As always, here are some books I've enjoyed this year, rated on a 5-point scale. Previous lists are available in the links.
Business, Finance & Economics
Understanding Michael Porter (Joan Magretta). Michael Porter's work on strategy is nothing sort of seminal but often described incorrectly. As a translator of Porter's work, Magretta is superb, clarifying concepts and updating Porter's work with his most recent thinking. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this is one of the most important books I'll read this year. 5.0 years.
Obviously Awesome (April Dunford). An excellent introduction to the very important topic of product positioning. Dunford offers a highly practical guide to product positioning in a remarkably accessible style. 4.9 stars.
Bold Vision (Freddy Orchard). An excellent look at the history of GIC, one of Singapore's sovereign wealth funds. It covers a lot of fascinating economic history I didn't know. Hard not to feel a tinge of national pride at this one! 4.8 stars.
Lights Out (Thomas Gryta & Ted Mann). The rise and fall of GE is nothing short of epic. Gryta and Mann capture the entire saga superbly. 4.7 stars.
Lessons from the Titans (Scott Davis, Carter Copeland & Rob Wertheimer). The team from Melius Research have written a superb set of case studies on companies in the Industrials sectors, notable for both their successes and failures. Much to learn here about the important of leadership, culture and strategy. 4.7 stars.
The Model (Richard H. Lawrence Jr.). The author recounts the principles underlying the very successful run he and his colleagues have had at the Overlook Fund, an Asia-focused investment firm. While the principles will not come as a surprise to those who have read the stories of investors like Buffett, I enjoyed the Asia-focused anecdotes. Overlook's emphasis on improving corporate governance also marks them as a 'Quality Shareholder', to use Larry Cunningham's memorable phrase. 4.1 stars.
Self-Improvement, Philosophy and Ethics
Untangled (Koshin Paley Ellison). In a year when I was feeling more tangled than I liked, Ellison's book was a breath of fresh air. Full of wisdom and humour. 5.0 stars.
Four Thousand Weeks (Oliver Burkeman). A lovely book that tries to turn the "productivity" genre on its head. It preaches an acceptance of the finitude of our lives so as to be happier and more productive. A busy Christmas period interrupted my reading, and probably my ability to fully appreciate it, so I may come back to it at some point. Nonetheless, an excellent find. 4.8 stars.
Transcend (Scott Barry Kaufman). A highly ambitious attempt to update Maslow's hierarchy, based on his later work. There is much here to unpack and I hope to come back to it at a later date in a more focused fashion. 4.6 stars.
The Road Back to You (Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile). The Enneagram is an interesting personality type taxonomy that I've heard more about in the past two years. There's a lot that appears very speculative here but I did find it fascinating to think about just how diverse the human race is. 4.6 stars.
Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning (Guillem Balague). As a Manchester United fan, I cannot help but wonder what the past 8 years would have been like if the club's leadership had pursued Guardiola more effectively. A fascinating portrait of an exceptional player and manager. 4.6 stars.
Raven Black (Ann Cleeves). The first book in the series that has been turned into the wonderful TV series, Shetland. A fast-paced plot with a lead character who is actually realistic. 4.5 stars.
White Nights (Ann Cleeves). The second book in the Shetland series is similarly excellent. 4.5 stars.
Old City Hall (Robert Rotenberg). A trip to Toronto led me down a weeks-long journey into exploring the city through books. This detective mystery wasn't a classic but gives the reader a wonderful feel for Toronto. 4.4 stars.
Death of a Perm Sec (Wong Souk Yee). A rare Singaporean political thriller, no doubt inspired by the author's experience as a political detainee. 4.4 stars.
Samarang Hotel (John Webb). A novel tinged with philosophy, telling the story of a disaffected hotel manager in Laos. Many laugh-out-loud moments in a much more serious overarching plot. 4.4 stars.
And The Award Goes To Sally Bong! (Sebastian Sim). The follow-up to Sim's first on Gimme Lao (see below). I preferred this over the first in the series, with the protagonist being a much more relatable character. 4.4 stars.
Let's Give It Up For Gimme Lao! (Sebastian Sim). An enjoyable work of fiction, interweaving many episodes in Singapore's history. The main character reflects many of the complicated motives behind Singapore's infamous high achievers. 4.3 stars.