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The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,157 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Visionary? Authoritarian? Model for the West? Lee Kuan Yew, the long-time leader of Singapore, has been called all these things, and more. In these vivid memoirs, Lee takes a profoundly personal look back at the events that led to Singapore's independence and shaped its struggle for success. And, as always, he lets the chips fall where they may.In intimate detail, Lee reco ...more
Hardcover, 680 pages
Published October 7th 1998 by Pearson Ed Asia
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May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Unfortunately I was unable to finish this book and thus my review remains incomplete.

This autobiography was a fascinating view into a bygone era: the decline of Britain's empire and the struggle of Asian colonies for independence and against the spread of Communism. It's difficult to truly understand the significance of the twin challenges of Imperialism and Communism, so far removed are we from those times.

Lee accomplishes three things here: he states his principles, he tells the story of his o
Caleb Liu
Mar 25, 2007 rated it liked it
He is too fascinating a man, and has left far too large an imprint on modern Singapore history for this to be an uninteresting book. Having lived through many of the climactic moments surrounding the foundation of the modern Singapore state, this first volume of memoirs would have value in itself as a historical account of what happened. Still, one gets the sense in reading this of a didactic lecturer not seeking justification - he never has felt the need - but closer to that of a stern father i ...more
Rob Price
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
(a few pictures are included in the blog post, link above)

I recently visited Singapore and read Lee Kuan Yew’s (LKY) “3rd World to 1st World – The Singapore Story” to get a feel for the history, culture and politics. What an incredible character and an intriguing place! LKY is an unusual mixture of free-market advocate, state interventionist, anti-communist but adherent of socialism and yet he’s also against the welfare state.

anna b
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I'm a 3rd generation Singaporean and have great reverence for LKY (I've work on a small project directly involved with him and partly also due to the propaganda in school.) Hence, I find it hard to reconcile the fact that my grandparents disliked him and my parents (and their siblings) find him bearable. This book is a candid memoir of his early life as well as his political journey which led to the separation of Singapore and Malaysia. I got to know LKY better and the reason why some may dislik ...more
Sean Liu
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Some countries are born independent. Some achieve independence. Singapore had independence thrust upon it.

I loved this memoir. It is an incredible testament to the fact that so much of the Singapore story is inextricably tied to the Lee Kaun Yew story. From the days of the Japanese occupation, to his overseas education in the UK, to his weeks of golf/whiskey/poker diplomacy with the Tunku of Malaysia, LKY's history is nothing short of an adventure filled with drama and world travel that I
Marcus Seah
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The growth of Singapore is almost always presented as the rapid transformation from a dilapidated fishing village to bustling city state. As a child, I've largely been left to my imagination to fill in the gaps as to what transpired in order to create the modern Singapore.

In this book, the late LKY shares in intricate detail the hardships that he & his fellow party members endured from the Japanese occupation to the final separation from Malaysia. The memoir is not only an extremely well-writte
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Overrated book, i think, but still very interesting, since the author was leader of Singapore for almost half a century. His comments on politics and economics are often very smart and iteresting to read, as well as his comments on many famous politicians, but at times are boring and superficial (or maybe it is just eastern politeness). The book is worth to read for everybody who is interested in history, politics and economic policy.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
It was a good read to understand what happened before the formation of Singapore and the hardship that Lee Kuan Yew and his team faced internally and externally during this period.

But what I really wanted to know was how Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore from a struggling island to a thriving developed country.

Perhaps my expectations from the book was something else.
Pieter Vermeulen
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Extremely insightful book covering a variety of topics. It ranges from exlaining the development of Singapore to South East Asian history and politics. The part about China is very interesting still relevant even after 20 years
Catherine  Mustread
More than I wanted to know (or could ever remember) about Singapore's independence and political beginnings. ...more
Ali Al-Mansoori 🇦🇪
In the beginning it was interesting however it gets boring due to details that are not needed at all. I could not finish it accordingly
Jun 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lee Kuan Yew recounts the first half of Singapore’s history, focusing on its short-lived marriage with Malaya. The attempted merger was awfully complex. Its failure was simple. The power dynamics and racial divide were too much to overcome.
Esteban Vargas
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Amazing man, amazing story. The world can learn a lot from Singapore. That being said, this book gives way too much detail about that story, way more than I wanted to know, so for that reason I stopped reading it halfway.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
First part of an autobiographical trilogy by Singapore's founding father. I read it because I wanted to get details and backstory behind why Singapore and Malaysia separated, which is the climactic moment in the book. It took me a while to get through but it did not disappoint. I'm looking forward to reading part 2. ...more
Duminda Rathnayaka
Absolutely fantastic

This book sheds so much light on so many things that we barely notice. Apart from the fact that Lee Kuan Yew was a great politician who made Singapore into a prosperous country, it seems to me he was a great mind first and foremost.

