Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan.
I read somewhere where one of his favorite authors is Francois Jullien, a French sinologist and the author of The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China.
The propensity of things. Understanding this opens the way to wu wei, effortless action.
Below are excerpts from a review at the MIT Press.
The Propensity of Things
Toward a History of Efficacy in China
Translated by Janet Lloyd
In this strikingly original contribution to our understanding of Chinese philosophy, Françle;ois Julien, a French sinologist whose work has not yet appeared in English uses the Chinese concept of shi—meaning disposition or circumstance, power or potential—as a touchstone to explore Chinese culture and to uncover the intricate and coherent structure underlying Chinese modes of thinking.
Jullien begins with a single Chinese term, shi, whose very ambivalence and disconcerting polysemy, on the one hand, and simple efficacy, on the other, defy the order of a concept. Yet shi insinuates itself into the ordering and conditioning of reality in all its manifold and complex representations. Because shi neither gave rise to any coherent, general analysis nor figured as one of the major concepts among Chinese thinkers, Jullien follows its appearance from one field to another: from military strategy to politics; from the aesthetics of calligraphy and painting to the theory of literature; and from reflection on history to "first philosophy."
At the point where these various domains intersect, a fundamental intuition assumed self-evident for centuries emerges, namely, that reality—every kind of reality—may be perceived as a particular deployment or arrangement of things to be relied upon and worked to one's advantage. Art or wisdom, as conceived by the Chinese, lies in strategically exploiting the propensity that emanates from this particular configuration of reality.
While we're on the subject, I also want to highlight The Disputers of the Tao by Angus C. Graham. This book is a a history of philosophical thought in ancient China and really puts Daoism in context. This is really a classic.