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These are the books India’s startup founders and investors enjoyed most in 2021

From Zerodha's Nithin Kamath to Sequoia's GV Ravishankar, here are their top picks for books. Plus, a surprise waits at the end

December 31, 2021 / 01:41 PM IST

Over the past year, Moneycontrol’s show All About Books has had startup leaders talk about their favourite books, takeaways, and recommendations to entrepreneur friends or anyone looking to broaden their perspective. Across 16 episodes on Twitter Spaces, these are the books that were discussed most often. Read till the end for a surprise!

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Shoe Dog by Phil Knight: This was everyone’s most popular pick by far. Knight’s moving, riveting account of Nike’s early days has something for everyone-- unparalleled insights into the grind of building a business, the evolution of athletics, the fickleness of cherished relationships and a gorgeous description of Japan and Japanese culture.

Recommended by: Vidit Aatrey, Vineeta Singh, Gaurav Munjal, Shashank Kumar, Anirudh Singla

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz: Something of a Bible for every startup and technology executive, Horowitz’s account of being an entrepreneur at the height of the dotcom boom, watching his fortunes crash and later building the world’s leading venture firm, is coupled with no-nonsense advice for founders. The section on how to lay off people was referred to by dozens of founders at the height of the pandemic.

Recommended by: Lizzie Chapman, Vineeta Singh, Vidit Aatrey

Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters: Another startup classic, Zero to One was compiled from a series of lectures Thiel gave at his alma mater Stanford. The phrase ‘zero to one’ -- meaning building from scratch to initial scale -- has become commonplace at startups after this book. The book offers guidance on company building, the future of technology, qualities common in great founders and more.

Recommended by: Gaurav Munjal, Vidit Aatrey, Anirudh Singla

The Body by Bill Bryson: Far from startups, the author manages to pack in intricate details about the human body, funny examples of the people who discovered them and breathes life into a fascinating but dense subject. Bryson’s trademark wit and eye for amusing details will make you want to highlight every other sentence in this book.

Recommended by: GV Ravishankar, Lalit Keshre

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple: The man responsible for a wave of pop history books writes about the origin of the East India Company’s reign in India and “how almost all of India south of the Himalayas was effectively ruled from a boardroom in London". Our guests found it irresistible.

Recommended by: VT Bharadwaj, Lizzie Chapman, Nithin Kamath

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez: That title tells you what you need to know. Feminist icon Perez exposes the bias in global economic data, how these biases affect decision-making, and their massive cost to everyone.

Recommended by: Shashank Kumar, Lizzie Chapman

Atomic Habits by James Clear: One of 2021’s bestsellers and most discussed books, Atomic Habits promises to change your life for the better, one tiny step at a time. As the title suggests, even the smallest of changes implemented consistently can transform you and make you more productive and happier.

Recommended by: Sumit Maniyar, Lalit Keshre, Vineeta Singh 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This classic, over 60 years old, is a poignant, moving and funny account of race and class biases and the irrationality of racism, examined via a court case. This is one of those books on everyone’s list and a fixture in any bibliophile household.

Recommended by: Radhika Gupta, Vidit Aatrey

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel: Another 2021 bestseller, the superb practical guide to personal finance-- not where to invest but how to think about investing-- is an instant classic. One of its lines, ‘wealth is the ability to have control over your own time’, lends a totally different view to leading your life.

Recommended by: GV Ravishankar, Vineeta Singh, Lalit Keshre

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen: Why do big companies do everything right and still lose market leadership? Christensen, regarded as one of the best management, leadership and innovation thinkers in the world, answers these questions and tells you how to remain endlessly innovative without ceding an inch.

Recommended by: Ashwin Damera, Gaurav Munjal, Rahul Mathur

While these were the most popular recommendations, we also have off-beat picks from All About Books for which we created a separate list altogether.


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M. Sriram
M. Sriram
Swathi Moorthy
first published: Dec 30, 2021 08:42 am