Fifteen must-read books out of my past five years’ reading that  I strongly recommend for Indian seekers of a wide

  1. Awakening the Leader Within : A Story of Transformation.  Kevin Cashman. John Wiley. 2003
  2. Meditation Oneness and Physics: A journey through the Laboratories of Physics and Meditation. G.P. Kezwer. Sterling Paperback. 1996
  3. Making India Work: W.N. Bissell. Penguin Books. 2009
  4. How to know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood. Vedanta Press. 1953
  5. Studies in Indian Music. T.V. Subba Rao. Asia Publishing House. 1962
  6. Five Equations that changed the World: The Power and Poetry of Mathematics. . Michael Guillen. Hyperion. 1995
  7. Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master. A Yogi’s Autobiography. Sri M. Magenta Press. 2010
  8. From  Smart to Wise. Acting and Leading with Wisdom. Prasad Kaipa & Navi Radjou. Random House. 2013
  9. Yoga: A Many Splendorous Path. Traveling the Yoga Map to Life’s Happiness and Joy. Elise Everada. Asian Affection. 2007
  10. Attitude Shift. Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life and Leadership. Shashikant Joshi. Thinking Hearts. 2011
  11. The Poincare Conjecture: In Search of the shape of the Universe. Donald O’Shea. Walker and Company. 2007
  12. The Mahabharata. An Inquiry in the human condition. Chaturvedi Badrinath. Orient Longman. 2006
  13. A History of India. From the earliest times to the end of colonialism. Michael Edwardes. Universal Library. 1961
  14. The Mind of God. The Scientific Basis for a rational world. Paul Davies. Touchstone. 1992.
  15. From Dawn to Decadence. 1500 to the Present. 500 years of Western Cultural Life. Jacques Barzun. Perennial. 2001


Why I recommend these books

#1 is a book of fiction, but actually a management book prodding you for a spiritual journey.  I learnt a lot from this book and understood the insight gap in ourselves which prevents us from living our life differently for a higher calling.

#2 is the story of the author’s experiment with meditation and its similarities with the world of modern physics.

#3 must be read by every politician and nation-builder of this country.  With plenty of actual data and statistics, the author gives an exhaustive roadmap for the development of India. The innovative ideas that he gives, if applied, will drastically reduce poverty, stimulate rapid economic growth, regenerate the environment and create high-quality essential services – all within the next five years.  I was very much impressed by the book though the financial statistics he gives are a little above ordinary understanding.  I am not sure whether our MP’s will understand it.  But the book is excellent.

#4 is an old book which I  read long ago. But recently when I started giving Vedanta lectures on the Youtube, I read it again and now it all becomes so sensible and worthwhile knowledge for a spiritual ascent. You can understand the essence of Vedanta by reading this book on Patanjali’s yogasutras. 215 pages of solid Knowledge!

#5 is a marvellous masterpiece on Carnatic music and practitioners of music. A valuable contribution to our musical literature.  Fresh and learned, inspiring and profound. The place of harmony and melody  in music, the evolution of the srutis and ragas, the dignity and intellectual appeal of the sahityas – are all beautifully portrayed by the author for the ordinary man to understand easily.    The fact that repeated rendering of and listening to the fazmous  compositions of the three great giants of Carnatic music will only enhance your aesthetic experience is beautifully brought out by the author in this book. The style of writing is so captivating that you cannot keep it down in the middle.

#6  is a masterly exposition of science to the intelligent layman. In the most successful global language ever spoken, namely mathematics, equations are like poetry  and he brings out the mathematical poetry to help us see far beyond ourselves.  Oh, read it and you will know what I am talking about!

#7  is an adventurous journey from the southern coast of India to the snowy heights of the Himalayas and back, meeting extraordinary individuals and sharing unusual and incredible experiences – all of which sceptical readers may find it difficult to believe!

#8 identifies six characteristics of the human mind, which are pulled out from the eighteenth chapter of the Gita  and applied in a smart business-like way to help readers  develop their own style of wise leadership.  It is actually a management book, but its seminal origin is the Gita.

#9 The success of the effort of man to unite himself to the higher principle of Cosmic Consciousness stands solely on the habits of living and working on the lines described in yoga books.  Here is a practitioner explaining it all to you from A to Z most authentically and at the same time enchantingly.

#10 You would not expect a 136-page book of Sanskrit maxims could teach you wonderful analogies and stories for a modern manager or leader. Here are pages and pages of captivating directions for intelligent living, each of which, you would not believe, comes from half a page or so of logical story-telling-style of academic argumentation. You have to read it to not only sort out the logic, but also to benefit by the presentation. There are about 150 such derivations of advisory pragmatic notes for management and leadership throughout the book. All makes a delightful reading. There is tremendous variety of approaches to each problem or story that goes with these maxims. The very approach brings out the innovative capabilities of the author. This is a masterly synthesis of traditional Sanskrit knowledge with the needs of wisdom for present-day living.

#11 is truly a wonderful book. It is a history of one of the most important areas of modern mathematics. It is delightful and informative. The tapestry of elementary topology is woven for the total layman in a lucid and understandable way so that the concepts, the issues and the people who made everything happen all comes out in the form of a connected story. Maybe the book is too technical (in some places) for those who are allergic to the mathematical way of thinking. But if you persist in reading it through you would already be passionately wanting to become a  mathematician.  In the process however one learns a good slice of the history of mathematics and mathematicians and also the politics of their times.

#12 is not the story of the Mahabharata which you all know. The book is a marathon thesis of 670 pages. Thesis on Food, Water and Life; the Spiritual and the material; Dharma; Ahimsa; Death; Idolatry; Material Prosperity and Wealth; Sexual Energy and Relationship; the Householder; Social arrangements; Law and Governance; Fate vs. Human Endeavour; Ritual acts and Relationships; Liberation from the human condition.  On each of these there is a chapter which goes through the entire Mahabharata, on those who have spoken about the topic, on those whose actions raise questions for and against.  Every time there are direct quotations from the Mahabharata in Sanskrit (with translations and explanations)  as well as an analysis of the situation – just like a cricket commentator analyses each ball, its bowling and the response by the batsman.  The beauty of the whole book is; think of any subject, there is a thorough discussion in the book in one or more chapters pertaining to that subject.  A book that you can always use for enlightenment on any problem in your life.

#13 is something the like of which I have not seen in any history of India – why, in any history book.  It is not about kings and kingdoms, rulers and battles.  In this survey of five thousand years of Indian history (in 380 pages) political events are placed in their social context and the consequences in the lives of ordinary people are seen not only from the objective viewpoint of today but through the eyes of those who observed and sometimes participated in the events.  I recommend this very strongly to every Indian.

#14 is a book which establishes that by the means of science we can truly see the mind of God. Can modern science provide the key that will truly find the reason for the existence of the universe? It is a mine of nourishing ideas to think about.

#15 is a treasure! A scintillating study of civilisation. The experiences and reflection of a lifetime of a great historian are dramatically portrayed in a most cultivated style of writing that covers 500 years of western culture in 800 and odd pages.  It is a classic.  I have read only portions of it but that made me buy the book. Probably I may not finish reading it ever, in full! It is so heavy!