Best books of 2014

Last year was a fantastic year for reading books. I picked up some remarkable books and had a smashing time reading them. A lot of them were India-centric, a topic which  - surprisingly - I have not read a lot on. India trips do help here - the availability of books does make it easier to pick them up. There were a few duds as well - not overly bad, but it's never guaranteed when all you can do is judge a book by its cover hehehehe.

Here is my pick of the books from 2014.

Gandhi Before India Ramachandra Guha - It's a well-written, tight and scholarly book - albeit a long read - on the life of M.K. Gandhi in South Africa. It covers a period of close to 25 years and uncovers (or re-discovers) a lot of Gandhi's work in South Africa. A riveting read, it has led me to a new appreciation of Gandhi's role in mobilizing the Indian diaspora and it deserves its own blog post.

Team of Rivals  D. K. Goodwin - This is one of the best books I've ever read. Taut and gripping, this book kept me focused on every page despite the sheer size of the book. Shifting the focus from Lincoln and the war, this cast a lens, quite dramatically at times, on all the other main players during war time. Worth a read for any Civil War buff or anyone interested in statesmanship in general.

Two Serpents Rise Max Gladstone - This was one of the of my surprise finds at the library. Good sci-fi fantasy is hard to come by in this age of rings and emperors. This off-beat take on gods, demons and corporate power struggles is both dark at times and breathtaking at others. Recommended for your quick sci-fi needs.

The Box Marc Levinson - This was from Bill Gates' 2013 book list. And he was on the mark. I've always wondered the history behind containers and who came up with that idea. Levinson paints a great narrative of origins of the seemingly unstoppable growth of container shipping and its role in creating the modern world. If you've ever wondered why stuff from China is so ubiquitous, this book provides one small clue.

Empires of the Sea Roger Crowley This is more for the medieval history buff. The European-Arab conflicts have always fascinated me, ranging as they did over enormous distances and over huge land masses. The flow and ebb of naval battle has been well captured by Crowley, especially the siege of Malta. It's also not a very big book and the succinct narrative keeps you glued till the last page.

Eisenhower in War and Peace J. E. Smith I've been a WW2 buff for over two decades and one name that featured prominently in all my readings has been Ike's. This book is by far one of the best biographies I have read - detailed without being overwhelming, very little commentary, deep analysis and aggregation from multiple sources - this was a joy to read. Ike was the President who could have unleashed a global nuclear war, but ended up being a super-diplomat who worked towards building safeguards against such an event. He is one world leader everyone should know more about and learn from.

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