The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris
I must really love an 800-page biography for me to re-read it. I think Theodore Roosevelt is the closest we could get to a real-life superhero story, like, say, Captain America. He transformed himself from a scrawny asthma-ridden kid to a physically-robust man. He excelled as an all-rounder in Harvard. He devoured books like a machine. He had a wide range of interests, from history and literature, to hunting and naturalism. He held a myriad of positions, like police commissioner and Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He published more than 10 books before he became the youngest US President at age 42. Most importantly, he embodied integrity, courage and incorruptibility wherever he went. As a great leader (and one of the most badass Presidents), he always moved in the face of fear, and not away from it.
Eisenhower : In War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
Dwight D. Eisenhower was famous for commanding the troops on D-Day and being one of the brilliant minds in strategizing Hitler’s defeat in World War II. He didn’t nab much attention when he later become President, because that was just the way he led. If Theodore Roosevelt popularized the African proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, Eisenhower was probably the truer representation of that. He preferred to go by his business quietly and calmly, while he made the best decisions for the people — Without kicking up a fuss with the press or pointing fingers. Aligned with his modest leadership, he won the hearts of many by practicing plain old honesty. When the USSR caught the US for sending U-2 spy planes over their country, rather than bending the truth (which everyone else was doing), Eisenhower acted like a gentleman and admitted to everything.
Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent reading this book. It reads like a Russian novel, and it’s incredibly hard to put down. One could imagine how traumatizing it is to learn of a parent’s true character — Especially for Svetlena, whose father is a textbook example of a ruthless tyrannical leader. While that’s already difficult enough, she had a precarious relationship with her mother, who committed suicide when Svetlena was very young. It’s understandable that she developed an anxious attachment, spending a large portion of her life fearing abandonment and being so afraid of losing the people she loved. But above all of that, it’s truly inspiring that in her struggles with depression, she was able to use her immense pain towards making the world better, and building a great character in herself.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
What happens when you’re done playing God of War for the second time, and you’ve even finished unlocking every single trophy? If you’re like me, you probably can’t stop saying “BOOOI” at home — And maybe you’d also go down the rabbit hole even further by learning more about Norse mythology. As with all myths, you’d find plenty of different variations of the same stories. But in this book, Neil Gaiman does an amazing job in retelling the most well-known stories for readers who are newly acquainted with the mythology. My imagination wandered free and far in a world of giants, valkyries, dwarves and gods. It’s fun to learn about interesting characters like the power-hungry Odin, the savage Thor, and the honest and just Tyr — Aside from the magic and the fantasy, they’re not hard to find in our real world.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Another very good book. I think, for a long time, we’ve been accustomed to believing that in order to make changes in our lives — Whether that means starting new habits or getting rid of old ones, we need to take huge steps — And if we don’t follow through, it’s because we’re not motivated or inspired enough. James Clear points out that it’s better to focus on making continuous 1% improvements. The former approach isn’t very effective, because you’re just attempting to change the symptoms, rather than the real problems — Which is, how you see yourself. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s hard for you to do the necessary things, because you still think of yourself as an unfit person. Rather, a better way is to think, “I’m fit, and so, what would a fit person do?” and back up that belief with just small steps every day. That being said, your unhealthy habits represent who you were before, not who you are now. Also, the idea of making tiny 1% improvements every day seems ridiculous, right? But not when you think of the results it would bring a year or a few years from now. It’s no wonder that the Prophet (pbuh) advised us that small, incremental improvements are a lot better than huge deeds that you only commit to every now and then.
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Grand Innovations (Bonus article)
This was originally one of the assignments I had to write for a course called Technology and Innovation Marketing, which studies what it takes for a highly-innovative product to be adopted in the mainstream market — Or in other words, to appeal to the majority of consumers, rather than being just for nerds and aficionados. I researched on Tesla’s Model S and the DeLorean DMC-12 — Both highly-innovative, but one was a success and the other wasn’t — And you’ll find out exactly why. I made some minor tweaks here and there to suit your reading.
It is a tad formal, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it anyway.