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15 Books You Should Be Reading, As Recommended By Singapore’s Current And Former Leaders

When was the last time you read a good book?

This article was first published on 11 January 2018, and updated with the latest appointments.

“When was the last time you read a good book?” This was the question posed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the launch of the National Reading Movement, a five-year campaign launched in 2016 to encourage Singaporeans to “Read More, Read Widely, and Read Together”.

With the world changing so quickly, reading is an important habit and tool to broaden our minds and give us new perspectives. For the work place, reading allows us to be abreast of what the thought leaders in our industry are doing and thinking about.

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With new library facilities, mobile borrowing corners in the heartlands, apps and e-books, as well as audiobooks, there really isn’t any excuse not to read these days.

In case you want some recommendations on what books to get started on, here are some by Singapore’s leaders who posted their recommendations on Facebook in support of the National Reading Movement. If you haven’t read these books, there is no better time to do so.

After all, if these leaders could find the time to read, so can we.

Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore Prime Minister

“I enjoy reading, but read less than I would like for pleasure. It is partly finding time, and also (if the book is serious) the effort of focussing on something not work related.”

#1 Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
In Mr Lee’s own words: “[It] tells the story of Israel’s nation building and the conflict with the Palestinians through personal stories.”

#2 Operation Thunderbolt, by Saul David
In Mr Lee’s own words: “[It] is about the spectacular Israeli commando raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda, to rescue hostages after an aircraft hijacking, which happened exactly 40 years ago.”

#3 A Rage for Order, by Robert Worth
In Mr Lee’s own words: “[It] is about the Arab Spring, and how things have gone since then. Also told through personal stories, it brings home vividly the passions and struggles that combined to cause the upheavals in the Middle East.”

#4 Shogun, the Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, by A L Sadler
In Mr Lee’s own words: “[It is the biography of] the daimyo (warlord) who unified Japan and founded the Tokugawa shogunate… Published long ago in 1937, but promises a fascinating read.”

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Tan Chuan-Jin

Speaker of Parliament

“Can I urge parents to spend as much time as possible to read to their children and tell them stories? It cost you nothing but it brings so much joy and bonding. This was something I enjoyed very much when my children were younger… Leadership and management books are useful. We all need to continue to work at it and learn. And re-learn.”

#5 Leadership And Self-Deception – Getting Out Of The Box by The Arbinger Institute
In Mr Tan’s own words: “Strongly recommend it. It is useful not only for leadership and management, but even, and perhaps especially, for personal relationships.”

#6 Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Written by a winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, this book  distils a lifetime of research to shed light on surprising miracles and mistakes of our conscious and unconscious thinking. It explores both aspects that make us human – our rationality and irrationality.

#7 Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

#8 BZRK by Michael Grant

#9 A Fresh Start by John Chapman

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Khaw Boon Wan

Former Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Transport

“Reading is a joy. No matter how heavy office work is, I make time for reading (just as I do for exercise).”

#10 The Syrian Jihad: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency

#11 City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp
In Mr Khaw’s own words: “[It is about] the plight of the Somalian refugees in a refugee camp in Kenya.”

#12 Grit by Angela Duckworth
In Mr Khaw’s own words: “[The author] is a psychologist who observed that passion and perseverance are much more important attributes to success than talent is. I like her formulae: talent + grit = skills. skills + grit = achievement. So “grit” has a double weightage to success. It fits my ‘no pain, no gain’ world view.”


Dr Yaacob Ibrahim

Former Minister for Communications and Information, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs and Minister-in-Charge of Cyber Security

“Many of us, including myself, lead very fast paced lives. Which is why I find it all the more important to set aside time to slow down and pick up a good read for the quiet comfort it brings. I also enjoy reading because it keeps me in touch with the latest thinking and more importantly, I learn a lot from the books I have read.”

#13 In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria
In Dr Yaacob’s own words: “It was relevant for me as well as my two kids are about to embark on their overseas education so I wanted to know more about their impending studies… I thought the book was well written. Zakaria argued clearly for liberal education especially in our day and age where the ability to synthesis different streams of knowledge is ever more important.”


Lawrence Wong

Minister for Education

“I have less time to read non-work-related materials these days, but I still try to set aside time for this small pleasure whenever I can.”

#14 Frog by Chinese novelist and Nobel Laureate for Literature Mo Yan
In Mr Wong’s own words: “It’s hard for me to read the original version in Chinese. But this English translation published last year is very good, and captures many of the nuances of the original Mandarin text.”

Dr Janil Puthucheary

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information

#15 Survival Is Insufficient
In Dr Janil’s own words: “Have been working my way through this beautiful novel, about a band of Shakespearean actors in a post-apocalyptic near-future… The writing is superb, and draws you in, spinning a wide ranging tale that rests on tiny, fascinating details. This is a novel about culture and our personal relationship with culture.”

If these books aren’t enough, you can check out DollarsAndSense’s recommended list of Singapore personal finance and investing websites to up your financial game. Happy reading!

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