Category Archives: Non-Fiction

When Breath Becomes Air

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Originally published: January 12, 2016
Page count: 231 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 12, 2016)
Subjects: Biography
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0812988418
ISBN-13: 978-0812988413
Product Dimensions: Kindle eBook available

100 Word Book Review:

A doleful recount of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon’s last surviving years, the sudden transition of role from being a doctor treating the dying, to becoming the dying patient himself. As he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality. In the face of death, Paul went about the preparations, reflecting on choices, goals, his infant daughter and the continuity after his departure.

Who should read:

If you are looking for a deeper meaning of life, a serious view on the perpetual continuity in the face of death, reading this book may help to align your goals and seek what your answer to your question may be. It is a very practical book exploring the last days and months of a dying patient, who happens to be a doctor too.

Overall it is a good book exploring the feelings, emotions and the process of being sick, the pratical roles of doctor and patient. It is sad, yet beautiful. Bittersweet.

Who should NOT read:

On the contrary, if you are looking for some happy ending, some ‘everything is awesome regardless so’ theme of biography, do not try this book. It is sombre and serious in general even though the author has written in light humor, looking at daily things from amusing perspectives.

Takeaway points:

Life is simple, life is short for some. Sometimes things that are fated to be. No science, religion or philosophy can alter the course of fate. If it is meant to be, it is meant to be. Regardless how science have advanced and may cure the most deadly disease, it is a little beyond what even the best doctor can do.

About the Author

PAUL KALANITHI was a neurosurgeon and writer. He graduated from Stanford with a B.A. and M.A. in English literature and a B.A. in human biology. He earned an M.Phil in the history and philosophy of science and medicine from Cambridge and graduated cum laude from the Yale School of Medicine, where he was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society. He returned to Stanford to complete his residency training in neurological surgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience, and received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery’s highest award for resident research. He died in March 2015. He is survived by his family, including his wife Lucy, and their daughter Elizabeth Acadia.

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Chan Heart, Chan Mind

Chan Heart, Chan Mind: A Meditation on Serenity and Growth

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Originally published: 8 March 2016
Authors: Master Guojun (Author), Kenneth Wapner (Editor)
Page count: 176 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Wisdom Publications
Subjects: Philosophy, Religon
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1614292620
ISBN-13: 978-1614292623
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches

100 Word Book Review:

Master Guojun narrates his life with his ordination master, Master Songnian to Chan Master Sheng Yen, documenting the major memories and lessons from his apprenticeship to being the present abbot of Mahabodhi Temple, Singapore. Each contemporary master has his own way of teaching and sharing. Through these experiences, he shares and educates readers basic Buddhism concepts, how simple things hold great meanings. A change in perspectives unfolds insights into the basic things performed in life. In the age of technology and instant gratification, Master Gunjun illustrates how Buddhism is a life philosophy, adaptable yet unbending, applicable to any situations.

Who should read:

Readers who are keen and curious of Buddhism, or interested to know how the daily life of a monk. Master Guojun keeps the narration simple in order to deliver the clearest message. Though this book, readers realise that some things in life is so much easier than it looks. And many of the times in life, it is the mentality and perspectives that complicates things, resulting in frustrations.

Who should NOT read:

For readers who are expecting a deeper and advanced explaination of Buddhism, this book will not be the right title. The book intends to bring forth an introduction to the uninitiated.

Takeaway points:

Life is simple, fall back to basics. Unhappiness, frustrations, anger, and all the negative emotions are unnecessary. It arises from inflexible perspectives which narrows the mind resulting in complications. To see is to not to see. Many things are not be viewed as its form itself.

About the Author

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

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Originally published: 1997
Original title: Чернобыльская молитва
Page count: 256 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (April 18, 2006)
Subjects: Political Science
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312425848
ISBN-13: 978-0312425845
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches

Awards: National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction

100 Word Book Review:

An extremely depressing and devasting book that compiles 500 eyewitnesses, including firefighters, rescuers, cleanup crews, politicians, physicians, physicists and ordinary citizens over a period of 10 years. The author has effectively captured the details of misery, confusion and misinformation on the effects of radiation from the terrible disaster. From the narrations from various parties, it gives different experience and perspectives through the victims/survivors’ eyes. It is clear at that point of time that there was a horrible lack of information of radiation effects on humans. Lives were lost right after the explosion, and many, many, more after that.

Who should read:

Survivors who went through physical and mental hardships. People who been through crisis and fels that the world is ending. This books explores the though process of depression, survival and recovery. The possible things that can be done, and should be done for a gradual recovery.

Who should NOT read:

Readers who are expecting a happy story, should avoid this book at all costs! It documents the sufferings of the affected, the physical and mental torments and injuries due to radiation burns, and the lack of knowledge to handle radiation. There is no way it can be a happy story, no matter how the author writes it. It is indeed sad and depressing.

Takeaway points:

Science brings the best, and the worst to mankind. Knowledge is of paramount importance to ensure survival.

