My Top 5 Books for 2021

Jack Yang
4 min readDec 31, 2021

Introduction

2021 has been an interesting year where people, including myself, are adapting to the pandemic lifestyle. While finding the right balance between cautious optimism and ever-changing variants, books gave me a great safe space to think and reflect. Here are the top 5 books I read for 2021.

My Top 5 List

1. The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

I would consider this book one of the greatest books I read of all time. In a chaotic period with political and cultural turmoil, I felt a great sense of peacefulness while reading this book, in which Thich Nhat Han discusses life, death, and existence. I would highly recommend watching his interview with Oprah Winfrey to go along with this book. Hearing his soothing voice and absorbing his infinite wisdom, this book gives me a new perspective and appreciation for life itself. I believe this is the perfect book to read during the current time.

Book Review: 3 Lessons from the Art of Living

2. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Professor Pausch has always been one of my personal heroes since I watched the video of the last lecture when I was little. This book offers a more complete story to Randy’s last days and his lecture. It consists of many stories about Randy, his childhood, and his family, where he drew inspiration and lessons from. I strongly recommend reading and watching the last lecture to complement each other. Even though there are lots of overlaps, experiencing both formats gave me a profound appreciation for Randy and his life wisdom.

3. “Surely You Are Joking, Mr. Feynman” by Richard Feynman

This book does not involve any arcane physics. It is a collection of personal stories narrated by Feynman, one of the greatest physicists in history. Before this book, I thought of Feynman just as an insane smart scientist. When reading the stories, I felt like I was on an adventure with him and I got to know him personally as a curious, quirky, and humorous human being. It is truly incredible to spend time with one of the brightest minds and learn from his thought processes.

Book Review: 5 Lessons from “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

This offers a great introduction to stoicism. Stoicism, contrary to the popular belief, is not the philosophy of being stonecold and apathetic. Instead, it is the mental model of thinking rationally and embracing life as it is. The book consists of many profound yet random notes that Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor, jot down. It might be confusing in the beginning, but as you get further into the book, some repetitive themes appear and you will understand the author’s principles.

Book Review: 4 Lessons from Meditations

5. Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall

Looking back, I was surprised to find this book on the list, but it is an insightful and practical book on crafting your stories. In an age where everyone looks impressive in words, having a personal story as your branding is the best way to make you stand out. Hall analyzes what makes a good story good and ways to construct a story for you and your business.

Book Review: 2 Lessons from Stories That Stick

Honorable Mention

1. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Bad Blood is a non-fiction thriller that tells the story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. It is one of the few books that I could not put down once I started reading. Carreyrou does a fantastic job in making the story and its characters come to life while narrating in a subjective manner. In addition to being a journalism masterpiece, it is a great book on business ethics and leadership.

Book Review: 3 Lessons from Bad Blood

2. The Crowds by Gustave Le Bon

This is a short essay written in 1895 and the observations are still applicable to this day. The essay discusses how individuals act in gatherings and how crowds are manipulated. In a time of widespread misinformation and gossip, Gustave Le Bon’s wisdom stood the test of time and it is especially important now to understand group psychology and beware of our fall to it.

Book Review: 4 Lessons from The Crowd

3. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Written in 1995, this is the book that popularized the term “Emotional intelligence”. Goleman discusses different aspects of emotion, from its importance to practical ways to handle it. As EQ becomes increasingly important, this book offers a great start to improve your skills at managing emotions and becoming a better friend/coworker/partner etc. I highly recommend this book to new grads like me who just stepped into the workforce.

Thank you for a great 2021. Follow me on https://jackyangzzh.medium.com/ for more book reviews in 2022!

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