The 2021 Reading List (31 Books)

Gone are the days when I could read 50+ books in a year. Don’t think I even managed more than 30 books this year. Problem is, I didn’t keep track. Next year, I’d rather have a proper reading plan and not go ad-hoc. It will help me be more disciplined, learn some useful skills and also reduce wasting time online.

So here is my reading list for 2021. I seldom miss the mark by much when the list is prepared in advance, so I should complete close to all the titles here. It doesn’t include occasional re-reads and light reading like magazines and comics, which I also enjoy (currently Wired, Monocle and the Hickman X-Men titles).

All the books have been prepared and are good to go (set aside or loaded on my Kindle app). Roughly 60% are ebooks and 40% are physical copies. No audiobooks. Many of them I’ve owned for some time but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Only one book is scheduled for a 2021 release, the rest are old publications. I’ll definitely post some short reviews as I complete them.

Here they are grouped by category but in no particular order.

*The affiliate links take you to the main listing on Amazon but there are used versions and offers in there, most of the time you can get them at a bargain price.

Skill Acquisition & Business

1. Head First HTML & CSS By Elizabeth Robson
Since I’m working mostly on web design using WordPress, this highly recommended book will be a beneficial addition to my skillset. US$30.99 on Amazon

2. Flip The Script By Oren Klaff
This book is about persuading people by giving them your ideas in a subtle way, kinda like Inception. Something I definitely need as an INTJ. Not too optimistic on the content but will take a look since his last book was great. Should be a quick read if you skip over the fluff. US$18.39 on Amazon

3. Automate The Boring Stuff With Python By Al Sweigart
I haven’t practiced any coding since college but since learning how to communicate with machines is the future, might as well get the basics jumpstarted again.US$25.37 on Amazon

4. Rules of Parenting By Richard Templar
A gift from an old friend and a one of the best role models for a dad whom I try to emulate (Eugene). US$18.99 on Amazon

5. Mental Models – 30 Thinking Tools By Peter Hollins
Highly recommended by Naval Ravikant, if not mistaken. Not too sure what I’m going to find but it looks interesting and I’m always keen on ‘brain upgrades’. US$14.99 on Amazon

6. Unfolding the Napkin By Dan Roam
Another interesting ‘brain upgrade’ book, this time recommended by my brother in law. A method of brainstorming and problem solving through simple drawings. This is a follow-up to Back Of The Napkin. US$25.00 on Amazon

7. Six Easy Pieces By Richard Feynman
Huge respect and admiration for Richard Feynman, a brilliant mind who led an extraordinary life. This book is him breaking down physics for the layperson. I highly recommend his memoirs “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” if you’ve never heard of him. US$13.99 on Amazon

8. Getting More By Stuart Diamond
Apparently this is the best book/course on negotiation of all time. There are legends that so many students from other classes would try to attend his lectures that the whole lecture theatre was not sufficient. US$14.00 on Amazon

9. The Ten Day MBA By Steven Silbiger
Got this a long time ago but didn’t finish it, just like how I’m too lazy to do an actual MBA. Self-study for 0.0034% of the cost (although sans paper qualifications) is still the obvious choice for me. US$17.39 on Amazon

10. Start From Zero By Dane Maxwell
Simple yet counterintuitive guide to starting a software business from a legit and all round good guy. Not planning to start one, just reading for some extra-curricular learning. US$15.99 on Amazon

Non-Fiction, Biographies & Historical

11. Hannibal & Me By Andreas Kluth
One of the GOATs in terms of military strategy, this will be an interesting quick read. US$11.48 on Amazon

12. Leonardo Da Vinci By Walter Isaacson
The biography of all round super-genius polymath (and my namesake) whose legacy of work is just astonishing. I am excited to learn more in detail. US$16.66 on Amazon

13. Benjamin Franklin By Walter Isaacson
Another legendary and extremely interesting character to study. US$22.88 on Amazon

14. Pep Guardiola By Guillem Balague
Serial winner, master planner, and workaholic – hopefully something from this book rubs off on me. Wouldn’t hurt. US$17.23 on Amazon

15. My World By Peter Sagan
Behind the scenes of one of the great modern superstars of cycling. I’m not a huge fan but he’s definitely one of cycling’s stronger personalities so I’m keen to dig in. US$16.44 on Amazon

16. A Chinese Life (Graphic Novel) By Philippe Otie & Li Kunwu
‘Set against the backdrop of the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. It chronicles the rise and reign of Chairman Mao and his sweeping, often cataclysmic vision for the most populated country on the planet.’ US$31.35 on Amazon

17. How To Ruin Everything By George Watsky
Incredibly talented young rapper/poet with already a huge body of work – poetry recitals, mulitple albums, world record for longest freestyle, and now, a memoir. Unlike gangsta rap, his focus is on humor. $6.95 on Amazon

18. A Short History Of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson
Kind of embarassed that I haven’t read this modern classic yet, but that ends next year. US$10.13 on Amazon

19. The Innovators By Walter Isaacson
This is the third book by Isaacson, one I picked up a long time ago but have not read. It’s an overview of the digital revolution in Silicon Valley and it’s notable pioneers. US$14.99 on Amazon


