Book Recommendations

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A tale of a injustice told through the innocent eyes of a child. A classic and must-read.

  1. The Rise of Islamic Capitalism by Vali Nasr

How the capitalist mindset of the Muslim bourgeoisie, referred to as the Islamic “critical middle”, pits them at odds with extremism and the clerical autocracy rule. As a previous Advisor to the Obama Administration, he writes, “the great battle for the soul of the Muslim world will be fought not over religion but over market capitalism.”

  1. Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? by Mick Hume

A frighteningly logical case for free speech and how political correctness is quashing our basic rights to it

  1. Once / Boy Overboard / Girl Underground - Morris Gleitzman

Classic teen reads I loved when I was younger about escaping real and life-threatening situations

  1. Zen Under Fire by Marianne Elliot

Personal account of a UNHR Lawyer’s time in Afghanistan


Great Question

  1. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
    The language used is stupendously beautiful, and the themes that he touches on really speak to the core of the human experience. It also gives access to a time and place in the world that we currently have very little exposure to - it’s very mind-opening.

  2. Zero to One - Peter Thiel
    Thiel, whilst controversial in many ways, has a perspective on business and the economy that is far deeper, clearer and integrated than many others. As a co-founder of PayPal and one of the biggest financial actors in the world today, his vision of what a company can and should be, and the process of getting there, is a must-read for all aspiring businessmen and businesswomen

  3. Man’s Search for meaning - Viktor Frankl
    As a Psychotherapist who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, Frankl has drawn on his personal experiences of some of the most horrific and sadly iconic experiences of modern history to create a short treatise of what it is that has people flourish and truly LIVE, and what it is that has people give up and fade into death and emptiness. The answer to life’s biggest question, whatever that is for you, is in the title of the book.

  4. The Practising Mind - Thomas Sterner
    This is a book about being present. Sterner is an accomplished musician and piano tuner, and he has travelled far further into the realm of human fulfilment and quality of life than most. He speaks to an issue that lies at the core of all of human religion and philosophy - how to be truly present, here and now, and experience the world for what it is, rather than drifting off into a past or future that doesn’t exist and only induces anxiety or fear. A must-read for a crash course on mental hygiene.

  5. So Good They Can’t Ignore You - Cal Newport
    This is one of the clearest and most helpful career advice books I have ever read. It has greatly impacted not only my life but many of my close friends. Newport, a Computer Science Professor, has turned conventional career advice on its head, and offers a very clear, logical and implementable approach to figuring out what to do with all those working hours for the rest of your life.

One resource I HIGHLY recommend for good books is Derek Sivers’ Books list. This guy is a phenomenon unto himself:



I love this question and responses I’ve seen here. I thought to add some different recommendations into the mix, as quite a few favourites have been noted already above. :slight_smile:

  • East of Eden, John Steinbeck
    Breathtakingly poignant characterisation, with commentary on good and evil.

  • The Art of Happiness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler

  • Good to Great, Jim Collins
    Essential for those passionate about company vision, culture, and the discipline required to leave a legacy.

  • The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris
    Genius in its simplicity and practicality. A fresh reminder of how not to suffer the 9-5 work grind.

  • The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein
    A children’s book that takes an adult lense to the power of generosity and friendship.


There are some fantastic books already listed, some personal favourites include Lolita, Status Anxiety, Mao’s Last Dancer, and The Contenders.

I’ll add to the already in depth list:

Hacking Your Education (Dale J. Stephens)
Stephens is the founder of UnCollege and author of Hacking Your Education. The book challenges people to learn differently, deviating from the traditional path of tertiary education. It doesn’t displace the notion of traditional education, instead its aim is to depict that there are many other alternatives and that learning is about picking what is right for you; figuring out how to create an education from all possible avenues: university or otherwise.

The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg)
Duhigg drills down life to this. We are all habitual people and our lives are run by a series of mini routines which are triggered by a cue and end with a reward. Identify the trigger and you can detour to a different, more positive routine. The idea (and Duhigg backs this up by referencing scientific studies of mice) is that old routines can never be obliterated but you can write over those negative routines by instituting a positive routine instead.

The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain de Botton)
This is a great book for those that want an introduction to Philosophy. It’s a short book and suitable for all ages, I believe I read this back in high school. The book introduces some of history’s greatest minds. Bringing together their ideas and relating them to the modern perspective. Each chapter (6) of the book focusses on a particular philosopher and idea: Socrates offers us consolations for unpopularity; Epicurus, consolations for being poor; Seneca, consolation for frustration; Montaigne, consolation for inadequacy; Schopenhauer, consolation for unrequited love; and lastly, Nietzsche, a consolation for difficulties.

Sure, there are other philosophers De Botton could of touched on. But it’s a fun, interesting, book nonetheless!


I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the books previously listed, namely The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mao’s Last Dancer, Zero to One, 1984, and The Great Gatsby.

