A Letter to Friends

Taken on a cold day in a cold place

2016–2017 was an interesting year. Aside from the well-covered social, political, and economic events, we had: Kanye West reaching out to Mark Zuckerberg on Twitter for venture funding in his “Kanye West ideas”, the largest influx of gorilla memes in history, and many others. While at first glance some of the events we saw were new developments, other ones followed recurring trends involving anything from herd mentality to income inequality to general misinformation. All this just re-iterated the notion that I have very little idea of how the world works.

In an effort to better educate myself and become more well-read, last week I asked the Facebook universe for recommendations: anything from books to interesting links to life advice. These are the key takeaways:

  • 72% were book recommendations, which will keep me busy for a while
  • The top three genres were fiction (24%), business (17%), and life (9%)
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal were recommended multiple times

Without being too long-winded, here’s the list. I’ve divided it into books, other, and life advice. Warmest thanks to everybody who contributed and for the friendship we’ve built over the years.

— LY


  1. Blockchain Revolution (Don Tapscott)
  2. How Not to Be Wrong (Jordan Ellenberg)
  3. Theories of Relativity (Barbara Haworth-Attard)
  4. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  5. Sophie’s World (Jostein Gaarder)
  6. And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
  7. Shoe Dog (Phil Knight). Buffett approves of this recommendation.
  8. The Courage to Act (Ben Bernanke)
  9. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Haruki Murakami)
  10. Dance Dance Dance (Haruki Murakami)
  11. The Legacy (David Suzuki)
  12. Trouble with Lichen (John Wyndham)
  13. The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (Heinrich Boll)
  14. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble (Zac Bissonnette)
  15. How I lost my Virginity (Richard Branson)
  16. Ordinary Men (Christopher Browning)
  17. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  18. When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi). Recommended to me 4 times.
  19. The Bible
  20. The Attention Merchant (Tim Wu). Person recommended this before submitting and even followed up after about it — probably legit.
  21. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
  22. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ashlee Vance)
  23. The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran). Unique recommendation of poetry and prose fables.
  24. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  25. The Dust that Falls from Dreams (Louis de Bernieres)
  26. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
  27. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond)
  28. Peak (Anders Ericsson)
  29. Sapiens: A Brief History of of Humankind (Yuval Harari). Recommended to me twice.
  30. Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell). Recommended to me twice.
  31. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  32. Kale and Coffee (Kevin Gianni)
  33. Three Day Road (Joseph Boyden)
  34. 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Marquez)
  35. Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
  36. Why Evolution is True (Jerry Coyne)
  37. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho). I also received two pieces of advice that were quotes from this novel.
  38. Zero to One (Peter Thiel). A classic must-read on start-ups and business with overlapping content from the class once taught by Thiel at Stanford.
  39. A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawkings)
  40. When Things Fall Apart (Derek Sivers)
  41. The Art of the Deal (Donald Trump). Tongue-in-cheek or not, it’s still big league.
  42. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins). A Skilling Favourite.
  43. Emperor of Maladies (Siddhartha Mukherjee)
  44. The Demon King (Cinda Chima)

Other (Assortment of articles, comics, funny pictures, videos etc.)

  1. http://i.imgur.com/7I75Jui.gifv Chicken Penne with Alfredo Sauce.
  2. https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2015/12/ten-commandments-for-superforecasters/ An unique framework of thought.
  3. https://youtu.be/cbKmm_xAEro Shoot for the stars, even if you miss you’ll land on some weird part of Youtube.
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGYmiQkah4o&t=9s. A philosophical thought experiment on TED.
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/30/how-meat-is-destroying-the-planet-in-seven-charts/?utm_term=.425152737da5. An astute vegetarian’s recommendation.
  6. An old photo from high school
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/no-37-big-wedding-or-small.html?_r=0. Behavioural interview mock for something other than recruiting.
  8. https://newrepublic.com/article/129002/secret-lives-tumblr-teens
  9. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/01/lost-in-the-meritocracy/303672/. Trading education for a ticket to the ruling class.
  10. http://www.gq.com/story/the-last-true-hermit.
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL6vP4eDmEQ. Finally answers the one question that still kept me up at night.
  12. Maus (Art Spiegelman)
  13. Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Life Advice

Interestingly enough, most of the advice fell into distinct buckets:

  1. Take risks and create your own opportunities
  2. Do cool things, pursue your childhood dreams, and lead a life you’ll look back fondly on
  3. The importance of paying it forward
  4. Learning a lot at whatever chance you get
  5. Happiness as a matter of perspective and the importance of being authentic and trustworthy
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