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The Great Books Project

14 Jul 2017
Season 2, 2017

The Great Books Project (Season 2) is a selection of books recommended by faculty and staff of Singapore Management University (SMU). These titles inspired us and about 30 new books have been specially purchased to be made available for loan.

The following are the featured publications for this year. Click on the book title to check if the title is available for borrowing: 


School / Dept

Book Title / Author

Reason for Recommendation

Toh Weng Choy


The Gift of Fear / Gavin de Becker

Alerts one to possible security breaches. A necessity in our troubled times.

Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion / Robert B. Cialdini

Talks about social engineering - people, being the weakest link in cyber security
Nicola Green-Ho CEC Jane Eyre / Charlotte Bronte Jane never loses heart.  The obstacles she faced in the 18th century are very different, at face value, to the obstacles we face now, but ultimately the way we deal with them has not changed.  Jane teaches us that our destiny is our own, regardless of circumstances.
Havovi Joshi CMP To Kill A Mockingbird / Harper Lee Beautifully written, a timeless classic. "Growing up" in a small town and remaining true to one's values
Quek Leng Leng Diversity, Inclusion & Integration No Greater Love / Mother Teresa Mother Teresa's love and empathy for others make one wants to do likewise! 
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing / Marie Kondo This book helps me to declutter my living area. It also teaches me to buy only the things I really need and like. 
Amelia Chen IIE Tuesdays with Morrie / Mitch Alborn  
When Breath Becomes Air / Paul Kalanithi Life lessons
Robyn Tan IIE Lean In / Sheryl Sandberg To put it simply, women have subconsciously excluded ourselves from the 'meeting table', whether it's the imposter syndrome or stereotype threat. It's exciting to see how these self perceived limitations can be addressed and nipped in the bud, and the future will improve as women bring their value to the table!
Hozea Ngoh IITS The Visual Display of Quantitative Information / Edward Tufte It is a classic work on data visualization, and introduces the reader to different methodologies and theories that underpin the design of various types of statistical graphics, as well as potential pitfalls and bad practices. A must-read for anyone working with the presentation of data and information.
The Elements of Typographic Style / Robert Bringhurst This book is an eye-opener to the world of typography and helped me better understand that in every piece of media that involves the use of type, there are deliberate choices that have been made by a designer/editor, that will - for better or for worse - affect the reader's enjoyment and understanding of the content. As content creators, we must be mindful of the responsibility and power we have.
Mabel Wong International Office Perfectly Imperfect It reminds the reader that everyone is on a different path, and you can own yours.
When Breath Becomes Air / Paul Kalanithi
It gave me a front-seat view to the many challenges doctors face, and how they can do their job only if they use their hearts as much as their heads. 
These two quotes left me thinking long after I've finished the book - "We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.” and “What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?” 
Aniket Pujara LiveLabs Defending Jacob / William Landay
I was often blinded by the love for my people. I would hesitate to point out their wrongdoings and just "let it go". But after reading this book, I realised that no matter who is involved- family, friend or foe- an objective stance in life is a must. Perhaps one's loved one has done something horribly wrong and due to one's bias they can't rectify the problem. 
The book is about a boy who was charged with the murder of a classmate. The father of the accused, while a state prosecutor, couldn't be disinterested enough to still be in charge of the investigation. 
I guess despite one's love towards friends and family, objectivity should never be lost. I still have a lot to learn in terms of objectivity- but it has gotten me started.
Gregor Halff LKCSB The Enigma of Arrival / VS Naipaul It turns around the perspective of discovery of new lands from purely external to a more internal inspection
To The Lighthouse / Virginia Woolf It captures ambiguity so well and it describes elegantly how one always has multiple emotional states at the same time
Marcus Karner LKCSB A pattern language / Christopher Alexander, et al This book is an early manifestation of applied design thinking. The authors show hundreds of patterns in architecture and why and how they work. The book opened my eyes to why I feel good in some spaces and not so much in others. It also showed me how often sound principles are violated in architecture, and how easy it would be to remedy this. It showed me that is is possible to build buildings that people feel much better in than they currently do. 
This Is It: and Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience / Alan Watts This book contains six essays on human existence and experience. It is one of the very best examples of a fusion of "Eastern" and "Western" thinking, written by a Westerner but with a strong backdrop of Asian philosophy. It greatly inspired me to relax about my own existence. 
