3 Book Reccomendations for Young Professionals

Career

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jotham.lim

Of all the habits I’ve built up in recent years, consistent reading is the one that has helped me the most. It formed the foundation of my personal productivity system, forced me to reflect on my existing bad habits, and even shaped my belief system.

However, it wasn’t the easiest habit to build up. Books can be long-winded and slow to go through if you read line by line. YouTube videos and Reddit posts are more engaging, shorter and dense with information.

But I’d argue that reading is the best medium to convey ideas and abstract concepts, because it forces us to actively consume content.

It unveils imaginative sceneries buried within the deep recesses of the mind. Sometimes you stop and digest your newfound paradigm shifts. There’s no need for a pause button, or a playback speed slider. For non-fiction, boring and irrelevant parts are easily skippable, unlike annoying ads.

To share my appreciation towards the medium, here are a few books that I highly recommend:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

This is a science fiction story of Charlie Gordon, a mentally challenged man with an IQ of 68. He was often taken advantage of, but his kind naivety and iron determination to improve himself earned him many allies along the way, as well as the heart of his teacher, Alice Kinnian.

(Un)fortunately, he was selected to undergo surgery to increase his intelligence. He became more aware of the world and people around him, slowly appreciating the complexities of life. He made a series of scientific breakthroughs which resulted in immense wealth and fame, but it also changed him as a person for the worse.

His newfound intelligence did not last long, either. He gradually regressed back into the life of a mentally disabled man. Fear, obsession and pride ensued, as well as losing the love of his life.

This story raises many ethical questions about the nature of intelligence, the themes of loneliness, isolation and the human desire for knowledge.

I can’t believe that this book is part of the regular curriculum in many schools and universities. I only learned about it through a Reddit post. So if you haven’t picked up the book yet, it is seriously an enjoyable read.

Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith & Atomic Habits by James Clear

I used to be a self-help/productivity junkie. Many of these books are cringe, impractical, and peddled by charlatans. Yet, I still huff and puff these motivational lines all the same—just to be productive for only the next few hours.

Have you followed these 4 SECRET tactics to become a productivity god? Wake up at 5am! Take cold showers! Live the 4-hour work week life! Go to the gym to feel better about yourself! What? You didn’t? I guess you’re not a Sigma life min-maxer 🙃.

The secret to a fulfilling and productive life is not locked within the dome of a wise guru or hidden behind some inspirational quote. Many self-help initiatives don’t work because the problem is not the lack of strategy, ideas, or motivation; It’s because of the poor systems of action we’ve cultivated—not building the right habits needed to change our behaviours.

Hence, two self-help books are enough—Triggers and Atomic Habits; the gold that floats above the sea of cringe. Both contain some science into how habits work, and practical advice on the steps we can take to become the person who we want to be. I would also throw in Deep Work by Cal Newport if you’re struggling with the ability to focus.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr Viktor Frankl

When a man is stripped away from everything—his wealth, qualifications, family and dignity…what is left of the man? This book is about the author’s experience surviving in a Nazi concentration camp, and his philosophical beliefs that stem from there.

It suggests that we can find the meaning of life through its pursuit, which is deeply rooted in human suffering. Each man has his owns circumstances; and his own cross to bear, thus making each suffering unique and personal to the person. There’s no YouTube tutorial that teaches you how to become you.

The idea of God reveals itself through efforts that overcome said suffering, be it through work (doing something significant), through love, or through courage during difficult times. Therein lies the relation between ethics and Frankl’s conception of God—Willpower overcoming fate; “good” overcoming “evil”.

I’d say that this book is a very interesting take on Nietzsche’s idea of “the man who knows the why can bear any how.” Even within the cold winter, malnourished and broken, despite knowing that his wife is probably dead—even the angelic “idea” of his wife is enough to keep him alive. The courage and hope to see his wife again is the cross he has to bear.

This is not explicitly a philosophical book; more of an autobiography, in fact. But it is certainly the book that got me interested in the subject.


Despite loving for the few books I’ve read, I’m not exactly a fast reader. I’ve only covered 10 last year, and according to my Goodreads peer groups, many of them broke over 20.

I’m currently going through Lee Kuan Yew’s From Third World to First, as well as Metro 2033. Let me know what are your favourite books so far and why! Would love to hear from you guys.

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