Read List 2017

As an attempt to ensure I keep to my reading goal I'm going to start documenting the books I read :) Will update this list whenever I finish a book!  

Just realized that I would highly recommend almost every book that I've included in this list - that's because if one book doesn't catch my attention, I would have stopped reading it before it made it to this list 

This was an incredibly easy read, much like his famous "Tuesdays with Morrie" (which still remains my favourite book from Mitch Albom). The book follows the journey of Eddie, after he passed away in an accident on his 83rd birthday - where he met 5 people in heaven to talk about his life. It's a little corny and maybe cliche, but what it drives home is the consequences of our actions and decisions, no matter how small or insignificant to us, have on others. While reading the book, you will astound yourself at how much your little action have sometimes large or maybe life changing impact/consequences on others. 

Pretty reflective book and I highly recommend a read :)

Tan Chade Meng is a Singaporean who landed a role in Google during its budding days. Singaporean and engineer are 2 keys words that's sufficient motivation for me to read his books  His school of thought is Buddhism centric and I find it an easier approach in understanding mindfulness and meditation. While I wouldn't go as far as to say that this book dramatically changed my life, it does make me view mindfulness and negativity in a different light. On the upside, he makes meditation so so much easier to understand!

I've just borrowed his first book "Search Inside Yourself" and can't wait to start on it :)

I chanced upon this book online when I was searching for career guidance online. The discovery of this book was timely - given that I was at a crossroad of career progression. It highlighted very fundamental and practical approaches in understanding what truly motivates a person and how that will eventually guide you in discovering the ideal career options. 

This will definitely be a book that I will find myself going back to every now and then!

4. Search Inside Yourself - Tan Chade Meng

This is the first book by Tan Chade Meng (see #2 above on his second book). After reading Joy on Demand, I found Search Inside Yourself somewhere repetitive. So if you have yet read any of his books, I would highly recommend to read "Search Inside Yourself" first before moving onto Joy on Demand. The first book offers more entry level explanation so reversing the order would render "Search Inside Yourself" a tad boring in comparison.

Nonetheless, if you have yet to read any books by Tan Chade Meng, I recommend you to read this first before Joy on Demand! :)

5. Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan

I was loitering around the fiction section while waiting for the librarian to find my book the other day and this neon pink colour book cover caught my eye. I didn't expect myself to pick it up since I'm not the biggest fan of fiction (except for Harry Potter) but there were news that this is going be made into  movie. So... why not? Hahaha

The plot isn't about crazy, rich asians, it's about crazy rich asians i.e really really rich asians. The author himself was born into old money (his great-grandfather is one of the founders of OCBC Bank) so this is loosely based on his childhood in Singapore. The main characters are Nicholas Young, a history professor in NYU and also sole heir to an exclusively rich and private Singaporean family and his girlfriend Rachel Chu, who comes from a middle class single-parent family in California. The pair made their way to Singapore to attend Nicholas' best friend's wedding - which also happens to the wedding of the year among the who's who of Asia.

Names were changed but I believe most of the incidents that happened are definitely true. It's a very easy read and Kwan is an entertaining writer. The only downside is there are so many characters! It's very important to keep the family tree mapping handy which is provided in the first few pages of the book.

Highly recommended if you want a fun easy read and have a good laugh (and trying to guess which billionaire he was referring to). I'm looking to loan book #2 of this trilogy (yes you read that right) - China Rich Girlfriend!

6. China Rich Girlfriend - Kevin Kwan

I'm so guilty of reading this so quickly when my proper non-fiction books are just sitting around waiting to be read 

Book #2 (refer to #5 above in the read list) continues the story line of Nicholas Young and Rachel Chu from Crazy Rich Asians. They are now happily married despite at the expense of Nick being estranged from his prestigious family. An opportunity for Rachel to meet her biological father in China brings them into the crazy world of Shanghai splendor where the folks are not crazy rich, but China rich.

This book brings a whole new level to Asian wealth and a definite whole new level of flaunting. I worked with the wealthy Chinese before in my earlier roles and I wouldn't say some of the things that Kevin Kwan wrote were far-fetched.

Highly recommended book and definitely do read book #1 - Crazy Rich Asians before reading this!

