My Books in 2016

This year, I have bought over 10 books.

That is on top of the magazines I regularly purchase off the local magazine shop. Titles like Drift, Kinfolk, Monocle, Offscreen, Thisispaper, Popeye and Cereal. Also busy catching up on some of the unfinished chapters in Monocle’s publications like Guide to Good Business and Guide to Cosy Homes.. That’s a lot to read, but I’m OK with that.

Don’t Feel Guilty About Not Finishing Them

I once wrote about how I hoard books and felt guilty about not reading them all. I buy more than I read and that was worrying. I read more than ever, but the rate of my acquisition of books have sped up too. Where I once spent my commute scrolling through social feeds, I now mostly read on the Kindle app in my iPhone. I resume the reading on my browser in the office (when I’ve spare time), and pick it back up at home with the Paperwhite. It’s what makes reading so fun – the sync is seamless and instantaneous.

Gradually, I’ve learned not to worry about not finishing a book I don’t like. It’s like an album. There are plenty of tracks in the album, and there are some songs you like more than the others. What do you do with the songs you don’t like? You move on. If I chanced on a chapter I don’t have interest in, I either skim through them, or skip the chapter altogether. No big deal. There are many other valuable lessons to be learned in the book. I look at it this way: reading something I don’t like isn’t just not enjoyable, but the time could be spent on reading other stuffs I’m more interested in. Doris Lessing advice readers to drop the books when they bore them, skip the parts that drag, and never read anything they feel ought to, because it’s part of a trend.

Borrowing from Shawn Blanc, I care about learning one idea from the book. Just one idea. And put the idea into practice. If I were to just take one proven idea or practice and implement it into my life, the book would be worth the cover price alone.

Take Notes and Share Them

It happens all the time to me: once I reached the end of the book, I wonder what 95% of the book is about. It’s fine for fictions, but it’s not too great for those business or self-help books which I want to learn some pointers off. While I used to worry about keeping things in its pristine condition, I now highlight them, make notes in them, and basically just do whatever I want to it. Not only do I find it more personal, it allows me to understand book is merely a medium to share knowledge. Not worrying about the condition of the book is such a liberating feel. What’s more, books grow better with use and age. A brand-new book has no character to speak.

I recently read an article in Medium that touched on the power of writing about things we read. A particularly intriguing idea stood out – passive or active review. Passive review is highlighting, rereading and memorizing content. Active review is understanding the material and being able to recreate it. In my schooling years, I’m the former. In exams where the questions asked “In your own words…”, I typically struggled. I simply didn’t understand the materials enough to recreate them. I found that those subjects I’m deeply interested in – like geography – I’m able to recall some of the concepts even though it’s been so long since I last read about them. The power of creating using our own words and style cannot be undermined. When we recreate contents we learn and connect the dots together. And the best way to learn is to teach. No longer are we just passively absorbing, we are involved in spreading the knowledge too. This is invaluable in the mastery of a subject.

A Book I Recently Read

Last week, I was done reading the book called “Never Split The Difference” by Chris Voss. I highlighted the book (digitally, because I bought the e-pub version), extracted them into Simplenote and revisited them several times. Though it straddles on a dry topic, it’s an easy and smooth book to read as the author always opens with a personal story when he was with FBI.

Among the concepts I like is our tone of voice matters. If we use the right tone, we are able to trigger certain emotions in our listeners. The author said it’s like reaching into their mind and flipping an emotional switch. Also, confident people tend to speak slowly and deliberately. They seem to be in control. What you say is not as important as how you say them. We tend to portray those who speak slower and intentional as someone who has higher authority, as opposed to someone who speaks faster and stuttering. This is akin to a phase that always stays in my mind “people will not remember what you say, but people will remember how you make them feel”.

Two days back, I was shopping in a department chain with my wife when I chanced upon a sale of a brand I’ve been eyeing for a long time. côte&ciel was having a 20% sale, and the shop also has an members’ only sale for additional discount. It’s definitely a bargain, I thought. But the only stumbling block was, it didn’t come in the size or color I like. What attracted me to it was the subtle (but delightful) grey color and the unique style. If I were to buy it in another color which I didn’t fancy, or in a size that didn’t complement me, what’s the point? Instead of saving $130, I would be wasting $310. No deal is better than a bad deal, the book advocates. Looking at it this way not only saves me money, but also saving me the sense of guilt of buying something I never really wanted in the first place.

In any negotiation, we should be aware of where we stand. Who will lose out more should the deal collapse? If we can convince the other party that he has something real to lose, we will have an upper hand in the negotiation. Given an option, always let the other party open with a figure. (if he opens with an extremely low number, you can counter it by learning more of that in the book). If pressured to name a figure, start with a range. Say, I understand people pay “$48,000 – $53,000” for this car on the used market. Mine is well-taken care of, regularly serviced, low mileage and accident-free.

There are many other good advice in the book. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we are making deals throughout the day. Sometimes we are making deals with ourselves, like should we splurge on the camera we’ve been eyeing for, or should we save it up for our emergency nest. Delaying gratification requires mental fortitude and this book investigates a little of it as well, like our ability to take a punch when confronted with an unrealistic offer. Our mental resilience when we are prepared will allow us to stay cool-headed. Because under pressured, we don’t rise to the occasion. We default to our highest level of preparation.


That’s all for now. I didn’t plan to write this much, but the more I share, the more I have to share. But these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Read Never Split The Difference to find out more about the book yourself.