Every Book On My Bookshelf (A-F)

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan Peterson, 2018: There are subtle truths about the human psyche to be learned from narratives, even mythological and religious ones. (4/5) 

The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Chris McChesney and Sean Covey, 2012: Whether it’s a personal or business goal; focus on the wildly important, set lead not just lag metrics, use a compelling scorecard, and ensure a cadence of accountability. An excellent read – probably one of the best on productivity and project management, rich with practical ideas and examples. (4/5)

The 4 Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris, 2006: The point of being rich is to be able to do interesting things, rather than own enviable things. A classic for the “new rich” seeking to build an enriching life powered by passive income, and even for those that aren’t it’s nonetheless entertaining to read. (4/5)

The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene, 2000: While you don’t have to employ dirty tricks, it’s still worth knowing so that you can better handle situations when others try to manipulate you. A bit depressing reading the author’s dark views of human nature, but there’s ill-intending people out there so worth reading to be able to protect yourself from manipulation. (3.5/5)

50 Economics Classics, Tom Butler-Bowdon, 2017: Deeply rooted economic ideologies are difficult to dislodge even with compelling data. Since I don’t have time to read all of the economics classics directly, I’ve found summaries like this helpful for: quickly grasping key ideas, as well as how those key ideas have been received and evolved over time. (4/5)

50 Philosophy Classics, Tom Butler-Bowdon, 2013: Human inquiry into the ultimate truth should extend beyond what’s provable by the scientific method. Similar to above, reading this is an efficient way to quickly grasp key ideas from the classical texts that influenced history. (4/5)

50 Politics Classics, Tom Butler-Bowdon, 2015:  Throughout history people have wanted similar things (freedom, security etc) – the challenge is finding the right balance for the right place at the right time. (4/5)

50 Psychology Classics, Tom Butler-Bowdon, 2007: Research results on how we can think, act, interact, and live better are clear; one just needs to have the initiative to read up on them. Value you get from book is more on seeing how our understanding of psychology has changed over time – how various psychologists influenced others and society at the time – rather than getting the latest practical insights. (3.5/5)

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, 1989: Be proactive, work backwards, focus, think win-win, seek to understand others, synergise, and sharpen the saw. Such a classic that you’ve probably already come across most of the ideas – in that case just read the chapters most relevant to you. (4/5)

Africa’s Business Revolution, Acma Leke et al, 2018: While riddled with its unique regional challenges, business opportunities in Africa are underrated. Neatly written and very well structured presentation of compelling evidence, as expected from a book authored by McKinsey partners. When I read this I was convinced that Africa now is like Asia 50 years ago – rich in raw materials, high population growth etc. Now I realize it’s not that simple, and the reality of the African content is very different to Asia’s. (4/5)

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter Bernstein, 1998: Although dull on the surface, modern insurance and financial markets much better appreciated after learning about how we got here: from Fibonacci introducing the Hindu-Arabic numbering system to Europe in the 1200s, to Bernoulli’s notion of utility, and Gauss on distributions and errors in the 1700s. (4/5)

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)

The Age of Capital: 1848 – 1875, Eric Hobsbawm, 1975 

The Age of Empire: 1875 – 1914, Eric Hobsbawm, 1987

The Age of Extremes: 1914 – 1991, Eric Hobsbawm, 1994 

AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee, 2018: Among the many reasons why China is poised to lead the world in AI implementation, one is the vast pool of quality tech entrepreneurs. Despite the author’s obvious pro-China bias, was eye-opening to get a glimpse of Chinese entrepreneurship environment and its stark contrast to Silicon Valley. (4/5) 

The Alchemy of Growth, Mehrdad Baghai and Stephen Coley and David White, 1999: Companies need to nurture a healthy pipeline of ‘Horizon 2’ emerging businesses and ‘Horizon 3’ pilots to sustain growth over longer time periods. A classic that still holds relevance today, but as with most business books, reading just the article should suffice for most roles. Worthwhile reading the book if you’re a management consultant or in a strategy role though. (3.5/5)

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) 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865: Carroll’s work and ideas frequently referenced in philosophy and metaphysics so I intend to read this original…one day… 

