Tuesday, February 02, 2016


This post first appeared in Kungfu Cats Academy.

I watched this TED talk recently by Johann Hari regarding Addiction. It's a good talk show, and it talks about how everything we knew about addiction is out-dated and wrong. In essence, addiction had been shown to be cured by introducing more social bonds to the addicts. If the addicts have something to look forward to, where they feel they are needed and wanted, then they will not depend on substances like alcohol, gaming, gambling or drugs etc to fulfill that need for connections.

This might be important information when I meet computer games addicted teenagers in my line of work.

Usually gaming addiction is a more serious problem afflicting boys. Girls have their own set of nightmares to deal with, but it's seldom with gaming. At least I've not seen it before, even with my 12 yrs in this business with more students being females than males. The worst case I've seen that I can't handle is a boy who lives around Serangoon area. He lives in a well to do district in private estate and also studied in a very good school near his district. Everything seems to be fine for him except that he can't stop gaming day and night, somethings without much sleep. He will go to lessons with me feeling all grumpy and sleepy, and sometimes I've to wait a good 30 mins or so to wait for him to come down. I was pretty newbie back then, so I couldn't handle this case and had to give up. I always wondered what happened to him.

While I'm pretty sure restricting access to tablets and smartphones to young kids is going to work, especially for young boys, I think there's also another way that we had to work on. Most of these kids have highly successful parents - all high flyers in their respective fields. And unfortunately all very busy with their careers to really take care of the little nitty gritty details in their family life. Most of the time the maid (and occasionally, maids) will have to take care of the kids. The situation is kind of ridiculous - it's like telling the policeman to catch criminals but they can't touch the criminals. They can only yell and scold and hope the criminals will slow down and head for the nearest jail themselves. Paper tigers won't stand a chance; kids these days know the power relationship very very well.

The other way that we had to work on, based on the TED talk mentioned above, is to work on connecting them to something outside of themselves. Usually this connection is fulfilled by parents or grandparents, then followed by friends. But these days with the social connection kind of being fulfilled online by gaming or social media, it's all going downhill. Maybe reality is so bad and stressful that people are finding connections online. Fighting demons with a powerful wizard in greater rifts level 70 easily with a press of a few mouse clicks can be quite empowering. Probably much better than facing an empty connections in an empty house in real life, or the prospect of being an un-liked kid in school.

I'm a gamer too, and I played games throughout exams period since primary school. But there's always something out there in the real work that I felt obliged to go back to, either out of responsibility or duty. Maybe that is what parents need to work on. And from experience, they will really have to start young, probably in primary school level. After that, it's going to be harder and harder to change.

I've seen plenty of cases where the parents, suddenly aware of the dropping results of their kids in secondary school, started to punish the kids by withdrawing their laptop or handphones. It works initially because of the cold turkey treatment, but eventually that emptiness still needs to be filled by something tangible. If not, the kid will go back to the gaming. Do you think your locked passwords can stop them? These kids are digital natives, and probably know a few tricks that you don't even know. Besides, they can also go LAN shop or some friend's home for 'group study'. With games being online and so mobile, you don't even need your own computer to play.

I'm a bit long winded here because this is something close to heart. The key takeaways mixed with some suggestions:

1. While making sure your kid are not having unrestricted access to any gaming devices, do make sure you set a good habit also. Taking the mobile devices away from your kid but using them yourself to play games is kind of pointless. The irony of which can be easily noticed by your kid.

2. While removing mobile gaming device from your addicted kids, do make sure you have something else to replace that connection. Gaming as an addiction is just a symptom. The real cause is the need for connections. How about spending more time with them?

3. I believe dads can play a greater role in parenting. 99% of the parents I liased with are with the mothers. 99% of the time the mum are the ones who bring the kids to my place for lessons, regardless of whether the mums are working or not. It's something to reflect on when I become a parent as well. This is probably the best reasons to be financially free.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Normality is over-rated

This article here really tugs at my heart.