20. Prodigal Son By Gregg Hurwitz
Looks like this is the only new book on the entire list. It comes out late January and is a continuation of the Orphan X series. Basically a more action-packed spy version of Jack Reacher (with tech & gadgets!) Many years ago I picked up the first Orphan X book and it was terrible. I mean really terrible, bordering on unreadable. I dropped the series for years until 2019 when I decided to see if the second book was just as bad. It was a pleasant surprise that everything had improved tremendously – writing, pacing, storyline. Still some major plot holes here and there but very enjoyable. If not mistaken there is a movie starring Bradley Cooper in the works (although the pandemic might have killed it, I’m not sure). US$27.99 on Amazon

21. Graveyard Book By Neil Gaiman
Another embarassment that I’ve had this for years and not read it yet. Time to cross it off the list. Always marvel at Neil Gaiman’s writing style even if the fantasy storylines are sometimes a bit too much for me. US$8.20 on Amazon

22. The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay By Michael Chabon
Considered one of the finest American writers of his generation and a Pulitzer prize winner, this is his epic about two boy geniuses dreaming up superheroes in New York’s Golden Age of comics. I have a few of his other books to get to, but will go with this one first and the rest in 2022. US$11.25 on Amazon

23. Motherless Brooklyn By Jonathan Lethem
A cult favorite now made into a movie starring Bruce Willis and Edward Norton, this is a homage to the classic detective story with a twist – the protagonist has Tourette’s Syndrome. Dunno how the film turned out but I’ll read the book first, which is a good rule of thumb in general. US$11.99 on Amazon

24. Before The Fall By Noah Hawley
I got this book after watching the first season of the quirky Legion (TV series about Professor X’s insane mutant son), which written by Hawley. Before The Fall is a mystery and suspense story involving a plane crash, with great reviews. US$8.79 on Amazon

25. Youre Next By Gregg Hurwitz
Another thriller by the author of the Orphan X series, this time an unrelated book (as far as I know) with a stand-alone story. This one is of a man whose past enemies he doesn’t know of come back with a vengeance for reasons he also doesn’t know. US$23.86 on Amazon


These books actually fall under the other categories, but since they’re distinctly Japanese, I decided to put them under their own umbrella.

26. Remembering The Kanji By James Heisig
Japanese has three alphabets katakana, hiragana and kanji. This is a classic for learning the kanji, written and updated since the 70s. My first step to learning Japanese and improving my very beginner level Chinese reading proficiency. There are many free apps that you can download and use concurrently to reinforce the lessons. US$32.20 on Amazon

27. For Fukui’s Sake By Sam Baldwin
A gaijin English teacher recounts his real-life adventures during his two years in Fukui. An off the beaten path book that I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy. US$9.99 on Amazon

28. Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains By Paul Barach
Another real life account of Japanese experiences by a Westerner. The Amazon writeup is brilliant – ‘Age twenty-eight and fed up with the office job he settled for, Paul Barach decided to travel to Japan to follow a vision he had in college: to walk the ancient 750-mile Shikoku pilgrimage trail. Here are some things he did not decide to do: learn Japanese, do any research, road test his hiking shoes, or check if it’s the hottest summer in history. And he went anyway, hoping to change his life. Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains is the absurd and dramatic journey of one impulsive American’s search for answers on a holy path in an exotic land. Along the pathway connecting 88 Buddhist temples, he’ll face arduous mountain climbs, hide from guards in a toilet stall, challenge a priest to a mountaintop karate battle, and other misadventures. He’ll also delve into the fascinating legends of this ancient land, including a dragon-fighting holy man, a berserker warrior-priest, haunted temples, and a vendetta-driven ghost that overthrew a dynasty.’ Sold. US$14.99 on Amazon

29. Confessions Of A Temple Gardener By Ben Stevens
These are short (and hopefully interesting) stories from the author’s life during his stay at a Japanese temple as their resident gardener. It doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon US anymore so here is the link to the Japan Kindle version

30.Walking The Kiso Road By William Scott Wilson
This book details a modern day exploration the famous Kiso Road, an ancient route used by samurai and warlords, which remains much the same today as it did hundreds of years ago. Will help me appreciate it even more when I finally get to see it in person. US$13.95 on Amazon

31. Musashi By Eiji Yoshikawa (Translated By Charles Terry)
The life story of Japan’s greatest swordsman, duelist and one of the rare undefeated masters of old. Not much is known of his real life but his writings live on in ‘The Book Of Five Rings’ and ‘Dokkodo’. Therefore I’m assuming this is a fictionalized retelling of his life based on real events, but I’ll only know more once I get into it. US$22.50 on Amazon

So that’s my list. Most of my reading will be a couple of hours at night after the boys are asleep and on condition that I’ve finished my work goals for the day. Will I actually have time to read all of them? Well, I made an Excel sheet to calculate how many days I need (as a sanity check) and it turns out I should be able to complete it with roughly 30 days to spare for any additional unplanned reading. I’ll probably also hit a few of these before the year ends just to get a headstart 😉

How many books fo you guys read per year on average? Do you have a similar system? Any good recommendations, let me know in the comments, thanks!

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