Books I Read in 2021
10 Non-Fiction and 8 Fiction Recommendations
I love books and prioritize reading (or listening to audiobooks). I attached my recommendation for non-fiction and a few notes along with the list. The recommendation should be viewed as a mix of the book's quality and my personal preference. 
- How to Live: 27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion by Derek Sivers
- Great Thinkers: Simple tools from sixty great thinkers to improve your life today by The School of Life
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson
- The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? by Michael Sandel
- Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
- The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
- The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch
- 玩心設計: 改變千萬人的美好體驗，工作和生活的設計都該如此有趣！ by 陳威帆
- The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard W. Hamming
- Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
- Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman
- Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
- Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time by J. Edward Russo
- Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle
- The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
- Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson by Walter Isaacson, Jeff Bezos
- Playing to Win by Michael Lewis (only available on Audible)
- 流浪地球 by 劉慈欣 (The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu)
- 天橋上的魔術師 by 吳明益
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- 老派約會之必要 by 李維菁
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (莫斯科紳士 by 亞莫爾．托歐斯)
- 生活是甜蜜 by 李維菁
- 尋琴者 by 郭強生
Disclaimer: I didn’t finish all the non-fiction books. I usually stop reading a non-fiction book once I get bored or I think I get the main ideas.
Five Recommendation Non-fiction
How to Live: 27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion by Derek Sivers
This book is consists of 27 condensed ideas on how to live. Some of the ideas are conflicted with each other, from Be Independent to Intertwine with the world, from Think super-long-term to Do whatever you want now. The book is like a little cheat sheet whenever I want to switch perspective towards things or, more generally, life.
When reading this book, I think about those ancient philosophy books that people still read now. If there’s a book that will have influence that might last for long, I might pick this book.
Great Thinkers: Simple tools from sixty great thinkers to improve your life today by The School of Life
Concise summaries of many thinkers and their thoughts. This book gives me a comprehensive introduction to philosophy, political theory, and art history.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson
Summary of how Naval Ravikant thinks about Wealth and Happiness. I like Naval’s philosophy, and this book can be served as a shortcut to review his thought.
The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? by Michael Sandel
Michael Sandel, the author of Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do, addressed the arrogance generated by meritocracy among the winners and the denigration it imposes on those excluded. As Preet Bharara commented about the book, “Michael Sandel digs at the roots of our divisions, dissects the causes of inequality, and dismantles the lazy orthodoxy of those on the left and the right”.
For me, it was a really pleasant experience to see this philosopher criticize the prevailing merit-based attitudes toward success, from both left and right wings, that have accompanied globalization and rising inequality.
One of the most interesting alternative ways he offered to think about success is to be more attentive to the role of luck in our lives. For example, NBA basketball stars can earn tons of money nowadays. However, their talent can pay off because they are lucky to live in a society that actually values and rewards them. Imagine if they live in Renaissance Florence, when fresco painters, not basketball players, were in high demand.
Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse
This philosophical book by the religion scholar describes a framework to view the world. There are two kinds of games: finite games played to win, and infinite games played to keep the game going. There is some interesting difference between the two. Infinite games are
- internally defined (opposed to externally defined)
- changing rules to continue (opposed to constant rules to win)
- dramatically chooses to be the player (opposed to theatrically takes the role of the player)
- educated to prepare for surprises (opposed to trained to prepare against surprises)
- paradoxical (opposed to contradictory)
- given names at the beginning that open to the future (opposed to given titles at the end that concludes the past)
- strength (opposed to power)
- complete openness (opposed to hide and pretend)
This book gives me a framework in life to inspect what to work on and who to be with.
Five more Non-fiction
The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy
Super interesting book about love and sex, widely known as the “Poly Bible”. A lot of good quotes from this.
- Sluts are like philanthropists. They have too much love that they have to share.
- Clean love is to love without attachment. Love just for the joy of it, regardless of what we might get back.
- Sometimes there’s great pain, but there’s no villain.
- It is no way wrong to feel what we feel, to want what we want; only action can be a crime. Emotions are never wrong; only action can be wrong. Emotion is an expression of our emotional truth, and truth can not be wrong, nor they need to be justified. They just need to be felt.
- Flirting should be the end of itself, not the means of an end. Practice flirting for fun, not for any goal of getting laid. Focus on getting good connections.
- Do we commit to monogamy or commit to a person?
The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch
This is a not-easy-to-read book based on a strong argument: “All progress, both theoretical and practical, has resulted from a single human activity: the quest for good explanations”. A good explanation is defined as an explanation that is hard to vary while still accounting for what it purports to account for.
玩心設計: 改變千萬人的美好體驗，工作和生活的設計都該如此有趣！ by 陳威帆
This book is a systematic analysis of playfulness in design (or playable design) and how to create a play space of everyday things. The author talked about the thought process and the principle behind the creation of Walkr, Plant Nanny, Fortune City by his studio Fourdesire.
The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard W. Hamming
Although it seems to be a book for people in scientific research, I think it can be useful beyond that. Some interesting statements in the book include:
- The ones you want aren’t always the best ones for you. For example, an ideal working condition. People are often most productive when working conditions are bad.
- Scientists should spend the same time selling their work as doing their research. I think this can also be applied to writing articles and books.
- Why do so few scientists make significant contributions and so many are forgotten in the long run?
- Not working on important problems
- Not trying to change what is difficult to some can be easily done
- Not having courage
- Not balancing the ambiguity
- Not selling their work
- Not open the door
- Almost 90% of the scientists who ever lived are now alive. This can be proved by solving the Exponential Growth Model equation y(t) = ae^(bt) where y(t) is the number of scientists at any time t and assuming the average scientist can live up to 55 years old.
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal
This is a book talking about managing distraction. Some interesting points include:
- All human behavior is only driven by the desire to escape discomfort.
- The opposite of distraction is not focus but traction. You are only distracted when you are going to follow something on your calendar but fail.
- You are distracted not by external, but by internal factors, such as boredom, fear, burning out, anger.
- Todo list is horrible. What you need is to put things on your calendar.
-  This is what Nassim Nicholas Taleb called Wittgenstein’s ruler. If you use a ruler to measure a table, you may also be using the table to measure the ruler. The less you trust the ruler‘s reliability, the more information you are getting about the ruler and the less about the table.
Likewise, a book review can be more descriptive of the reviewer than informational about the book itself.