Books I read in 2020

I did write out a separate post listing the books I read in 2019, but I was too lazy to fill in my thoughts about them, so that one is just a nice list of the books I read, minus my thoughts. Which is why, this year, I’m going to record what I thought about a book immediately after I read it. So here goes

Bill Carter - The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy

If you’re a frequent watcher of Leno/Letterman/Conan clips on YouTube, you’ll always come across some pretty bitter viewers who weigh in with their opinions on these hosts. What’s more, quite a few of them talk about how Leno screwed over Conan, and I wanted to know more about that. That was when I came across this. A well-written book, if there ever was one, about the whole affair. It gives you the entire sequence of events, from the very beginning - all that you need to know, and more.

Alex von Tunzelmann - Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire

I quite liked this book. It has 3 central characters - Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Edwina Mountbatten.

So enthused were the spectators that they rushed forward, breaking down the police barriers. according to the Indian News Chronicle, ‘it was the dynamic personality of Pandit Nehru that restored order’ - the ‘dynamic personality’ being a standard journalistic euphemism for Jawahar landing a punch on a troublemaker.

Thomas Rathsack - Jaeger: At War With Denmark’s Elite Special Forces

Rathsack talks about joining and fighting the Jaeger Corps, Denmark’s special ops force, which has fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

James Crabtree - The Billionaire Raj

The more I read, the more I like nuance. And this is an incredibly nuanced book describing India’s version of the Gilded Age. It has so many great observations about India, that it’s hard to list them all down. An especially good one is this, about India’s governing machine

Inside the machine, it was amateurism rather than authoritarianism that appeared to be the greater threat to India’s future.

How true! India’s governing structure can be amazingly efficient when it has to be, and amazingly inefficient when it doesn’t want to step up (or rather, inefficient because amateurs are in charge and don’t know how to step up).

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta - Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis

Santosh Nair - Bulls, Bears and Other Beasts