Every Book on my Bookshelf (G-Q)



The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee, 2010: An old sin of biology is to confuse the definition of a feature with the feature itself. (4/5)

Give People Money, Annie Lowrey, 2018: Upcoming technologies will further escalate the wealth inequality problem and there is some data in favour of a universal basic income to alleviate this. Was expecting detailed case studies supporting universal basic income as I am still in process of drawing a conclusion on it, but lacked the rigor and substance… not worth reading at all. (2/5)

The Goal, Eliyahu Goldratt, 1984: The goal is throughput (sales) not output (production); also keep an eye on inventory and operational expenses; and optimize for global not local bottlenecks. Book is actually written like a novel and surprisingly entertaining… a worthy classic for wrapping your head around key concepts in operations. (4/5)

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, 2006

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)

Good to Great, Jim Collins, 2001: Disciplined people, thoughts and actions builds up a flywheel (momentum) that leads to breakthroughs. (4/5)

The Granularity of Growth: How to Identify the Sources of Growth and Drive Enduring Company Performance, Patrick Viguerie et al, 2007 

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)

Growth, Vaclav Smil, 2018: Whether we’re concerned with the spread of pandemics or economic growth, it’s important to understand the scientific first principles governing growth trajectories. (4/5)

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) 

High Output Management, Andy Grove, 1983: Training your team is not a waste of time – it’s one of the highest managerial leverage yielding activities. Perfect for those just entering middle management and leading a team for the first time. (4/5)

The History of the World, Frank Welsh, 2011: Revising mainstream Western-centric history helps answer two questions: what stories are being told wholesale, and why is this the case. Wasn’t expecting it to be mind-blowing, and it wasn’t, but I got exactly what I wanted from it. (3/5)

A History War in 100 Battles, Richard Overy, 2014: The elements of military strategy – leadership, technological innovation, speed, deception – transcend context and time. (3/5)

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 Google Works, Eric Schmidt, 2014 

How Money Works: The Facts Visually Explained (How Things Work), DK, 2017 

How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain de Botton, 1997

How the World Works, Noam Chomsky, 2011: So many world events – including supporting the most horrible dictators – were intentionally driven by US political and business interests. Most of the book is Chomsky revealing the atrocities of US, so a bit of a downer to read. Despite this, I’m still convinced that the US is the least evil superpower the world has ever seen. (4/5)

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)

How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie, 1936: Humans are extremely emotional creatures; learn how to account for this to be more influential. I’m incredibly grateful I read this in my early 20s as I credit it for playing an indispensable role in building an incredible network of genuine friendships. Even though the book was written some time ago, there is a reason why it continues to be read by so many today. Human nature is rather persistent. (4/5)

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, 2017, Mark Bowden

Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America As the Global Superpower, Michael Pillsbury, 2015

I Am A Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter, 2007

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World, Malala Yousafzai, 2013

Immortality Key: Uncovering the Secret History of the Religion with No Name, Brian Muraresku, 2020: Psychedelics played a key role in Greco-Roman religious ceremonies before they were suppressed by the Roman Christians. (4/5)

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, Steven Strogatz, 2019 

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, 2006

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

Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen, 1997: Disruptive technologies often gain traction in low-margin niches, a zone where market-leading incumbents stay away from – this is why so few companies manage to disrupt themselves before it is forced on them by emerging players. (3.5/5)

Inspired, Marty Cagan, 2018: Coordinate people through proven processes to discover and address value, usability, feasibility and business viability risks. Some say it’s like the product manager’s bible and I probably agree – must read for anyone working in or close to product management. (4/5)

Inside Private Equity, James Kocis, 2009: It pays to understand the distinguishing details behind performance measurements, in the world of private equity, particularly so with IRR. Was curious about private equity, and its increasing influence in global finance in recent decades, so a textbook like this helped me wrap my head around the industry. Mostly helping me get to know what I don’t know. (4/5)

Introduction to the Theory of Complex Systems, Peter Kilmek, 2018. It’s a textbook so quite technical. But I intend to do a deep dive on the detailed math behind complex systems over the next few years. 

