Bruce Poon Tip shares 7 life-changing books

As the founder of an adventure company, Bruce Poon Tip loves reading books about seeking success on the road less travelled. The Canada Reads 2016 panellist and bestselling author of Looptail will defend Birdie by Tracey Lindberg on this year's battle of the books. 

Below, Poon Tip takes us through seven books that have transformed his worldview and his life along the way.

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His favourite book by a kindred spirit

I remember being amazed by Farley Mowat and his story detailed in Never Cry Wolf. It was so personal and raw but also so direct, irreverent, idealistic and adventurous. It took me to a place that felt familiar even though I was not aware of why the character and the story touched me in a way no book had previously. Now, later in life, I see those same words frequently describing me and I relate to the character on so many levels. I had the good fortune to meet Farley Mowat before he passed away almost two years ago and I had a chance to share my thoughts with him. We agreed we were kindred spirits even though we were vastly different personalities.

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The book that changed the way he does business

I picked up Great Ocean: An Authorised Biography on The Dalai Lama by Roger Hicks and Ngakpa Chogyam in a book swap shelf while staying in a hostel in Nepal. Learning about a spiritual leader who was driven by the tenets of happiness, compassion and karma, being exposed to the concept of reincarnation - not to mention the fact that the present living Dalai Lama was indeed the 14th in a long line of incarnations of the same person - all altered the way I thought. This authorized biography detailing the lives and history of the same compassionate leader through the ages truly blew my mind, and prompted me to visit Tibet. That experience would forever change the way I looked at business.

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The book that he read at the start of a new career

Gabriel García Márquez is one of my favourite authors; he writes multi-generational books that are so well written they transcend language. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a magical story that defines South America through Colombian life, almost like a fairy tale. The reader is visited by a ghost that represents the past in a fatalistic way, and the main character tells a great story using historical Latin references rich with symbolism and metaphors. Sometimes a book takes you back to a place and time in your life and I had the good fortune to do the research to start my company, G Adventures, while travelling through Latin America, where I read this book. It will forever bring me back to the time when a new chapter in my life began.

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The book that taught him about his family roots

Wild Swans by Jung Chang is a book that spans three female generations in China. It is not only a historical account, but also chronicles stories of survival during dynasties and cultural revolutions through the lens of concubines and women with bound feet. My ancestry is from China, yet I was born on an isolated island in the Caribbean, so this book meant a lot to me, helping me better understand one side of China. It spans over 100 years, using the main characters as a guide to help readers understand - in a sympathetic way - decades of upheaval and change. In a strange way, this beautifully written masterpiece helped me better understand my father and where I came from.

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The book that reminds him to take risks

I Dreamed of Africa was inspired by Kuki Gallmann's lifelong love of Africa. It is her love story of how she dropped her socialite life in Italy to chase a childhood dream of life in Africa. Along with her young son and new husband, she moves to a farm in Kenya and begins an adventure that marries her dream-turned-reality with a beautiful, first-hand account of her life. I have read this book many times and it means so much to me because it's a real account of the beauty of chasing your dreams and giving up everything you're familiar with to find yourself. It's a story I can relate to about not listening to convention and truly following your destiny for the good, or the bad.

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His favourite book on business

In the business world I live in today, the majority of the books I read are leadership-related or centered around disruptive innovation. One of the best is Jim Collins's Good to Great. This is a study about how good companies become great, and how great companies sometimes go from great to good. With live examples that find a thread linking great companies, this is not your average boring business book but a great read. I think many could relate its lessons to their lives, about how to focus on values and not settle with just being good. It takes courage to jump from good to great and the pioneers in the business world who do so are true mavericks redefining success.

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The book that helped him understand depression

In the Jaws of the Black Dogs is a book that affected me because of the guts it took from a great Canadian named John Bentley Mays to write it. I don't know him but he is a bit of a hero of mine because I find this book so relentlessly honest and boldly courageous. May has the ability to articulate like very few can, and describe a very dark world that many people live with on a daily basis. Depression is one of the most misunderstood sicknesses and it impacts many of us, either directly or indirectly. On a more positive note, John Bentley Mays has become a much-loved art critic and aficionado of great architecture. He has managed a debilitating disorder and made his life and career about loving and appreciating beautiful things. This is the stuff of legends and so inspiring to me.


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