7. When breath becomes air - Paul Kalanithi

I waited very long for this book because it always in the "Reserve List" in the libraries. My sis lucked out and managed to borrow it!   So yup I stole a read before she had to return it.

It's a book based on Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon in his final year of residency before discovering he had Stage 4 lung cancer. At age 36 and never puffed a single cigarette before. It followed through his final months, where he contemplated many things from his role as a doctor, to being a patient and to being a new father who really doesn't have a lot of time left.

It's a small book, but it's impact is powerful. I find myself going back to some chapters he wrote, long after I finished it. This book is both an easy and hard read. Easy because the writings are beautiful and compelling to read, it was almost impossible to put down. Hard, because it explored so many questions about life, that you find yourself stopping mid-sentence to ponder about what he wrote.

The writer is a gifted man, and I would highly recommend a read. It's a stunning memoir by an inspiring and talented man, who's got some very important lessons about life worth listening and learning.

8. Spark Joy: An illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up - Marie Kondo

This is a book about cleaning and tidying up your house. It sounds very straightforward, I mean who hasn't done good tidying up on their own before?

What stood out about Marie Kondo's (or as she puts it "KonMari") method was it had a deeper meaning than just cleaning up corners in your house. She had a few key pointers which I thought was very useful and would definitely come in handy when I start packing up to move to my new place at the end of this year.

For instance, always tidy by category and not locations. This is something I'm very guilty of, which is to clean up study desk today and the book shelf tomorrow and so on. The KonMari way however, is to gather all items of similar category in the house first, discard items that doesn't spark joy before you decide where and how you wish to store the remaining items. For someone who hoards endless stuff under the pretext of "I will get to use this one day", this method resonates with me and I can't wait to put it real use. I mean... really sometimes the stuff I accumulate irritates me because of the clutter it brings, but yet I cannot bring myself to discard them 

The attraction of KonMari's method is that once you are done with tidying up your whole house, the experience of doing it her way will ensure you will never clutter your house the old way again. This is something I really need (god knows how time consuming those quarterly decluttering can be!) because I amaze myself with the stuff I can accumulate in a short period of time.

Towards the end of the book, I felt there was a more philosophical side to her method, which really can be applied to various aspects of our lives. Tidying your own things is really a conversation with yourself, through this you categorize the items first, clear out those that does not bring you much joy before providing a nice home/place for the remaining items. Putting that in life, it would also be like removing and detaching yourself from people and events that evidently does not bring you joy anymore and then surround yourself with those who does.

There are many articles online detailing people's experience and findings from adopting the KonMari method - this is one of them. You can search them up before deciding if you want to read the book. I found it a great read and would pick it up again if I had a chance to!

9. 诸般不美好,皆可温柔相待 - 吴淡如

Released last year, its the latest book from my favourite author from Taiwan. The title is loosely translated as "co-exist gently, with all the unpleasant events in life".

It's written in typical Wu Dan Ru style - clear straightforward sharing of life lessons but without the high and mighty tone. It's almost hard to crystallize the content of this book because of the various short stories that are scattered through the pages.

But if you are well versed in traditional Chinese characters, I do recommend a read and of course reading any one of her books! :)

10. It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) - Nora Mclnerny Purmort

Picked this up from the pile of library books on my sister's desk mainly because I was enticed by the title. This is a memoir of someone related to cancer - the author lost both her father and husband to cancer, just weeks apart from each other. In between which, she miscarried her second child, where she had no on to confide in because she had kept the pregnancy a secret given how much everyone in her family was going through.

I love the way she had penned this, it is as hilarious as it is sad. There are moments you burst out laughing and the next you feel a tug on your heartstrings because of what she had to go through.

My favourite quote from the book was that "the world will keep spinning, and your life will get a little bit better every time you give up on the shit that is taking your away from your one wild precious life". This is what the book is about and I highly recommend a read!

11. Supersurvivor: The surprising link between suffering and success - David B Feldman

The book is written by 2 psychologists, who explored the science of remarkable achievements in the face trauma - and why some not only bounce back but also forward after devastating happenings in life.

