50 Books I've Read Recently
Some of my recent reading, with a little commentary
Invent and Wander
By Jeff Bezos
This is a collection of Jeff's Amazon investor letters, and each one is a masterpiece of clear writing and brilliant long-term business strategy. I'm impressed how little Bezos' vision has changed since 1997—a testament to his long-term thinking.
by Robert Coram
This book is about a man who gave no fucks. Boyd was a top fighter pilot, an aircraft designer, and a military strategist (he's the guy who invented the OODA Loop). He was hated by the Pentagon, because he would prioritize his country over their bureaucratic bs. One Boyd quote I'll never forget:
To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?
Come for the biography, stay for the strategy and life philosophy.
The Art of Profitability
by Adrian J Slywotzky
This is not a normal business book—it's written in the form of a dialogue between a mentor and his mentee. But it is a good look at 23 different profit models if you can get past all the dialogue stuff.
The Courage to be Disliked
by Ichiro Kishimi
The underlying premise of this book: your past trauma doesn't determine your future. This book is a Socratic dialogue between a master and his student, where the master lays out Adlerian philosophy: don't worry about external approval, love yourself, don't try to be someone else, contribute to community. It's a contrast from the Freudian (etiological) mindset which assumes that the past has an overwhelming control of the future.
The Art of Money Getting
by P.T. Barnum
I love this book for its clarity and simplicity. This book doesn't cover strategy or tactics but instead focuses on business and wealth principles such as debt, location, talent vs. passion. It is fascinating to see how core business principles never change as time goes on. You should be able to read this in an hour or two.
The Algebra of Happiness
by Scott Galloway
Scott Galloway is a smart man. While his investment advice has a dubious track record, his book about career success and life happiness didn't miss. One big point Scott makes in this book: don't seek "balance" in your twenties. Point taken.
Sam Walton: Made in America
by Sam Walton
This book follows the Walmart story from when Sam worked for JC Penney. Sam explains his business strategies and tactics in detail: his loss leader strategy with beauty items, his equity grant program to align incentives among store managers, his real estate acquisition thought process. It's a book that Jeff Bezos would make each new core Amazon hire read, and you can see why. Read this book.
by Phil Knight
No one I've recommended this book to, regrets reading it. Phil Knight is a relentless guy and in this autobiography it shows.
The One Thing
by Gary Keller
Gary Keller was once a 14-hour-workday type who later realised that working on the right thing (and usually just focusing on one single goal) has far more impact than the number of hours you work. This formula from Gary sticks with me: "What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?"
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book is the best real-life example of the bookend strategy: the first page is one of the most captivating pages of literature, and the last page is one of the most memorable. I love Fitzgerald's writing because every character is developed through the lens of what they yearn for. Gatsby is full of brilliant quote-worthy dialogue: “All I kept thinking about, over and over, was 'You can't live forever; you can't live forever.”
Building a Story Brand
by Donald Miller
Ignore the clickbaity title, this book is a must-read for a business owner looking to learn the principles of branding and messaging. Donald Miller shows how the best brand messaging takes the form of a story, and why this is the case, from an evo psych perspective. Every novel and every great film follow a 6-step storyline, and when you apply the same framework to a brand, great things happen. I use lessons from this book often.
How to Get Rich
by Felix Dennis
This book is seriously underrated. Scammy-sounding title aside, this book is a breath of fresh air from the traditional "think and grow rich" book category. Felix Dennis (who was properly wealthy) breaks down his uncomfortable advice on becoming wealthy, and provides his input on hiring, firing, raising capital, taking risk, diversifying, and more. Read this book—it will either change or offend you.
by Bruce Lee
This is a collection of wisdom from Bruce Lee. The over-arching theme: it is simpler than you think, dedicate yourself to your craft.
What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through Fire
by Charles Bukowski
Bukowski is a master poet and philosopher. One excerpt: "When a hot woman meets a hermit one of them is going to change" If you haven't read Bukowski, buy this. If you love Bukowski, buy it also.
