2023 in Books


29 books
20 Audiobooks
8 Kindle books
2 Real book
3 unfinished books
2x: The speed I listened to audiobooks
2 Chinese books
E in Diversity score (4 Female Authors)


8 History & Culture
3 Science Fictions
3 Thrillers
2 Environment
6 Biographies & Memoirs
1 Politics
1 Coming-of-Age Fiction
3 Health & Parenting
2 Business


What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies, by Tim Urban

Tim Urban is a well-known writer known for his blog posts featuring hand-drawn stick figures. He is famous for his captivating grid that visualized all of human history:

His book discussed the divisions in our society, politics, and minds. It explored the polarization of ideas and political beliefs and shed light on the flaws within us. It broadened my perspective on the extreme ideologies found in both the political left and right, especially deepening my understanding of the far left movements.

The book made me reflect on my beliefs and actions. It introduced a new approach to thinking about discussions. Urban’s “Thinker Ladder” helped me consider different viewpoints without being emotional or rigid.


We all are wired to behave like dogmatic zealots, because that’s how we have been conditioned for tens of thousands of years. Overcoming this takes a lot of practice, so we should start putting in the work now.

Our history is so long and so short. We understand so little about it. We certainly know almost nothing about what will happen in the future and why. Most critically, we have not learned much from our short history. We keep making the same mistakes.

What are these mistakes? We are all so flawed. We are so clueless of our own stories. We know almost nothing about what’s impacted us and how we impact others.

We are prone to propaganda and mass movements because of fear and the desire to fit in. Even some of the most robust and old organisations, such as religious groups, can fall prey to manipulation, delusions, extremism, and ultimately, harm.

So don’t be too sure of ourselves – we often overlook our own gullibility more than we realize.

Books that contributed the most to this rant:

  • The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, by Eric Offer
  • What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies, by Tim Urban
  • Among the Braves: Hope, Struggle, and Exile in the Battle for Hong Kong and the Future of Global Democracy, by Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin
  • The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism, by Tim Alberta

About Fictions:

I liked Gabrielle Zevin’s “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” and Hao Jingfang’s “Vagabond” more than Neal Stephenson’s “Termination Shock.” Zevin and Hao’s writing was calm and emotional, strong and soft, quiet and forceful. They were like strong currents under a growing tsunami.

I also loved Adam Brooke’s spy thrillers more than Robert Galbraith’s. He wrote swiftly, and combined smell, sound, and sight to paint vivid scenes.

Did not finish:

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
I thought I would dig his woo-woo-ish take on creativity and life. Sadly, he was too much for me.

On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy by Carl R. Rogers
I still can’t endure textbook like books.

A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder by Michael Pollan
I have always wanted my own place and have enjoyed Pollan’s books. I thought I would love this book. However, it turned out to be a detailed musing about the construction of a small one-room structure on a hillside near his property in rural Connecticut. As a guy from Hong Kong, I found no way to relate to it.

身為職業小說家 by Haruki Murakami
It was a drag. Perhaps it was due to the translation. Perhaps it was its structure. I really wanted to keep up with him. I really wanted to finish and enjoy the book. He’s my hero, after all! But I couldn’t finish the book. What does this say about me? Does it mean that I’ll never be at his level? Is this a confirmation of my insufficiency as a thinker, a runner, a writer, a person?

What’s Next?

More fiction for sure.

More non-white-male authors.

I will let the rabbit holes I haphazardly stumble upon to guide me.

Finally, favourite quote of the year:

“We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.”

Eric Hoffer



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