I have a confession: I am a literary snob. I chuckle at the overweight lady in a velour jumpsuit buying Dan Brown’s Angles and Demons in line at the book store. She would never be able to appreciate the subtle social commentary of my favorite writers like Eggers, Hemingway, Franzen or Vonnegut, I tell my self. I pity people looking for their summer reading on the book rack at the supermarket. They are just looking for a pass time. Clive Cussler strikes me as literary masterbation. Something fun to do on a sleepy Sunday morning, but not an pass time that will bring any lasting change in my life. Then, every once in a while I read a book that reminds me that I am an ignorant ass.
Eliot Peper’s new book, Uncommon Stock: Power Play is one of those books. It is his second in the Uncommon Series that follows a young female entrepreneur as she starts a tech company and, expectedly, finds herself in over her head. Her company, Mozaik, has developed an algorithm that is capable of sorting through financial data and pointing out irregularities that might be sources of fraud. In doing so she makes herself some powerful enemies and the adventure begins.
Eliot has written the book in true Michael Crichton page turner style. The chapters are short and almost always end with a cliff hanger. The protagonist, Mara, is relatable and transparent. The story is told from her point of view, her inner thoughts take up a good portion of the book. The plot twists lead to bigger plot twists. On the surface this book should not have grabbed my interest or the top spot on my Kindle homepage, but it did.
There are two things about page turners that I forget when I look down on the John Grisham readers of the world. The first is that it is really fun to read. I read Uncommon Stock: Power Play in four days. Its short chapters and endless cliff hangers seemed like a great incentive to keep reading, not a literary trick. I found myself wondering what was going to happen next, something I seldom do with more “advanced” forms of prose. The second thing that I often forget about page turners is that even though they feel like cheap, almost guilty entertainment, they can also make you think. Even if the plots of these books can be slightly to dramatic to be relatable, the details embedded within can be the true pearls. I barely remember what happened at the end of The Da Vinci Code, (I am pretty sure they crack it) but Dan Brown’s factoid about the number phi (1.618) occurring in nature is one of my go-to subjects when I am trying to impress smart people at cocktail parties.
Luckily for the reader, Eliot is ridiculously knowledgeable about start-ups. He should be, he advises tech start-ups and worked for T2 Venture Capital as and Entrepreneur-in-Residence. The books details about corporate culture and venture funding bring an outsider into the esoteric start-up world. The lessons learned by the founders are so poignant for real life entrepreneurs that his first book was given as reading to all the founders of well know accelerator Techstars. Plus, his book is filled with tons of social commentary about Silicon Valley techies, Burning Man sellouts, Boulder liberals, New York i-bankers and every thing in between.
I might be a little biased in my review. I got an MBA in Entrepreneurship and I love reading about startups. The inner workings of small companies that eventually change the world always sparks my interest. But I truly feel that this book is a good read for anyone from a seasoned angle investor to the overweight woman in the velour suit standing in line to buy Dan Brown’s newest page turner.