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956, Anne Applebaum, 2012

Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong, 2000

Jack Ma & Alibaba: A Business And Life Biography, Yan Qicheng, 2017

Just Cool It!: The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do – A Post-Paris Agreement Game Plan, David Suzuki, 2017 

Killing Us Softly: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Paul Offit, 2013: The placebo effect from alternative medicines is undeniable, but most alternatives generally do more harm than good. (4/5)

King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone, David Carey and John Morris, 2010

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek, 2014 

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg, 2013: Gender inequality unfortunately persists and probably will continue to for a while; there’s lots that both men and women can do to minimise it in the mean time. Understandably many mixed responses from this book – hardcore feminists accuse it for not asking men to do/change more… however, once you read it and understand the unfortunate reality of how difficult systematic changes are, Sandberg’s approach seems pretty sensible. (4/5)

The Lean Startup, Eric Ries, 2006: Any effort incurred that does not provide benefit to the customer is a waste. (4/5)

Lessons Of History, Will Durant, 1968: While history smiles at all attempts to force post-hoc theoretical patterns, there is still much to learn from its reoccurring rhymes. Incredible read if you already have some (4/5)

Letters From A Stoic, Seneca, 64AD  

Letters From Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, 1997 

Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, Michael Lewis, 1989 

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)

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, Jack Schafer and Marvin Karlins, 2015

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin, 2010 

Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1995: A stubbornly persistent non-violent approach is so effective because it shames the oppressors. (4/5)

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, Liaquat Ahamed, 2009

MacArthur’s War: The Flawed Genius Who Challenged The American Political System, Bevin Alexander, 2013 

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson, 2012 

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, Vaclav Smil, 2013: While relative dematerialisation has been a global trend, we’ll continue to rely on key materials for the foreseeable future: concrete, metals, plastics, and fertilisers. More of a fact dump – steel productions numbers etc – and less of a book with insights… some useful things in here but laboriously dry to read. (3/5)

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)

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution, Gregory Zuckerman, 2019

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)

A Manual For Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, Lucia Berlin, 2015

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Noam Chomsky, 1988

Mastery, Robert Greene, 2012

The McKinsey Way, Ethan Rasiel, 1999: Complex problems can be broken into smaller parts, analysed, then reassembled (synthesised) into actionable insights. Oh god don’t read this… forinsights on how management consultants think just google ‘McKinsey 7 steps problem solving.’ (1/5)

Measure What Matters, John Doerr, 2018: OKRs (objectives and key results) helps bring focus, alignment, and commitment on the goals that truly matter. (4/5)

Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, 180AD

Megachange: The World in 2050, The Economist, Daniel Franklin, 2012: Of the forecasted megatrends, the second-order effects of population ageing in rich countries seems to most underestimated. (2/5)

Megatech: Technology in 2050, The Economist, Daniel Franklin, 2018: Entertaining speculations on future tech never hurts, but it’s more accurate when grounded by knowledge in physics (4 fundamental forces, relativity, gauge invariance, quantum mechanics etc). (4/5)

Merchants of Truth: Inside the News Revolution, Jill Abramson, 2019 

Metaphors We Live By, George Lakoff, 2002: Inspecting and questioning the metaphors that pervade our language, can improve our thoughts, actions, and therefore outcomes. (3.5/5)

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)

Money, Master The Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, Tony Robbins, 2014: Price your dreams, create a smart asset allocation, and know the rules before you get in the game. Actually a very good personal finance book as it embeds wisdom world-class figures like Ray Dalio… only thing I found mildly irritating was it could have been half the length if the typical Tony Robbins sales pitch stuff were taken out – “what you’re about to read will change your life… this is secret from billionaires… this will change your life”- I’m thinking “Tony, I’ve already bought the book, no need to keep selling to me, just get to the point.” (4/5)

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are – The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Robert Wright, 1995

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

New Confessions of an Economic Hitman: How America Really Took Over The World, John Perkins, 2016

New Power, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, 2018: Old Power is centraliesd, exclusive, and specialised, while New Power is distributed, collaborative, and generalised – this doesn’t necessarily mean New Power is always better though. (4/5)

