A Reading List

Updated: Nov’23

This is not intended to be a “summary” of these books, not something you can read in place of the real thing to get the “key take-aways”. I don’t believe in that, and haven’t ever found a summary that’s been of any value as a substitute for reading the book – unless it’s a summary for someone who’s already read it. A summary rarely, if ever, reveals the chain of thought, and without that, you’re reduced to a bunch of prescriptions.

Waiting for Godot (Play)

Short reads

A list of the best short reads I’ve come across.

The Education of a Libertarian – Peter Thiel

You and Your Research – Richard Hamming

Paul Graham’s essays

The Marginalian – Tolstoy and Meaning

This is Water, David Foster Wallace

Leadership and Solitude

The Maze is in the Mouse

The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant

Kierkegaard and Entrepreneurship – Amjad Masad

(One of)Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, Theo

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

A great example of what I believe – that great fiction is usually not just more entertaining, but also more enlightening than most non fiction. Over a thousand pages, which is perhaps why I’d put it off so long, but well worth the hype around it. I won’t bother trying to describe this one.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamzov, Notes from the Underground

Atmamun – Kapil Gupta

A book with some great ideas, sometimes perhaps given to sweeping statements, dogmatically asserted, but if you can look past that, suspend judging the grandiose attitude, you might find something.

Jiddu Krishnamurti – The Book of Life, Think on These Things

The Book of Life is pretty abstract – but if you do justice to it, rewarding.

Think on These Things is much easier to read, and probably a better option to start with.

Both are fundamental Krishnamurti – authenticity, rejecting following prescriptions, shunning goal-driven ‘becoming’ and ideals, and simply understanding what you are – if you can do that, the rest will follow, not eventually, but now.

These, and Atmamun, and perhaps the Almanack, are the books I’d place at the top in non-fiction in my list.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

Simple, powerful, and well reasoned. Highly recommended.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

The word ‘culture’, especially in the context of organizations, is ominous.

I’ve never experienced organizations where culture is more than some nice phrases pinned on a website or posters. And always rebelled against any attempt to impose that culture on me.

I’ve never read a single book on ‘organizational culture’ without giving up after a few pages. Jargon to convey the most common and obvious ideas is something to avoid. Hackneyed and tired ideas, discussed ad nauseam.

So I couldn’t imagine I would recommend so highly a book on these ideas.

Reed Hastings is an incredible leader, and he and Erin Meyer have written a great book.

Netflix epitomizes nearly everything about what I would imagine a perfect organizational culture would be like – and pretty much the complete opposite of everything I have dealt with, and currently deal with.

It’s not just what many organizations are doing today – unlimited vacation, removing painful administrative procedures and so on.

No Rules Rules goes into the thought process behind the ideas underpinning these, Freedom and Responsibility. How you can’t just bring them forth one day, and have to build up the pre-requisites step by step. Where they might work and where they might not. Where you might want them and where you won’t. A clear framework is visible, and every chapter fits neatly into place; nothing written for the sake of filling pages.

Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

There is no better guide to Stoicism than the Roman Emperor who lived it, and who refused to let power corrupt him. Meditations is a book by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the most powerful man of his time, who never let power or flattery go to his head. Almost as impressive as what is written is who wrote it.

Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Ecce Homo

Not easy to read, but well worth making an effort. Powerful and uplifting, an antidote to cynicism.

The Enchiridion – Epictetus

Short essays, on the principles of Stoicism, reasoned beautifully.

The Little Prince

A very short and very – almost too – straightforward book that sees the world for what it is.

A perennial reminder to try not to grow up and become preoccupied with matters of consequence.

Albert Camus – Fiction

The Stranger – Someone who doesn’t play the game, someone who recognizes absurdity and whose meaning lies within himself entirely.

The Plague – The opposite of The Stranger – someone who recognizes absurdity yet creates a meaning for himself outside himself.

The Fall – Somewhere between these two. Someone who started off in the style of The Plague, yet recognizing his own hypocrisy ends as The Stranger.

Harry Browne: How I found Freedom in an Unfree World

Clear cut, uncompromisingly individualistic and rational. Take responsibility for your choices, make them, and pay the price – everything has a price.

Edhi: A Mirror to the Blind

I don’t read biographies usually, especially not about people I’d never heard of until reading their biography, and this is perhaps the only one on this list.

A man like Edhi is almost unknown showed me that the fame is not the same as greatness. Some of the best people are those we’ve never heard of. And I learnt that, irrespective of whatever people might have told me, and what I believed about myself, when it comes to dedication/drive I am as nothing compared to someone like Edhi.

Learned Optimism

The way you explain events can shape how you view the world.

3Ps – Permanent, Personal, Pervasive = Pessimist

I lost a tennis match.

Permanent – I always lose.

Personal – I am a loser at tennis

Pervasive – I am a loser at everything


A psychology book written by a plastic surgeon.

Solving your problem will not change you when the problem is in your thinking.

Man’s Search for Meaning

“Everything can be taken from us but the freedom to choose our attitude”.

Franz Kafka

Kafka is incomparable; if there was any author I wish I could write like it would be him.

He deserves an adjective of his own, Kafkaesque.

Everything he wrote is great, but nothing is easy to read.

He’s known for his longer stories, but I think his short essays are even better.

Zero to One – Peter Thiel

A rare, non-cliched business book.

More than just business, it’s about organizations.

And more than just organizations, it’s about the future – something you can’t take for granted and have to create.

Zero to one is about trying to be one of its builders rather than users.

Skin in the Game – Nicholas Nassim Taleb

The idea of skin in the game is one of the most powerful – all the more so because too often those without any skin in the game are the ones with the greatest responsibility.

Other Books

All Quiet on the Western Front and The Road Back

Catch-22 (and the sequel Closing Time – though not in the same class) – a sense of humour you never find anywhere

The Catcher in the Rye

A Confederacy of Dunces

The Great Mental Models – some of it’s fairly obvious if you’re quantitatively inclined, but nevertheless good.

Talking to my Daughter about the Economy – Rare in its simplicity and more so for the way the author, a self-proclaimed Marxist, brings together passion and reason

Siddhartha – Short, simple and yet not a typical feel-good spiritual book.

Principles: Life and Work – Ray Dalio – Good book with sound ideas by a very smart guy, but unnecessarily lengthy.

P.G Wodehouse, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Gerald Durrell – all good reads.