I found myself always trying to unlearn the things that I've learnt in school, or from others, so that I can take in new information and assimilate them into my consciousness. The new illiterate are not those who cannot read, but those who cannot unlearn what they had learnt and thus adapt to ever changing circumstances.

When I started my job as a tutor, I wasn't taking a normal job. A normal job is a 9 to 5, wearing long sleeves and a tie, with a suitcase and going towards the city area. You get paid every month, with occasional bonus plus benefits. I always say this: my job as a tutor is so 'abnormal' that even my parents didn't recognise that I'm working until quite recently, especially when I was still living with them. I get calls to find a proper job all the time while I was still living with them. The pressure to conform is very very real.

There are plenty of other normal things that normal people normally do, like retiring at 60 or even eating 3 meals a day. During medieval times, people only eat 2 meals a day, or once if they are poorer! A lot of such norms are really social constructs, which is obvious and common sensical when we're trapped in our current society. There are societies out there who treat their children as mini adults, letting them have all the sex they want (interestingly, they contrasted our society and theirs - ours have all our hunger satisfied but there's no warmth in our relationship. Theirs have no warmth in their bellies) and no mothering over dangerous things like knives or fire. In fact, most kids there have scars to remind them about the danger. If you know about such societies, it does make you question over what is considered normal. If you like more of this, go read "The world until yesterday" by Jared Diamond.

And thus the point of travelling is to experience new cultures. If you want to travel with the cultural baggage that you had, then you just did an out of body kind of travelling. Your body flies across great spans of oceans to arrive at the destination, but your mind is still as closed as a clam back in your self imposed confinement. Maybe reading more will help, rather than travelling more.

Now, I'm not saying everyone should go out and break out of the norm. Going against the norm simply because you want to be contrarian is as sheepish as going together with the herd. It's like Kepcorp dropping like flies and because you want to be a contrarian, and be greedy when others are fearful, you just buy it. Seeing the world in dual choices is silly. If people are not buying A, you don't have to buy A - you can buy B, C, D or E. The important part here is not to be reactionary. You see people do this, you react by following them or not following them without much consideration.

I think we need to examine the norms that we are following unconsciously, and examine them critically to see if their values align with ours. Only then will yours decisions be truly yours and not the product of some reactionary decision you've made by looking at what others did or did not do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hacking the routine in my life

If you found me posting lesser and lesser, it's not because I'm discouraged by the bear attack recently. In fact, I'm busy buying away and watching my defense line to see if they need supports. Rather, I'm occupied with hacking my life's routine.

On a whim, I decided to start waking up early one day. It started on a particularly slow Monday, where I felt that I was so unproductive that it pisses me off. Then I wanted to wake up on Tues at 7am and go jog - which is something I've not done for a very long time. The last recorded run I ever had was back in mid 2014, and that is unbecoming of me. I clearly know the health benefits of exercising aerobically 3 times a week, but I just didn't have the discipline to do it. And heck, I've been procrastinating for way too long, always coming up with excuses like having too much work etc etc. Work is never going to get lesser, and I'm never going to be more healthy or younger, so it's just now or nothing. What's the point of being focused on earning some much when I don't have the health to support it? Pointless, I say.

So I did wake up at around 7am for the next couple of days and I did went for a jog. Yesterday was the third time in a very long while, and I can now run continuously for about 13 mins over a distance of 1.8 km. Slow, but well, I had to take baby steps to kickstart the whole thing.

I realised that good habits stack on top of one another. One of the hardest excuse to not jog is that I have no time, so I wake up at 7am to run - excuse eliminated. Then I can't wake up early enough, so I have to sleep early at around 11 to 12 instead of 1 to 2am - excuse eliminated. Then I can't relax at night after work, so I shifted my entire schedule to fit in a running schedule, like having a light dinner really really early (like 530 or 6) to give time to digest to allow an early night sleep - excuse eliminated. My point is that as I try to improve myself, several things all change in tandem to one another. It's like I felt my life improving not just by 1 point or 2 points, it's like 30 to 50 points in one shot, because of this cascade of good habits that support each other.

