How funny is this staged photo of me reading How to Create a Mind? I look so studious! My book goal for 2014 was to read and complete twenty-four books; a minimum of around two books per month. For someone that works a lot and enjoys being relatively social, this was an incredibly ambitious task! But guess what- I did it and I'm super proud of myself. When I was in grade school, I always found reading to be much more challenging, than my other subjects, so, like most Asian-American kids, my parents put me in Kumon to improve my reading comprehension skills. I realized soon after that I enjoyed writing and I really wanted to write about my stories, my dreams and my ambitions, and in order to do that, I had to read- I had to read a lot. One of my mentors once told me, "Smart people read. Successful people read. Billionaire's read. They read a lot. They spend a large part of their day reading.". So then it hit me- if I ever wanted to be get close to his B-status, I needed to make sure that I read.
I love story-telling (if you can't tell) and I love reading beautifully written pages that make me pause and think about what just happened. I've read some pretty incredible books this past year; whether they were for fun, for work, or for bed time stories- they have all inspired me in some way and offered me an experience that I didn't previously have. Here is my list from 2014. If you have any comments or suggestions for 2015, please reach out! Would love to hear from you.
Ray Kurzweil is brilliant; if you are the slightest bit interested in the future of AI or learning about the brain- this book is for you! He suggests that the brain contains a hierarchy of pattern recognizers (PRTM) that is shown through a series of experiments. Many people believe that we will never be able to understand the full functionality of the brain because of its complexity, but Kurzweil takes a high-level approach of looking at how these patterns interconnect. Kurzweil believes that we will have intelligence in fifteen years that surpasses the capabilities of the human mind. The Circle was my summer novel that I wrote about here; tech company rises to fame, only to discover that it's not really what they think. The Innovators is a book for anyone interested in knowing the history of technology and how it all happened, by the people that created it. It's a story following the minds of some of our worlds most creative and "innovative" people. I've always been a big Malcolm Gladwell fan- he breaks the mold and challenges what we believe and how we believe it. In David and Goliath, Gladwell again challenges us about how we think about challenges, obstacles and disadvantages; he discusses what it means to have the short end of the stick.
Ben Horowitz is one of my favorite VCs and I've always enjoyed his sharp, but witty humor in his blog; his book is incredible- anyone that is an entrepreneur or investor needs to read it. Consumption Economics was a book that I read for work that explained where technology was and where it is now. In 2008, three things happened that changed technology forever 1) the global economy tanked 2) cloud-computing got hot 3) the iPhone came out. Previously, billion-dollar product franchises were things like: Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, Oracle database, HP Printers and VMware virtualization software and for years, companies bought complex and sophisticated hardware, software, networks and services. Now, hardware companies are jumping to SaaS and the idea of the utility model, the by design, pay-for-consumption, and you pay for only what you use, became the "it" thing. Innovative State's Aneesh Chopra was named the first Chief Technology Officer under the Obama administration. It's a great read about adopting a new paradigm shift in government in an era that is amplified and controlled by technology. B4B was another book that I read for work that discussed how our world is changing, and more specifically, why the cloud is changing our world. I highly recommend them both for anyone working in technology, the cloud, or B2B businesses for that matter. B4B, like Consumption Economics, walks you through the history of Corporate America for the past 100+ years and gives you concrete examples of why it is now time to change the way you do business.
These books were all centered around decisions we make, the journeys in which we are then apart of and how those choices effect our lives and the lives of those around us. The Paradox of Choice was a book that I referenced here. Cosmicomics was a book that I grabbed for my best friend who left on a new journey in New Zealand for her job. I decided that I must read it myself and found it to be a wonderful tale that was both inspiring and whimsical. The Examined Life is a series of stories about the way people deal with emotional and psychological difficulties. I seem to always ask the question of "why" and this book has helped me to stop asking that question. How We Decide is a book that a friend recommended I read. Lehrer gives us a series of real-life experiences from different people that are forced to make decisions in their every day lives. The book takes a look at the neurological ways we choose to make decisions in life- the feeling and reason versus the emotional and rational.
My favorite thing to read are short stories and essays and I don't think I could have picked a better bunch with my selection for this past year. Truman Capote is timeless, elegant and one of the masters at short stories. My favorite story was "Master Misery", which was about a mysterious man in New York City, who buys people's dreams and a girl who gets addicted to dream-selling. The Boat offered me something that was unexpected; Nam Le is a relatively new and young writer, but writes with such lyrical elegance that you would never assume that he is anything other than seasoned. The Boat features stories all around the world that reminds you what it means to be a human being. David Sedaris needs no introduction; he's been a favorite for years and his recent book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, does not disappoint. I travel a lot, so I've really enjoyed packing this in my carry-on and reading a story before bedtime- usually with a friend on the line. Funny enough, Sedaris grew up in Raleigh and is pretty much a local celebrity in my parents neck of the woods. It's been a few years since David Foster Wallace- the brilliant witty contemporary writer that adores footnotes- left this life, yet his work still and will always remain some of my favorites. Consider The Lobster was published in 2007 and I just got around to read it. You will find stories on Dostoyevsky, stories on Kafka's humor, and my favorite, which is the title of the book, Consider The Lobster, which you can read here.
This was my selection for books set in different countries; I'm an avid traveler and love to experience cultures that are far different from my own. "Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself. You can only stand outside it, as a woman might stand outside a prison in which her lover is locked up. From time to time, a well-loved face will peer out and love floods back. A scrap of cloth flutters and it becomes a sign and a code and a message and all that you want it to be. Then it vanishes and you are outside the dark tower again."- Em and The Big Hoom. Mountains Beyond Mountains is written by Pulitzer Price novelist, Tracy Kidder, and shows us how it only takes one person to make a difference in the world; the story is emotional as you're taken on a journey fighting tuberculosis in Haiti, Peru and Russia. Monkfish Moon is a set of haunting, sad, and spectacular short stories by a Sri Lankan author, Romesh Gunesekera, around the idea of home and belonging. Beautiful Ruins is the ultimate vacation novel; light-hearted, funny and features a monumental crazy love- obviously the best kind.
Henry Miller is probably the sexiest author of all time; I referenced this novel over the summer here and I absolutely adore his writing. Man's Search for Meaning is a very emotional book that discusses the authors experience as an Auschwitz inmate during WWII. He discusses his psychotherapeutic method, in which he identified a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagined that outcome as a reality to stay alive. Part one of the book is an analysis by the author of his experience in concentration camps and part two introduces his theory called logotheorapy. I always get choked up reading books about WWI and WWII and the reality of mans inhumanity towards man; it's astonishing that human right violations, like rape, torture and concentration camps, still exist in todays world. We have made massive progression in so many areas, but we are also still so fundamentally flawed in others. Hinduism is a beautiful religion that I also discussed here, alongside Miller's Tropic of Cancer. In this book, Doniger discusses over 3,500 years of Hinduism history and some of the raised issues surrounding their religion in a series of essays. The Book of Tea is light read that I really enjoyed, since I am a tea enthusiast; you can learn all about the transformation of tea- I've also discussed it here.