Short recaps and brief notes of books I’ve read, à la Derek Sivers. I intentionally do not provide a rating, but do reflect on the books in the summaries. This page will update as I read more.
The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly ISBN: 0525428089 Finished 1/7/17
This book does not make many specific predictions about the future. But it highlights the trends technology takes and how we define ourselves in the wake of these trends. Read this book, get inspired, and go create the future.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham ISBN: 0060555661 Finished 12/22/16
Practically ancient value investing wisdom that has stood the test of time. Sometimes the examples were old and hard to imagine in a current scenario (railroads, anyone?), but more recent examples were given at the end of each chapter. Follow the advice most of the time, and know when you are breaking the rules.
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance ISBN: 0062301233 Finished 11/8/16
The story of the world’s most inspiring entrepreneur. The main takeaway: think bigger. This book provides a lot of insight into his often-troubled personal and business relationships, as well as many of the most important decisions that shaped his companies. It reads more like a thriller than a biography.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell ISBN: 0316017930 Finished 3/23/16
Success has more to do with selection pressures than merit. Outliers have seized opportunities that would not appear to be optimal on the surface. The very best have practiced their craft for 10,000 hours. Cultural legacies persist in subtle, dangerous ways even if they are hundreds of years out of date.
Give and Take by Adam Grant ISBN: 0143124986 Finished 3/23/16
It is often hard to judge people’s interaction style. Most are matchers: tit for tat. Some are takers: they act only for personal gain. Givers are the least successful, but also the most successful. Selfless givers only consider others’ interests and not their own. They are the least successful. Otherish givers value others’ and their own interests equally. They are the most successful. Around takers, givers will act like matchers.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield ISBN: 1936891026 Finished 3/10/16
Resistance is there. It is the enemy. It is invisible, but it can be felt. And it comes from within. The amateur falls prey to this incredible power. The professional, by contrast, recognizes resistance and beats it at its own game. When artists turn pro, they summon a higher realm, never overidentifying with their work, but serving as the vehicle to bring their art into existence.
Quiet by Susan Cain ISBN: 0307352153 Finished 3/10/16
In the United States, extroversion has become the ideal. But 1/3 to 1/2 of Americans are introverts, and these quiet, deliberate individuals are responsible for many of our social and technical achievements. Susan Cain’s work is less self-help and more of a framework for seeing the true value that introverts bring to the table. While introverts can train themselves to be more sociable, there is some biological basis for this behavioral trait that can never be overcome. And perhaps it would be better for extroverted leaders to sit back and listen, instead of maximizing air time.
Good to Great by Jim Collins ISBN: 0066620996 Finished 2/28/16
Do you have the right people on the bus, in the right seat? Is your organization founded on a culture of discipline or tyranny? Are the true leaders the ones in the positions of power? Do you have a mission that takes into account competence, economics, and passion? Good to Great follows 11 publicly traded companies from mediocrity to enduring greatness, and distinguishes the characteristics that led these companies to growth that lasted. These principles can be applied to any company at any stage to maximize the chances of success.
Drive by Daniel H. Pink ISBN: 1594484805 Finished 2/27/16
As we evolved from primitive people into interconnected societies, our motivation shifted from an internal biological drive (Motivation 1.0) to external reward and punishment (2.0). But scientists have realized that carrots and sticks are not truly effective. Motivation 3.0 is based on autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Our drive is not about how much we are paid, but how we feel about the work we do. When our work environments are based on these principles, we no longer need to depend on management for results: the results are fueled by our intrinsic motivation. Drive affirms what we already know in our hearts. It is an affirmation of our humanity.
Debt by David Graeber ISBN: 1612194192 Finished 2/24/16
Before debt, there was money. And before that, barter. That’s the conventional wisdom, but David Graeber’s compelling argument shows us we never had barter, and debt came before money. Our system of credit was not created in 1971 – when the Gold Standard was abolished – it is as old as society itself. In this fascinating piece, we learn how society created debtors and creditors, how religions formed the early credit markets, how language surrounding money involves guilt, and how China and Italy played major roles in developing the modern economic system. We also learn how morality and debt are fundamentally intertwined, such that our basic interactions are shaped by debts to one another.
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson ISBN: 0071771328 Finished 2/17/16
When stakes are high, opinions vary, and emotions run strong, we know our conversations have turned crucial. If these conversations go poorly, the results can be both devastating and far-reaching. How do we avoid making fool’s choices, falling into a lack of safety, and perpetuating disagreement? By establishing mutual purpose and putting all the information out there, watching diligently for violations of safety. By effectively holding crucial conversations, we can turn victims into actors, villains into humans, and the helpless into the able.
Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart ISBN: 0865475873 Finished 2/11/16
While the industrial revolution has enabled a more equitable standard of living, its byproduct is waste that hinders our progress toward optimal health and happiness. This waste is debt that future generations must bear. Recycling (downcycling) and eco-effiency are only solutions that are less bad. The cradle to cradle model is different: our products, factories, and lifestyles can have a positive impact on the local and global environment, with waste serving as food for future products and the ecosystem as a whole. This is eco-effectiveness.
The Song Machine by John Seabrook ISBN: 0393241920 Finished 2/7/16
Seabrook takes us inside the hit factory, illustrating how mainstream music has come to be controlled by a few privileged Swedes. Today’s pop music is highly optimized, with lots of repetition and a “hook” every few seconds. But it wasn’t always that way. We trace modern music’s roots in disco and Motown, and how it evolved from a basement in Gothenburg to American Idol, K-pop, and Spotify. Along the way, we meet a number of colorful producers who scout ambitious teens and mold them into musical superstars.
The Power of Broke by Daymond John ISBN: 1101903597 Finished 2/1/16
Hugely inspirational. This book highlights people from diverse walks of life and how they all applied the “Power of Broke” mindset to go from nothing to success in their businesses. Most were actually broke; some came from privilege. But all of them had the same attitude, focusing on affordable next steps and growing their businesses organically instead of taking dangerous amounts of venture funding. This is arguably one of the best business books of all time.
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach ISBN: 0553380990 Finished 1/30/16
Meditation teacher Tara Brach introduces many concepts of Buddhist teachings by relating them to our lives. The framework is meant to help awaken us from the “trance of unworthiness” through love and gentle introspection. When we accept ourselves and all life through Radical Acceptance, we can express our authentic self of love and kindness.
Spark Joy by Marie Kondo ISBN: 1607749726 Finished 1/25/16
The follow-up to Marie Kondo’s tidying manifesto, Spark Joy illustrates and further explains the tactics for achieving a tidy home and lifestyle. It covers the what, how, and why of the internationally-famous KonMari method. This immensely-useful book will definitely not end up in your discard pile.
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday ISBN: 1591847389 Finished 1/5/16
Traditional, big-ticket marketing campaigns are mostly ineffective, and are unattainable for small businesses and startups with tight budgets. This short book provides guidelines for marketing in the digital era. From startups and book self-publishers to large corporations, this data-driven, experimental approach strives for exponential returns at minimal cost.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo ISBN: 1607747308 Finished 1/3/16
Instead of organizing our homes only to have junk pile up again and again, Kondo’s approach to tidying up is a one-and-done affair. Her method involves actively deciding whether each item really adds value and discarding the rest. It is about living in the present, prioritizing the things that we need and that make us feel good. It is a minimalist approach to minimalism. This can lead to improvements in other areas of life, namely more confidence, better relationships, and a reduced sense of need.