Earlier, I wrote about the many lists of top moments and events of the decade that just passed (2000-2009) and I joined in on the fun with my list of the top sporting moments of the decade. Now, inspired by the theme of my blog, I’d like to do my last recap- my favorite books of the decade. These are the books I find myself most often bringing up in conversation and referencing to others and overall have had the most impact on my thinking.
As a reader of this blog may know, my interests center around these primary categories (in no particular order): Globalization, Sports, Thrillers, Technology, Business, fiction about India, non-fiction about India, and Pop Culture. The books I’ve read also fall into those categories and since it’s often difficult to compare such different genres, I’m going to list my favorite it in each category, along with close runner-ups. Some of these books may have actually been published in the 1990’s, but I didn’t actually read them until the 2000’s.
Globalization– The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman
While there are often polarizing opposite views on Friedman’s messages, I found this book to be very instrumental in my personal awareness and expansion into global changes, particularly in places like India. Also, this book melded international and cultural issues, technology, the internet, and geopolitics into one effective cohesive list that proposed a credible explanation for global changes. Here are his 10 flatteners in the new global world:
- #1: Collapse of Berlin Wall – 11/9/89:
- #2: Netscape – 8/9/95:
- #3: Workflow software:
- #4: Open Source: Communities uploading and collaborating on online projects. Examples include open source software, blogs, and Wikipedia. Friedman considers the phenomenon “the most disruptive force of all”.
- #5: Outsourcing:
- #6: Offshoring:
- #7: Supply-chaining:
- #8: Insourcing:
- #9: In-forming:
- #10: “The Steroids”: Personal digital devices like mobile phones, iPods, personal digital assistants, instant messaging, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Digital, Mobile, Personal and Virtual
Runner-ups: How Soccer Explains the World, An Unlikely Theory of Globalization– Franklin Foer: This book combines my love of sports and growing interest in international soccer and explores the make-up of teams’ players, ownership, and fan base and recognizes the increasingly global and not just local influence on those teams in places such as Western Europe but also not as obvious places like Israel and Yugoslavia. A good read for sports fans who are interested in the impact of sport beyond just the give and take on the field.
This inside look at Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s transformed the debate on what is important in baseball by emphasizing the statistical analysis favored by Beane and the small market Oakland A’s. The focus on on base percentage, walks, OPS all became part of the serious baseball fan’s interpretation of effectiveness and has driven a new level of debate between the stat heads vs what some would call the old school scouts view of talent. An important book in the history of baseball.
Runner-ups: Reds in Black & White- 100 Years of Cininnati Reds Images- Greg Rhodes & Mark Stang – As a Cincinnati Reds fan, a nice history of the franchise with vivid photography.
Thrillers: The Confessor- Daniel Silva
Earlier, I wrote a review of Silva’s most recent book The Defector, which continued the Gabriell Allon series as the Israeli super-agent. Within the Allon series, I found The Confessor as the most interesting book. In the Confessor, Allon is involved in intrigue and mayhem involving the Catholic church and the Pope and the reader gets to experience espionage based twists and turns while also learning about the history and interworkings of the Vatican.
Runner-ups: The Appeal- John Grisham– Grisham has written many legendary books and I hadn’t read one of his books in more than 10 years but picked this up in the airport and was reminded of how a good legal, big business conspiracy book can be captivating. In this book, Grisham takes on big business manipulation, corruption in the judicial system, and how the small guy can sometimes win. Grisham back to his legal thriller roots.
Business and Technology: The Innovator’s Dilemma- Clayton Christensen
This was my favorite business and technology book of the decade. The concept of disruptive technology was defined here and provides lessons for both big companies (such as Intel and Yahoo, where I worked) and smaller companies and startups on how disruptive technologies can emerge, prosper, and ultimately take down a big, established company with deep pockets. Essential understanding required for high tech companies.
Runner-ups: Crossing the Chasm- Geoffrey Moore– This book offered what has become the text book marketing blue print for high technology companies and defined concepts as early adopters, late majority, and laggards. Also, a must read for anyone working in high tech.
Pop Culture: Freakonomics- Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt
Earlier, I had written about the sequel to Freakonomics called Superfreakonomics, and much of what I had written there applies to Freakonomics but even more so. This book really ignited my analytical curiosity and motivated me to apply my analytical angles into writing and inspired this blog and some of the posts that I have written such as Steroids and Game Theory, Real Options and the Baseball Trade Deadline, and PC Profit Pools in the era of Netbooks. Freakonomics emphasizes the concept of people respond to incentives and explores a variety of topics ranging from the economics of gang members to swimming pool accidents from that vantage point.
Runner-ups: The Tipping Point- Malcolm Gladwell: Gladwell’s book was a pop culture phenomenon that led people to think differently about how the social fabric of society works and how it influences purchase decisions and even marketing. Concepts such as mavens, connectors, and influencers all became more mainstream and has led businesses and marketers to think about who should receive their message, how can it spread virally, who are the influencers who can spread the message. My post on the impact of social media in transforming Chris Brown’s fortunes were inspired by the Tipping Poing.
India-Fiction: Shantaram- Gregory David Roberts
I wrote about Shantaram here and here, but this has certainly been one of my favorite books in a long time. The story telling is fantastic based on a semi-autographical tale of a man who escaped from an Australian prison, settled in Bombay in the 80’s, lived in an Indian village and then a Bombay slum, opened up a clinic in the slum, became a part of the Bombay mafia, acted in Bollywood movies, and then fought in Afghanistan. Fantastic story telling.
Runner-ups: A Suitable Boy- Vikram Seth— An epic fiction book about life in India for a middle/upper middle class family in India totaling more than 1000 pages. Follows the life of different generations of a family and highlights the familial pressures and challenges, political life in India, and expected societal norms and taboos. Truly an epic that you need to give yourself lots of time to finish.
India-Non Fiction: The Elephant, the Tiger, and the Cell Phone- Shashi Tharoor
Tharoor story tells and weaves stories and anecdotes about a variety of notable and not so notable Indian politicians, sports stars, scientists, artists, military heros, mathemiticians, economists, etc. A celebration of achievement of Indians throughout history and provides an colorful glimpse into the soul of India through these stories. This is not an academic look at the rise of India’s economy, but more so a personal touch to the changes of India through a reflection on these various stories.
Luce provides an academic look at India’s economy and also delves into the corruption in India’s various systems from an outsider who has lived in India for several years and married in Indian. Nilekani from Infosys fame, talks from an entrepreneur’s perspective on a vision of India and provides amongs other things, some valuable perspective on population trends and the impact to India’s future.