In summary, to have a healthy lifestyle, here's the following I changed over the span of a year:

1. Meditation every night - helps in my sleep and relieving of stress
2. Fruits for lunch every alternate weekday - keeps me more energetic and less bloated
3. Jogging twice every week - helps my cardiovascular fitness
4. Pullup/pushup every day - helps my upper body and back muscles, also the mental strength to go on when I thought I can't go on anymore.
5. Waking up early and hence going to bed early

Everything works in tandem with each other. I shudder to think what happens if this situation is reversed, as in when one bad habit supports a lot of other bad habits and we have a vicious cycle downwards. How we do one thing is how we do everything.

Oh, one advice to people hacking their life - roll with the punches. Your system must have allowance for slack days where you totally don't feel like doing anything of the wonderful life-changing things you've set as your goals. You just want to vegetate in front of your tv eating potato chips. Go and do it. Allow for small failures but get back in the next time. Don't aim for perfection, aim for consistency and sustainability.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Plan for 2016

After utilizing a portion of my warchest, it's time to wait for the kill for the remaining portion of my warchest. It's not easy to look at your portfolio and see it decimated week after week, but I think I took a depression and several years thereafter to get the lesson that the market is trying to teach me when I paid my tuition fees involuntarily. These are lessons that have to be taken eventually. Life has a habit of throwing you obstacles when you think that everything is going smoothly. Learning to take things in stride, especially when you can do nothing about it, is an essential skill.

Let's focus on the things we can do. I'm more worried about my job if the bear market becomes protracted. If we go by the rule of thumb of the market leading the actual economy by 6 months, then we might see a bad situation for SG51. Will my jobs be affected? Since that is my main source of income, that is also my main source of worry.

Here's my worry:

1. Harder to get new students
2. Bad debts for existing students
3. Reduction in fees chargeable

1. Harder to get new students

I think given the often toted resilient nature of the education industry, it might be a while before I can feel this effect. In the past few recessions, I did notice a slowdown in the intake towards the ending phase of the recession, not the start. I guess when people reduce their expenses, their child's educational needs are still considered needs and not wants. It still requires constant effort to keep on marketing and looking for new students year in year out, so I'll continue doing that. I think I'm better trained than most to do this, because every year I have to find new students anyway as my graduating students leave. I should be able to replicate whatever I've done in the past 12 years to do this.

2. Bad debts for existing students

I only have bad debts for the first 2 years of my career. After I implemented some measures to reduce my risk, this had come down to zero. Still, with a possible recession coming, then I will have to step up my measures. For new students, perhaps I will have to start my practice of giving less credit and asking for payments from monthly to bi-weekly. Also I'll collect fees in advance whenever possible, so as to reduce my risk of non-payments. I should be able to handle this aspect from past bad experiences.

3. Reduction in fees chargeable

I suspect that if the demand drops, I might have to reduce the fees somewhat to raise the demand level. That should be the last resort. The better way is to group students together, so that each student pays substantially lesser amount but I get to earn a higher fees per hour. Win-win for everyone. I remembered that a student had to ask for a reduction in fees because the father got retrenched in the last round of recession. I can't remembered whether I took a reduction (knowing myself, I think I did), but now with my own classes conducted at home, I can do a few tricks to protect myself. Grouping is one way. For students whom I am going over for lessons, asking them to come over for a fee reduction is also a great alternative. What I get in lesser fees can be translated to more time and less effort needed to get over there.

Having said all these, I also need to increase the range of services that I 'sell'. I have to upgrade my skillsets to increase the range of modules/subjects that I can teach. This is why I'm very glad to be able to teach new modules/subjects this year. I'm currently handling one IB student with very weird option topics. Usually the option topics will be statistics, which every A'lvl student are taking anyway. But this particular student is taking discrete mathematics, which I've never studied formerly before. Reading up intensely now (and neglecting my 52 books challenge for the time being) so as to prepare myself for possibly wider and more comprehensive range of modules to teach. This is on top of 2 university modules that I could be teaching to 2 students. One is one statistics, matrix algebra and differential equations and the other is math for econs and statistics again. Which means more reading and studying.

