I did a similar list last year during the Pandemic, when for the first time in many years, I actually got a lot of time on my hand to sit down and read the enormous backlog of books that I had accumulated, thankfully I have continued reading and haven’t stopped since. So, here are my favorites from 2021
- Himalayan Blunder by Brig John Dalvi- 2020 was certainly a watershed in one regard, Indians in unison recognized the threat from China and the unresolved boundary issue which was brought to head with the standoff in Eastern Ladakh which is still ongoing. It made me curious to learn and read more about China and the history of this problem and I found the best possible book to start with, this book recounts the events leading up to the war between India and China in 1962, it is a tough read but very revealing and insightful, I wrote a review of the book soon after I read which goes into finer details of the book
- Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt- A great book for all to read, goes into identifying the reasons behind certain phenomena and also contributes to debunking some myths.
- Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy by Shivshankar Menon- One of my favorites, written by India’s former National Security Advisor about 5 major policy decisions which he was privy to while working for the government of India, It is a small book which you can probably read in a single sitting, but full of information and detail. It also explains why certain policy decisions were taken and the after-effects of those decisions. One book I would recommend to any student of Internation Relations who wants to learn more about India and its Foreign Policy
- The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel- Again a book I was able to read in a single sitting, basically gives very sound and practical advice on how to manage your money. Nothing fanciful, just plain commonsense
- Spy on the roof of the world by Sydney Wignall- I got to know about this book through an episode of “Cut the Clutter” by Shekhar Gupta, where he made a reference to this book and I’m glad that I read it. The book is an Auto Biographical account of a Welsh Mountaineer Spy working for the Indian Army on a mission to Tibet in the mid-1950s. The book shatters the myth that India did not know anything about the strategic highway across Aksai Chin. We knew, but we just didn’t act on it. The book also reads out as a tragic tale of what could have been, but the biggest tragedy certainly was the fate of the Tibetans after the PLA invasion of Tibet. This is a story that more people should know about and read. However, it's a story we have chosen to bury and forget.
- Fighting to the End by C. Christine Fair- The book essentially examines The Pakistan army and their motivation to fight and wage war, in most cases against its primary adversary which is India. How the Pakistan Army has set its narrative in Pakistan and also a brief of all the wars they have fought. The one insight one can draw from the book much to the disappointment of many is that the problem between India and Pakistan is not merely a cartographic one. Therefore, even if we are able to solve and settle the Kashmir dispute tomorrow. The likelihood that hostilities would seize between the two countries would be an erroneous conclusion to draw.
- The Long Game: How the Chinese negotiate with India by Vijay Gokhale -The best book I have read so far this year for which I wrote a separate review is at par with Choices by Mr. Shivshankar Menon or even better. This book has a similar theme to Choices as Ambassador Vijay Gokhale looks at 6 negotiations or dealings between India and China and gives an insight into the Chinese mind. A must-read for all those interested in India-China relations.