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, Nick Bilton, 2017 

And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future, Yanis Varoufakis, 2016

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 Success, James Melouney, 2016: Leverage the many lessons and nuggets of wisdom from the brilliant minds of the past to help lead you to success. A good collection of quotes from famous figures of the past, but wish it was a bit more organized. (3/5)

The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, 2002

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) 

Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, Niall Ferguson, 2008:  (4/5)

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) 

Autonomy: Quest to Build Driverless Car and How It Will Reshape Our World, Lawrence Burns, 2018

Bad Blood, John Carreyrou, 2018: Employees: quit if you have a psychopathic boss, not worth it; investors: conduct proper due diligence; future villains: learn how to charm people to contain a lie for a terrifying long time. The Theranos story will continue to be told over the next few decades and this book captured it pretty well. (3.5/5)

Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood – A History in Thirteen Centuries, Justin Marozzi, 2014 

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, 2005 

The Barefoot Investor, Scott Pape, 2016: Intend to skim over this and see if there’s any novel personal finance worth knowing. 

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, Eric Barker, 2017 

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett, 2016

The Bed of Procrustes, Nassim Taleb, 2010: Think for yourself because a lot of the conventional wisdom out there is just wrong. Written in the typical angry Taleb tone, some unconventional nuggets of wisdom in here, as well as plenty others I don’t agree with – either way, a worthwhile read. (3.5/5)

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) 

Being Mortal, Atal Gawande, 2014: Modern healthcare has steered too heavily on seeking treatment that merely prolongs life, even if it makes the reminder of one’s life miserable. Really makes you re-think about what the whole point of living is. (4/5)

Big Debt Crises, Ray Dalio, 2020: Deleveragings of a bubble become beautiful when stimulative (prining money and currency devaluation) and deflationary (austerity and defaults) levers are moved in a balanced way. (4/5) 

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis, 2010 

Billion Dollar Whale, Tom Wright & Bradley Hope, 2018: Craving fame and respect, financial crime mastermind Jho Low steals billions from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. It’s like Asian Wolf of Wall Street, but in the scale of billions (not just tens of millions) – entertaining, sickening, and fascinating going through how he pulled it off. (3.5/5)

The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton, 2005: Given we’ve moved on from the dogma of genetic determinism and towards recognising gene-environment interactions, it’s now important to realise that our own mindset is one of these environmental factors. (3.5/5)

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

Blitzscaling, Reid Hoffman, 2018: Oftentimes, taking calculated risks to prioritise speed over efficiency sets up a business for sustainable expansion. (4/5)

Blood and Sand, Frank Gardner, 2006

Book of Dead Philosophers, Simon Critchley, 2008  

A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking, 1991: Scientists working on what the universe is (quantum theory of gravity) are too preoccupied to ask why it exists, while philosophers that ask why have not been able to keep up with the latest scientific developments. (4/5) 

Brotopia, Emily Chang, 2018: Toxic sexism in tech companies is more prevalent than we hear as it’s terrifying for women to speak up; both men and women must stand up to it when we see it. (4/5)

Business Adventures, John Brooks, 1969: The common practices and legal frameworks in which businesses and markets operate in today can be better understood by studying business case precedents. Despite being Warren Buffet and Bill Gates’ all-time favourite business books, I found it so-so… maybe because the stories are from such old companies I’m not familiar with… will probably give it another go later in life. (3.5/5)

Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, 2010: The right half of Osterwalder’s popular BM canvas (value prop, relationships, channels, segments, rev) are about value, while the left half (value prop, activities, resources, partnerships, cost) are about efficiency. (4/5)

Can We Avoid Another Financial Crisis? (The Future of Capitalism), Steve Keen, 2017 

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty, 2013: Once the rate of return of capital (r) exceeds the rate of output and income growth (g), capitalism produces unsustainable inequalities. Liked that the charts go back much further in time than what I’ve typically seen (1800s), but too many pages were on the methodology, and describing charts rather than highlighting insights, so I discontinued halfway. (3/5)

Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, 2017: Intangibles, the “dark matter of investment”, are all too often neglected in valuations and in measuring progress. (4/5)

The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, 2011: The most effective salespeople focus on teaching their customers something new and reframe the problem they have, while the least effective salespeople just focus on building the relationship. I owe this book credit for helping me close some key deals in my sales and customer success roles at tech start-up I’m at – a must read if you’re in any client-facing role! (4/5)

Change By Design, Tim Brown, 2009: Design thinking brings a harmonious balance of feasibility, viability, and desirability into the heart of the most impactful projects and products. Love design thinking, but the book was just so so. (3.5/5)

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) 

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vishen Lakhiani, 2016: Much of our beliefs are outdated, and much like a computer, we need to continually rewrite our models of reality (hardware) and ways of living (software). (4/5)

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 2006

The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1848: While it’s well known that Marx argued that worker exploitation will persist so long as class structure persists, perhaps it’s less known that Marx never really specified how a socialist economy should work. Read this classic because many economic/ politics books were contradicting each other about what Marx said so I wanted to see for myself… there’s not much in here… probably need to read the much thicker Das Kapital to get better grasp on Marxist ideas. (3/5)

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) 

Constants of Nature: The Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe, John Barrow, 2002 

Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities, Caleb Scharf, 2014

The Courage To Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, 2019

Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull, 2013: Maintaining a culture of creativity requires the art of delicately balancing becoming the project you’re working on while maintaining a higher level perspective. (3.5/5)

Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business, Erin Meyer, 2014

Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, James Rickard, 2011

Customer Success, Nick Mehta et al, 2016: In the recurring revenue SaaS world, customer loyalty built on relationships alone is insufficient – customer health needs to be relentlessly monitored and value needs to be proactively added. Very useful and relevant in my customer success role… worthwhile read to anyone that wants to better understand SaaS. (3.5/5)

Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday, 2016: Wisdom is predicated on how see things, make decisions, and deal with what’s out of our control. (4/5)

Dear Ijeawele, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2017: Simple adjustments to the way we think and act in everyday life, will make the world our daughters grow up in so much better. (4/5)

Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, 2002

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)

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, Eric Topol, 2019

Deep Work, Carl Newport, 2016: Learning complex things or producing craft requires distraction-free concentration – and this takes conscious effort to master. (3.5/5)

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)

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Antonio Damasio, 1994 

The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman, 1988

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)

Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation, Edward Chancellor, 1996: Tells the stories behind historical bubbles, including: the South Sea Bubble of 1720, Railway Mania of 1845, The Crash of 1929, the Japanese Bubble Economy of the 1980s, and more. The structure, sequence, and features of speculative euphorias have always been the same. (4/5)

Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Bill Aulet, 2013: Select a target market, define problem, iterate solution with customers, design business model, map out customer acquisition process, identify and and test key assumptions. (4/5)

Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat, Vali Nasr, 2013

Domesticated: Evolution In A Man-Made World, Richard Francis, 2016: Understanding the by-products of domestication in animals reveals the sociological by-products in our own self-domestication of Homo sapiens. (4/5) 

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) 

Drunk Tank Pink: The Subconscious Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, Adam Alter, 2010  

Economics: The User’s Guide, Ha Joon Chang, 2014: Withholding author’s blatant bias towards certain economic schools, it’s still a good book on understanding the similarities and differences in different economic schools of thought. (4/5) 

The Economics Book, DK, 2012: Economic theories have always been contentious and difficult to prove, so it is essential to appreciate the contextual conditions under which each theory developed, and consider economics as life-long learning. Flow charts and visuals makes this a useful, digestible introduction to economic ideas that influenced history… great to quickly know what you don’t know, allowing you to move onto richer more detailed sources elsewhere to continue learning. (3.5/5)

Economyths: How the Science of Complex Systems is Transforming Economic Thought, David Orell, 2010

Ego Is The Enemy, Ryan Holiday, 2016: Get over yourself and you’ll be happier and will get a better vision of the truth. (4/5)

Education of an Idealist, Samantha Power, 2020: The world is filled with broken places, and you can use your position of power to pick your battles and go win some. (4/5)