At the beginning of the book there’s this anecdote about why LKY chooses Choo, who is couple of years older than him to be his wife. He explains it to her along these lines: “I don’t want to look after someone. I want someone who can look after he
Danny Quah
Jan 16, 2015 rated it liked it
A good read generally. The book is an account of developments as told by LKY himself - straight-talking and opinionated. Obviously there are disagreements - even with those closest to him - some not just of opinion but fact. The English language used in the book is definitely of its time, with a rhythm and phrasings no longer encountered. But all in all a chunk of valuable history for pretty much everyone who wants to know about Asia generally and development in the second part of the 20th centu ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great man of wisdom show me a big picture of developing a country from zero to prosperous one.
Saidi Mdala
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it

In one video clips that’s been trending lately, Tyler Perry, uses a great example of the amount of work, resources and effort that goes into the foundation of a building as an invaluable life lesson, he says, he learnt helping his father with construction work. About half the labour, material and time goes into the foundation of an ordinary house. And ALL of that work is buried under the ground never to be seen again, certainly never admired a
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Last night I finished reading the first volume of Lee Kuan Yew's autobiography - The Singapore story. The book had such a poignant ending that I had to just close the book and just sit for a moment to feel unburdened. After all the months of fighting that LKY and his political party had to endure against opposing powers, he found himself in an unenviable position - of a leader of a country that was pushed out of a federation and left to fend for itself.

That is how overwhelming the ending of the
Jake Losh
A very good memoir book, full of the history and politics of Malaysia and Singapore and with lots of juicy details about the history and politics of 1950s-1960s Britain and Commonwealth countries. The early chapters are as good a history of the British colonial twilight and Japanese occupation of Malaya/Singapore as you're likely to find in English. It's a fascinating part of the Pacific theater that I'd never considered before reading this book. How LKY governs following WW2 is also really inte ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Oof. This one was rough sledding.

My 19-yr-old, who is fascinated with Cold War history, recommended this book. Sadly, I don’t see what he saw. This book seems to be written for Singaporeans, or those fascinated with Singapore. I’ve never been to Singapore. I don’t particularly care about Singapore. I didn’t particularly like the only Singaporean I’ve ever known. This is the memoir of a man who is proud of his work in creating something for which I feel no affinity. For me, this was like reading
Mohamed El-Zeadani
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Singapore story is a book about Lee Kuan Yew’s life from his birth up to 1965 when Singapore parted from Malaysia and became independent. The author explains vividly how he grew up, the Japanese invasion of Singapore, his life at Cambridge, and his law and political career. I found the book extremely entertaining given the fact that it is not my type of book. I can’t deny that after reading this book, my appreciation and affection towards politicians who really want to help their countries p ...more
I loved this retelling of Singapore - it emphasised policies I hadn't considered but remain significant in Singapore today. For example, we all learn two languages in school, and this was a result of historical negotiations. The book talks about the power of the communists and the Chinese-educated; because Singapore (one generation later!) is so English-educated, we easily dismiss the influence that the Chinese-speakers (despite being a majority!) had. The downside is that because LKY spent a lo ...more
Virag Padalkar
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Fascinating story. I know there are two schools of thought about Lee Kuan Yew and I know the issue is too complex to be answered so simply. But what immediately struck me is that the story of the Singaore riots is uncannily like the story of Godhra. Certain parties wanted to create a communal rift between Malay Muslims and the Chinese and they used the media to malign Lee and take advantage of said rift for ulterior motives. Very similar to what happened in Gujarat when certain elements used the ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recounts LKY's life in the war times and a little beyond. It's best to read this book prior to his "From Third World to First". It was fascinating to see how life was during the war and LKY's perspective on the Japanese and British empire. His reflections on the cultural nuances of the two people, during his time in Britain for his studies, was very educational.

Personally, I found it a recommended read just to gain an insight into the Japanese mindset. For any International Relations students, i
TK Wong
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jasmine Koh
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: singapore
Lee Kuan Yew was at once an unabashed political machiavellian - using his wit to out-maneuver the colonialists, the communists, and eventually the Malayan communalists - and a man with high ideals, who prized excellence over pleasure, and who wanted to build a society where every individual, regardless of race or religion, would have an equal chance of making good in life. This is perhaps why opinion of him will always be fundamentally split; why there will be fans and detractors alike, and why ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
This is a very exciting book (volume) not just to learn about the history of Singapore but also about political tactics, which can be applied to daily life and business. We can learn about the good tactics (how to gain people’s support, how to understand and learn from our enemy, etc) to use them in our lives, and the bad ones so we know when to avoid and how to deal with them when people use them. In addition, we learn about different ideological ideals, Lee’s analysis of their good and bad sid ...more
Patrick Pilz
Feb 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Latest at page 100 I started thinking "why am I reading this?"

Well, I visited Singapore in the mid 90's and was amazed by the country. The book grabbed my attention, being published in 1998, because I was curios to know how this became such a clean and beautiful place.

This book is more the personal account of Singapore's first leader, telling his personal political story from his youth and education to Singapore's independence in the mid 60s. The blow-by-blow account of every person involved and
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Lee Kuan Yew was born in Singapore in 1923. He was educated at Raffles College, Singapore and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, England. He was called to the Bar, Middle Temple, London, in 1950 and practised law in Singapore. He became advisor to several trade unions.

In 1954, he was a founder of the People's Action Party and was Secretary General up to 1992.

Mr Lee became Singapore's Prime Minister i

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