Reading Recap: February 2019 Edition

The best part of posting recaps of my recent reads are the one-on-one, offline conversations that are sparked from them. I love talking to people who have also enjoyed the same books, as they often highlight insights that I missed or present an opposing perspective that expands my own.

I had two recent favorites, the first of which was Principles by Ray Dalio. Dalio created the successful investment firm Bridgewater. The first part of the book was about Dalio’s life, the rest was a very thoughtful approach to developing a high performing organization. It’s about taking ownership of the details of the design.

My other favorite book was Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Essentialism was about harnessing the ability to discern the “essential few” from the “many good” opportunities. Doing less, but doing it better. So much of this book resonated with how I strive to live my life, but I also picked up a few concepts that will stick with me. One is identifying your Essential Intent which can be described as one decision that settles one thousand later decisions.

My least favorite book was Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I thought the concept was decent, but he spent so much time insulting academia and others that it was distracting from the main point. He did somehow sell me on trying to read Antifragile but I couldn’t finish it for all the same reasons. First book I’ve seriously started and haven’t read to completion in a years. Still agree with both concepts.

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant was a great one. It was a solid primer on all the philosophers I frequently hear about but never took the time to study. There are a few I certainly want to go deeper with some of their work, especially Bacon and Voltaire.

Bad Blood was the story of Elizabeth Holmes and the birth and death of Theranos. It’s amazing how everyone relied on signals from everyone else to determine if this Elizabeth was the real deal. As a result, an initial ounce of validation eventually snowballed into to enough credibility to raise crazy amounts of money for an unproven product. If it were a fictional story it would have seemed too unrealistic and dramatic to be enjoyable. But wow, all this really just happened.

Speaking of Fiction, the only book I read in the category was Three Body Problem. I didn’t realize it was part of a series when I started, in the end it was so incomplete it wasn’t especially satisfying. Not sure I enjoyed enough to dive into the rest of the trilogy.

The Coddling of the American Mind is the book I find myself recommendeding the most. It so accurately describes how our society no longer engages in thoughtful discourse, but rather sits in our own bubble reinforcing the ideas that we already believe. It also talks examines how this behavior will play out over generations if it’s not corrected.

Sapiens seems to be required reading if you work in tech. I though it was solid and actually enjoyed it much more than Homo Deus. Maybe I should have read this first.

Never Split the Difference was a great book on negotiation. Much different than a Getting to Yes as it focused so much more on being a great listener. One perspective that really stuck with me was that in a tough negotiation it’s important to remember the adversary is the situation, the person you’re negotiating with is your partner. I thought this was a great approach to growing the pie.

Born a Crime was excellent. I wasn’t really a big Trevor Noah fan but this was really well done. He painted a beautifully vivid picture of growing up poor in South Africa. It was equally funny and touching, I have a whole new respect for him. If you get this one definitely get the audiobook read by Trevor.

Courage to be Disliked. Title somewhat self explanatory but one of the counterintuitive insights was that people who are worried about if others like them are really quite self centered. This is because if your primary concern is how others think of you, then you’re not actually genuinely concerned with them. Interesting format as the entire book is a dialogue between a young man and an old wise man.

We Were Eight Years in Power was a collection of the essays written by Tenashi Coates during the Obama administration. It touched on a variety of topics as it addresses the position of Black people in America. Good to revisit those days, they feel so distant nowadays.

Snowball is about one of the most disciplined investors of all time, Warren Buffet. I’ve heard bits and pieces of his life, but this was about as comprehensive as it’s going to get. The anecdote I remember most is at the dinner where he and Bill Gates first met they asked everyone to write down what was main contributing factor to their success, Gates and Buffet wrote the same single word answer, “Focus.”

Looking forward to the conversations to come on these. Equally excited to get any recommendations for others, just tweet at @austinlac.

Partner at Slauson & Co. || MD at Grid110

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