Two other personal favorites:

  1. Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    The overarching theme of this book is about subjecting yourself to stress in order to get better, and how lack of stress is not necessarily a good thing. It’s a great follow-on from Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, both of which are highly recommended if you’re into statistics, economics, finance or philosophy.

  2. Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman
    Fascinating book about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and how they influence decision-making. If you enjoy reading this, I would also recommend The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.


‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo

Having read the novel before watching the film, I can remorselessly say that the critically acclaimed trilogy is not only overrated, but fails to capture the raw, intimate, ball-gripping intensity of Puzo’s literature. Would also recommend his other novels, such as ‘The Family’.

‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’ by Mohsin Hamid

Contrary to the title’s superficial connotations, this coming-of-age novel felt like a mother’s cuddle: warm, familiar and nostalgic. The protagonist’s voice is unembellished, effortlessly witty and so human that a sociopath would finish the book with his / her emotions back in tact. Gets you thinking about life, ambition, family and love - all in 250 pages.

‘Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals’ by John Lefevre

Authored by the man behind the notorious ‘Goldman Sachs Elevator’ Twitter account (, this incessantly entertaining and equally obnoxious kaleidoscope into the world of investment banking is well worth your time whether or not you’re considering a career in finance. Lefevre’s anecdotes will leave you thinking the Wolf of Wall Street was child’s play.

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It’s tricky to pick but here are my top 5:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.
    I’ve seen this pop up on a few people’s top 5 lists, and for good reason - it’s a fantastic manual for developing your inter-personal skills, which helps you in every single area of life.
  2. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
    No other book I’ve ever read has described the human condition quite so well. It’s a tough read, but so worth it.
  3. Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.
    One of the most entertaining yet educational books I’ve ever read. I never knew I wanted to know what school teachers and sumo wrestlers had in common, but boy is it interesting! One of the main factors in giving me my passion for Economics.
  4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
    I’ve never personally connected with a book in quite the same way I did with this one. It taught me so much about who I am (sounds cheesy but true!)
  5. Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss.
    Chris is a former FBI hostage negotiator and, in this book, teaches you how to get anything you want from anyone! The tips are transferable to any situation and work incredibly well if you apply them.

These are just the top 5 - feel free to message me if you want any more recommendations!


In no particular order:

  1. Fahrenheit 451 - one of my favorite dystopian novels of all time, and one with a central message that many people often get wrong. It’s not about the coerced censorship of books, but how mass media made people not want to read books anymore. A quick, powerful read.

  2. Brave New World - in the same vein, Huxley predicted a society where people aren’t controlled by inflicting pain (such as in 1984), but inflicting pleasure. Eerily accurate in today’s society of pleasure and distractions.

  3. Siddhartha - an interesting and beautifully written novel detailing the spiritual journey of a man named Siddhartha, from one of extreme asceticism to a life in the flesh, and back. Makes you really rethink your relationship within the world around you.

  4. Ishmael - another concise, easy philosophical read detailing the difference between the “Leavers” and the “Takers” and how our current way of life only spells an accelerating demise of our environment unless we change the way we live. Also features a talking gorilla, so there’s that!

  5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - speaks to a lot of intersecting interests of mine - medicine, molecular biology, medical ethics, race, and socioeconomic divide - through the story of a woman whose cancer cells were found to be able to divide indefinitely, changing the field of medical research.


A few books everyone should read.

  1. Le Petit Prince

Worth learning french just for the original manuscript.

Second only to the bible, this book holds the world record for the most languages translated and published in. I believe the secret to world peace lies in reading at least 5 different language versions of this book.

  1. The House that Jack Built

Jack Ma’s autobiography

Let Jack teach you about the importance of failure.

Today is horrible, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful. The problem is most people will die tonight.

  1. The Lord of the Rings

Why read this? If you can get through this, then you’ll have acquired the perseverance to get through anything.

Warning: 100 pages of reading walking trees talk about dull subjects that have absolutely no plot value.

The rest of it is pretty great though.


This is a tough question, as it depends on the genre. I think if I had to choose from a list of self-help non fiction books that changed my thinking, it would be:

  1. Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: Great insight into the inner workings of human behavior and motivations
  2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl: Discussing how we cannot avoid suffering but we can learn to cope with it and how to overcome the greatest difficulties through reflection and acceptance.
  3. Seven Habits of Highly Effective people by Stephen Covey: Great book about time management and setting priorities!
  4. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: Interesting discussion about proactively seeking happiness and taking life into your own hands
  5. Good to Great by Jim Collins: Examining the reasons why companies succeed

The suggestions above are all ones I’ve noted down - although I probably have too many books on the go to get to them anytime soon. Also… these are by no means the top 5… there are far too many to list out but here is a variety of fiction and non-fiction.

