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2021 Books

Some short reviews of some of the books I read in 2021…

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”

― Sir Francis Bacon

 

Playing with Fire, Tess Gerritsen

  • Rating 3/10
  • Comments: Just not my kind of book. War, an apparently deranged child and an unsatisfying twist akin to “it was all a dream”. Others loved it, just not my thing.

 

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman

  • Rating 5/10
  • Comments: Even though it is a Murder Mystery, this book is a light, easy read. What some might call a beach or airplane read I guess. I don’t think it will win any Pulitzer prizes but I found it a good wind-down-from-the-day type book.

 

A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean

  • Rating 7/10
  • Comments: A book of 3 stories. The main one, “”A River Runs Through It” is about familial relationships but with so many beautiful descriptions on fly fishing and rivers that it made me want to pick up a rod again. The second story, “The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky”, was also a good read. The third though, “Logging and Pimping and ‘Your pal, Jim'”, didn’t quite do it for me, but still, the book as a whole is definitely worth a read.

Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh

  • Rating 8/10
  • Comments: Some books you read to educate, others to broaden your thinking. And some you read just for the sheer joy and entertainment of it. Trainspotting is definitely in the latter category for me. I picked it up in the library and after the first page, knew I was going to read the whole thing in a few days. Much of it is written in Scottish dialog, which I realize is likely very difficult for many to read. Personally, I loved it.
    “Suppose that ah ken aw the pros and cons, know that ah’m gaunnae huv a short life, am ay sound mind etc, but still want tae use smack? They won’t let ye dae it, because it’s seen as a sign ay thir ain failure. Well, ah choose no tae choose life.”

    The movie came out when I was in college, so I was familiar with the plot but the book actually manages to make the characters even more deplorable. Renton doesn’t go to London to work in property (as per the movie), but to run a social security scam, and hits on his deceased brother’s pregnant girlfriend, at the funeral no less. Begbie isn’t just a psycho, but a pregnant woman beating one at that. The scumbag elements of Sicknote alluded to in the movie are drawn in more detailed, darker colors. Spud is the only character who actually seems to have an ounce of humanity. But thanks to Irvine Welsh’s great writing, you want to read it all, and still root for Rents despite his flaws.
    Great book. Highly recommend.

 

To Hell and Back, Niki Lauda

  • Rating 7/10
  • Comments: I liked this book a lot. The story of a man who didn’t do great in school, had no obvious skills, and was disowned by his family, but who turns to a newfound passion for racing with the laser-like focus that became his trademark. The book covers his early days in the lower leagues, his ascent to the highest levels of Formula 1, including his championship-winning seasons with Ferrari and McLaren, and his infamous crash at Nürburgring. The book finishes with his leadership roles at Jaguar and Mercedes (where he mentored Lewis Hamilton). 

    The Nürburgring crash is covered in as much detail as he can, given that he doesn’t remember anything of the crash itself, but his determination and resilience shine through and he returns to racing only 33 days after the crash.

    Interestingly, it is his passion for flight that seems to dominate his life more than driving. Both the highs of setting up several successful airlines and the lows too. Despite his near-death experience in the Nürburgring crash, horrendous injuries, and permanent facial scarring, Lauda says “the worst time of my life” was in fact in 1991 when one of his airplanes crashed shortly after takeoff in Thailand, killing all 213 passengers.

 

Never eat alone, Keith Ferrazzi

  • Rating 5/10
  • Comments: Per the Francis Bacon quote above, I felt like this book is a book to be tasted, perhaps reflected in the fact that it took me months to finish, coming back to it now and again. But it definitely has a few nuggets of advice. If I had to sum it up, it would be: Learn, build your own brand, build friendships, help others, have fun doing it.

    Although the book is primarily about networking, and points out how careers are relationship-driven, there are definitely positive messages from the book. Rather than “using” your network, it encourages more of a pay it forward mentality. “The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others”. “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity”.

    Lastly, keep connections open. Ping people, wish them a happy birthday, don’t be scared to ask for help (since that keeps relationships open too), and lastly, always help when you can and don’t expect anything in return. Don’t keep score.

 

Cashflow quadrant, by Robert Kiyosaki

  • Rating 5/10
  • Comments: I really liked Kiyosaki’s original book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. This one, I didn’t like so much. It was worth reading, but I definitely skimmed some parts. The basic theme is don’t just be an employee (or even self-employed) with a 401k, and instead think about setting up a business, and/or focussing on investing more. It is a good theme, with good advice, but it definitely felt drawn out. 

 

Radical Candor, Kim Scott

  • Rating 7/10
  • Comments: I rate this book highly. Lots of good advice on not talking about people, but instead talking to them. We covered this in a book club at work, and I feel I’ve spent enough time on it without wanting to do a detailed review here too, but definitely recommend.

 

Normal People, Sally Rooney

  • Rating 8/10
  • Comments: I didn’t have any expectations for this book. I read it without knowing anything about it but ended up liking it a lot. I can see why Ms. Rooney has generated so much publicity. Looking forward to reading her others in 2022.

 

 

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