What am I doing all these for? To secure my income! I realise that for now, and likely for the next 15 yrs, it's going to have far more reaching consequences that my investments could ever do.

The underlying conditions for all these will be shattered if I do not have the health to support it. We think that health is always a given, until it is lost. If you've ever had a bad case of flu, whatever big plans you have for your career will have to take a backseat while you just really want to lie in bed and sleep. As such, the focus will never ever be off on health. This year, I'm trying to eat cleanly and also continuing my spiritual practice of meditation. Every alternate days on weekdays is going to be fruits for lunch. Halved my portion of rice too. Everyday except Sunday is a rest day for my body, while everyday I have to do some pullups or pushups. I'm trying to kickstart a jogging habit too and I hope to do so by end of this month.

Let's go.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Greasy Panda crash of 2016

As I type out this post, STI is down another 47 points to 2650. Everyday you'll see the oil and gas sector, as well as the banks going down and down and down. For every bear, there's always a name attached to it. In my little group, we call this the greasy panda - greasy because it's oil related and panda because the last straw that broke the camel's back seems to start from China.

For those who had the cash to capitalise on this, it's a dream come true. Such events, should we survive, will propel us a few years forward. The key word is that we need to survive through it. I think now we shall see whether you can take the risk that people talk about in the stock market. If you're a Kepcorp investor, seeing your holdings drop 5% everyday is not funny at all. In order not to panic sell and capitulate, I think it's important to sit tightly in your 3 legged chair.

There's a lot of bargains out there. Singtel and Starhub are around the same price now, battling each other to see who can go down more. Since they are at the same price, which would you buy? All the banks are priced below their book value now, which means they are really at a very good valuation. The problem is whether the book value (Asset minus liabilities) can be trusted upon. The banks hold debts for oil and gas companies, as well as their bonds, so if one topples will it drag the rest down with it? Reits are priced at ridiculously high yields now, but between a blue chips at near reit yield vs a reit at super high yield, which would you rather buy? And then there's the oily stocks like semb corp industries, semb corp marine and kep corp. Do you catch a falling knife and hope for mean reversion to kick in? Or is this time different?

These and many other questions are not easy to answer because nothing is clear. If you wait until it's very clear, you'll likely miss out the initial reversal. But if you don't wait until things are clear, you might risk entering too soon. Again, more questions and no answers. More doubts and not enough cash.

What would I do?

1. Proportion each investment with a fixed %. If things go sour, it won't drag your entire portfolio down with it. Do not average down blindly.

2. Stop staring at the watchlist if it affects you. Life goes on with or without the stock market. If you didn't do point (1) properly, you'll get unduly worried, then perhaps you should reduce your holdings. Sell down your holdings to sleeping point. Don't lose sleep over such things.

3. Work hard and save up more. If stock market is a precursor for the economy at large, it doesn't bode well for sg economy in the next 6 months to a year. If your income stability, one of the legs of your 3 legged chair, is threatened, then things will get even harder for you. So save up for both your emergency funds and also your warchest. Survive first, then we can talk about prospering. Be robust first, then we talk about anti-fragility.

4. Buy something in the stock market. We're at this stage where the odds are that in 5 yrs times, we will wonder why we didn't put in more money in the market.

For the uninitiated, welcome to your first bear.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Don't get bullied by the bear

I was in Bangkok when the market went crashing through several levels of support to end up where it is right now. Even though I didn't spend a lot in my trip there, my 'online purchase' is of several magnitudes more than my wife's physical shopping. I had queued for several blue chips and the order got fulfilled one by one. We know this is a bear territory because for many counters, we're in unchartered territory. If you are using the free Chartnexus, you'll know what I mean. The prices are way lower than the last 3 yrs, possibly 5. If you zoom out, you'll see most stocks are right at the bottom of the chart. Suddenly we're back in 2011 to 2013.

