Hello friend! Long time no see. I need to figure out a way to write and check in on here more frequently – apologies! I’d like to say I’ve been busy killing it with some other cool projects but honestly, I was just knee-deep into work and life errands that time flew by me, again.
Anyway, enough justification, today I want to talk about books! Specifically, what I’ve been reading since I made the best purchase of 2020, Kindle!
I was surprised to learn that I managed to finish 9 books (!!) in the past month and a half, my personal record in voluntary reading – practically ever, so I’m very proud of myself! Hehe.
Before I go on to share what I read, two things I’d say has worked for me if you are looking to incorporate reading into your day-to-day:
? To treat it as I would with a TV show
I was always dreading the commitment when I choose a book and feel the need to finish it no matter what. Which in turn, just makes me not want to read at ALL. But I learned that it’s ok to be picky and read what you feel like when you feel like it, even if that means you’re flipping around a few books, just like how you might do with Netflix.
? Stack your reading habit
Adding reading to your existing routine or time of day, whether that is your commute to work or morning routine. I prefer to dedicate an hour every night to read before bed, as a way to switch off the world and unwind, this works better for me than on commutes where I feel rushed against the ride time, but find what that routine is for you.
Alright, enough of that, let’s jump into the books ~
For when I want to learn and feel inspired.
I’ve been really into work, productivity, and self-help kind of content lately, so these books were right up my alley.
As an early manager (on my first real job out of college), this book has given me tremendous insights and pointers of what it really means to be a GOOD manager. It’s based on the author, Julie’s experience when she was first made manager at Facebook, and how she realized that her expectations and assumptions of what managers do are very different than what needs to be done. In reality, a large chunk of her role is to build a team and support their growth and pioneer their success, rather than having 1000 meetings to solve big problems. She said: “Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.” something that I now try to keep in mind.
In the book, she also offers practical advice, for example, what to do and what NOT to do when a new person joins, or when you are now made a manager to a previously peer colleague, or how to run an effective 1-on-1 so all-around super useful for anyone in their early career (@me).
I can’t say I’ve mastered anything she taught me (if my intern is reading this, Hi), but it sure gave me enough ideas on what a good manager should be doing and focusing on. Also, if you are 5, 10, 20 years into your career and have been managing many people and teams, these stuff she talks about might be common knowledge, but I think you’d be surprised just how common it is to oversee these even when you’ve got years of experience under your belt.
As a somewhat of a reading noob, I trust and rely on other people’s recommendations as a way in. And this book recommendation came from multiple sources, including a very inspiring coach I met recently, I knew I had to read it for myself. And I LOVE IT.
Though this is technically a self-help book, it’s super easy to read and is very much a story based on Liz’s experience as a creative writer. She’s the writer of Eat, Pray, Love, by the way, though I thought the two books were quite different.
Big Magic highlights the obstacles and fear that often stop us from pursuing our creative interest and creative life – regardless of what that creative thing is to you.
A few takeaways from Big Magic are:
?Inspiration comes and goes and floats around until it is received and taken on fully. I like how she talks about this creative force as something out of us, that sometimes strikes in and pushes us to develop such grand work. Not to confuse this as a permission to slack off until something hits, but it sort of takes off the pressure of the individual to be the genius.
? Creative living can mean practically anything, beyond the typical starving artist stereotype. It can be as simple as wanting to plant a garden in your backyard just because you want to, and oftentimes, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as quitting your job to pursue this one thing either. It can, and is, a lot simpler than that for most of us.
?Chasing curiosity > passion. She debunks and discusses how passion can be limited to just one. Where in reality, we could have many things that we are interested in, and we should free ourselves to at least TRY them. Not to be the best at it or anything, just out of curiosity. Try to open the door and let ideas hit you.
Overall an interesting and new perspective of goal-reaching for me, and I smashed this entire book in just two days.
A classic, of course, is Atomic Habits. This is one of the first books I read recently and it is just a non-BS way that explains how habits work and what you should do if you want to build positive habits. Practical, useful, and enjoyable read all around. Here are the two parts that I found most useful:
?If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.
My fav self-growth YouTuber, Rowena, did a whole video to explain this further, here, but essentially it talks about how building a good system – series of habits and behaviors – set you up for success more than setting goals alone do.
