2010

Jan ’10

1. Hydrology and Watershed services in the Western Ghats, Tata McGraw Hill. This is an interesting collection of papers which span everything from hydrology in the engineering sense to a more holistic understanding which takes into account human interactions with watersheds. Some of the papers are too technical for a layperson to read through, but some, especially one by Sharachchandra Lele et al., are quite thought provoking. Should serve as a good manual for prospective studies as well.

2. Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins, Ebury Press. Nice fun to read, nothing that one does not already know intuitively about how USA and the Corporations are trying to take over the world!

3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll, Bantam Books. Only a mathematician can come up with the amazing ‘illogic’ that this book has a great deal of!

4. Essays in Dissent – Remaking Higher Education, Amrik Singh, Harper Collins. Don’t know if it is just me, but the book seemed to assume the reader knows a lot about higher education policy making in India, with a lot of “X has been discussed at length elsewhere, so is not taken up here” kind of statements. The author may know a lot about higher education, but potential readers (like me!) will probably be put off by its presentation. The main argument in the book seems to be for a greater role for teachers in education policymaking, recovering full cost of higher education (for which Im fully in favor), and removal of affiliation systems like that under UGC and AICTE (three thumbs up!). In essence, building ownership, accountability and responsibility into higher education.

Feb ’10

5. The Importance of being Earnest and other plays, Oscar Wilde, Penguin Books. Oscar Wilde seems to be at his best when criticizing the very people he is amusing in his plays. A great parody of hypocritical Victorian England. A treat in intellectual absurdity. Read.

Mar’10

6. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Richard Feynman, Penguin Books. Excepting a couple of good essays about science and its relationship with the larger whole, not much is missed if you have read ‘Surely you must be joking….’.

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, Penguin Books. First Steppenwolf, then this :O Good book, as good as any of Wilde’s plays, some passages are really intense. Good read as long as you don’t take it seriously (which would be Wilde’s advice anyways ;)

8. The Last Brahmin, Rani Siva Sankara Sarma, Permanent Black. Good first read from Permanent Black!! An interesting book, it critiques Hinduism of the RSS variety from the viewpoint of a Brahmin. Worth a read if you wish to understand a Brahmin’s outlook. It is a strong supporter of the caste system as well, read and check for yourself as to why!

Apr ’10

9. From Geometry to Topology, Graham Flegg, Dover. Trying to make full use of a book grant that I received from my department, and this book was a good read. Gives a nice overview of what is topology, and why it is central to Analysis today.

May ’10

10. Why are You Being Educated? J. Krishnamurti, KFI. The book is worth reading simply for the question it raises. It is a collection of talks given in Indian Universities by Krishnamurti. While the content matter of the talks are similar, the Q&A parts are quite good. Always good to read Krishnamurti about education.

Jun ’10

11.  Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Anthony Parel, Cambridge. Excellent book, the first one that I have read that tries to understand Gandhi as a whole person as opposed to a politician, economic thinker etc., It puts his thinking within the context of the four purusharthas and shows why this body of thought is more relevant than most others that exist in India today, like rightist/leftist/*ist thinking. I would consider it a foundational book, something everyone interested in Gandhi should definitely have a good look at.

12. Pedagogy of the Opressed, Paulo Freire, Penguin Books. A translation from the original Portuguese, which probably makes it a little harder to read, but overall a good book to read. Very strongly worded, and immersed in Marxist fundas, but there are many ideas about the praxis of education that one can take away from this book, even if one does not accept the class analysis.

Jul ’10

12. The Best of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, Oxford. A set of children’s books that equips children to ask adults extremely uncomfortable questions while entertaining them as well. Do your niece/nephew/son/daughter a favor and get them this book!

11. Battles Over Nature, M. Rangarajan, V.Saberwal Eds., Permanent Black. Collection of papers on conservation of wildlife in India. From history to biology to politics to ethics, something in it for everyone.

12. This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India, M. Gadgil and R. Guha, Oxford. Excellent book, not only does in trace the roots of what are nowadays seen as tribal-State conflicts, but also teaches one how to think about history in terms of ecology. The strong parts are the chapters on forest policy in colonial and modern India, which by themselves are worth the money.

Oct ’10

13. The Mahatma and the Poet, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, National Book Trust. A compilation of correspondence between Gandhi and Tagore. The main part, which is about the debates during the Civil Disobedience Movement are really good to dwell upon, since these debates are raging even to this day.

14. The Flaming Feet and other essays, D.R.Nagaraj, Permanent Black. An excellent work on the analysis of the Dalit movement in Karnataka in all its facets by a Dalit. It is deep and quirky and views the world from a viewpoint (Dalit) that is not often heard nor well articulated in English.

15. Animal Farm, George Orwell, Penguin. Starts off nicely, becomes grimmer and is truly Orwellian by the end.

Nov ’10

16. Mother Pious Lady – Making Sense of Everyday India, Santosh Desai, Harper Collins. Lovely book, probably an expanded version of his column in the Times of India, he picks us innocent looking things and tries to understand the deeper significance. Sometimes it gets too Freudian, but peppered with interesting insights as both an insider and outsider in the middle class.

17. Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, Steven Strogatz, Penguin. Quite an awesome book, gave me a sweeping view and historical insight into the field of complex systems, which deals with the behavior of a large number of entities following simple rules. Strogatz writes awesomely, so it is worth reading whoever you are.

18. Life Itself: A Comprehensive Inquiry into the Nature, Origin and Fabrication of Life, Robert Rosen, Columbia University Press. God-level book. It has been very long since I read a book that contains so many things that I had never thought about. Definitely one of the best books that I have read of all time. It is a book on theoretical biology, but it is infinitely deeper than anything else of this genre that I have come across.

19. Physics and Philosophy, Werner Heisenberg, Penguin. A small book containing Heisenberg’s view of Quantum Theory and its implications for how we view reality and for classical philosophical problems like the nature of matter and time. Good to know someone as accomplished in on field can have interesting things to say in an entirely different realm of thinking.

20. Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology, Valentino Braitenburg, MIT Press. A must read for any person interested in interpreting behavior from any point of view. Though the book is committedly reductionist, it is to me an excellent way of thinking about behavior – constructing it as opposed to analysing it top down. Written in an engaging style, worth reading from any point of view.

21. Growth and Development: Ecosystems Phenomenology, Robert Ulanowicz, Excel Books. Superb book, uses ideas from information theory to quantify growth and development of ecosystems. Information theory seems to be one of the few ways to get a holistic information about a system, and this book sheds light as to how to go about it.

Dec ’10

22. Ethics in Everday Hindu Life, Leela Prasad, Permanent Black. An excellent book which tries to understand the various sources of normative authority for the daily life of people in India, in Sringeri in particular, where the author did her ethnography. It also has interesting theoretical discussions linking evocation of ‘moral sentiment’ via narration and performances with evocation of rasas in traditional Indian aesthetics.

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow. — Some dude.

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