I'm a lot less bothered than the last bear. I think whether you will panic in a bear market boils down to three main pillars:

1. Income security
2. Portfolio allocation
3. War chest level

Like a three legged chair, if any one or more of these legs are chopped off, the whole chair will topple.

1. Income security

This is simply how safe your income is. If you're still working, like me, then how secure is your job. If you're not working, then how safe is your passive stream of income coming in. I think we still need to pay various things. Some people have to pay more than others because they have more debts or overhead cost to handle. Regardless, if your income stream is threatened, I think you will be a lot more panicky in a bear market.

For me, my main source of income is from tuition. It's been fairly stable for me once I got the hang of it. I think my income security is pretty good. At the back of my mind, I'm always afraid what funny things MOE can do to threaten my livelihood, so I'm prepared for that by building up my passive income stream from investments. Since I'm not beholden to any one company for my income, I think I should be pretty secure, but I'm certainly preparing for major structural changes should something big happen to disrupt the industry in the next 15 to 20 yrs.

2. Portfolio allocation

In the past bear market, I was heavily concentrated in a few s-chips. I kept averaging down as it drops until I capitulated and sell off at a huge loss. I'll never do that again. This time round, each position is capped by a percentage to entire portfolio size. I think the size of one position in any investment should be proportional to the knowledge you have of that investment, capped to an absolute amount. If you're not so certain, you should have less of your portfolio allocated to it. Vice versa. For newbies, this is a real risk, because if you're not sure of what you're doing, and you keep adding in as the price keeps dropping, you're in for a blow up. I know people who are 50 or 60% into a single counter, but I'm not them and I don't ever think I have the balls to do that.

3. War chest level

Simply put, how much investible cash do you have? A bear market is only good if you have the cash to capitalise on it. Otherwise, you're just window shopping in a sale of the decade. I still have about 30% (down from 40% in Dec 2015) cash that is not allocated yet. Based on my personality, I don't think I will ever be 100% invested. The good thing is that as the new year starts, I should be working more towards my peak and my war chest will be shored up again. There never seem to be a time where it's not good to save up more. In bull times, you save up more to prepare for bear market. In bear market, you save up even more to pump into investments.

Everyday is a good day to save, LOL!

If you're worried about your recent investment souring, fret not. When all these are over and done with, and there's an official name for this bear market we're in, coupled with a whole lot of reasons by experts on why we ended up like this, you'll regret why you didn't put in more money now hahaha!

Monday, December 28, 2015

The chains of Habits

The chains of habit is too light to be felt, until it's too heavy to be broken.

Habits can be both good and bad. Here, let's focus on the good ones. If you want to start a new habit, research says you need at least xx days to form it. 'xx' can be anything from 21 days, or 49 days (7 weeks), to 66 days. I think it doesn't matter how many days, but the point is that you must do it consecutively, or regularly enough, until you can't pass the week (or the day) without doing it. Then you know the chains of habit is too heavy to be broken.

Recently I read an article about meditating for 100 days consecutively, and I wanted to try it myself too. I downloaded an app called Rewire (android). I think there are various such apps out there, so I just picked something that is free and easy on the eyes.

The app works like this: Each day I'm supposed to meditate. It doesn't matter how long I do it as long as I did it. Initially for the first few weeks, I don't dwell on anything other than the fact that I need to do it every day. To make it more regular, I always do it before I go to sleep. From my pushup habits (which I do immediately after I shower), I know that it's important to latch on a new habit to existing habit. You can't avoid not showering, or not sleeping, so these are sure bets. After each time, I'll click on the calendar you see above, and click done. If I do it consecutively, there'll be chains joining one day to the next and the app will tell you the longest chain you've formed.

I think it's cool to gamify the formation of habits this way. So far, I've done 49 out of 49 days consecutively already, without skipping any days. I'm not perfect too, there are some habits that I didn't do as well. Below is my habit for doing some form of exercise everyday for 100 days. For this particular habit, I left Sunday (in blue) as a break. Red means that I failed and didn't do it. It's either because I am too unmotivated to do so, or I'm not feeling too well. Usually both lol!

