Hakone, Japan, 2008

These are some books I recently read that I find interesting. I am not interested in faceless flamethrowing, which sometimes happen when one posts in Amazon or Goodreads comments. Nonetheless, when the occasion arises, I am perfectly happy to engage in friendly discussions over coffee or drinks.


Robert van Gulik, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, 1976


Richard Feynman, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, 2018

Don't know why I did not read this a long time ago when I first knew about it. Feynman was terrifically funny describing situations that happen to everyone but we dare not admit.

Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life and Others, 2016

I enjoyed Tower of Babylon, Division by Zero and Story of Your Life. All of them are thought provoking by exploring the shattering of one's belief system.

Ken Liu (trans.), Invisible Planets, 2018

Translation of some Chinese short stories. Refreshingly different approach to sci-fi. Includes the Hugo winner, Folding Beijing, which I like a lot.


Kathryn Stockett, The Help, 2009

Liu Cixin, The Three Body Problem (Trilogy), 2006

The translation of the first book in this trilogy won the Hugo award in 2015, the first Asian, not to mention Chinese, sci-fi author to be honored. This story that started with knowledge of a coming alien invasion was lauded for it immensity of scope. For me though, two ideas captured my attention: (1) the inability of the world to act even though it knows about the invasion four-hundred years in advance and (2) the "Dark Forest" principle, where the default action for intelligent beings in the universe is to destroy another intelligent civilization as soon as it's discovered because of distrust that the other may not do the same. The latter led to a detente with the invading alien.

Amy Chua, World on Fire, 2004

Its premise could be controversial just like her other book’s (Tiger Mom). But it does make sense. One cannot impose a free market/democratic system we ourselves evolved over two centuries (probably more) on other countries with no such tradition and hope to expect results overnight. Worst, it could have terrifically disastrous results where there is a economically dominant minority and ethnic tension is high. In later part of the book, the author extends this argument to the US position in the world.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, 2017

Immensely readable book about our universe that starts with the same story that Weinberg's The First Three Minutes tries to tell, then covers a lot of materials that follows from that. Finally, it concludes with a cosmic perspective of our position in the universe - a real-world counterpart of the Liu's Death's End (final volume of the Three-Body Problem).

Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China's World War II 1937-1945, 2013

While many will consider this book a long overdue treatment on China's contribution to the war, which it is, I see it as an early instance of the lack of commitment and follow-through from western powers, after they imposed themselves on other people's affairs, to nascent democracies or at least nations trying to free themselves. A good read.