Never Split the Difference
by Chris Voss
This book is written by a former FBI hostage negotiator. He shows the techniques used to work out deals with hostage takers and other bad actors, and how that might be applied in business. Not as actionable as I'd like, but it's a good, quick read.
by Steven Pressfield
This book pairs well with Pressfield's earlier book, the War of Art. In this book he develops on his themes of the artist vs. the addict, the amateur vs. the professional. It's an exploration of self-sabotage and the mental warfare that sometimes must take place to "turn pro". This book will confront you. Read it.
Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got
by Jay Abraham
This book changed how I view and look for business growth opportunities. Instead of traditional growth tactics, this book focuses on more creative strategies, such as mutually beneficial partnerships and referral systems.
by Paulo Coehlo
The Alchemist has divided people: some think it is woo-woo new-age fluff, and some think it is peak literature. I appreciated this book because it is a metaphor of life and career. This is a quick weekend read. "It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting."
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
by Donald Miller
For me this was a quake book—one that changed me as a person as I read it. The premise is that your life is a story, and you write the chapters. Therefore, it's up to you to write a great book, complete with big goals, challenges, protagonists, antagonists, and achievement.
by Matthew McConaughey
McConaughey is a brilliant storyteller. This book is great. Bonus: get the audiobook—it's narrated by Matthew himself.
Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems
by R. Kurt Barnhart
Great for those interested in the tech behind UAS. Don't read this if you don't love drones.
by Ryan Holiday
This book will leave you with a little bit of admiration for all the characters: Hulk Hogan, the mysterious "Mr. A", Nick Denton, and Peter Thiel. It's a story of power, indignation, rebellion, and strategy.
The Bitcoin Standard
by Saifedean Ammous
This book can take you from not knowing what fiat money is, to knowing more about bitcoin than most bitcoiners know. And it's a compelling read. It follows the story of money, from the days when money was stones and salt and cattle, to the present day.
by Nick Bilton
I binge-read this book, and gave the book to my friend who did exactly the same. It's the story of Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road, and the massive effort to take him down. It's a story of smart criminals, smart law enforcement, and corrupt justice as well.
Zero to One
by Peter Thiel
I've read this book five times, and I come away with a better understanding each time. If any book has shaped the way I choose which business to build, it is this one. You can find my detailed book notes here. Quote: "Monopoly is the condition of every successful business"
by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Antonio is an entertaining writer, and pairing that with an inside look at Facebook and Twitter makes for good reading. You'll learn a surprising amount about acqui-hires, adtech, IPO's and FAANG compensation, and you'll get a good dose of workplace drama as well. Some chapters slowed down though.
The Cult of We
by Eliot Brown
The story of Adam Neumann and the WeWork implosion reads like fiction. This book doubles as entertainment and a cautionary tale involving dishonesty, misdirection, private jets, and nannies who looked the same (in order to make it seem like Neumann's family didn't have so many nannies).
The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield
This book precedes Pressfield's book "Turning Pro". It's about overcoming "the resistance" which prevents us from putting our best work out into the world. This book is not strictly for artists, but for writers, content creators and founders.
Poor Charlie’s Almanack
by Charlie Munger
For some reason this book sells on the secondary market for $250, but it's worth it. It's not tactical; instead it's a collection of decision-making heuristics that are useful in life and business. Much of Munger's philosophy boils down to avoiding catastrophe. My favorite Munger quote: "Don't do cocaine, don't race trains, and avoid AIDS situations"
Outwitting the Devil
by Napoleon Hill
This is one of Hill's lesser-known books, but it's his best. To sum up the book's message: don't be a spectator, don't drift, have a definiteness of purpose.
The Sovereign Individual
by James Dale Davidson
This book was written in 1999, and in the last two decades its predictions about the future have been amazingly accurate. This book predicted the rise of large-scale terrorism in the 2000's, the advent of Bitcoin, and the pandemic that started in Wuhan in 2019. All this gives weight to the predictions in the book which haven't yet happened, such as the government treating the individual as a customer, rather than a subject.
Blue Ocean Strategy
by W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne
The Blue Ocean Strategy is about becoming lopsided—offering a huge increase in value in a certain area that your competitors don't. It may involve adding something to your product, or it may involve taking things away in order to deliver a simpler, more inexpensive product.