Back to meditation. From my experience, after about 7 to 8 weeks (2 months), I realised that there are days in which I'll forget to click on the app, but I would still remember to meditate. That's when I know that the habit had formed a strong and heavy chain.

Here's a few key takeaways from my experience in forming new habits:

1. When starting, focus on doing the action. Don't care about the quality or the quantity. If you do it, it's a deed done to strengthen the chain of the habits.

2. You'll need 2 months consecutively for the new habit to sink in, until you can't pass the day without forgetting about it. Even when I skipped certain days, I know I have to do it. It at least didn't slipped my mind.

3. I've not tried it before in kicking a bad habit, but I suspect the mechanism is the same. You just need to override the bad habits with new ones, and do it for 2 months consecutively. Perhaps you'll need more time since psychologically it'll be harder to break, I suspect.

4. Small, regular action reinforce big, macro habits. Don't belittle the little things you do everyday in forming long term habits. It works both ways for good and bad habits too. If you spend $1.80 every day eating a curry puff, it might slowly form a bad habit that will be very hard to break after some time. Don't belittle the small, regular things you do everyday.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Circle of life

I noticed that with each Christmas that passes me by, it seems that my life gets simpler and simpler. I remember that in my younger days, I would go out to party with friends. Nothing wild, just going to Orchard for the countdown - you know, that sort of thing. Countdown parties seems like the craze for me back then. It's not that Christmas is particularly important for me, maybe it's just an excuse to let loose a while. 'Thon' - that's the word for staying overnight as we countdown to Christmas day itself.

After having a gf, it's about having a proper date. Something like a movie, followed by some restaurants meals, then counting down with her etc. As the relationship progresses where she starts knowing my friends and I know hers, we have parties again, but this time in pairs. It's all about the experience and creating moments together.

So what did I do on this particular Christmas day? Nothing spectacular. I know I don't like crowds and parties, so I didn't want to brave out to Orchard or even Marina area to avoid them. Instead, we went to our quiet neighborhood cafe, had a cup of tea and a slice of cake before going home. No special dinners, just the usual tze char fare at the coffeeshop, ordering the same dishes as usual. Very reflective and quiet.

I think when we have kids, it'll start to become rowdy and the feeling is that we'll be moving towards the days when we're younger again. In order to let your kids experience Christmas like you've not had it before, you might get a real Christmas tree complete with presents at the bottom of the tree. Then everyone can participate to decorate the tree and wrap the presents together. I'm sure there'll be trips to Orchard road and other crowded places to jostle with the rest so that we can feel the proper yuletide atmosphere. The whole experience also includes a complete Christmas dinner with roast chicken, ham and the like. In other words, nothing like what I've experienced yesterday.

And many many years later, when the children are all grown up and leaves the home to set up their own home, maybe it's back to the days now. Quiet, simple yet still a very great Christmas. Quiet and reflective versus Rowdy and experiential. Cycles of ups and downs.

That's the circle of life, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A little a day goes a long way; A lot goes a longer way

Savings more or earning more is the way forward? Some say it's savings more, some say it's earning more and some say both are important. To me, I think the sequence is more important.

 I think if you're having a fixed pay where your income is fixed, then there's nothing else you can do to increase it. If you want to save more, then you have to cut your spending. The savings equation is very simple; Savings = Income - Expenses. Cutting expenses is the least disruptive way towards saving more. Here's where the needs and wants are segregated, and you want to reduce frivolous expenses down to a minimum. But there's only so much you can cut once you've tried. Without going down the cheapskate route, being frugal still means having to eat food and having a shelter above your head when you sleep at night. There's also so much you can cut without sacrificing long term health too.