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

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Originally published: 18 September 18 2018
Original Title: Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
Author: by Tom Wright (Author), Bradley Hope (Author)
Page count: 400 pages
Publisher: Hachette Books
Genre: Non-fiction
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0316436502
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches | 635 grams

100 Word Book Review:

Descriptively, it traces and dissects the events that transpire from the beginnings to the massive international financial scandal till the present day. From interviews and third-party observations, it documents how Low used tricks and ways to achieve his aims, giving a glimpse into the Low’s mind, and explaining Jho Low’s modus operandi. This book does not simply include and involve Low himself. From Wynton Group to Najib to Otaiba and a myriad of celebrities, it focuses on every individual, every company and governments that have been, unfortunately, implicated in this unbelievable scam. A true-life thriller that reads like Hollywood movie.

Who should read:

People who loves financial thriller and mystery which remains unresolved. At the same time, those with some basic accounting knowledge and corporate structures, in terms of subsidiary and shell companies, will enjoy this book much more.

This is largely because 20% of the book discusses on the framework and layout of Jho Low’s thinkings, as well as execution. With the required knowledge, be it professional or academic background, reading the book feels almost like meeting Jho Low himself.

Who not read it:

Surely those who are seeking fictional or fantasy stories will be disappointed.

As much as the book indicates that any error is on the authors, the book is largely based on witnesses and observations. So it is very easy to believe that the accounts are true and accurate.

Lastly, perhaps those who have a grudge against 1MDB and other related parties. When such unresolved cases are still pending, there will be other sides of the story which are unaccounted for.

Takeaway point:

Greed has no boundaries, and some will go to great lengths to satisfy the insatiable wants.

The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

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Originally published: 09 Feb 2016
Original Title: The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
Author: John Perkins
Page count: 384 pages
Publisher: BERRETT-KOEHLER
Genre: Non-fiction
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1626566743
Product Dimensions:55 x 83 x 10mm | 498.95g

100 Word Book Review:

Personally I think business is just business, where willing parties cut deals together. The author describes his career in Seychelles, Honduras, Ecuador, Libya, Turkey, Western Europe, Vietnam, China, and, in perhaps the most unexpected and sinister development, the United States, where new EHMs (Economic Hit Man such as bankers, lobbyists, corporate executives) to con governments and the public submitting to policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Yet author also provides hope, offering a detailed list of specific actions we can take to transform into a model that provides sustainable abundance for all. So not all is lost.

Who should read:

Readers who love spy stuffs, thriller and corporate covert missions will enjoy this book better.

Probably also suitable for those who are interested in solving corporate mystery, the one of the kind of the greatest and unspoken white collar crime.

Who should not read it:

People who are looking for gore and violence will be solely disappointed.

As much as there are some partial mentions of murder and ‘accidents’, this book does not divulge much on the bloody details.

Surely not for those who are seeking adrenaline pumping actions or fighting scenes.

Takeaway points

  • There is a blurred line between right or wrong. And to be able to discern right or wrong, it greatly depends on perspectives.
  • Governments which run like corporates are the most efficient and effective to achieve goals.
  • But is it justifiable at the costs of others?

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

 

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

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Originally published: 24 April 2017
Original Title: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
Author: Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant
Page count: 240 pages
Publisher: Random House
Genre: Non-fiction, Self Help, Psychology
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1524732684
Product Dimensions: 222 x 144 x 25 mm

Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Nonfiction (2017)

100 Word Book Review:

Sheryl opens up describing the grief and isolation in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. No proper farewells, no premonition nor physical indications of an end. Abrupt as it is, life goes on. Option B illustrates that deep within us, we all have resilience and adaptation. A dynamic evolutionary process that fits us to our current circumstances. While Sheryl was certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again, her psychologist friend Adam Grant guided her. Indeed, it is a sad book to read but this will help readers to seek the recovery strength within themselves.

Who should read:

Ironically, Option B is very suitable for those who are upset, depressed or despondent. The author been through possibly the lowest point in life one could ever be.

One may argue what she been through is worse than having suicidal thoughts. But this is not the point here. If anyone is upset and depressed for prolonged period of time, he or she should seek help. Of which the author did, and she is using herself as a living example to guide those in need too.

Who should not read:

Obviously readers who are expecting a happy story, or maybe a sad-first-then-happy-ending-story, should not read it.

Option B focuses quite a bit on the author’s feelings and emotional state. Unknowly, one will eventually feel equally depressed or probably even worse after that.

Also, the positive turn comes much later towards the end of the book. So it takes a bit of patience to get to that part.

Takeaway points:

  • Life is short, unexpected, a constant struggle
  • It is natural to feel sad, but it is important to snap out of it and recover.
  • Life goes on, and there are so much more.
  • Happy and sad things happen for a reason, and at times, happen unexpectedly without a reason too. And events that happen without a reason usually will have the greatest impact.

