5 Must-Read books for students in 2019

By Aditya Roy

September 22, 2020

The image above has a chapter titled “life is a journey”, and books help us to navigate through the various ridges, and hills of  life. Reading is the best kind of refreshment that you need from your hectic study schedule, and what best time can there be to start a new hobby, then the beginning of the new year. So, to help you with your reading list, here are 5 Must-Read books for students in 2019.

The Entrepreneurial State: Mariana Mazzucato

Mariana challenges a widely held myth that holds government as an impediment to innovation.

Through fascinating examples from history, author argues how the state its position as a lead innovator in bringing out path-breaking technologies such as the internet, GPS and the touch screen all of which make an iPhone for what it is. 

Apple rightfully gets the credit for building an innovative product, but the government rarely gets any recognition. This book seeks to correct that bias.

It is an essential read for those who see government expenditure on risky technologies as a zero sum game in conflict with social welfare.

If you believe India shouldn’t send space missions to Mars because we are a poor country, this book makes you rethink.

“Arguably, there is not a single key technology behind the iPhone that has not been State-funded.”

The Better Angels of Our Nature : Steven Pinker

Most of us had this intuition that the most violent period in human history must be the 20th century that saw unimaginable human suffering in two brutal world wars. Turns out we’re wrong.

Our ancestors lived amidst incomparable violence, barbarism, and bloodshed. As a percentage of population, the number of deaths in all of 20th century are fewer compared to previous eras.

What accounts for this steady decline in violence and what can we learn from it?

This 800-page opus from Steven Pinker narrates the history of violence in humanity.

Starting with hunter-gatherers to modern societies, through extensive data in page after page, Pinker forwards one core argument: There is a continuous decline in violence and this is not a coincidence.

Delving deep into human nature and combining research from genetics, criminology and psychology Pinker puts forth his thesis on what drives us to be violent, what caused its decline, why we turned empathetic over time, and how do we make our peace enduring. The book is a long read, but an essential one.

“As one becomes aware of the decline of violence, the world begins to look different. The past seems less innocent; the present less sinister.”

Billionaire Raj : James Crabtree

India witnessed searing growth rates during the mid-2000s, thanks to low interest rates, a generous inflow of foreign capital and huge private investment. 

Crabtree argues that this period also led to a rapid rise of a billionaire class, concentrating wealth and entrenching corporate power.

When the 2G and Coal scam unravelled, it was evident that some of this corporate wealth was built not because they added true value to the economy, but because some crony capitalists could bend the rules and strike dodgy deals. 

Crabtree writes eloquently on the rise of such crony capitalists, and their link to political corruption.

The book made me think that perhaps it’s the illegitimate funding that drives much of the political corruption and criminalisation. State funding of elections is an option we should seriously consider.

Crabtree’s writing is brilliant as he weaves interesting anecdotes seamlessly into the larger narrative. Especially the chapter on Ambani and his residence Antilia is incredibly fascinating.

“Measured relative to gross domestic product, India came second only to Russia for the proportion of national wealth held by its very richest people.”

Deep Work : Cal Newport

None of us can stand in a queue for 10 seconds without pulling out our phones from pockets. 

When we speak to the person in front of us, our peripheral vision is always on our mobiles, ruminating at the back of our mind about a random instagram notification.

In this book, Cal Newport argues that in such an ever-distracted world drowning in irrelevant information, what is becoming increasingly rare is deep work: the ability to focus on a mentally demanding task for a sustained period of time. Deep work’s benefits in a knowledge economy is priceless.

The best thing about the author is that he doesn’t preach cliches, but meticulously teaches concrete strategies to make deep work as part of our daily routine.

 Irrespective of our professions, I believe ability to work with focus is an important meta skill we can cultivate to improve our productivity and creativity.

Emperor of All Maladies : Siddhartha Mukherjee

Humans have long dreamt of conquering cancer, often declaring victory, only to see the disease rise again in more virulent forms. 

It’s only with recent advances in genetics and immunotherapy that we are coming to grips with its complexity. Siddhartha Mukherjee brilliantly documents this long journey of cancer from being a disease that perplexed humans to now, where we have a measure of control over it.

I love when experts in a specific field explain complex topics in simple words, shorn of jargon, in a way accessible to the general public. Mukherjee does this job remarkably well. His writing is lucid, precise and punctuated with many moving, and harrowing real life stories.

Books like these kill my hunger for fiction. You get to savour great writing, and reap knowledge— both at once.

“If we seek immortality, then so, too, in a rather perverse sense, does the cancer cell.”

Start with any of the above… but since you must have made a new year’s resolution, go for “Deep Work” by Carl Newport. 

Share you thoughts about this list in the comment section below…

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