?The Four Laws of Behavior Change are a simple set of rules we can use to build better habits, whatever they are.
They are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying. Practically any habit can be learned or unlearn following these four laws.
This book took MY breath away, and I loved it so much.
It’s an autobiography of a neurosurgeon named Paul Kalanithi, who found out he has lung cancer and now has a finite day to live left. A simple premise, but what a story this is.
From reading this book, you not only get how passionate and driven he is as a surgeon, being the first thing he still wants to do after his diagnosis, but also how wise and incredibly kind and motivated he is as a person. I’ve not read anything like this, where someone takes a fatal diagnostic in such a calm and controlled way and speaks about their experience throughout the journey in a matter of fact yet candid way.
This book will make you cry, but also smile.
It will also make you ponder about life, what you’d do in his position if you also know you also only have a short time to live left. To make you think what is important to YOU in YOUR life at this very moment. Such good questions, and such a good read.
For when I just want to read to get lost in a story.
Very different from the above, these books are so fun to read when I don’t feel like thinking but want to get sucked into another life.
If you love drama as much as I do (sorry not sorry), you need to get on this.
The premise is simple, an aged Hollywood glamour actress, named Evelyn Hugo goes on a walk down the memory lane, spilling everything about her life journey to a young journalist named Monique Grant.
HOWEVER, I had NO idea that this book would be as relatable, gut-wrenching, heartwarming, and full of twists as it does. Evelyn’s life, even though she’s a bombshell super famous actress, has a lot of humanity and a sense of familiarity that will make you feel all the feels while reading.
And of course, the tea was piping HOT in this book. So many things happened, so much drama!!
I also smashed through this one in two days and I’d read this book again in a heartbeat.
On a related note, Everything I Know About Love is also filled with feels, though this time is based on the author’s real-life experience navigating dating and relationships – all kinds of them.
Initially, I was kind of ehh on this book since it starts off portraying her as sort of an ‘I do what I want character’. But soon after – I realized just how much her struggles and experiences match mine. And it made me feel so understood, as she explains her thinking and feeling in ways I’ve not been able to.
It’s a raw, honest, and funny memoir about growing up and taking on whatever punches life throws at us, something that I feel most of us can understand no matter how old you are or what your relationship status is.
Another fun fiction on the list, Little Fires Everywhere is a book about two very different families, whose kids bring their lives together in this cookie-cutter town. There’s a bit of everything here: relationships, family, friendships, and also mystery waiting to unfold. So fun!
Also, I found out after reading that this is a show on Hulu with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, so the show might be worth checking out too!
Love Boat, Taipei is sort of the definition of teen romance book, cheesy, easy to read, and somehow kind of fun.
The interesting touch that stood it apart from the rest, is on how it highlights Asian Born Chinese experiences as the main character visits and If you’re into teen romance like To All the Boys I Love Before kind, you’d enjoy this book.
Oh and fun fact, the author, Abigail Hing Wen, is actually very well known in Silicon Valley for her expertise in AI and VC – she’s got such a cool background.
Last one on the list, Normal People. Also a recommendation with a premise about romance and dating, I was immediately sold.
HOWEVER, I will be honest and say that this book did not quite do it for me. I finished it and decently had fun but I felt like it was too …. ironically, dramatized. Not sure if it’s an age thing but I felt like there were so many problems between the characters that could just be solved pretty easily if they know how to communicate? But also I appreciate how it portrays people as complex beings with a lot of insecurities and doubts and fears, which is a lot more realistic than usual.
I’ve heard the show version is better than the book? So maybe I should also give that a chance. But the book unfortunately just fell short somehow.
In the interest of transparency, I will also admit that I’ve started and abandoned a good amount of books as well. Some I just didn’t care enough to continue, some were pushed down because I started another and more interesting book, some I just did not personally like even though they came recommended:
- Elon Musk’s Biography
- Power of Habit
- Start with Why
- The Lean Startup
- Outwitting the Devil
- Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime
And in case you are wondering, I’m currently reading Good to Great, with a couple more fiction books that are in my queue.
Got any recs for me? Please please share them with me below, I’d love to hear what books got your eyes peeled to the pages too!