1. Ghumakkad Shashtra by Rahul Sankrityayan: The first one I am recommending was originally written in Hindi. But has been translated across several languages. Might be difficult to find, but if you manage to find it, give it a read. The author gives a very serious definition of “ghumakkad” and talks at length about how to be a “ghumakkad”. If you could replaced the word “ghumakkad” with “entrepreneur” in the book, the book writte in 1949 will still make a lot of sense in 2012. It is about doing things that nobody else around you is doing, not giving a damn about the society and finally how to be a “jugaadoo” and actually do it!
2. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen: This is the only business book on this list and funny thing is that it is written for the managers in big companies discussing how could they avoid assault from startups. The reason entrepreneurs should read this book is that it gives a practical analysis of when startups manage to make their way into an industry and it goes beyond the cliches like established players can not handle technological onslaught. Some very practical insights.
I find history and astronomy to be two humbling things in life. One tells us how small we are on the scale of time, the other tells us the same on the scale of space. History has a lot to teach us. Unfortunately the way it is taught in our schools, it becomes just a chronicle of events. A different look at history can be very instructive. The next three books can help us do that.
3. Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond: The book looks at why certain civilizations survive and others do not. It debunks the superficial theories about intelligence and development and digs deeper into the issue until he gets to the environmental reasons. One might agree or disagree with his theories, but the thought process is must to look into. It can force us into some critical thinking.
4. Glimpses of World History Jawahar Lal Nehru: This book could replace our history textbooks and we’d come out with a better appreciation of our history and society.
5. Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar: It is a historical fiction. Its protagonist is a character largely ignored by history, Saint Meerabai’s husband. While the book beautifully ties up historical events to a fictional personal life created for him, what is most instructive for me is how it looks critically at the politics and war-techniques of Rajputs, often glamorized beyond recognition in the history and folk-tales.
6. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee: Coming out of my historical dreams, I would like to put this book in a must-read list for entrepreneurs and everyone else. The takeaway from the book is how you stand up for what you think is right and doing so without getting bitter at the world. You come across a lot of rejection and negativity, when you go against the tide. But bitterness helps no one. You must still push on, like they do in this sweet, little story.
7. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely: Mark McCormack (author of the book “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School”) says something very useful in very simple words. All business situations are ultimately people situations. You are dealing with people, day in and day out. If a critical look at history helps you deal meaningfully with society at large, knowledge of psychology helps you deal with people as individuals. Very helpful and handy, in business or in personal life. There are many books around which could be helpful. I have recently been impressed with “Predictably Irrational” and “Thinking Fast and Slow”. The reason for recommending “Predictably Irrational” over the other is that is it much easier to read. Understanding and learning more psychology will never hurt though!