Mimi's Favorite Books and Series // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

So many talented, knowledgeable, and powerful people have written down the exact secrets of their accomplishments. The best part? Anybody can have this information, as long as they take the time to really grasp it.

Think about that for a moment. You can, without spending more than $20, obtain the same knowledge that would normally take a person years of hard work to procure. [1]

Isn’t that mind-blowing?

I’ve been fortunate to learn from people who are much wiser and more experienced than I am, without ever having to leave the comfort of my room. This year, I’ve taken advantage of that fact more than ever, and have been reading about five articles and two books a week. The result has been exponential changes in the way I think, approach situations, and solve problems.

My life has gotten so much better since I started doing this. I’m never lonely or bored, and I’m a lot more pleasant to be around in general. It’s incredible.

I don’t believe in keeping knowledge and wisdom to myself — the point of ideas is to share them! Here are some books and series that I have considered fundamental in changing my thinking patterns and contributing to my personal development. [2]

Blue Striped Hollister Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie


Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman // Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman is one of my biggest inspirations because, despite receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, being part of the team that created the atom bomb, and establishing the field of quantum computing, he was a hilarious dude who didn’t take himself too seriously and hated pretentious, jargon-y talk. He invented the Feynman Method, my favorite learning technique of all time — basically, explain a topic to someone in the simplest way possible, and if a five-year-old can’t understand it, learn your stuff better. The Feynman Method drives every single technical article on this site. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman is a collection of short anecdotes that Richard told a friend, who recorded the conversations and transcribed them. I wish that he were alive today so that we could nerd out about theoretical computer science together, and then go prank a few random people on campus.

Steal Like an Artist // Austin Kleon

Nothing is original. Everybody steals from — ahem, gets inspired by — others. But if you’re “inspired by” enough people, you’ll eventually have a style all your own, so don’t worry about being original. Instead, make stuff that you’d want to watch/read/hear/consume! This book is short, but consists of knowledge that the author gathered over his career and lifetime, so the advice on each page is worth savoring slowly. It’s helped me a lot whenever I want to come up with ideas for articles, photoshoots, or drawings. It’s not just for artists — everyone who wants to produce better work, period, should use this little guide as their playbook for creativity.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane // Kate DiCamillo

This is one of those children’s books that all adults should read because it really drives home the importance of not being an asshole. Edward Tulane is a fancy, sentient china rabbit that belongs to a wealthy little girl. She loves him dearly, but he’s narcissistic, self-centered, and disdainful. One day, on an overseas trip, Edward gets separated from his owner, thus beginning a multiple-year-long journey of multiple people picking him up, giving him a new name and identity, and making him a part of their families. As soon as he starts forming some sort of attachment to them, however, shit happens and he’s left on his own again. It’s a fascinating (and a little heartwrenching) read on companionship and family, and might make you cry a little bit.

iOS Apprentice, 6th Edition // Matthijs Hollemans and Fahim Farook

I wanted to brush up on my iOS skills since I, you know, have a job as an iOS developer. This book takes you through making your own apps, starting from scratch. No previous iOS or programming experience necessary! Even with the work I’ve previously done in iOS, I found this book to be great for filling in those gaps in knowledge. It also made me laugh quite a bit in public, albeit more in a dorky-jokes kind of way:

Mimi's Favorite Books and Series // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

If you’ve been wanting to check out iOS dev for a while and you’ve got an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 11 or later, as well as a Mac running macOS 10.12.4 Sierra, give this one a try! [3]

Blue Striped Hollister Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Grace, Not Perfection // Emily Ley

Emily Ley is a super-white, super-Christian, super-Southern mom of three little kids and is also the creator of the Simplified Planners, which I’d totally use if a) I didn’t have gigantic handwriting, and b) I didn’t hate planners. Emily loves children, being a mom, and tradition. Essentially, she’s my antithesis. Normally I would have dropped this book like it was hot at the first Jesus reference, but I believe that I can learn some valuable things from people with drastically different mindsets (not to mention that the aesthetic of this thing was on point). Grace, Not Perfection has some great practical tips on meal planning, lowering your stress levels, and cutting the bullshit out of your life. I’m glad I stuck with it, even if the constant mentions of the “little ones” did make me a little nauseous.

Modern Romance // Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

What happens when a comedian, frustrated at his own subpar dating life, teams up with a sociologist to conduct a legitimate research study on marriage and relationships across generations? I first picked this up because I was in disbelief that Aziz Ansari would write an academic book, and boy am I glad that I did. Modern Romance reads like no other research book I’ve ever gotten my hands on — Aziz uses the words “fuck”, “shit”, and “dick pic” liberally while presenting his findings, and sprinkles plenty of personal anecdotes from himself and his research participants throughout. I read this book in public … and laugh out loud a lot, also in public. I picked it up just yesterday and am already halfway through. Highly recommended read, whether you’re wondering why your last Tinder date ghosted you out of nowhere, or if you want to know how much the institute of marriage has changed between generations.

The Atomic Weight of Love // Elizabeth J. Church

Reading this fucked me up, in a good way. The Atomic Weight of Love follows curious and driven scientist Meridian Wallace as she attends college, falls in love with a brilliant professor who constantly patronizes her, and gives up all of her hopes and dreams, including going to graduate school at Cornell, to marry and move across the country with him. The book starts when Meridian is seventeen and ends when she’s in her eighties, and the frustration that she feels being forced to choose between career/ambition and love/duty is still relevant in modern times, especially among women. Meridian reminds me a lot of myself, but she basically makes the exact choices I wouldn’t make, and it reinforced why having your own identity and path in life is so important to me.   

Hollister Ruffle Off-The-Shoulder Woven Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie


Essays // Paul Graham

I’ve been reading Paul Graham’s essays since I was a freshman in college, back when I was still a business major and still didn’t know how to code. He started my fascination with startups and Silicon Valley (now the topic of my senior thesis!). These essays on startup business strategy contain powerful advice on investing, management, and human nature, even if you never plan on being a founder.

Every Benjamin Hardy Article Ever // Benjamin P. Hardy

(Not actually the title of the series)(But would be cool if it were)

I like Ben Hardy’s articles because there’s a central theme to them all — finding your “why”, or your purpose in life, and having all of your decisions stem from that purpose. He believes that decisions should be permanent, commitments should be made carefully, and that uncomfortable emotions are a key indicator of success. Oh, and he journals as obsessively as I do. Whenever I feel like lying around and being a lazy P.O.S./feeling sorry for myself for being a lazy P.O.S., I read a Ben Hardy article and it makes actually want to get off my ass and do mundane things that will improve my life.

Yes, You Do Have Time

I will absolutely call bullshit on anyone who says that they don’t have time to read. Here’s an exercise, if you think you’re too busy to improve yourself — next time you want to watch TV or check social media or aimlessly scroll through your phone, read some actual content instead.

Your time is limited. Invest in yourself.

Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Hollister Ruffle Off-The-Shoulder Woven Dress // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

My Favorite Books // Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie


[1]  In fact, I encourage you to not spend money when you learn. The Internet, in all its free-PDF glory, is a thing, and so are libraries.

[2] This will be the first of many articles of its kind, since my actual list of influential content is super long and would be a slog to look through in one sitting.

[3] Those devices are a pretty hefty investment if you don’t already own them, but you can’t do iOS development without them. It’s sad, I know 🙁

This article is part of the Morning Content Challenge, where I write a blog post each morning before going to work. It’s an exercise in imperfection, timing, and self-discipline. If you have any questions or topic suggestions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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