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Krishna Sundarram

Books I read in 2018

/ 3 min read

Just a quick round up of a few books I read last year. I tried to mix it up a bit, so you might find something you like! Here’s my round up of 2017.

The absolute best

  • How Not To Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday by Jordan Ellenberg. Recommended to me by a data scientist.

Pretty Damn Good

  • The Broken Earth Trilogy by NK Jemisin. 3 Hugo Awards for the 3 books in this fantasy series. That’s an astounding achievement, and after reading the trilogy I heartily agree. The first book was especially good, from the magic system to fully fleshed out world to the constant action, it was perfect. The three main characters (Essun, Syenite, Damaya) were unique, endearing and a damn pleasure to read about. Even when they did seemingly irrational things, it was easy to empathise with their motives. The second and third books were good, but didn’t reach the highs of the first one.

  • Karla Trilogy by John le Carré. Spy novels about an intrepid spy called George Smiley. And by intrepid I mean overweight, weak eyesight, polite, a bit of a doormat (especially for his unfaithful wife). As much as it sounds like a parody, it isn’t. These are gripping stories that focus as much on trade

  • Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta.

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

  • The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan.

Niche reads

  • The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot. The United Kingdom doesn’t have a Constitution so this should be a pretty short read. Or so I thought. Bagehot discusses the role of a monarch who never vetoes legislation, the House of Lords that almost never revises legislation and the House of Commons that rules over an entire Empire (book was published in 1872). He also compares the American system with the British one, and having just seen a Civil War in America, he did seem a bit smug about it. Overall good read, especially the parts where he discusses exactly how to structure the voting system.

  • Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez. I usually finish books, even ones I dislike. I didn’t finish this one, yet it made the list. It’s about a dictator in a nameless South American country. He’s petty, brutal, rapacious, vengeful, not too bright and harms his country and people in all the worst ways. But that’s not why I stopped reading. The writing style is unusual - there are no paragraphs or even sentences. It’s just one long sentence that meanders for hundreds of pages. Also not why I stopped. I stopped because Márquez was able to make me empathise with the dictator, vile though he was and I didn’t like that. It wasn’t for me, but it could be for someone else.

Bad books

Last year I didn’t have this section. There’s no point in reading a bad book to completion only to make fun of it for it’s flaws. Especially for a new author finding their feet, that’s not cool. I make an exception this year for one book - Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb isn’t a first time author. He’s well known, his previous books have sold millions of copies and have received wide acclaim. So I don’t mind going against the grain and saying, “this book is 💩“. Full review

I hope you pick up at least one of the books I liked. If you do, let me know! I’d love a chance to discuss these books with someone.

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