Every Book On My Bookshelf

With too many books out there, and too little time, I’ve compiled a list of every book on my bookshelf. Each comes with a single sentence summary, rating, and some with more commentary. Hope this helps you quickly discover what you might want to read next!

This page contains every book I rated 4.5/5 or more. All other books found here:

Every Book on my Bookshelf (A-F)
Every Book on my Bookshelf (G-Q)
Every Book on my Bookshelf (R-Z)

Blue means I’ve read it. Grey means it’s sitting on my shelf but haven’t read yet.

For a more visual view, check out my annual single sentence summary lists: 2020, 2019, 2018.


The Age of Revolution: 1789 – 1848, Eric Hobsbawm, 1962: There’s a pattern in political revolutions: a moderate middle class mobilizes the masses, some of the masses become extreme, some of the original moderates split off into conservative group. (4.5/5)

Algorithms to Live By, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths, 2015: From time complexity to game theory, familiarity with basic computer science concepts can help us immensely in work and life. I’m surprised that this book hasn’t reached more people – it’s added incredibly powerful mental tools into my arsenal. (4.5/5) 

Antifragile, Nassim Taleb, 2012: The opposite is fragile is not robust, but antifragile; and antifragile systems thrive in volatility. To date, it’s the book that most influenced the way I think. (5/5) (my book notes

The Art of War, Sun Tzu, 5th century BC: If you know yourself, your enemy, and the terrain; the battle is already won before it is even fought. I’ve always been fascinated by military strategy as I’m convinced that is game theory being played at the highest stakes and pressure. The trick is knowing when and how to apply the metaphors from this classic into everyday life and work. (4.5/5) 

Atomic Habits, James Clear, 2018: Build better habits with 4 simple steps: make it obvious (cue), attractive (craving), easy (response), and satisfying (reward). Not only is this hands down the best book on habits, it’s probably the best self-help book I’ve ever read. The guy was a blogger so he writes with impeccable clarity too. (5/5) 

Behave, Robert Sapolsky, 2017:  Human behaviour is incredibly complex: much of our decisions are influenced by what was going on seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and even generations before the event. A bit technical in some sections, but worth pushing through as it’s like 30 psychology books packed into one and more. (4.5/5) 

The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb, 2007: People repeatedly underestimate the likelihood and impact of extreme events (black swans). (4.5/5) 

Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed or Fail, Ray Dalio, 2021. Studying the archetypical rise and fall of empires provides us an insight into broader patterns that unfold over several generations. (4.5/5)

Chaos, James Gleick, 1989: Just as the discipline-specific language once challenged scientists from conceptualising chaos theory, the practical challenge now is being able to see chaos in daily life when it is there. (4.5/5) 

Complexity, Melanie Mitchell, 2011: Once one learns the basics about the complexity – emergence, self-organising, chaos, non-linearity, entropy, computation, networks, scaling etc – it becomes apparent that it is one of the most powerful mental models to help make sense of the world. (4.5/5) 

Debt, David Graeber, 2014: Eurasian history cycles between periods of credit and money (gold/silver): Agrarian Age credit (3500BC-800BC), Axial Age money (military-coinage-slavery complex) (800BC-600AD), Middle Age credit (600-1450), Capitalist Age money (1450-1971), and now (1971-present) the petro-US-dollar credit system. (4.5/5) (summary HERE)

Deng Xiaoping, Ezra Vogel, 2011: Open up to the world, trade goods and ideas, but also recognise that not everything that worked in the West will necessarily work in China. Deng Xiaoping was the leader of China in the 80s, and he’s the one that opened China up to the world. So studying his biography was an excellent way to understanding modern China. (4.5/5)

Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, Tamim Ansary, 2010: It’s important to learn both versions of world history: the unfamiliar narrative based on what Muslims think happened, and the familiar narrative told by the post-industrialized Western domain. (5/5)

Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth, 2018: The assumptions behind the neoliberal economic framework has been ignored by too many, too often, for too long, and it’s about time we popularize models that better integrates sustainability. (4.5/5) 

Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker, 2018: Reason, science and human qualities has led us to the best time to be alive in human history, so let’s preserve these 3 things to make tomorrow even better. (4.5/5) 