 

Sheryl Sandberg is chief operating officer at Facebook, overseeing the firm’s business operations. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future

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Originally published: 19th May 2015
Original Title: Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future
Author: Ashlee Vance
Page count: 400 pages
Publisher: Ecco
Genre: Biography
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062301233
ISBN-13: 978-0062301239
Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.4 inches

100 Word Book Review:

SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, Paypal, and the recent The Boring Company are founded by South African Elon Musk. He is an entrepreneur and innovator who seeks to explore self-sustaining solutions, changing the world to be a better place. The book begins by documenting his difficult environment and rough childhood in South Africa. By 17, he finally moved to Canada which he desired very much. In a chronological order, along with management issues and engineering innovations, it reveals the turbulent personal life of Elon Musk, who called his estranged father ‘a terrible human being’. Overall, Elon prefers not speak about his personal life.

 

Who should read it:

Entrepreneurs who are in tech start ups looking for a role model to emulate and look up to. Not to mention, readers who are in admiration and respect of Elon Musk should read this book too. It gives a sneak peak to the man, his logic and his thinkings.

 

Who should NOT read it:

For readers who are totally NOT in to technology stuffs. Personally I think this book will rather bore you to death. If you are not keen in techs, or Elon Musk, pick up something else. It will save your life.

 

Takeaway points:

Invention is the creation of a solution to a need. It is a both innovation, knowledge and grit to make the dream into a reality. Elon is determined to make it happen, and his mindset, as well as mentality, allows great things to happen.

 

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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

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Originally published: 18th Feb 2013
Original Title: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
AuthorHéctor García (Author), Francesc Miralles (Author)
Page count: 208 pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: Penguin Books (August 29, 2017)
Genre: Self Help
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0143130722
ISBN-13: 978-0143130727
Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 7.4 inches

100 Word Book Review

Ikigai a Japanese word describing the art of doing something, where work becomes not work anymore but a way of life. It is the sweet intersection point between passion, mission, vocation, and profession, imbue into daily life. Work becomes second to breathing, an uninterrupted flow in the process of working, immersed and focused. It is an enjoyable journey to see one’s creation comes to fruition. With cited interviews of seniors living past a century, they remain active and work at what they enjoy. It is clear that they’ve found a real purpose in life, living and working every waking moment.

Who Should Read

Those who are stuck in life, procrastinating of things that needs to be done and have not done so in days, weeks or even months. Likewise, those who do work diligently and would like to further understand the mentality of people who worked hard. This new perspective helps them to regain new perspectives which may be helpful in their future endeavors.

Who Should Not Read

Perhaps scientists and research who are seeking quantifiable results and solutions for comparisons between different individuals. This book provides insights and perspectives, not quite numbers and facts for cold hard comparisons.

Takeaway point

Work can be dull and interesting at the same time, it is perspectives and attitude that will help in a more enjoyable working experience.

The Politics Book – DK Publishing

The Politics Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained)

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Series: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Originally published
: 18th Feb 2013
Original Title: The Politics Book
Author: Sam Atkinson ( Senior Editor)Rebecca Warren (US Senior Editor)Kate Johnsen (US Editor)
Page count: 352pages (Hardcover)
Publisher: DK (February 18, 2013)
Genre: Politics
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1465-402-144
ISBN-13: 978-146-540-2141
Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches

100 Word Book Review:

An excellent summary of political ideas that have evolved over aeons ago. It beautifully illustrated shadow-like cartoons, succinct quotations, and accessible text that break down even the most difficult concepts so they are easier to grasp. No doubt it has a textbook feel which absolutely aids beginners to gather information. Arranged in a chronological order, it details the birth, development and evolvement of different ideologies. At the same time discussing different perspectives and possibilities. Towards the end, it has a summary page of Terrorism too. A simple, clear, concise yet detailed book for all who are keen in political science.

Fridays with Philip

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Originally published: Aug 2008
Original Title: Fridays with Philip
Author: Philip Lee
Page count: 196 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Epigram Books
Subjects: Political Science, History, Weekly column
Language: English
ISBN-10: 981-08-1128-4
ISBN-13: 978-9810811280
Product Dimensions: 133 x 203mm

100 Word Book Review:

A compilation of weekly column by Philip on Streats during 2000 to 2005. The writings are arranged by subject matter namely, Language, People, Nostalgia, Anecdotes. It compromises largely on local (Singapore) trends and Philip’s observation and thoughts, such as the Speak Good English campaign, American Idol’s William Hung and dignity, why Singapore women go for ang mohs (non-Asians), our youth, local’s perception of foreign workers and etc. The content is very much close to heart, expressed in a sharp witty manner, much from local’s perspectives. It is a great book for short reading and reminisces Singapore in the 2000s.

About the Author:
Philip Lee has been a journalist since 1974 when he left the civil service to join The Straits Times as a reporter. He spent the first seven years covering politics, the civil service and reviewed local plays. He rose over the years to become Associate News Editor, News Editor (The Sunday Times) and Chief Copy Editor of The Straits Times.

In 1990, he left for a new life in Vancouver, Canada but returned in 2000 to work again as Copy Editor with The Straits Times. He also had stints as a copy editor with the tabloids, Streats, and The New Paper. He works as a writer with the Special Projects Unit in the Marketing Division of Singapore Press Holdings. He cooks, enjoys The New York Times crossword puzzles and sings the oldies when in the company of songloving friends.