Their findings discovered that pure optimism or pessimism won't be able to get one through traumas, but something called grounded hope. It meant being a realist, which comes first with acceptance of whatever that has happened and is rational and optimistic enough to devise steps to live life forward. The most famous example mentioned was the study of survivors of Holocaust, where those who survived were definitely not the most optimistic ones. Contrary to popular belief, optimism didn't help these prisoners-of-war survive concentration camp. It was noted that the optimists were positive that the war would end soon and they would be freed. However, when that did not happen day after day, their hope eroded along with it. Most of them eventually end up killing themselves before the war ended. Those who survived, however, had lived on what the authors mentioned as grounded hope. They had acknowledged that they are now POWs and also that the war will end one day. However, they had a more realistic perspective, knowing that the war will not come to an end in the days or weeks or even months to come. They had in turn, survived on daily goals of keeping themselves alive in order to survive the war.

And THAT is what makes a supersurvivor - one who acknowledges the reality of what has happened to them, and is rational and positive enough to devise next steps for themselves.

I find the book emotionally compelling and hard to put down. It will really reset your thinking on challenges and how to overcome them!

12. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes our Lives - Steven Levy

This was an unexpected pick from the library - it was on the new release rack and I thought why not? Did not regret this choice! 

There are numerous books written about the rise of Google, and I've read a few of them too. But none has written in this much detail and caught my attention the way this has. Similar to many books before, the book begin with the birth of Google. The writer was given access into the inner works of Google and numerous interviews with the founders and Googlers over a course of one year.

I have many favourite chapters in the book, the one about China where it delved into Google's foray into the Middle Kingdom and its eventual withdrawal 5 years later as it challenged their principles and mission as a company, the one about how they found a way to generate money from their formidable search engine (it wasn't making money in the early years) and how devoted the company and its founders were in innovation.

Some portions of the book was a wee bit technical but I found it mostly difficult to put down. Highly recommend it!

13. 32 Yolks: From My Mother's Table to Working the Line - Eric Ripert with Veronica Chambers

Yup, took this book from my sister . She finished it way before it was due to return to the library and asked if I was keen to read it. It wasn't a thick book and seemed like a easy read so why not?

So glad I chose to read it! The book follows Eric Ripert's life, where the Michelin Star chef picked up his interest in food and how much hardship he had to endure in order to work his way up in the kitchen.

Why the title is 32 yolks you may wonder - it referred to the first "dish" that he was made to do when he landed his first job in a restaurant. Yep it was the hollandaise sauce.

The book was an easy read and I loved the self deprecating tone that the book took in illustrating the harsh training and environment he went through. And if you love food and cooking, you will really love this book! 

14. Rich People's Problems - Kevin Kwan

This is the last of the trilogy by Kevin Kwan (refer to book #5 and #6 above)! This was released in May 2017 and man... I waited so long for this book to be available in the library!

Definitely worth the wait. And do not attempt to read this book without reading the first two in the right sequence.

Did I like how the trilogy ended? Absolutely. Do I wish that it was more than a trilogy? OMG YES LAH. Why end on the 3rd book 

While the first 2 books had focused on the staggering level of wealth of asians, the 3rd book brings in the perspective that while these lucky 1% literally can have anything that they want, they also face alot of problems beyond our wildest imagination. Is the level of wealth worth all that trouble?

That's up to you to find out  Highly recommend all 3 books!

15. Neither Civil Nor Servant: The Philip Yeo Story - Peh Shing Huei

To be very honest, I had no idea who is Philip Yeo. Given all that he has done for the nation, I'm quite ashamed to say I know nothing about him. Neither do I know much of Goh Keng Swee, who is Yeo's first and probably best boss (in my opinion). The book covered a fair bit about Goh as a person, a boss and his leadership style.

My interest in him was piqued when Peak Magazine first published an article about this book back in February this year. The article covers an excerpt of the book.

Yeo is quite unlike the usual civil servant, if you bother to look up some of his video interviews. He isn't afraid to say things as it is. If it's bad, it's bad. Nothing gets sugar coated. Which I guess is a very refreshing change from the current societal environment where everyone seems to have an ego that's weaker than a piece of glass. The book is written in a fast-paced, no nonsense manner, which I reckon is a reflection of Yeo himself.

An easy read for me, finishing it in 1.5 day (probably the fastest one this year!) and offered a lot of history into the starting years of MINDEF (Ministry of Defence), ST Engineering, EDB and Jurong Island. Highly recommended read! 

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