Reading List: 2019

Kickstarting on my reading list for this year and highlights of each book as found pertinent to me. I score them as per my regular pattern of education and entertainment provided by these books.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci: The Biography by Walter Isaacson.

Education: 4.5 out of 5  Entertainment: 4 out of 5

Leonardo was an intriguing subject for me ever since I read the Da Vinci code and I found this to be a great read during our Kerala vacation. Biographies are a genre I can now finish fairly quickly in few long sittings, something which I could accomplish earlier with only a very few fiction writers like John Graham or Frederick Forsyth.

Some highlights of this book.

  • The emergence of Florence as a hotbed of learning, creativity, artistry, enterprise and most importantly the amount of collaboration between different kinds of professionals.
  • Leonardo’s lack of schooling (or legitimacy, as he was an illegitimate child of a public notary) which is portrayed as a distinct advantage for it enabled him to learn and work on whatever pleased or interested him.
  • The liberalism in those mediaeval times. Whether Leonardo was homosexual or not is a topic raised multiple times in the book but it never ever acted as an obstacle for any of his achievements.
  • Leonardo’s methods of learning a new skill or a new topic are guides which every child should be taught, in my opinion. He was probably a genius with high IQ but a lot of this genius is owed to his persistence and keen observation.
  • His quest for and choice for powerful patrons is marked, specially considering the fact that his father was never around for him during his early days.
  • Most impressive was his life long study of anatomy, optics, fluids and other esoteric topics which culminated in one masterpiece after another, leading up to his magnum opus, the Mona Lisa. For instance, he made a detailed study of the tongue of a woodpecker ! The description of the way in which Leonardo’s study of the anatomy of the human face led to that mysterious smile which is still discussed centuries later, is as captivating as that smile itself !

2. India Moving: A History of Migration  by Chinmay Tumbe

Education: 4 out of 5  Entertainment: 3.5 out of 5

Prof Chinmay Tumbe teaches at my alma mater and I first read about his work through one of IIMA’s media messages. I quickly searched for the book in Amazon and was quite happy to find an inexpensive Kindle version.

  • Economic History is fast turning out to be one of my favorite subjects and I find that a large portion of my recent reading falls into that category. This book also belongs partially to this genre and was additionally not dense as books written by academic often tend to be (Saving grace !)
  • The good part of this book is the breadth of geographies, races and centuries that it covers. The migration of one of the largest group of people in this world, additionally a widely diverse one is no mean task to research.
  • I somehow felt that a lot of chapters seemed to have very abrupt endings. A case of bad editing, maybe ?
  • There is a reference to Udupi restaurant professionals and their migration away from their hometowns which was a memorable section for me. Though Bengaluru has thousands of Udupi food based restaurants, it never really struck me (until this book , that is) to ponder about why so many of them migrate out of their homes and end up serving inexpensive, quick and tasty south indian food in different parts of the country.
  • Another eye opening chapter was on the economic status of migrants; it looks like people tend to migrate in the quest of a better life for themselves and their families irrespective of their current economic status !

3. The Honorable Company

4. The Third Pillar

5. Einstein by Isaacson

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