Fu Fangjian LKCSB The Three Body Problem / Cixin Liu Great imagination, interesting story.
A History of Modern Singapore / CM Turnbull It's interesting to learn Singapore history from the perspective of a western author.
Serena Lim LKCSB Growth Mindset / Carol Dweck The growth mindset points to one's ability to develop and stretch one's potential. Having the growth mindset helps one to embrace an attitude of learning and a willingness to go beyond one's comfort zone. Positive effort is needed for a successful outcome, and failure/errors are regarded as stepping stones to success.
I Am Malala / Malala Yousafzai The book is about a young girl's struggle for self actualisation through education in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
Steven Ng MWKLSWC/ DOS The Motivation Manifesto - 9 declarations to claim your personal power / Brendon Burchard Touches on freedom, growth and finding meaning apart from pure existence. Interesting insights on facing challenges, overcoming difficulties and striving towards excellence. 
Deon Koh OCIS/ LB How Starbucks Saved My Life / Michael Gates Gill It displays how adaptable human can be by adjusting to our environment and situation, and not to undermine our strength and determination
Loh Yee Leng Office of Finance In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl's Journey to Freedom / Yeonmi Park An understanding of North Korea from an insider's view, as well as what is men's (and women's) response to survival and persecution
Arnoud De Meyer President's Office Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind / Yuval Noah Harari  This very well written and rather sweeping history of the last 70,000 years provides an interesting scenario on how our civilisation developed. Whether I accept all the hypotheses and scenario's is a different matter, but the book made me think and reflect.
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 / Christopher Clark  Of the many books that were published recently about the events that led to the first World War, I found that this book provided the most interesting and varied description of all the players (both countries and individuals). It also made me reflect a lot on the comparison with the tensions in present day East Asia.
Steven Miller Provost's Office Only Humans Need Apply: Winners & Losers in the Age of Smart Machines / Thomas H. Davenport & Julia Kirby
The book does two things very well:
1. The authors clarify the distinction between Automation and Augmentation. They argue for the importance of using Smart Machines to Augment the work of people and to work together with people  versus using Smart Machines to Automate and eliminate people.
2. The authors provide a very clever and useful framework for thinking about new jobs roles as people and Smart Machines increasingly work together. This framework is richly illustrated with many real-world examples. People at all stages of their careers, from university students, to those just starting their employment, to mid-career people, to senior executives, can use their framework to figure out how to position themselves and their organisations as we continue to move forward into this age of Smart Machines.
This book is a great starting point for gaining a managerial perspective on how Cognitive Systems and Smart Machines are actually being used to transform the world of work.  Tom has tremendous depth in how corporations used advanced IT to change and improve their capabilities. As such, the book is very insightful, and quite on target (as in, accurate) in terms of content.
The book is very well crafted. One of the co-authors (Kirby) is a senior member of the editorial team of the Harvard Business Reivew, and she knows how to write for the business oriented reader.

Lin Mei


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success / Carol Dweck 

It explains different ways to think about your potential and can completely change your perspective and life.
Noel Athaide SIS How the mind works / Steve Pinker A superb synthesis of philosophy.
Lingxiao Jiang SIS War of the Worldviews: Where Science and Spirituality Meet - and Do Not / Deepak Chopra It is a great debate between two extremely conflicting worldviews, and could help to shape our own worldview.
Xavier Jayaraj Siddarth Ashok SIS Elon Musk: Inventing the Future / Ashlee Vance Turmoils in the journey of a tech visionary- how a lean innovative startup can shape up the future of mankind
Trung Huynh (Andrew) SIS The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho
This book was changed my life. It is my inspiration which help me here working for SMU. It likes the cowboy cross the ocean working in a shop to gain money. 
One day I will find out my destiny and come back hometown to get it. 
Austin J Pulle SOL Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan / Anthony T Kronman Forced a re-think and re-evaluation of conventional beliefs and challenged assumptions.


Got a Great Book you think should be part of this list? Let us know at

Want to see the books recommended by faculty in 2015? Go here.


Last updated on 28 Jul 2017 .