Tag Archives: Incognito

Best books of 2016


I managed to read 25 books in 2016 and I hope to finish two or three during my Christmas break.

During 2016, I read the books listed below.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Focus by Daniel Goleman
Homo Sapiens by Yuval Harari
Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
A Funny thing happened on the way to Enlightenment by Lenny Ravich
His life biography by Jak Kamhi
Arrested by Can Dundar
Blockchain Revolution by Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Education by Tony Little
Power of Palace: Geography, Destiny, and Globalization’s Rough Landscape by H.J. de Blij
Never Give Up: Jack Ma in his own words by Suk Lee
Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor
Confession of a Sociopath: A Life spent hiding in plain sight by M.E. Thomas
Facing with our own history by Emre Kongar
Acknowledging what is: Conversations with Bert Hellinger by Bert Hellinger
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Blimey! from Bohemia to Britpop: The London Artworld by Matthew Collin
This is London by Ben Judah
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
2014: The Election that changed India by Rajdeep Sardesai
Last night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram
Memoirs of Ataturk’s Servant by Cemal Granda

Of course, you learn something from each book and each book has a relative value to each reader. If I were to suggest only three books to read from this list of great books, they would be the following:

  • Homo Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Harari
  • Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
  • The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

 Both books by Yuval Harari are great and I believe I have already given at least 40 volumes as gifts to my colleagues, friends and clients. In particular, Homo Sapiens is a must read. For those who have not read my review of these two books, here are the links:


Incognito is also another great book which confirms that while most of us think that we know everything, our brain plays tricks and we are, in fact, missing a large part of the world. I also published a review of this book a couple of months ago.


Finally, The Prince by Machiavelli is a classic and I bought this book during my summer visit to Florence. I think this is the sort of book that you should read every few years.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone happy 2017!

I am sure 2017 will be much better in many ways than 2016!

Best of luck in 2017.

All the best from Galle, Sri Lanka.
Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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Book Review: Incognito by David Eagleman

I do not know if it is a coincidence, but I have started reading quite a lot of neurology books recently.

Incognito by David Eagleman was recommended by someone who I really value and I immediately ordered it through Amazon in September, but it only arrived in Singapore in early October.


The author discusses how we run mostly on autopilot and how little we are conscious when we are living our normal lives. One of the provocative parts of the book is: even though we are in a consciousness state in most of our lives, we are not able to access this part of the brain. According to the author, this consciousness is carved by natural selection to solve problems our ancestors faced during our species’ evolutionary history or simply by practising something so hard that it becomes part of our lives such as a tennis player serving a ball or a driver driving a car.

He discusses that when an idea comes to your mind, your unreal circuitry has been working on it for hours, or days, or years, consolidating information and trying out new combinations.

It is just like the apple that fell down from the tree onto Newton’s head and he discovered gravity. He had already been working on it quite hard so that the apple falling from the tree and hitting him on the head was just the last touch to the ball to cross the line for the goal!

He emphasises that the conscious mind is not at the centre of the action in the brain; instead, it is far out on a distant edge, hearing but whispers of the activity.

One of the interesting examples that he uses in the book is that we believe that we see naturally but actually we learn to see and it is interesting that the majority of human beings live their whole lives unaware that they are only seeing a limited cone of vision at any moment.

There is a very provocative blind spot exercise that I will leave you to find out whilst reading the book.

He argues, “Just because you believe something to be true, just because you know it’s true that doesn’t mean it is true.”

According to the author, many people are found to have the neural ravages of Alzheimer’s disease upon autopsy – but they never showed the symptoms while they were alive. This is because these people continued to challenge their brains into old age by staying active in their careers, doing crossword puzzles, or carrying out any other activities that kept their neural populations well exercised. As a result, they built cognitive reserve.

The author gives many very interesting examples throughout the book, which I will leave you to discover. He discusses that a slight change in the balance of brain chemistry can cause large changes in behaviour and he adds that the behaviour of the patient cannot be separated from his biology.

The conclusion is: human behaviour will always remain unpredictable and we are not really responsible for all our actions, since many parts of the brain lead us to do a lot of stuff against our will. In addition, he believes the legal system and punishments should be adjusted to the state of the criminal’s brain where they may not be responsible for their actions, but his brain would (!)

Finally, David Eagleman has a more recent book, Brain: The Story of You, and he has a website, www.eagleman.com, where you can follow him.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

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