Category Archives: History

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.

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.

The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew

 The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew

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Originally published: 12 September 2012
Original Title: The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
Authors: Lee Kuan Yew
Page count: 680 pages (Hardcopy)
Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1st edition (October 14, 1998)
Subjects: AutoBiography, Political Science, History
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0130208035
ISBN-13: 978-0130208033
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 2 inches

100 Word Book Review:

A factual and concise book documenting Singapore’s history from Lee Kuan Yew’s perspective, illustrating his challenges, frustrations as well as personal observations of people and events. From a brief background of his childhood through the colonial days, the Japanese Occupation, then the post war and internal self-government, then finally the merger with Malaysia and subsequent Singapore’s Separation from Malaysia. Each chapter details the dangers and opportunities, the hardship that Lee Kuan Yew and his team faced internally and externally. It brings clarity to historical events during the forming years, documenting Singapore’s arrival in the global village of nations.

SINGAPORE CHRONICLES: GOVERNANCE

Singapore Chronicles : Governance

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Originally published: 21 December 2016
Authors: Ho, Peter / Shroff, Anuradha / Tan, Codey / See, Hazel / Leong, Lena
Page count: 136
Publisher: Straits Times Press
Country: Singapore
Subjects: Political Science
ISBN: 978-981-4747-19-6
Size: 129 mm x 196 mm (portrait)
Estimated weight: 175 grams

100 Word Book Review:

This is a 50 volume series documenting the challenges that Singapore faced after Independence, shaped by its leaders’ long-term vision. The main key aspects of Singapore’s governance – incorruptibility, pragmatism and meritocracy. It also elaborates the roles played by institutions, strategies and policies in place to counter check any deviations. While Singapore has inherited part of the British System, it poses pragmatic problems too. There is a need to depart from welfarism because it saps people’s self-reliance and the need to excel and succeed. A good concise reference book for understanding the basis of Singapore’s public policy and principles of governance.

The Authors

Mr Peter Ho was Head of Singapore’s civil service, concurrent with his other appointments as Permanent Secretary (Foreign Affairs), Permanent Secretary (National Security and Intelligence Coordination), and Permanent Secretary (Special Duties) in the Prime Minister’s Office. Before that, he was Permanent Secretary (Defence). He is now the Senior Advisor to the Centre for Strategic Futures, where he continues to pursue his interests in good governance and strategic foresight. He is also Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore, and a Senior Fellow in the Civil Service College Singapore.

Ms Anuradha Shroff is a Lead Researcher in the Institute of Governance and Policy in the Civil Service College (CSC) Singapore. She is also a facilitator and trainer for the CSC’s leadership and public policy programmes. Her current research focus is on the relevance and application of complexity theories to public policy and leadership. She was previously a lead strategist and facilitator with the Strategic Policy Office, Public Service Division.

Mr Codey Tan is an Assistant Manager in the Institute of Public Sector Leadership in the Civil Service College (CSC) Singapore. He is also a facilitator for the CSC’s public policy programmes. His research interest lies in public sector governance and the application of complexity theories to public policy. He was previously with the Centre for Public Economics, CSC.

Ms Hazel See is a Senior Manager in the Strategic Planning and Development unit in the Civil Service College (CSC) Singapore. Besides writing thought articles and case studies, she has led training consultancy projects for public sector organisations and regularly facilitates leadership and policy milestone training programmes. Her research interests include public-sector governance, policy and service management. She has been with the CSC since 2010 and was previously with the Ministry of Education.

Ms Lena Leong is a Deputy Director and Principal Learning and Development Specialist in the Civil Service College International in the Civil Service College (CSC) Singapore. She has facilitated Public Administration and Reform programmes for international participants. Her research interests are in public administration and management, organisation change and leadership. She was previously with the Institute of Leadership and Organisation Development and the Centre for Governance and Leadership, CSC.

Last Of The Few – Max Arthur

Last Of The Few - Max Arthur
Last Of The Few – MAx Arthur

After the fall of France in May 1940, the British Expeditionary Force was miraculously evacuated from Dunkirk. Britain now stood alone to face Hitler’s inevitable invasion attempt. For the German army to land across the channel, Hitler needed mastery of the skies—the Royal Air Force would have to be broken. So every day throughout the summer, German bombers pounded the RAF air bases in the southern counties. Greatly outnumbered by the Luftwaffe, the pilots of RAF Fighter Command scrambled as many as five times a day, and civilians watched skies crisscrossed with the contrails from the constant dogfights between Spitfires and Me–109s. Britain’s very freedom depended on the outcome of that summer’s battle: Its air defenses were badly battered and nearly broken, but against all odds, “The Few,” as they came to be known, bought Britain’s freedom–many with their lives. More than a fifth of the British and Allied pilots died during the Battle of Britain. These are the personal accounts of the pilots who fought and survived that battle. Their stories are as riveting, as vivid, and as poignant as they were seventy years ago. We will not see their like again.

 

 

“This is highly recommended for guys who are serving NS in Air Force, or striving to be pilots.” 

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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Jared Diamond
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
Life isn’t fair–here’s why: Since 1500, Europeans have, for better & worse, called the tune that the world has danced to. In Guns, Germs & Steel, Jared Diamond explains the reasons why things worked out that way. It’s an elemental question. Diamond is certainly not the 1st to ask it. However, he performs a singular service by relying on scientific fact rather than specious theories of European genetic superiority. Diamond, a UCLA physiologist, suggests that the geography of Eurasia was best suited to farming, the domestication of animals & the free flow of information. The more populous cultures that developed as a result had more complex forms of government & communication, & increased resistance to disease. Finally, fragmented Europe harnessed the power of competitive innovation in ways that China didn’t. (For example, the Europeans used the Chinese invention of gunpowder to create guns & subjugate the New World.) Diamond’s book is complex & a bit overwhelming. But the thesis he methodically puts forth–examining the “positive feedback loop” of farming, then domestication, then population density, then innovation etc.–makes sense. Written without bias, Guns, Germs & Steel is good global history.

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