Factfulness, Hans Rosling, 2018: Yes, there are still many terrible things in the world, but let’s acknowledge how far we’ve come, and be conscious of the common mistakes we make when looking at data. I can see why Bill Gates offered a copy of this book to every US college graduate in 2018… eye-opening insights on the world, lessons on interpreting data, supported by highly relevant personal experiences from the author to tie it all together… this is the book I’ve recommend most often to friends. (5/5) 

My fav read of 2018

Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, 2005: When we look at how incentives drive human behaviour, we can see that many big effects have unexpectedly subtle causes. One of the most entertaining reads to date, and boosted my interest in transdisciplinarity and psychology. (4.5/5) 

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000, Lee Kuan Yew, 2000: Singapore survived, emerged, and flourished from barely nothing by skillfully navigating the dynamics of domestic and international dipolicy. (4.5/5) 

Godel Escher Bach, Douglas Hofstadter, 1979: Mental caution must be taken when one questions the logic of logic – mathematical paradoxes, circularity, self-referencing, infinite loops, nested logic, recursive functions etc – for they are dangerously fascinating, and cognitively infinite. (5/5)

The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia, Peter Hopkirk, 1993: Anglo-Russian rivalry in late 19th century Central Asia was driven by mutual paranoia over their colonial territories. An excellent read for understanding the broader context of the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan. (5/5)

Guns Germs & Steel, Jared Diamond, 1997: Looking beyond proximate factors such as technology, initial geographic advantages is likely the most upstream explanation for Eurasians conquering American and African natives rather than the reverse. (4.5/5) 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz, 2014: Entrepreneurship and leadership is not for everyone so “if you’re going to eat shit, don’t nibble”. (4.5/5) 

Homo Deus, Yuval Harari, 2015: If humans don’t actually have free will the technological and social megatrends coming our way will spur unprecedented changes. (4.5/5) 

How Asia Works, Joe Studwell, 2013: Asian tiger formula: first agriculture (especially land reforms), then manufacturing (to build export discipline), then financial sector interventions that focus capital on productive sectors with high future profits (not just high immediate profits). (4.5/5) 

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, Bill Gates, 2021: Most climate conversations focus on sustainable electricity generation (accounts for 27% of greenhouse gases), but a more holistic view incorporating industrial production (31%), agriculture (10%), transport (16%), heating & cooling (7%), is necessary to move forward. (4.5/5)

How To Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan, 2018: Understanding the science and shifting cultural norms about certain psychedelics sheds new light on how the mind works, and how to get even more from it. Altered states of consciousness are notoriously difficult to articulate with the limitations of language. As an investigative journalist, Pollan nails it. The book also does an excellent job of revealing the recent history of psychedelics – the subcultures and counter-cultures – to the facts and myths on what effects these substances really have on the brain. (4.5/5)

 

The Information, James Gleick, 2011: From spoken language to the Mesopotamian cuneiform, telegraph to telephone, Turing to Shannon; as our way of thinking about information changes, our thinking about many other fields also change. (5/5)

Best read of 2020

Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Max Tegmark, 2017: Given the way intelligence works, it’s clear that general artificial intelligence will eventually arrive; for better or worse, we need to prepare and have these important discussions now. (4.5/5)

Man And His Symbols, Carl Jung, 1968: Living a good life requires truly understanding yourself, and truly understanding yourself requires bridging the gap between the personal conscious, personal unconscious, as well as the collective unconscious. (4.5/5)

Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl, 1946: “Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, without it, human life cannot be complete.” (5/5) (summary HERE)

The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, Benoit Mandelbrot, 2006: From Modern Portfolio Theory to Capital Asset Pricing Model to Black-Scholes, much of modern financial orthodoxy is seriously flawed. If you loved Taleb’s Antifragile or Black Swan, you’ll love this. Mandelbrot, one of the greatest polyglots of our times dives into the origins of modern financial orthodoxy, and presents data on why they are flawed. Helps to have at least a basic understanding of financial markets and fractal geometry before reading the book.(4.5/5) (summary HERE)

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended on It, Chris Voss, 2016: Label people’s pains, mirror them, create the illusion of control and practice mental patience. (5/5) (summary HERE)

