Nithin Bekal

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Favorite Books of 2013

23 Jan 2014

I read a lot last year. Here’s my top ten from the books read in 2013:

1. Quiet (Susan Cain)

This book examines the role of introversion in a world that celebrates the Extrovert Ideal. Read it if you’re introverted. Read it even if you aren’t, because you’re going to be interacting with introverts everyday. And for the fantastic insights it provides on introvert/extrovert behaviour.

2. We the Living (Ayn Rand)

Ayn Rand’s novel, set immediately after the Russian revolution, is a brilliant exploration of the individualism vs collectivism theme. I’ve rarely come across a book this philosophical that is also so compulsively readable.

3. Hackers and Painters (Paul Graham)

Paul Graham is one of the best essayists on the internet. Despite having read most of these essays before, it was nice to revisit some of his best writings. If you haven’t read him yet, I recommend starting with What You Can’t Say or Why Nerds Are Unpopular.

4. I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)

This is Asimov at his very best. His characters make wonderfully insightful observations about science, logic, politics and religion that apply as much to our world as they do in a world where intelligent robots are ubiquitous.

5. The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling)

Rowling has written an amazing crime novel here. The story isn’t fast-paced, and that allows her to develop the characters. In Cormoran Strike, we just might have the next Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot.

6. Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

This darkly humorous graphic novel is a memoir of the author’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic revolution. The funny, matter-of-fact manner in which she talks about the horrors of living under a fundamentalist regime really sets it apart.

7. And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini)

Hosseini is another of my favorite authors with a book published last year (Rowling being the other one), and he didn’t disappoint. Despite having multiple interconnected narratives spanning multiple decades and continents, this is very much a book about Afghanistan.

8. The Eye of the World (Robert Jordan)

As an epic fantasy set in a world of incredibly rich detail, it is easy to compare this with Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. Although I wasn’t as impressed by this as I was by those books, it made it to this list because the two subsequent books have built upon this to create an incredibly complex world.

9. The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson)

Brilliant mystery thriller. Fast-paced, yet has complex protagonists. It’s always hard to tell if the style of the original novel (this was translated from Swedish) has been lost in translation, but it is still an excellent read.

10. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

I worked my way through the first two-thirds of the novel, and although it was a nice read until then, it is the final few chapters that transform this novel into something completely different. Amazing book.

Some more books that could have sneaked into the top 10

  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! (Richard Feynman)
  • The White Tiger (Arvind Adiga)
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The 10th Anniversary Edition (Bill Waterson).
  • The Green Mile (Stephen King)
  • Nathaniel’s Nutmeg (Giles Milton)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Most disliked book

Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. Having a terrible plot is one thing, but this is repulsive propaganda disguised as fiction. This is Crichton’s attempt to label global warming as a myth and ecology activists as terrorists. It was so awful that I created this section in the list just to criticize it.

Postscript

If I had to pick one book from that list to recommend, I’d pick Quiet. I wish everyone would read that book, and make things just a little bit easier for those of us on the introverted end of the spectrum. ;) I can’t recommend it enough.

Reading 100 books in a year was fun, but I’ll probably not do that again anytime soon. With books like Cryptonomicon, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs and the rest of the Wheel of Time series up next on my to-read list, I’d be lucky to be able to find time for much else in 2014.

Hi, I’m Nithin Bekal. I work at Shopify in Ottawa, Canada. Previously, co-founder of CrowdStudio.in and WowMakers. Ruby is my preferred programming language, and the topic of most of my articles here, but I'm also a big fan of Elixir. Tweet to me at @nithinbekal.