The Carnivore Code
by Paul Saladino
Dr. Paul Saladino makes a strong case that an all-meat diet is a great health choice for many people. He dispels well-funded and common myths such as "red meat is bad" and "cholesterol is bad" and explores how the carnivore diet can heal chronic illness, improve brain function, and more.
Always a Soldier
by Rob Smith
This book destroys narratives. Rob Smith is known to some as "America's favorite black, gay Republican"...and you could add Army veteran and contrarian to that list. Rob recounts his lower class American upbringing, his service in the military during the "don't ask, don't tell" era, his coming out, and his subsequent political evolution. This book aims to shatter stereotypes, and it does.
by Robert McKee
The common thread between all great books and movies is a compelling story. And contrary to what many outsiders (and underachieving insiders) think, all great stories follow a near-identical structure. “If the story you're telling, is the story you're telling, you're in deep shit.” Even if you have no intention of writing a novel or a screenplay, this book will help you appreciate more the next movie you watch.
Laws of UX
by Jon Yablonski
Jon Yablonski's book was the inspiration for the breakdown of the bedrock UX principles that I put together here. If you are even tangentially involved in design, read this book.
The Upside of Stress
by Kelly McGonigal
This book changed how I work. Too often we fight stress in an attempt to reach a state of equilibrium. This book shows you that stress is your friend, and that it is to be leaned in to. Please read this book. It could unlock a solid 50% more potential in you.
by Eric Berger
This is a great view into the early days of SpaceX when the team was launching rockets from a tiny Island in the Pacific. This book will give you a greater respect for space pioneers, and for Elon Musk. The personal risk he took on to make SpaceX happen is impressive.
Founders at Work
by Jessica Livingston
In this book Jessica Livingston interviews internet founders about their early days. Great book.
by Francis J. Greenburger
Risk Game is the story of a brilliant real estate entrepreneur and the risks he took to become a billionaire. It's a story of impressive grit.
by Andy Grove
This book is exceptional. It's the account of Andy Grove's escape from occupied Hungary to the United States. If nothing else, this book will make you deeply thankful for the problems you have.
by A.M. Gray
Masterpiece. A must-read about strategy. Quote: "Finally, since all decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty and since every situation is unique, there is no perfect solution to any battlefield problem. Therefore, we should not agonize over one. The essence of the problem is to select a promising course of action with an acceptable degree of risk, and to do it more quickly than our foe. In this respect, 'a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.'"
by James Nestor
This book shows how the way we breathe affects everything from our lifespan to our facial aesthetics. Read this, and also implement. This book fully supported my thesis and habit of taping my mouth shut at night.
Behind the Cloud
by Marc Benioff
Marc is a master marketer. This book will inspire you to get a little more brash with your marketing, and a lot more.
by Yuval Noah Harari
I bought this book to impress my friends. I'm kidding, it's actually good.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
by Ben Horowitz
This book surfaces the business problems that are too sticky for textbooks to cover: IPO's on the brink of failure, employees who want to quit, markets that collapse at just the wrong time, and more. Read this if you are a business leader.
by Hamilton Helmer
This book contains just enough calculus to keep the normies away, but if you can see past the math equations this book is a masterpiece in strategy. One idea that's stuck with me: don't just develop an advantage, but rather a non-arbitrageable advantage.
High Growth Handbook
by Elad Gil
Dense and valuable book which is just as mucha a reference as it is a cover-to-cover read.
David Bowie: The Last Interview
by David Bowie
David Bowie refused to be put into a box. He reasoned from first principles and held nothing as sacred—except the truth, it seems. This is a collection of Bowie's press interviews.
How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life
by Peter Robinson
Ronald Reagan was an extraordinary person and leader. "'The thing about Reagan,' Tony continued, 'is that he was able to make the leap from acting to reality. He understands open-endedness and contingency. He sees that life is a drama in which a lot of the scenes still haven’t been written. And recognizing the open-endedness of life makes Reagan a lot more unusual than you might think.'"
by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
Jeff Bezos may be the greatest entrepreneur in history, and this is a look inside his first company. This book gives a look into Jeff's mind and the processes and standards he developed to sustain innovation while Amazon grew into a giant company. Highly actionable.
Great recommendations, I have my reading homework cut out for me!