Here are the top 10 books I read during 2017. I may add individual Book Notes writeups for some of these later, but wanted to share the list as the year has come to a close.
(As in previous roundups, these are books I encountered during the year, not books published only in 2017.)
I chose these nonfiction titles mostly due to my professional and personal interests: technology trends, India, economics, media – and, let’s not forget, dogs!
I also see now that I read a shockingly small amount of fiction in 2017. I may try to remedy that in 2018. (I did consume a beach read or two that weren’t memorable enough to add to this list, I should note.)
In no particular order:
- An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions," by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen. A masterful work illustrating, with clinical precision, that despite India’s steady economic growth over the decades, the government has continued to fail its most vulnerable citizens: the rural poor.
- “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” by Walter Isaacson. As I wrote in my Book Notes entry, it’s an “exhaustive, compulsively readable account of how the computer and the internet came to be.”
“Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count,” by Richard E. Nisbett. Environments, schools, teachers and parenting affect IQs, Nisbett writes, much more than genetics. (Also recommended by Nisbett, a title I read a few years back: “The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why.”)
“The Golden Tap: The Inside Story of Hyper Funded Indian Startups,” by Kashyap Deorah. A detailed, warts-and-all look at the history of Indian startups and venture capital trends, refreshingly devoid of the breathless optimism that often accompanies discussion of tech here. Deorah, a seasoned tech entrepreneur himself, knows his stuff.
“The Curse of the Mogul: What’s Wrong with the World’s Leading Media Companies,” by Jonathan Knee, Bruce Greenwald and Ava Seave. I encountered this book in grad school but didn’t give it enough time, so I returned to it this year. To sum up: Media tycoons often make bad corporate strategy decisions, often driven by ego, the authors write.
“How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading,” by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. I snickered when I first heard about this book, originally published in 1940, but it’s a favorite among serious readers for its practical tips on quickly attacking and retaining material from nonfiction tomes.
“Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter,” by Thomas Cahill. An entertaining trip through ancient Greece, and an examination of Greeks’ intellectual and artistic legacies, which persist to this day.
“How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain,” by Gregory Berns. I came across this book after our beloved mutt Ashely died. Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University (my alma mater, as longtime Newley.com readers know), scanned dogs’ brains with MRIs to try to figure out what goes on inside them; while it’s still unclear if they “love” us, as the title suggests, it’s an interesting look at how canines operate, and contains some moving passages about the dogs in Berns’s own family’s life.
“The Windup Girl,” by Paolo Bacigalupi. Sci-fi, set in a post-apocalyptic Bangkok? Yes, please! A fast-paced, thought provoking novel about genetic engineering (both agricultural and human), the environment, money, and power. Highly recommended.
“The Circle,” by Dave Eggers. I didn’t think I’d like this book, as I’d heard it involves ludicrously far-fetched technologies. But it’s in many ways an important novel of our times, showing what could happen if societies continue to obsess over the digital rather than the physical world, and a fictional reminder that startups outwardly driven by utopian ideals are companies like any other, pursuing profits and influence. Also highly recommended. (Note: I haven’t seen the movie.)
Previously: The Best Books I Read in 2016.