Monday, December 31, 2012

End of the year stuff

Dec 31. Another year comes to end. Time for every two-bit hack to publish his/her "best of " lists. his formality is weary, but whatever. No reason for me to get left out.

Every now and then someone will ask me to give a few book recommendations. I enjoy talking about books as much as I enjoy reading them, so I don't need much excuse to write this list. Here is Universal Gravitation's very own "Best books in 2012", winnowed down from a number of books read across various genres.  Notice the little "in" in the title. These were books that I read in 2012, not ones that were necessarily published this year. I did a similar list last year too, so if you want more perspectives/recommendations, feel free to head over to that post .

Onward.



Non-fiction:

 
Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world by Jack Weatherford:

Fascinating, succinct and engrossing look at history's perhaps most successful (both in terms of lands conquered and subsequent dynasties spawned) clan. In one form or another, the Mongols and their descendants ended up ruling much of Eastern Europe, Arabia, Central Asia, China and other large swathes of South Asia.






Einstein's dreams by Alan Lightman:

Written by a Caltech professor, this book imagines the thought process of a young patent clerk Einstein - on the threshold of greatness and immortality - furiously working on his theory of special relativity in 1905. Essentially it is a collection of little essays, each one a though experiment (as conducted by Einstein) into how different the world would be if time were not linear. I had to think about putting this in non-fiction, but finally decided to do so because above all, it's a great philosophical foray into the nature  of time.

Fiction:

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson:

It is normally difficult to pull off a multiple-narrative meganovel, but Stephenson does it with great competence and style. Coming in at an impressive 1168 pages, this novel alternates between WWII and the present. Diverse topics like espionage, cybercrime, e-commerce, treasure hunting, WWII era codebreaking and local politics in Philippines and explored via a rambunctious and eclectic cast of characters big enough to fill a football roster (53 for those not in the know). The two timelines are connected by a missing treasure and blood (a lot of the characters in the present are descendants of characters in the WWII timeline). Very gripping and absolutely  entertaining.


Atonement by Ian McEwan:

Mega-bestseller, multiple award winner blah blah. Was made into a sappy movie. The book, though, is exceptionally well-written. He has a knack for transporting readers into the worlds and the minds that inhabit the book. Demonstrates how a seemingly minor mistake by ordinary people caused by a simple misunderstanding can have far-reaching devastating effects. A pretty busy book with good plot, great language, and more importantly, one that does not shy away from discussing weighty issues like women's role in society, classism in Britain and war.

Enjoy the waning hours of 2012!

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