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Ashlee Vance, 2015 

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, 2009 

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee, 2010

The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama, 1992 

End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Jeffrey Sachs, 2005 

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo, Sean B Carroll, 2006 

Energy and Civilization, Vaclav Smil, 2017: Much of humanity’s progress can be directly attributed to the phenomenal strides in the return multiple of energy out versus energy in. (4/5)

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) 

Essays in Love, Alain de Botton, 1993: What makes intimate romantic relationships so difficult are the same challenges we face becoming mature: honest self-reflection about your deepest insecurities, forgiving others etc. (4.5/5) 

Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe, Joseph Stiglitz, 2016: Despite its good intentions, the singular Euro currency undermines European integration. (4/5)

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone, 2013 

Evolution of Desire, David Buss, 1998: Our failure to understand the paradoxical nature of human mating is costly (both scientifically and socially) and so, we must go back into our evolutionary past to understand our mating strategies through the context of survival. (4/5) 

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality, Brian Greene, 2004

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

Fascism: A Warning, Madeleine Albright, 2018

Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in the Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World, Amanda Little, 2019 

Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy, 2017: The breakthroughs that had substantial flow-on effects originated in all sorts of places, caught on due to all sorts of reasons, and all created winners and losers along the way. (4/5)

Figuring, Maria Popova, 2020: Beauty – from poetry to stories to art – is often more effective at capturing and transmitting scientific truths than facts and numbers. (4/5) 

Financial Markets, Glen Arnold, 2012: A basic grasp of the role financial institutions, financial markets, and recent history (e.g. deregulation in 80s saw emergence of new types of derivatives) brings us one step closer to understanding how the world works. It’s a textbook… which is exactly what I was looking for as my lack of a formal commerce/business/economics/finance tertiary education always made me feel like I don’t know enough about the topic matter… I got what I wanted from the book. (3.5/5)

Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization, Graham Hancock, 1996: We should remain open-minded about the possibility of an advanced civilization that existed that much earlier than the established historical consensus. (3/5)

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff, 2018 

Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose, Raj Sjodia et al, 2003 

The First and Last Freedom, J. Krishnamurti, 1975: When the mind seeks truth, caution must be taken not to celebrate merely re-discovering self-projected ‘truths’. Some incredibly deep insights that I’ve never read anywhere else before, but a tad too spiritual and difficult to follow along… the hardcore-scientific-rational type would probably dislike this. (3.5/5)

Fooled By Randomness, Nassim Taleb, 2011: Intelligence is not about seeing patterns, rather, being able to recognise false patterns. (4/5)

A Force For Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World, Daniel Goleman, 2015: Imagine what the world would be like if everyone was just that little bit more compassionate towards each other. Agree with the key message, however nothing new or particularly interesting. (3/5)

The Forgotten Continent: A History of the New Latin America, Michael Reid, 2017

Foundation Series – Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 1951: I’m convinced that the intimate dance between politics, science, economics, and society transcends the boundaries of fiction. (4/5)

Foundation Series – Foundation And Empire, Isaac Asimov, 1952 

Foundation Series – Foundation And Empire, Isaac Asimov, 1952 

Foundation Series – Second Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 1953 

Foundation Series – Foundation’s Edge, Isaac Asimov, 1982 

Foundation Series – Foundation And Earth, Isaac Asimov, 198

Foundation Series – Prelude To Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 1988 

Foundation Series – Forward The Foundation, Isaac Asimov, 1993 

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, Scott Galloway, 2018 

Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World, Laurence Scott, 2015 

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 Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives, Jeffrey Garten, 2016

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) 

The Future Is Asian, Parag Khanna, 2018: Just as Western powers recede into isolationist policies, the East is accelerating its global reach and influence. It’s like 100 articles rich in socioeconomic stats packed into one book, so very useful for getting an update on what’s happening in Asia, regardless of whether you agree with the author’s conclusions or not. (4/5)

The Future of Humanity, Michio Kaku, 2018: Intelligent life will continue to do incredible things, and perhaps even be able to outsmart the inevitable death of the universe itself. (4/5)

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