Books I've Read

Here are books I've read recently, with a short review of each.

Invent and Wander by Walter Isaacson

Okay this book is 95% written by Jeff Bezos and 5% by Walter Isaacson (which is a good thing). It's essentially 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. Recommend: 10/10.

Boyd 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?” Read it for the biography, stay for the strategy and life philosophy. Recommend: 9/10

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. Recommend: 5/10

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. Recommend: 10/10

Art of Money Getting Or, Golden Rules for Making Money 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. Recommend: 5/10

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. Recommend: 7/10

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. Recommend: 10/10

Shoe Dog 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. Recommend: 10/10

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?" Recommend: 8/10

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.” Recommend: 11/10

Building a StoryBrand 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. Recommend: 10/10

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 change you, or offend you. Recommend: 11/10

Striking Thoughts 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. Recommend: 6/10

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. Recommend: 8/10

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. Recommend: 6/10

Turning Pro 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. Recommend: 9/10

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. Recommend: 7/10

The Alchemist 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." Recommend: 9/10

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. Recommend: 10/10

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey is a brilliant storyteller. This book is great. Bonus: get the audiobook—it's narrated by Matthew himself. Recommend: 8/10

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. Recommend: 4/10

Conspiracy 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. Recommend: 9/10

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. Recommend: 9/10

American Kingpin 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. Recommend 10/10

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" Recommend: 10/10

Chaos Monkeys 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. Recommend: 6/10

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). Recommend: 10/10

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. Recommend: 9/10

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" 7/10

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. Recommend: 6/10

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. Recommend 10/10

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim

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. Recommend 9/10

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. Recommend 7/10

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. Recommend 9/10

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin was an overachiever to the highest degree. This book allows you to trace the life of a man who built his success on integrity, hard work, creativity, his deep understanding of human behavior, and his wide-ranging friendships and alliances. The book opens with this thought about vanity: "Most people dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves, but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it…" This is also a quick weekend read. Recommend 10/10

Story 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. Recommend: 7/10

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. Recommend 8/10.

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. Recommend 11/10

Liftoff 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. Recommend 6/10

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

In this book Jessica Livingston interviews internet founders about their early days. Great book. Recommend 8/10

Risk Game 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. Recommend 9/10.

Swimming Across 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. Recommend 10/10.

Warfighting 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.'" Recommend 10/10

Breath 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. Recommend 8/10

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. Recommend 9/10

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

I bought this book to impress my friends. I'm kidding, it's actually good. Recommend 7/10

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. Recommend 10/10

7 Powers 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. Recommend 10/10

High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil

Dense and valuable book which works well as a reference as well as a cover-to-cover read. Recommend 8/10