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Tiny Book Reviews - Jan, Feb, Mar 2023

This blog is a series of brief reviews and summaries of books I read every month. This platform provides me with an opportunity to write what I have read. It gives me a chance to give something back to the writer - in the form of reviews.

If you are coming to this series for the first time, please click below for more blogs:

I got a chance to read 15 books in the first 3 months of 2023. While I keep a tab on how many books I read, I don't chase a number. I try to read as much as I can. I try to follow a topic and try to learn more about that.

In the last 3 months, I got a chance to read about personal development, international politics, general knowledge, artificial intelligence, and global scandals.

So below are the books I read. Please click on the "Get a copy" links, so that you can get the Amazon URL from where you can purchase the book.

Hope the reviews help you decide which books to read.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

The One Thing is a book about focusing and prioritizing. The book argues that you can be successful in life (professional, personal, or spiritual) if you focus on doing just one thing. The book covers the following key points.

  1. The lies or myths we tell ourselves

    1. Everything is important,

    2. multi-tasking is good,

    3. discipline is overrated (this is a little controversial),

    4. Willpower is everything,

    5. there is something called work-life balance (this one is a shocker),

    6. Big is bad - The book goes into each of these myths in detail and tries to prove, why these are inhibiting you to be a successful person.

  2. The importance of focusing on only one task, timeboxing your activities, and doing the most important thing in the morning (Do the one thing, first thing in the morning!)

  3. How to form good habits and how these can help you focus.

  4. Importance of dreaming big in life (and also working towards that)

  5. The role purpose plays in life (Ikigai)

  6. How to live a long, happy, and meaningful life. Living life without regrets.

According to me, the book is basically a combination of multiple pieces of advice we have received from our parents, and teachers and multiple other similar books like Ikigai, 7 Habits of highly effective people, and Think and Grow Rich.

Overall a good and simple book for someone who wants to start reading personal help books.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This is a fascinating book. The book discusses the fundamentals of human survival, evolution (in modern times), and prosperity. The book covers the following broad topics:

  1. What is energy and why is it the currency of the universe - esp the human world?

  2. Our dependence on fossil fuels and why we cannot move to another energy source for a long long time.

  3. The 4 pillars of human society and their importance - Ammonia, Concrete, Steel, and plastic

  4. Carbon Emissions, their impact on the earth, and why we will not be able to decarbonize the world due to our heavy dependence on fossil fuels.

The book is simple and easy to understand. It provides a different perspective on the way we see the world. The writer is very passionate about driving his points. Will definitely read his other books.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This is a story of an intelligent and charismatic person from Karachi - Pakistan, who duped the world's richest and the smartest over a period of 10-15 years.

This is a compelling story of how an extremely compelling story can help you get billions of dollars from the most powerful and intelligent people on the planet.

The key accused raises billions of dollars from investors in the name of impact investing - profitable investments in poor and underdeveloped economies.

The money raised is used for personal benefits and lavish lifestyles - while straying away from the main theme. Due to scams like these, investors are wary of investing in impact areas and social sectors.

Please note that the allegations laid down in this book by the authors are still denied by a lot of parties involved. There are a few sentences handed out by the courts and the key accused is on house arrest in the UK with a 15 million Pound bail.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Greed is an extremely powerful tool to screw the human mind. We all know that. However, a lot of the upper 0.1% strives mainly on this emotion.

This book is a detailed account of 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. Around US$ 4bn was raised for the 1MDB fund which was formed to bring development and uplift poverty in Malaysia. The funds were used to support a lavish lifestyle, US$ 10-30 Mn parties, purchasing jewelry, paintings, yachts, and luxury residences.

The money embezzlement happened through complicated financial engineering of offshore companies, dummy entities, and support from people of power. Even leaders of Goldman Sachs participated in the transaction.

So greed was the main driving force behind this saga.

This is a good book to understand how the world of corrupt rich and powerful works.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This is a fascinating book on the future of humanity, artificial intelligence, and other fundamental topics like consciousness, intelligence, goal orientation, etc.

The ideas discussed in the book are:

  1. Is it possible to create a super AI? What would require to make such an AI?

  2. The control question - will the superAI start controlling us once it becomes too powerful?

  3. What are the types of AI we can imagine or may create in the future?

  4. What are the likely scenarios in terms of humanity's future? killed, enslaved, zoo animals, cyborgs, brain upload, parents, Orwellian, etc.

  5. If we build a friendly AI, how do we align their goals with ours?

  6. Deeper questions - what are our goals, feelings, and consciousness - do we fully understand these? If not, how can an AI understand these and serve us fully?

  7. Various uses of AIs - weapons, healthcare, education, welfare, information - what should we pursue?

  8. The physics and limitations of the physical laws in the development of AI

  9. The future of work and approximate timelines

This is a fascinating book. It starts with an imaginary scenario where how AI is built from scratch and frees itself. However, towards the end, the book delves into the deeper questions on consciousness, feelings, and emotions.

A must-read book to get an idea of what our future may look like.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

The Panama Papers were leaked by an insider (possibly) from a Panama-based law firm - Mossack Fonseca. The leak was one of the largest in 2016 - at 2.6TB of data - this was even larger than Wikileaks.

The leak provided details on more than 2,14,000 offshore entities and people involved in these entities spanning over 200 countries.