  1. Empire, Niall Fergusson - this book was the primary focus of my personal statement to University. It was the first real history book I had read that brought the relevance on the subject in a way that I hadn’t managed to acquire from general high school education. In hindsight, it also is the book that I reverted back to at University to unpick and disagree with.

  2. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry - want to get a greater understanding of India with all it’s political and social complexities? Mistry is incredible at dissecting this for you and his characters will leave you thinking, laughing and crying. This is a beautiful novel from start to finish.

  3. The Whitsun Weddings, Philip Larkin which is technically not a book but a collection of poems… This collection is full of thoughts of humanity, Larkin just is one of those poets with a real unique slant on things.

  4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest, Ken Kesey better known for the film than as a novel although I couldn’t comment on the former. This is a fun, light read but very subtly profound in its message. Well to me at least.

  5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink I was recommended this by someone very close after I complained endlessly about the seemingly disinteresting jobs I had in my early 20s. Why would no one understand me? I read this book on holiday, in under an hour, turning each page and it inspired me to keep pushing on with my professional ambitions.

I’ve only read number 5 on this list. - “The reason why there are so few great companies is because there are so many good ones.” Good is what distracts you from Greatness

25 of my favourite books!! Some have already been mentioned. Enjoy!! :slight_smile:

  1. Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life – Maltz, Maxwell
  2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On – Berger, Jonah
  3. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Carnegie, Dale
  4. Outliers: The Story of Success – Gladwell, Malcolm
  5. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! – Robbins, Anthony
  6. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything – Levitt, Steven D.
  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Cain, Susan
  8. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change – Covey, Stephen R.
  9. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference – Gladwell, Malcolm
  10. Man’s Search for Meaning – Frankl, Viktor E.
  11. The Last Lecture – Pausch, Randy
  12. Steve Jobs – Isaacson, Walter
  13. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work – Currey, Mason
  14. Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average – Hallinan, Joseph T.
  15. Do the Work – Pressfield, Steven
  16. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles – Pressfield, Steven
  17. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Catmull, Ed
  18. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results – Keller, Gary
  19. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative – Kleon, Austin
  20. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered – Kleon, Austin
  21. Leaders Eat Last – Sinek, Simon
  22. Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success – Snow, Shane
  23. The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help – Palmer, Amanda
  24. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction – Philip E. Tetlock, Dan Gardner
  25. Thinking, Fast And Slow – Daniel Kahneman

A lot of books on here are self-help/motivation/how-to-rise-in-business which are fabulous reads, but a great fiction book I’ve read recently is:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

It’s a great read about family struggles and has an AMAZING plot twist. Based on a real family in America, it’s a very real look into a family functioning with a psychology professor as a father and the final chapter of the book talks about what happened to the real life family. After finishing the book I spent hours reading more about this family and others like it online.

Books from when I was young:

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. This actually the REAL history of the United States. As a student of US history, my college years were spent feeling appalled at the gaps that exist in my own nation’s narrative, particularly in the moments of clarity that came upon exposure to what was so intentionally disregarded. James Baldwin shattered my previous understanding of the narrative, and revealed the pieces of knowledge I needed to realize why those parts of the story largely remained discarded in conventional US history courses.

Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot. Like the Baldwin text, I read this as a young history student, and realized there was another way to view an American president who many of my teachers heralded as a hero. Sometimes adults aren’t always right, and Hersh helped me gain a healthy dose of scholarly cynicism.

Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Sometimes having monetary comfort isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and her message of gilded America’s problems remains highly pertinent today.

Books I’ve read in adulthood:

Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend series. Ferrante’s work in this series (as well as her other books) exposes so many universal truths that exist in female friendships.

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series. Karl Ove describes the mundane components of daily life in a manner that makes you want to enjoy your morning coffee a bit longer, pay more attention to the sound of the pages of your book turning, revel in the sensation of kicking a ball in a field, and contemplate the music of your youth with more thoughtfulness than most people care to invest. He makes it seem not so bad to see and feel your life passing, and to absorb each moment for what it’s worth.


Loved that book, Alex!

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Hi Harry,

I found it very interesting that you go to visit SF, and go to all the awesome companies such as IDEO - how were you able to get this opportunity?

And do you think attending the stanford improved your chances when applying to Stanford?


Hey there,

I got the opportunities through connections I’d made from various entrepreneurial ventures in the past.

I haven’t attended the (but plan to during my undergraduate time), rather the people who authored the book have taught there too.

If you want more information, send me an email at !

I just read your bio! How were you able to meet Baba Shiv? That’s amazing!!

My favorites are

  1. Goose Bumps *by R.L. Stine
  2. Traveling with the Secret Seven *by Enid Blyton
  3. Harry Potter (all) *by J.K. Rowling
    I suggest you read them, no doubt they are damn good, I bought them last year from Christmas Sale, and I must say these are worth buying for me if you wanna buy them or any others so I suggest you to go on Christmas Coupon Codes at reecoupons because there are many good others are available too.