By Juhi Bansal

Normally, I do these articles once a year. (Check out v2019, v2018, v2017, v2016 here). However, thanks to the lockdown and practically no weekend escapades to fall back to, my reading game has really upped. As we speak I am just a couple of books shy of finishing my yearly target which means I will share my recommendations twice this year with you!

So, without much ado, here we go:

The Whisper Man by Alex North (Pen Name)

Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Reasons I picked this book up- apart from the back jacket write up ofcourse-it features in the top mysteries of 2019 by Goodreads and the author is English. And I wasn’t led down. Not one bit. The story has all the essential ingredients of a psychological thriller bordering on horror but it also has some sweet characters who stay with you long after the book is over. Some you feel sad for and some you hope will get a happy ending. If you’re looking for something that will raise your heckles and make you forget food and water until you turn the very last page- look no further. It is what they call- UNPUTDOWNABLE. Also Alex North is the pseudonym of the author and I am pretty sure it’s a woman!

Nudge by Richard Thaler, Cass Sunstein

Genre: Non fiction, Behavioural Economics

 I have been reading about the Unconscious Decision making from different points of views- the latest being Behavioral Economics. Thaler and Sunstein talk about “nudge” as an effective way for Choice Architects (anyone who designs choices for their customers/beneficiaries) to help people make the right choice without making things “compulsory or unlawful”. They talk about Libertarian Paternalism- where you/or the government should gently direct people towards a desired choice rather than making laws about it. They talk about pertinent areas like organ donation, environment, health insurance, savings where choice architects could use nudge. They have categorized people into “Humans” and “Econs” based on how we take decisions-whether we weigh our options, mull over them or simply go with the flow. I hate to break it to you, even though most of us consider ourselves rational beings, we fall under the “humans” category letting out “automatic system” take over the “reflective system.”

Ok without giving any more of the book away, I suggest you to read it because you are definitely one of the two: a choice architect or the beneficiary of these choices.

Thaler won a Nobel in Economics in 2017 for his contribution to Behavioral Economics. I still can’t get over this book and I suggest you pick it up as well whether you want to understand your consumer or your own behavior.

Invisible Women, Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

Genre: Non fiction, Sociology

 What an absolute eye opener this book is! Whether you are a man or a woman, live in the developing world or the developed countries, rich or poor, educated or not, this book will be a revelation for you. We sometimes dismiss a lot of this citing “bra burning” feminism as a reason but Caroline brings out points about medicine and technology and how there is a huge gender data gap. Gender neutral just ends up giving preference to males. Let me reiterate, do read this book. Everything is backed by data and research and covers not just the developing countries but the developed nations as well.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey Mcquiston

Genre: Fiction, Romance (LGBTQIA Literature)

 It’s an over the top adorable book. I am so glad I picked it up. It’s smart, witty and oh so romantic! I have been warming up to the YA genre and this book only added to my love for it. A prince and first son start out as frenemies but fall in love and you instantly know how difficult coming out for them is. I loved every bit of the story particularly their playful email/text banter and the entire “Super Six” gang! If you want to smile-pick this one up!

Home Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

Genre: Non fiction, Philosophy, History, Technology

Harari never fails to astound. I’ve finally run out of books by him and it’s not a nice feeling. I will start rereading his books now. Like in Sapiens and 21 problems….this book also presents both sides of the coin the topic of discussion being if what made us different from Neanderthals and animals was our “consciousness” and ability to process data, are we on the verge of obsoletion with the advent of AI. I really liked his discussion around religion and the fact that is privacy really as important as we make it out to be? On our road to achieve immortality and happiness and an extremely connected world- giving up information might be a small price to pay. Eg: a driverless car will only be successful if most cars became such. Then all cars are connected and decision making is done by extra-ordinary machines. The chances of accidents become almost nil. There are several other examples which make you think about the world we are heading towards. Ofcourse he is largely philosophizing but as usual its food for thought and will make you dwell on these topics long after the book is over.

Also posting some pictures from our last outing (before the dreaded virus wreaked havoc all over the world). These are pictures from the Keoladev Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur.

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