This is the point where you have to think about increasing your earnings. This is much more disruptive than cutting costs, because it will involve changing your entire assumptions about your earning power. At some point in time, you have to rack your brains to think what other streams of income can you get while still maintaining your expenses. This is hard, and there's a lot more reasons (or excuses) you can give not to do this and continue cutting your expenses to save more.

So, for salaried workers, save more by cutting expenses first, then go and try earning more.

For salesman and self employed, where there's no such thing as a fixed salary, you'll find that people tend to favour earning more as a way to save more. Once you think of yourself as a company, you'll want to increase your net profits by increasing revenue and not just reducing cost. Which is fine, until you realise that people who earn a lot more tend to spend a lot more too. If that's the case, then the next step is to learn how to stop your cost from rising proportionally to your earnings. If you earn much more than the rise of your expenses, net net you'll still save more.

So, I think for those without fixed pay, try to earn more and then try to reduce your expenses in order to save more.

What about me? I started saving more by cutting costs. Then when I realised that I've nothing more to cut because it is so painful for me to live such a miserable life like that, I started to change my assumptions to earn more. Ironically, that is also painful. I've to work a lot more hours and a lot more odd hours. Hence the first 50k that I saved is so much tougher than the last 50k that I saved. It's like that - if you want to create a new habit, you have to constantly remind yourself and basically live and immerse yourself in that environment. That's why you have to ask yourself why you even want to save this amount in the first place.

Motivation will make your journey more understandable. Desperation will make it possible. A little goes a long way, but for me, a lot goes a longer way. A lot of what? Effort!!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The year 2015 in terms of books read

Year 2015 is like any other year in terms of my book challenge. I completed my 52 books challenge for 2015 with some more weeks to spare! I find that this year, the quality of the books I read are fantastic. There's a lot more breadth and also a lot more depth. I started reading up books on spiritual growth too, so I think that's a genre that I can always do more in depth. As usual, I'll put up a list of all the 53 books I've read this year, and then later I'll recommend a few which I think are superb reads.

My grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry - Fredrik Backman
Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now - Maya Angelou
All God's children need travelling shoes - Maya Angelou
Mom & Me & Mom - Maya Angelou
The Sun My heart - Thich Nhat Hanh
The little book of Safe Money - Jason Zweig
The buddha walks into the office - Lodro Rinzler
What we see when we read - Peter Mendelsund
Way more than Luck: Commencement speeches - various
Inspiration from Buddha - Lim SK/Fu Chunjiang
The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distance - Matthew Inman
Linchpin - Seth Godin                             
The little book of market myths - Ken Fisher
Little book of big idea on business - Dr John Lipczynski
The 5th wave - Rick Yancey
The synchronicity key - David Wilcock
A man called Ove - Fredrik Backman
The power of positive thinking - Norman Vincent Peale
Then we came to the End - Joshua Ferris
The Mystery of the Shemitah - Jonathan Cahn
Inedia Non Eating - Joachim M Werdin
Crazy rich asians - Kevin Kwan
Here's looking at Euclid - Alex Bellos
The new new thing - Michael Lewis
Dust - Hugh Howey
My mother's secret - J.L. Witterick
Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman! - Richard P. Feynman
Kim Jong-Il production - Paul Fischer
The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion
Killing sacred cows - Garrett B. Gunderson
Shift (1 to 3) - Hugh Howey
Wool (1 to 5) - Hugh Howey
Mindfulness in plain English - Ven. Henepola Gunaratana
The man who mistook his wife for a hat - Oliver Sacks
To sell is human - Daniel H. Pink
Alex through the looking-glass - Alex Bellos
The Singapore Permanent Portfolio - Alvin Chow
William Shakespeare's Star Wars - Ian Doescher
Out of our minds - Ken Robinson
The next 100 years - George Friedman
All the light we cannot see - Anthony Doerr
Faraday, Maxwell and the Electromagnetic field - Nancy Forbes
Barbarians at the Gate - John Helyar & Bryan Burrough
Son of Hamas - Mosab Hassan Yousef & Ron Brackin
What if - Randall Munroe
Robogenesis - Daniel H. Wilson
Robopocalypse - Daniel H. Wilson
The birth of Korean Cool - Euny Hong
Everything I never told you - Celeste Ng
The education of millionaires - Michael Ellsberg
I am the messenger - Mark Zusak
If you want to write - Brenda Ueland
Hope for the flowers - Trina Paulus

