My twelve new friends of 2020

Picking up a book to completion doesn’t work for me. I abandon a lot more than I manage to complete. Reasons for completing a book basically fall into three categories: I had to complete it due to reasons beyond my control (compulsory read), complete it to re-read it again (reading for closure) and finally there are books that are just unputdownable (joy-read). Being a “selfish” reader and trying to find “what is in it for me?”, I found a “friend” in each of the below listed titles, where I could come back again for guidance, epiphany and recluse.

January Friend

The Ethical Algorithm

Michael kearns & Aaron Roth

This “friend” helped me understand the ethical dilemma behind creating machine learning algorithms, while creating an ethical group case-study. This book has a great supplementary talk hosted by Talks at Google, which made it even more interesting.

February Friend

Why we Sleep?

Matthew Walker

This “friend” was what the doctor ordered. An “eye-openingTED talk by the author can be great starting point for reading this book. It was on the 2019 GatesNotes Winter List and served as a good bed-time companion. Literally.

March Friend

Persuasive Technology

BJ Fogg

Professor BJ Fogg happens to be the best-kept secrets of Stanford University. Long before his best-seller Tiny-Habits happened, he had been nurturing and mentoring many brilliant minds of silicon valley and unicorn startups with his concepts of captology. This book was more of a “guide” than a “friend” for my on-going final year management thesis work. His work on behaviour design has inspired the likes of Nir Eyal whose book was my april companion.

April Friend


Nir Eyal & Julie Li

After Hooked, this is another best-selling gem by Nir Eyal, co-written with Julie. A student of professor BJ Fogg, he provides a radically different perspective on behavioural triggers being instrinsic as opposed to being extrinsic. He also instills a moment of epiphany in us, that by catering to our distraction inflicted by notifications of social media, we are becoming really good at being distracted. Because we become good at something when we keep on practicing it. A TEDx talk by Monk Dandapani on how to remain focussed in midst of such unwarranted distraction, serves as a good supplement.

May Friend

Memes in Digital Culture

Limor Shifman

From cyber-bullying to meme-marketing, memes has crept into transforming our way of digital interaction, even before Richard dawkins coined the term, Indian were exposed to the desi-meme by the Amul-Girl. Internet memes are no doubt funny, but Professor Shifman makes a compelling argument on why to take this evolving culture in social-media landscape as a topic of serious research. The vox video serves as a good supplement for this MIT-press classic.

June Friend

Marketing 4.0

Philip Kotler & Iwan Setiawan

It is considered a cardinal sin to not read Kotler for a management student. The 4.0 version incorporates 11 points, well illustrated in this summary video where we study the shift of traditional marketing concepts into the digital landscape.

July Friend

Magic Words

Tim David

This “friend” introduces seven simple words, when used in the right way, has the power to negotiate out of complex situations. This summary video further enhances the fun this book has to offer.

August Friend

India Moving: A History of Migration

Chinmay Tumbe

From Marketing to Migration, might look like a irrelevant shift, but with a pandemic and lockdown in place, it was really hard to NOT focus on the ground realities. When we were experiencing the luxury of reclaiming the lost-time-in-traffic due to work-from-home, a huge chunk of Indian workers were experiencing a mass wave of internal migration due to forced lockdown and pandemic panics. Professor Tumbe of IIM Ahmedabad potraits a bold picture of the socio-economic history that evolves around many such migration. This book is well supplemented by a webinar session by the author himself.

September Friend

The Bengalis

Sudeep Chakravarti

While migration was all about moving to the roots, this book was all about re-discovering the root. We cried when Maradona died, Sourav Ganguly is still our beloved dada and even if we have innovative cake shops all around Kolkata, we still prefer Nahoum’s fruit-cake for christmas and Bapuji cake for other “maas”. The author of this book succintly paints the quirky socio-political history around terms like “Kichu Bolchen?” or the traveller inside every locked-down bengali missing the “Sinikbewty” of nearby hill-stations. This webinar with the author futher enhances the reading experience.

October Friend

The Master and I

Soumitra Chatterjee

Originally written in bengali as “Manik da r songe” and later translated by Arunava Sinha, this book illustrates the mentor-mentee relationship between Satyajit Ray and Soumitra Chatterjee, in his own words. Little did I know that by the time I finish the book, Bengal’s last renaissance man would also pass away, after testing COVID19 positive. This tribute aptly captures the evolution of Soumitra Chatterjee under the able hands of Satyajit Ray.

November Friend

A Promised Land

Barrack Obama

Hot out of press, this was a no-brainer. One of the finest orator of our times, any literature coming out of him is an academic pleasure. At more than 600 pages, this is a dense read but the man makes the memoir flow like a movie in the readers mind. Would not be surprised, if the film rights are not already sold or the book ends up winning a booker or a pulitzer. This is not just a memoir but a leadership case-study. The insightful conversation of Trevor Noah with “the President” adds more insights to this already captivating book.

December Friend

Masala Lab

Krish Ashok

We Indians love our spices, and this hot-out-of-press book on spices serves as a perfect end to this roller-coaster year. This book is not about how “authentic” is Indian cooking? Rather, it uses a no-nonsense lens of food chemistry and engineering to “de-exoticize” Indian food. The fact that monosodium glutamate is a “chemical” when it is inside “ajina-moto” and it is a “natural” when found inside ripe tomato, makes you re-read the book, once you finish savouring it once. By the way, the author when not busy experimenting with food, heads the digital workspace reimagination unit from our chennai office. This webinar provides a glimpse of the extensive work done as part of this spiced-up book.

So, these were my new 12 friends of 2020.

What were your new friends?

Numbers alone don't get standing ovation; narratives does. Narratives inform, illuminate, and inspire. So, I tell more of them.