Books

What business leaders have been reading

Updated on: Dec 27, 2021
Head with a bookshelf in front of black wall

Head with a bookshelf in front of black wall

Various corporate leaders share with BusinessLine their eclectic reading over the past year.

Business leaders across industries share what inspired them and the takeaways from the books they read. Read on and perhaps these books may inspire readers to add this collection of books to theirs

Shinjini Kumar, co-founder, SALT, and former head of consumer banking, Citigroup India

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Pandemonium - The Great Indian Banking Tragedy by Tamal Bandopadhyay Personally, the book covers my time and my area of deep familiarity - Indian banking through the last three decades. So, I could relate to everything in a very personal way, sharing conflicting emotions; pride but also regret! Economics of Small Things by Sudipta Sarangi I am a sucker for common sense and nuance and this book has both with panache! Spring by Ambi Parmeswaran Spring spoke to me because I could relate to anecdotes and examples from our times. It is an inspiring book as all of us need to reckon and cope with rejection and spring back from it. Fifty-Five Pillars , Red Walls by Usha Priyamvada This book is a translation by Daisy Rockwell of Usha Priyamvada's classic work in Hindi. The life of a middle class lecturer at Delhi's LSR College is described in simple, yet powerful prose with all its complexity of emotion and situation. Loved the forward by Daisy where she talks about reading translations and compares the book to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar , which is also a book I re-read during the year. The Woman Destroyed   by Simone de Beauvoir My favourite book of the year. It may just be my stage of life, but what an extraordinary book on ageing, death of passion in relationships and the pleasure and pain of being a woman! Kintsugi: A Novel  by Anukriti Upadhyay Yes, I did buy the book because Anukriti is a friend and I had loved her two previous books. But I can imagine picking up this little beautiful book at a bookstore for its unique plot and fluid prose. It’s a difficult story to pull off, but she does it with elan.

R. Seshasayee, Past Chairman, IndusInd Bank and Infosys and earlier Vice Chairman, Ashok Leyland Ltd

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Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From  by Tony Joseph

A deeply researched anthropological study of Indians, it illuminates the dark alleys of history and deals with many controversial theories with great sensitivity. Written in a racy style, it is an easy read.

The Future of Humanity by Michio Kaku

This is a book that convinces you of the human potential to realise the dream of interplanetary existence. I am a great fan of this author, for his ability to make complex science sound simple and lucid.

Sulunthee by Era. Muthunagu

A book of fiction in Tamil, set in the 17th century, it is an unusual story, with not a trace of popular masala. The hero is a barber. The book is a treasure trove of details relating to subaltern life, their clothes, food and customs.

Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World   by Seth M. Siegel

An extraordinary chronicle of how Israel solved its problem of water scarcity through a combination of innovation, policy support and collective societal action. This should be compulsory reading for all students and administrators.

My Experiments With Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Re-read it after nearly half-a-century. Since the underlying philosophy of Gandhi’s life stands valid in any context and at all times, it is useful to go back to this spring well of inspiration periodically.  

Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & Managing Director, Nestle India

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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia I like this book for revealing the power of purpose, attitude and sense of flow in life

Why Should Anyone be Lead by You? by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

This book reveals leadership traits and practices to enhance one’s own capabilities

The 10 Rules of Successful Nations by Ruchir Sharma

This book gives with clarity why some nations succeed sustainably while others flounder

Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World by Ramachandra Guha

Guha’s book is a fascinating narration of how the Mahatma evolved his role and leadership in our freedom struggle.

How will you measure your life? By Clayton Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon

This book offers a beautiful perspective on what makes life worth living.  

Vani Kola is the founder and MD of Kalaari Capital

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My Life in Full   by Indra Nooyi

I was inspired by the authenticity and approachability of her writing. A story of simple beginnings to her rise to incredible leadership, highlights values of grit, determination and humility. Indra shattered many ceilings and her story can offer lessons to each of us.

Presence by Amy Cuddy

Many important decisions get made based on emotional comfort. Our body language sends subtle messages. Yet we have limited self-awareness on how we can leverage this. Amy beautifully offers us tips and tools to exercise a great agency over our stance.

Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson

I was very moved by this one man’s commitment and hope for a better world. It also made me deeply reflect how much prejudice creates irrational exploitation. The importance of justice, fairness, and empathy in this book offers hope.

Kamala Harris & The Rise of Indian Americans by Tarun Basu

Indian Americans are a small fraction of the immigrant diaspora. No one could have predicted their rise to power to lead several iconic corporations. This book unpacks the factors leading to these phenomena. It is inspiring to be in such awesome company of achievements.

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

How to understand power, learn how to defend against it, and how to use it to get what you want.

Saugata Gupta, Managing Director, Marico Ltd

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

This was the first book I read in 2021 in the first week of January. I was always tempted to compare this with Becoming .

My Life in Full   by Indra Nooyi

An inspiring story of someone who literally broke all the possible glass ceilings. What was interesting was her sense of gratitude to all the people who helped her along the way

Think Again by Adam Grant

I’m a big fan and regularly circulate his thoughts to all my senior leadership. This book clearly gave me a fresh perspective into adaptive leadership thinking

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Great learning to improving personal productivity and mindfulness

14 Stories and One Rogue by M Gopakumar

I can’t help but talk about the book written by an IIMB batchmate. He has a PG Wodehouse style of writing; and a very unique sense of humour

Anish Shah, Managing Director & CEO, M&M Ltd

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The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

As it talks about the importance of both purpose and results.

Leave it to Psmith by PG Wodehouse

Reading Wodehouse is always a great way to relax.

Prakash Iyer, Leadership Trainer, former CEO, Kimberly Clark Lever

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Think Again: The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Change may be good. But as this book tells you, being able and willing to change your mind is even better. Adam Grant - who describes himself as someone who argues like he is right and listens like he is wrong - combines stories, research and insights to show why we must all learn to challenge our assumptions, question our long-held beliefs and get comfortable with admitting we were wrong. Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World   by David Epstein

What does it take to succeed and become a champion? In a world obsessed with specialists, David Epstein shows us how having wide-ranging interests, experimenting more and being a generalist might in fact make us better-placed to win. It’s filled with stories from sport, arts, science, business and the world around us. Jaw-dropping! And makes you wonder: how does David Epstein find these stories!

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on it by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

Probably the best book I have read on the skill of negotiation. Chris Voss – an international hostage negotiator who worked for the FBI – shares practical and actionable tips to help you negotiate better. In business. And in your life.

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

This has got to be my favourite book of the year. It is not a book about investments and how to make money on the stock market. It is a book about the way we think about money, and how we ought to think about it. And it is so well written. Just the kind of book I wish I had read when I was 21.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention By Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

Organisation culture fascinates me. And this is a book about one of the most successful businesses of our times: Netflix. The co-founder of Netflix joins hands with an INSEAD professor to bring you the story of how a winning culture helped transform Netflix from an almost-dying DVD rental business into the world’s most popular daily entertainment fix. Fascinating, entertaining and mind-blowing. Just like Netflix itself.

Published on December 27, 2021
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