Happy New Year with my annual ritual of sharing the Best Books of 2018 that I read. These are books that I read in 2018, a lot of them are published in 2018 but a few of them are old ones that I chose to read this year. Books, after all, do not really have a shelf life.
Best Books of 2018
This year I read a little less, but I managed to read a few books that had been on my wishlist for a long time but somehow I did not sit down with them in hand. Not traveling for some time helped me pick up big books like Yugandhara. So here goes the list of best books of 2018.
Best Fiction Books of 2018
Lore of the Land – Storytelling Traditions of India by Nalini Ramachandran – This book on storytelling takes you around India in a fairy tale fashion introducing you to so many art forms and storytelling techniques. Highly recommended for young readers.
Read this book after coming back from Dwarka and I could not have asked for a better re-visit to the city of Krishna. I read it in Hindi and the language is simply superb, and storytelling so smooth that you just go with the flow.
This book ports you to the days when the Mauryan empire has just replaced the Nanda empire in North India and Chanakya is at the helm of affairs. It takes you to the world of courtesans who were also spies in disguise. It is as much about the strategies in statecraft as about the costumes and jewelry of the courtesans and their palatial houses.
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This is the most authoritative work that I have read on Krishna. Written from the perspective of Krishna himself during childhood in Vrindavan followed by different characters like Rukmini, Satyiki, Arjuna, and Draupadi, the magnum opus takes you through the various facets of Krishna. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand Krishna but can not read the scriptures. I read it in Hindi, an English version is also available.
Again, I had this book for many years, but it needed a lot of courage to pick it up. Why are we still taught Shakespeare and not Kalidasa? – this question on social media made me pick up this book finally. Reading it brought Ayodhya alive for me when I spent a week there in October. There is so much to learn from Kalidasa – both in terms of knowledge he held and the way he expressed it. His metaphors are stunning. If you write, it will make you wonder where do you get them from. You learn how to connect two entirely different words. In this post, I mention the various versions of the Raghuvamsham that you can pick up.
Best Non-Fiction Books of 2018
This book was my introduction to Rajataringini that I have been wanting to read for so long. That still remains a dream but I got a glimpse of how it is structured and what all it talks about the Kashmir Valley. An interesting read to understand the history and legends of Kashmir Valley and how it is described in scriptures.
Not an easy book to read, because of its unstructured random nature. However, a book that makes all the sense about people who dominate the thought process today without having skin in the game. You will relate this book to so many people you see all over the media. Must Read.
This was a path-breaking book for me this year. I always wanted to read the biography of Adi Shankaracharya but wanted an easy to read version of it. Pavan Varma knows how to communicate difficult subjects like Advaita Vedanta. The book takes on a journey across India with Adi Shankara and the author. I actually traveled to many of these places since reading this book, so that also makes this book special for me.
Living in Goa, I have been wanting to read about the hippie trail and the hippies in Goa. I have not interacted with many but the curiosity was always there. This book takes you through a scientific study of Hippie Trail, Hippies, and the places they made their own, including Goa. Do read if this era of carefree travelers intrigues you.
Chanting Mantras is a part of growing up in India, we do that with devotion. However, not many of us understand the science behind mantras and how to use them effectively. Om Swami explains the simple mantras and how to chant them for desired results. What is interesting is that this book helps the uninitiated or those of us without a formal Guru. There are generic mantras and their discipline that anyone can follow. There are many small nuances I learned from this book like which Mala to be used for which mantra.
Never lost again takes you on a journey of Google Maps from being a garage setup, to being acquired by Google, the struggle of a small team to fit in the large organization setup, and finally changing the way the world travels. Can we even imagine our travels without Google Maps anymore? Highly recommended book for startups and entrepreneurs.
This is definitely my best read of 2018. A true story of the theft of ancient Indian idols from temples of Tamil Nadu written like a crime story. It has all the elements of a crime thriller, unfortunately, it is not fiction. Vijay Kumar is a writer I would look forward to reading as and when he comes out with the next book.
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On a recent trip to Lucknow, picked up two books on Kabir and this is the first one I read. It gives an insight into the thought process of Kabir tracing his philosophy back to the Nirguni Parampara of Nathpanthis. It is the same clan to which chief minister of UP Yogi Adityanath belongs. Not an easy book to read demands total attention, but if you enjoy Kabir, it is a must-read.
Cannabis evokes images of drugged hippies. Author Joe Dolce traces its use to ancient cultures which were both for recreational and medicinal purposes. He also traces the history of Cannabis being banned and then allowed in the USA, while taking you through some of the latest research in this space. A great book to gain knowledge about the herb that most of us dread.
Tell me, what are your best books of 2018.