No, I am not giving you another list of 5 Books you must read. I do not believe there is a single list that fits any two persons on this earth. The books we like to read, depend on who we are, what we like, what we want to read for, and what are overall goals in life are.
I can definitely share my tips on some of the books that you can read to know more about yourself, your world, and this world we inhabit. This is not a book list but categories of books that you can read. I have added my own examples to these recommendations for you to understand.
In general, I recommend reading with a wide horizon as it sometimes opens up many windows to a larger world for you.
Books About Your Own History and Heritage
We are a product of a lot of past put together. Just work back a few generations and you would realize that it took thousands of individuals to produce you over time. Add to that the place you were born in or the culture you are a part of. We hardly know about our own past beyond a bit about our immediate families, unless you are born in a royal family where histories are maintained more prominently.
Books about your own history can include the history of the region you were born in or live in, the history of the family or communities you belong to, and the geopolitical history of these regions and communities. Add to it the books on subjects around these regions that interest you – it could be architecture, business, trade, culture, or people.
I have a shelf full of books on places that I have lived in during my adult life like Delhi, Hyderabad and Goa. I also read about the cultural history of India having lived in this country most of my life.
Religious Texts – Must Read Books
You must read the religious texts of the religion you belong to and other religions too if they interest you. Even if you claim to be atheist and non-religious, if you were born in a family that follows a religion, read some of the books of that religion. This would help you stay rooted in your tradition if you are a follower. Else, it will help you stay away from being misguided by those who have read it.
Till I read the Indian scriptures firsthand, I was willing to believe any interpretation that was presented by the popular media. Once I read them, I had absolute clarity. I could understand other person’s perspectives but I would not be swayed by their agendas or misinterpretations. You may be surprised; how many modern writers write without actually reading the original texts.
I am currently reading Indian scriptures in original, mostly in Sanskrit along with Hindi Translation. A small booklet on ‘How to Read Indian Scriptures!’ is on its way based on my experience.
Do read about my reading of Tulsidas Ramcharitmanas, which was the first large text I read.
Must Read Books about Your Chosen Profession
This is a no-brainer, but a lot of people stop reading once they start working. Most of us spend the first couple of decades of our lives trying to study areas in which we want to spend the rest of our life working. However, most fields are fast changing with emerging technologies and tools. Innovations keep happening at different paces in different fields.
It pays to stay updated on what is happening in your chosen field. It definitely gives you a competitive edge. So, if you are a doctor read medical books, if you are a lawyer, keep yourself updated on new legislations and their interpretations.
I am a travel writer, so I do read a lot of travelogues that have been written right from ancient times to our times. I also read books on Innovation and Business Biographies to understand Business Innovation and its impact on our lives.
Your Passions & Interest
We all have things that interest us – be it travel, food, books, music, sports, automobiles or aviation. We may just be fascinated by things in this universe. Books about our interests are the easiest to read as we are genuinely interested in these topics. These books can either take you closer to your interest by making you aware of the nuances or they can tell you that though fascinated, you only have a surface-level interest in the topic. Either way, they help you in moving ahead.
I like reading business biographies and biographies of pioneering people irrespective of their chosen fields. For example, when I read Pt Ravi Shankar’s biography Raga Mala, it told me about his global aspirations, and his collaborations as much as it told me about his music. The same goes for Raja Ravi Varma’s biography which tells you about his pioneering work with lithographs, his royal patronage as much as his art that we know about.
Subject You Know Nothing About
We all live in our own world, but there are lots of things surrounding us that we are oblivious to. They are not a part of our lives either by destiny or by our choice. We are not really interested in walking that path. But, it may hold some insights that our ‘Oh So Familiar’ universe may not be able to give us.
Moreover, new ideas take birth only at the intersection of what to know and what we do not know. So, it is important to consciously take ourselves to those intersections on a regular basis.
For example, I read this book on Cannabis – Brave New Weed by Joe Dolce – and it introduced me to the World of Cannabis. I am a vegetarian, teetotaller who has never had any inclination for any drugs barring the ones doctors thrust upon me. However, it opened up a whole new world of ancient cultures, recreational consumption and the legal history of banning it and then slowly opening it up. I could understand the Hemp activists viewpoint.
Books for Entertainment and Imagination
Fictional genres can take you into a world of imagination that is not limited by the rules or regulations of the real world. You can fly, travel across time, not follow laws or define a universe for yourself. It is like being in a Metaverse that the author has created for you. You identify with a character and take the journey with the author. These stories allow you to think aloud and beyond boundaries of any kind.
When you read books like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy written sometime in the 1960s, you wonder how the author had the ability to visualize a hyperconnected world that we do inhabit a few decades later. Romantic fiction that takes you into the mushy world of love. Historical fiction as well as science fiction can make you time travel with a heady mix of facts and fiction.
If you read one book in each of these genres every year, you are sorted for life.