Book Recommendations for June 2020

I have tried to recommend a few books at the end of every year, but it hasn’t worked out too well. I did so back in 2018, but didn’t in 2019 because picking just 10-15 books from the entire year is quite a challenge and recommending more than that would lead to quite a lengthy post. Therefore, I’ve decided to pivot to monthly recommendations with four books each(one for every week.) If you want more regular updates, I’ll mention a few every now and then on Twitter so follow me there if you’re interested.

I’ve been reading quite a lot in the last few months with nothing much to do during the lockdown. My recommendations for June are four of the best books I read during this period.

#4 In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria

The Liberal Arts higher education system has come under attack with critics calling it an expensive waste of time that does little to prepare students to contribute to the economy. In this book, best-selling author and CNN host Fareed Zakaria uses anecdotes from his own life together with the history of liberal education itself to make a case for it. Zakaria explains that the specific skill/content based learning that defines most vocational/career oriented higher education systems does not develop long term economic contributors because technology, and the world are changing rapidly. He argues that liberal education on the other hand is far more useful because it exposes students to a wide variety of subject areas and in the process teaches them how to write, speak and learn. These skills not only allow students to contribute to the economy in the long run, but they also develop the curiosity, balance and awareness needed to be good citizens that facilitate effective democracies. The book is clear and concise, and it has revolutionized the ways in which I approach my own education.

#3 A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

“A Gentleman in Moscow” is a novel that details the life of a Russian count name Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who’s put under house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow after the Bolsheviks take control of the country through the Russian Revolution in the early 20th century. The book celebrates Russian culture, and is a very entertaining read. The book has some great lessons on communism, and whether revolution really brought positive change to the country. The storyline itself is quite riveting; it has a bit of everything from romance to politics to espionage to culture to parenthood. Whether you know much about Russian history and culture or not, it’s a great read that I highly recommend.

#2 The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

Alongside “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight(the founder of Nike), this is one of the best business books I’ve read. Robert Iger begins by explaining the lessons he learnt at ABC. He started off as a studio supervisor at the network and worked his way up to overseeing the entire network. After Disney acquired ABC, he was made the president and COO in 2000. When he was appointed CEO in 2005, Disney was struggling to produce high quality content and as a result their other businesses from merchandise to theme parks were struggling. Despite the pressure to turn things around, Iger explains how he took some big risks based on three key goals he had for the company – produce high quality content; disrupt with technology; and expand globally. He walks us through how he went about acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films and Fox to make Disney the media giant that it has become today. The book has a lot of great life lessons, and is a very interesting read that you shouldn’t miss.

#1 Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl

This book is hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read. Frankl explains how one can find meaning in his/her life by revealing his own experiences as a concentration camp inmate during World War II. Although his story alone is enough for this book to be worth a read, he goes further by teaching readers how to apply his findings to their own lives. I found the book to be especially relevant in the age of COVID-19 and the uncertainty that comes with it. We are in a situation that Frankl calls an “unlimited provisional existence.” COVID-19 has made the future uncertain and put us in a position where we can’t plan ahead and live for the future. Instead, we have to find meaning in something or someone to retain meaning in our lives. Regardless of the relevance to our current situation, this book is a must read for both the story and the lessons that it contains.

I hope this was useful and you like the monthly recommendations format. Reach out on Twitter if you have any questions or if you want to talk about any of these books. Until then, enjoy reading!

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