This book is a behind the scene story of how the data was sent to the authors in Germany. It also covers how global investigative journalists worked tirelessly for months to understand the data and make shocking revelations against some of the biggest people in the world.

This book is an unfortunate reminder of how rich and powerful make and save money in the world. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the world of offshore financing and money laundering.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

Asking questions is a powerful way of understanding the world and growing in life. This book provides us with techniques and types of questions we should ask in our everyday lives.

Honestly, I could not complete the book and skimmed after 50%. I found the book to be very obvious, theorizing a very common sensical phenomenon, and repetitive.

You can listen to the audiobook for an overall understanding of the importance of asking questions.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle)

This is a very interesting book about the struggles of IIT and IIM graduates. While the book says that, "Gems from the lives of ordinary people", students who make it into IITs and IIMs are not ordinary people. I am not talking about intellectual powers, but family standing. Generally, the students who make it into these top institutions are not from ordinary families. But that is not the point.

This book is written in a crowdsourced manner. Each chapter is written by the storyteller. They talk about their life, struggles, turning points, advisors, etc.

A good inspirational book for students and anyone who is looking for inspiration from outside.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

World-renowned physicist and futurist Michio Kaku take us through all the possibilities of how humans will evolve in the future.

This is an extremely entertaining and informative book. The book explores all the possibilities on how, when, and why humankind will start colonizing the universe.

The book explores topics like artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and biotechnology and their impact on future colonization.

The book also lays down all the likely scenarios and how they may play out.

Very intriguing and impactful book. We may not be alive to see what would happen. But you never know - what if we are able to upload our brains to the mainframe - which survives the next 100,000 years?

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This book was written in 2014 with the future in mind. The book explores the use of technology, behavior, the evolution of organizations, and the role of humans in the workplace.

The lot of concepts given in the book are mostly outdated, and anyone working for a long can relate to them.

Read for academic purposes only. Nothing new - others can skip.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

I did not complete this book. It is a very long book. I was listening in Audible.

This is a very detailed account of Deng Xiaoping. The book talks about his life story, struggles, political scenario in China, and how he helped create a modern China.

A good book for political studies and foreign affairs students. I will try reading this book later in a few years.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This is a well-researched and interesting book. The purpose of the book is not to demean capitalism (and promote other systems). The purpose is to identify the major flaws in the assumptions related to capitalism. And how to better the system for everyone's benefit.

The major themes of the books are as follows:

  1. The fundamental flow in the system is that it assumes that everyone is equally smart.

  2. Since everyone is equally smart, if left to function on its own, the system will reach an optimum equilibrium.

  3. However, this does not happen. Since not everyone is equally intelligent and resourceful, there are few who will game the system - for their advantage.

  4. Liberalization does not always work and actually harms developing and underdeveloped countries.

  5. The so-called proponents of liberalization and free trade - the developed countries - were highly closed economies. Liberalisation now helps them more than anyone.

  6. The government has to control the system so that uneven distribution of wealth does not happen. Government control also has its disadvantages.

  7. Poor countries have more entrepreneurs than rich countries.

  8. Poor countries have higher productivity than rich countries.

  9. and more such questions.

A very good book. Written in an easy-to-understand manner. You don't have to be an economist to understand the book.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

In this direct book, retired Air Force Brigadier General Robert Spalding tries to prove how China is trying to rule the world. It is doing this by silently changing policies in its favor. According to the author, how is this done?

  1. Signing multibillion-dollar deals with key US decision-makers - Possible investment route

  2. Incentivizing US experts to bring global investment funds to China

  3. Coercing ethnic Chinese living in the US to divulge important secrets

  4. By maintaining uneven trade practices with the US

The author urges US government officials and experts to wake up to the real threat. Else the US will lose its superpower status in the near future!

Writing style-wise, the book is easy to understand and provides good insight. the opinions of the author may be controversial at times. However, it's an OK book to get a different perspective on the entire US-China relationship. If you want some hard-hitting China-basing, then read it.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle, Audiobook)

This is a little complicated book to understand. The concepts presented in this book require good knowledge of the economy and financial markets.

The book analyses the 2007-08 collapse of the US financial markets and its aftermath. With new evidence, the authors argue that the crisis was due to the belief of all parties involved in the unprecedented growth before the crisis.

Even after so many experts were involved - and markets were in near equilibrium - it failed miserably.

A good read for advanced readers who wants to understand what psychological factors are responsible for the crisis.

Get a copy: (Amazon, Kindle)

This book was written in 1995. The author asked a pertinent question - who is a millionaire?

After doing extensive research and interviewing a lot of millionaires, the author arrived at the conclusion.

An average millionaire is mostly a small/mid entrepreneur mostly working in boring/regular businesses. (and he is happier than others!) The book was written for the USA - however, this is applicable to almost all countries and regions.

While a lot of youngsters wants to build multibillion-dollar unicorns, the real money makers are small-time business person. They are everywhere, but still, they are hidden.

The book also provides businesses that will work and that those do not work. E.g. while food business is very lucrative and we see a lot of successful restaurants. This is also one of the businesses with the most failure rates.

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book. Most of the time when we go for everything - we don't get anything.

That's all for now. I have read a few very interesting books in Apr and May. Will share my reviews in the next blog. Hopefully soon!

Happy Reading!

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