Here's the list of my top 7 books that I recommend for 2015

My grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry - Fredrik Backman
A man called Ove - Fredrik Backman
My mother's secret - J.L. Witterick
All the light we cannot see - Anthony Doerr
Everything I never told you - Celeste Ng
Alex through the looking-glass - Alex Bellos
The next 100 years - George Friedman

1. Fredrik Backman is my new favourite author. I like his books and they are all translated from his native Swedish. His style focuses on a lot of character building, and at the end of the book, you'll laugh, cry and be touched by them. After reading his books, I realise that everyone became who they are because of the things that had happened to them. Their baggage, so to speak. In the end, we have to be kind to others, because once we know their story, you just cannot help but to do that. Ultimately, being kind to others is also being kind to yourself, because we also have baggage that we carry on our back constantly, like snails. Both the books below are excellent reading, easily the best and most touching novels I've read for the year.

2) J.L. Witterick style in this book is very refreshing. I've seen it employed in different books that I've read, but it's not as effective as it is done here. The story is like watching 4 different persons weaving a single piece of tapestry. Each knit and weave by different person gives you their unique viewpoint of the same tapestry, then as the weave gets bigger and spreads out, the seemingly disparate parts comes together until you see one complete tapestry. Once the threads comes together, you cease to see the 4 different weaving pattern but instead you just see one complete piece of art. It's like that when you read this book. It's also based on a true story, set in the Nazi occupied Poland during world war 2.

3, Some books you just have to read it yourself to feel it. This is yet another book set in occupied France during world war 2. I always feel that history should not be just about the facts. You can't empathize and learn history by just looking at the factual information. An important part of history lies in the stories of the survivors and also those who died. What made them who they are? Why do they do this and that? Would you do the same thing if this happened to you? This is one of the few books that talks about the war from both sides, in the eyes of children. You can't find such viewpoints from movies, and I think it's because it's almost always portrayed as the victor or the victim. This books shows that there is no winner and everyone is poorer but also richer because of the shared experience of the war.

4. How I love this book! First time author Celeste Ng nails it down in her debut writing in this novel. She captures the tension of characters so well and you can't help but flip the pages over and over again just to see what will happen. And I especially like the way in which a character do or says something, which is what everyone can see but you won't know what he or she is thinking about when doing that action. So, the book will tell you what they are thinking about a few pages later. You can immediately compare and contrast the difference between what you see and what they are thinking. Misunderstanding stems from communicating and also from not communicating. I think the author spent several years writing and re-writing this book, and keeps changing it as she went through a full round of pregnancy. This is like the author of The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, who reportedly wrote and rewrote the entire manuscript from scratch until it is the perfect version we cannot forget now.

5. Recommended by a reader from bullythebear, this books took me to a journey involving numbers and their implications in life. This is a page turner for me and I'm sure it'll be if you love mathematics somewhat. You don't have to follow pages and pages of differential equation to like this book, but you do have to love the spirit of mathematics. Alex Bellos goes around the world looking for people who loves numbers too. Very approachable and friendly read. If you're worried about not knowing enough mathematics to enjoy this book, don't worry - it'll be fine.

6. Recommended book again, haha :) Fantastic read - part prophecy, part fiction and part novel. As the title implies, George Friedman tried to speculate what are the major moves happening around the world in the next 100 years. Given that this book is published back in 2009, you can see some of the major currents that he underlined already being played in the world stage today. It also establish the Russian conflict and explains their behavior through Russia's geographical landscape. This book is very interesting if you like to make some sense of the world's major events and love to link economic theories with geography and I enjoyed this thoroughly. Word of advice - don't be so quick to dismiss US and her highly indebted state.