I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the history of humanity over the past 150 years. However, be warned, this book is not for everyone as it is dense and will require an investment of your time.


1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind


Hands down, the most interesting book I’ve read so far. The title is self-explanatory; Sapiens provides the history of humankind from 100,000 years ago when there were six human species to today when only one exists - Homo Sapiens.


The book delineates the causes and circumstances that lead Homo Sapiens to dominate our environment, create currency, empires, capitalism & religion among others and why we were so successful. Simultaneously, it expounds on some big questions - Why are we here? Why are we the way we are right now? Are we, as a species, currently more happy than we were before the agricultural revolution?


In addition to the content, Professor Harari’s writing is praiseworthy. He is able to take complex topics and simplify them in such a way that it's informative and engaging. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, this book will open your eyes and force you to think about humankind from a different perspective.

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