Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew” as Want to Read:
The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,839 ratings  ·  157 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 ...more
Hardcover, 680 pages
Published October 7th 1998 by Pearson Ed Asia (first published 1998)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.24  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,839 ratings  ·  157 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
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
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 ...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 ...more
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.
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
Catherine  Mustread
More than I wanted to know (or could ever remember) about Singapore's independence and political beginnings.
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.
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.
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
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
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 ...more
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
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 ...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.
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
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.
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-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 ...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
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heard Charlie Munger talk about Lee Kuan Yew, so decided to check him out. This book represents the early years, from his youth through Singapore's merger with Malaya then independence shortly there after. It's a good read, but it's far too long. There is too much, a man does this, then that, then there is a vote 20-36, and so on. It's too deep on stuff that isn't relevant to the broader story. That just makes following the main story that much harder. I also found it difficult to keep track of ...more
Miranda Starmz
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, memoir, history
3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

This covers one of the most memorable and significant periods for Singapore - its merger with Malaysia and its secession just 2 years later. LKY, having spearheaded this, provides much insight both into his own viewpoint (beginning from his tumultuous childhood) and the entwinement of Singapore with himself.

I can't say I agree with him on everything. In fact, there are several beliefs that I would strongly contest (e.g. inherent racial inequality, economic socialism),
Vikrant Rana
May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
3/5 (left it at 40%, might come back at some point)

I refuse to believe that LKY's epic journey, to transform Singapore from a sleepy third-world hamlet to the best city state in the world, is as boring as this book makes it sound. While it gives a very detailed overview of this story, it does read like those staid history books from our secondary school days. The good part is, there are more works covering LKY and Singapore's ascendancy, which one can refer to.

In that sense, this book reads
Anjar Priandoyo
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
Beautiful book, this is both story about Singapore and story about LKY. One can learn the history of Singapore from the biography of LKY. Although some part is a bit vulgar, for example when LKY describe his "opposition", I get a sense that he is a kind of top leader that always nice to everyone and never say a bad word about something that unnecessary. For example, I found that he never said a bad thing about Sukarno or Suharto. LKY is destined to be the leader of Singapore. I really like this ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
First few chapters about Lee‘s early years was very interesting, how he was educated in the uk, married his wife, survived Japan occupation and how he got into politics.

But then, the majority of the book was about power/electoral struggles with communism, Malay, Indonesian and British. A bit repetitive.

Lastly, the book ends when Singapore achieved independence, but I was hoping to learn how Singapore developed post 1965.
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not too sure how to rate, but I would give it 5 stars because it's probably the best book to learn about the Singapore story (an accurate title). This books is a record of his personal life, the formation of PAP, and the merger and seperation with Malaysia. It brought to light how difficult the merger and attempts the stay merged was... Done with this phase, will prob be 'third world to first' book next
Gordon Kwok
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really good book about a really amazing leader. For those who don't know, this book is Volume I of a two part memoir series. The second one focuses on post-1965 and PM Lee's economic/social policy. This book focuses on his upbringing in colonial Singapore and how he guided the country to independence and eventually had to take the helm of the country when it was expelled by Malaysia.

Recommended to anyone with interest in history or great leaders.
Majan Vejseli
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

To say that people like Mr Lee Kuan Yew come once in a generation is a serious understatement! He (and the team he assembled around him) was a pure genius, a man surrounded with incredible threats and unimagined difficulties and yet he managed to stay focused, determined, and incredibly smart to create his masterpiece - a Perfection!!
« previous 1 3 4 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going
  • Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story (Volume 1)
  • A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
  • What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
  • This Is What Inequality Looks Like
  • Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China
  • Neither Civil Nor Servant
  • Conversations With Lee Kuan Yew: Citizen Of Singapore: How To Build A Nation (Giants of Asia Series)
  • On China
  • Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas
  • Robert Kuok: A Memoir
  • AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
  • Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World
  • Big Debt Crises
  • Assad or We Burn the Country: How One Family's Lust for Power Destroyed Syria
  • Ahead of the Curve: Two Years at Harvard Business School
  • Freedom's Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy That Won World War II
  • Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility
See similar books…
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
“The task of the leaders must be to provide or create for them a strong framework within which they can learn, work hard, be productive and be rewarded accordingly. And this is not easy to achieve.” 11 likes
“After trying out a number of ways to reduce inequalities and failing, I was gradually forced to conclude that the decisive factors were the people, their natural abilities, education and training. Knowledge and the possession of technology were vital for the creation of wealth.” 6 likes
More quotes…