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July 6, 2013

Books on their own are of little value but for the imprint they can leave on the lives of its reader

About the time I started to earn a living (1994) , I gradually lost interest in reading fiction, found reality more intriguing, exciting, inviting. I have hardly read any fiction ever since.
So here are few of the books that had profound influence on my life
1. Power of Positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale -- --- suffering from a sense of inferiority complex and lack of self-respect, this book ,which I read in the summer vacation after 9th grade, had a life-changing impact, it helped me start believing in myself . I still have somewhere in my old diary at home, notes written from this book. – 1990
2. How to make friends & influence people by Dale Carnegie ----- when you experience self-loathing as a child, it makes for very awkward social interactions. As a teenager I distinctly remember how over a period of few years between 9th to 10th grade, I gradually transformed from being a Rebel without a cause to be gregarious / sociable with many girlfriends ( as in female friends not romantic partners, this was still early 1990’s, remember )-1991
3. Future Shock & The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler ---- I bought these books on the pavement in Pune ,when I had joined Philips in 1996 but for several years I did not read these books, I was not ready for them. Then in 1999 when I had quit Philips and was travelling in Udyan express from Mumbai to Bangalore to make a career in IT, I read Third Wave, in one seating , an hour before the train arrived at Bangalore station. Alvin wrote Future Shock and Third Wave in 1970s, if you get a chance, read them, you will be astounded to what extend his predictions of the future have come true. – 1996
4. Hidden Agenda by John Pilger ---- In the meanwhile , during my tenure at Philips, used to attend month-end sales meeting in Ahmedabad, and make it a point to visit Crosswords in Ahmedabad on each of those occasions to discover offbeat books , and I found so many of them, but the most influential was undoubtedly Hidden Agenda. And in John Pilger, I discovered a journalist who offered a counter narrative to the often one sided reporting on global news networks. – 1997
5. Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes / Balkan Ghosts- a journey through history by Robert Kaplan --- Few of the other influential books I picked up at Crossword – Ahmedabad. It cemented my love for discovering the world , a fascination that has lived with me ever since. Fatal shore is an historical narrative of Australia from the time of its discovery and Balkan Ghosts as the name suggests offers an histro-geographical view of the former Yugoslavia . Those days before internet, it was only through such books we could learn more about the World we inhabited – 1998
6. Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda / Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama ----- While I continued to read a lot of books for the MBA I was pursuing, but nothing of significance. And Life did not work out the way I had dreamed, I lost interest in reading or self-development . Several years passed, stumbled upon these books by accident and found them very enlightening and for a brief moment , I felt this was how my life was destined to turn out – thankfully it didn't , but someday you might still find me roaming the Himalayas or Andes mountains in South America, seeking myself,, you never know -- 2002

7. O Jerusalem! is a history book by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins that seeks to capture the events surrounding the creation of the state of Israel. The reason why I remember this book, other than being a very well researched book that does not take any sides in the conflict and chronicles the events in a very impassionate ,unbiased manner, is. read this book in the car , while waiting for Sakshi at her first play school in Hyderabad. - 2005

8. Who says elephants can’t dance by Louis Gerstner -- As I got into different roles, traveled overseas, I found this book a great way to prepare myself for the challenges & uncertainties that lay ahead. Who says elephants can’t dance is the turnaround story of IBM and how Louis Gerstner , a rank outsider to the Tech industry was able to orchestrate that turnaround. -2006
9. Straight from the guts / Winning by Jack Welch – Of the many management books I must have read, these by Jack Welch I have found to be the most insightful. May be because I could relate to them having worked at GE – 2006

10. A Splendid Exchange --- How Trade Shaped the World by William Bernstein --- Had just moved to Chennai and was put up in a guest house in Adayar. One evening while on a casual walk , waded into Landmark and bought this book. Read it on my cab journeys to MEPZ office. This is a fascinating account of the history of global trade and is peppered with such details and insights that reading this book is akin to an educational undertaking - 2009

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