This Book Helped Me Get a $33K Pay Rise

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright, 1999: The universe (organisms and societal structures) seems to be trending towards ever larger and more intricate non-zero sum games. (4.5/5) 

The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution, Francis Fukuyama, 2011: The conditions and sequence in which the 3 political institutions – rule of law, modern state, accountable government – developed explains much of a nation’s political characteristics. While Fukuyama is better known for his canonical End of History, this book had everything I could ask for in a book: well structured, compelling and diverse examples, and really makes you think deeply… It’s the first of a two-part series… the second book (Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama, 2014) was just as good. (5/5)

Best read of 2019

Political Order and Political Decay, Francis Fukuyama, 2014: History has shown us that even the most politically advanced nations are subject to political decay: when political development struggles to keep up with other dimensions of development. (5/5) 

Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Charlie Munger, 2006: To become a better thinker, learn and regularly use the big ideas in big disciplines (i.e. transdisciplinary mental models). (4.5/5) 

The Power of Moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2017: We don’t have to wait for life defining moments, we can create them. (4.5/5) 

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics, Tim Marshall, 2015: As geography evidently enables or constraints development, states have and will continue to fight over strategic geographic positions. (4.5/5) (summary HERE

The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness, Morgan Housel, 2020: “People tend to want wealth to signal to others that they should be liked and admired… But in reality those other people often bypass admiring you, not because they don’t think wealth is admirable, but because they use your wealth as a benchmark for their own desire to be liked and admired.” (4.5/5) (quotes and notes HERE)

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein, 2018: Rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow discipline, creative achievers tend to have broad interests, which often supports insights that cannot be attributed to domain-specific expertise alone. (4.5/5)

Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion, Jonathan Haidt, 2012: While people like to think that morality and social conventions are separate things, more recent evidence shows that this distinction is a cultural artifact. (5/5)

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Harari, 2011: Homo sapiens got this far thanks to being able to collaborate in much larger numbers, and such grand-scale collaboration was enabled by having shared myths (religion, ideas, etc). (5/5)

Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities, and Companies, Geoffrey West, 2017: There are so many unexpected relationships within and between various biological, organisational and social characteristics. So damn good I read the entire book in one 3 hour sitting. (5/5)

Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd, Frans Osinga, 2007:  In war, the victor is the one who can handle the quickest rate of change (rapid Observe-Orient-Decide-Act OODA loops). (4.5/5)

Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, Peter Bevelin, 2006: We can make better judgements by becoming familiar with cognitive biases, physics and mathematics. (4.5/5)

Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan, 2015: Just as anatomy helps explain how the body works, understanding the silk road routes help explain how today’s world works – it’s a shame this part of the world has been neglected in mainstream history. (5/5)

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson, 2016: Self-improvement is really about choosing better things to give a fuck about. Was fortunate enough to have stumbled upon the original 2014 blog post and have continued to reap the benefits since… reading the full book was a welcoming refresh with more detail and it did not disappoint. (4.5/5)

The Tao of Leadership, John Heider, 1985: Be fully present , grounded, balanced, and go with the flows of nature rather than harshly intervening. (5/5)

Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Donella Meadows and Diana Wright, 2009: “When we draw structural diagrams and then write equations, we are forced to make our assumptions visible and to express them with rigor.” (4/5)

Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff, 1991: Game theory situations are subtly prevalent and better understanding its key concepts is incredibly useful in business and daily life. (4.5/5)

This Is Water, David Foster Wallace, 2009: Make the meaning you construct out of every experience a conscious choice. (4.5/5)

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield, 2002: “The more you love your art, calling or enterprise, the more important its accomplishment is to the evolution of your soul, the more you will fear it, and the more resistance you will feel towards it.” A must read for anyone that works in the creative field, in the process of mastering a certain skill, or undertaking a side hustle. (4.5/5)

What Every Body Is Saying, Joe Navarro, 2008: Your feet is the most honest part of the body, while your face is the least. (4.5/5)

Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, 2013: Impoverished countries are that way not because of igno: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Povertyrance or culture, but because those in power intentionally made choices that sustained poverty for their own self-interest. (5/5)

 


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