Ray Besiga

2016: My Year In Books

My 2016 Bookshelf

I did not get to read as many books as I would have liked. I cracked my Kindle screen irreparably mid year. I also encountered a number of the books that did not sustain my interest enough to finish them, despite my want for trying. That said, here is a summary of the books I read and what I thought about them.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami

I am a gourmand for Murakami’s almost genial writing style and he does not disappoint in this one either. A rather telling memoir about his enduring relationship with running and its amiable effects on his life and career as a writer. Read this if you like to run, or if you like to read.

Strange Weather in Tokyo - Hiromi Kawakami

A delightfully plotless yet captivating story about an off-kilter premise of love in modern-day Tokyo. The joy of reading this is in the subtle details. Food, lots of mentions of different Japanese dishes, haiku, weather, saké and nostalgia all rolled into a neat, little origami.

Undermajordomo Minor - Patrick deWitt

Not too sure under what genre this book falls. Literary fantasy fiction? Maybe, but it is a terrific piece of writing. Witty, thoughtful and unputdownable. A most wonderful indulgence if you may. ** This was the most fun book I read this year. **

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

Took me a while to get into it but I must say the patience paid off. Khaled Hosseini had the grueling task of having to engage and maintain a connection with a reader throughout a series of tragic events and he did so masterfully. The greater lesson here is the sheer determination to not yield to a dearth of love and exuberance for life due to exposure to prolonged conflict and hate. One phrase that spoke to me herein was, “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” I sure hope to visit Afghanistan one day.

Intercom on Jobs to be Done - Des Traynor

I came across the Jobs To Be Done approach a couple of months ago and was fascinated with its premise. Reading the book filled the gaps that I had from reading various blog posts on the Intercom blog. It is a practical approach that saves teams lots of design and development time while delivering the results to fulfill specific tasks. I have since applied it to the Product Design process of a side project I am working on to great effect.

Of Love and Other Demons - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

GGM manages to capture the essence of a time when love had boundaries, pillaging resources was a thing and faith, dogma and slavery reigned supreme by telling an interweaving story of love, loss, a myriad of emotions but most especially the dearth of redemption. A short but agonizingly beautiful read.

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future - Ashlee Vance

Pure grit, intellectual pursuit and a strong conviction in one’s raison d’etre over a sustained period of time, Elon Musk demonstrates the resilience of human endeavor. So many lessons herein but a key takeaway for me here is that the ability to fail, and learn from it, is the key to longstanding success.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

Reading this book elicits a dichotomous reaction. On one part, I am in awe at how hauntingly dark and beautiful it is, reeling you in with an unrelenting grip. On the other, I cannot help but be alarmed by the glaring misogyny at every turn. Probably his best representation of twentieth century being as it were. Was it like a layered painting, on the surface the intelligible lie, and underneath that, through the cracks, the unintelligible truth? I don’t know. Does proximity cause vertigo?

A Strangeness in My Mind - Orhan Pamuk

Pretty detailed in telling the socio-political evolution of Istanbul and Turkey through the lens of a yoghurt street seller. I quite enjoyed the beginning but found myself hard-pressed to read all through to the end. Maybe next year..

The list of books I am thinking to devour in 2017:

  • Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa - Haruki Murakami
  • What is Not Yours Is Not Yours - Helen Oyeyemi
  • High Output Management - Andrew S. Grove
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz
  • The Bone People - Keri Hulme
  • Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari
  • Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling

What books did you read this year? What do you recommend I read next? Share thoughts and recommendations in the comments.

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