The New Science of Cities, Michael Batty, 2002: Viewing cities as networked systems of actions and interactions, rather than merely physically rooted spaces and places, unfolds insights that could help cities thrive socially and economically. Some astute insights, but overall way too academic for the general, non-technical reader. (3/5)

The New Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan, 2018: As China’s Belt and Road initiative revitalises the old silk roads and paves new ones into Europe and Africa, central Eurasia’s geographical importance will rise once again. Loved Frankopan’s 2015 Silk Roads, but this sequel could have been an article. Maybe my expectation was too high but pretty disappointed overall. (3/5)

No Logo, Naomi Klein, 2002 

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) 

Numbers Don’t Lie: 71 Things You Need to Know About the World, Vaclav Smil, 2021:  To understand what’s really going on in our world, facts must be grounded in numbers, and numbers need to be grounded in context (historical and international). (4/5)

The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, Jason, Fung, 2016 

Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia, David Hoffman, 2002

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan, 2006: The food industry has become more mechanized, monocultured, and misleading than ever before. (4/5)

On Intelligence: How a New Understanding of the Brain Will Lead to the Creation of Truly Intelligent Machines, Jeff Hawkins, 2004 

On This Day In History, Dan Snow, 2005: There are countless fascinating events and stories in history that never made it to the mainstream. A perfect late night entertainment when your too tired to read anything else. (3.5/5)

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, Roger Martin, 2007: When faced with an either-or binary choice, successful leaders always manage to find alternatives. While the HBR article packs the key idea, this is one of those concepts that is easy to understand but extremely difficult to implement… so reading the full book to actually get better at implementing it is more than worthwhile… the returns on improved decisions your life and work are monumental. (4/5) (summary HERE)

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, David Christian, 2018: The universe had to overcome several critical thresholds against entropy to get to where we are now. (4/5)

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

Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell, 2008: Successful people were lucky to have had opportunities early on, getting a head start on the “10,000 hours”, snowballing into a world-class advantage. (4/5)

Pachinko, Min Jin Lee, 2017 

Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money, Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, 2016

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, Sonia Shah, 2006: A pathogen that is too deadly won’t lead to a pandemic as infected hosts die too quickly – pandemics unfold when it is just deadly enough. (3.5/5)

The Path to Power: Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro, 1981

Pax Romana: War, Peace and Conquest in the Roman World, Adrian Goldsworthy, 2016

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh, 1992: When we observe our own emotions as they are, without judgement, and with acceptance, we can be at peace. (3.5/5)

The Philosophy Book, DK, 2011: While many of our ideas on being, metaphysics, epistemology and morality, have changed, many more have not and perhaps never will. (4/5)

The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West, Malcolm Nance, 2018

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) 

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, 2011

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change, Charles Duhigg, 2012: Once we understand the cue-routine-reward loop, we can stop bad habits and start new ones effectively. Very interesting if you’re not familiar with the cue-routine-reward loop, but Atomic Habits by James Clear was much better in every regard. (3.5/5)

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) 

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, Dacher Keltner, 2016: Many exercise attractive qualities when rising to power but get corrupted and discard those qualities when in power. (3.5/5)

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely, 2008: It’s hard to overcome the cognitive biases that affect our decision making, but it certain helps to know about them. (4/5)

Principles, Ray Dalio, 2017: Have clear goals, approach them iteratively and systematically, document what worked and what didn’t, and eventually you’ll get there. Very well structured and rich in wisdom… I enjoyed reading the autobiographical section most. (4/5)

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 Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin, 1993: (4/5)

Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty, C. Todd Lombardo et al, 2017 

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)

Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine, Mike Michalowicz, 2014 

The Pyramid Principle, Barbara Minto, 1978: While deductive communication is good for telling everyday stories, inductive structures are better suited for business contexts. A classic for management consultants… not only does this concept help you become a better business communicator, it also makes you a better thinker… however the book itself is ironically not written in Pyramid Principle… just read an article about it, no need to read whole book. (3/5)

Quantum Economics: The New Science of Money, David Orrell, 2018: There are ample similarities between economics and various quantum physics concepts. (3.5/5)


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