Don’t Read These Books In 2016

At the beginning of the 2015 I made a commitment to myself to read more books. I read a ton of articles on the web thanks to Pocket, having repeatedly ended up in the top 1% of all Pocket readers and have even been blessed with a hashtag for when I’m in #PocketBeastMode, which is the state of tweeting article after article I’ve just read.

#pocketbeastmode!

So enough navel gazing, why go back to longer form: books? I missed them.

I made a goal to read at least one book a month. In some cases, this was easy and in other cases, very difficult.

I started buying a ton of books for my Kindle (which works great on my Nexus 7) but also started buying hardcovers as well. There is something about reading a book in your hands that is very different than the experience on a screen. I have no opinion on the matter but I did find myself buying Kindle and hardcover editions of the same book. No syncing there but at least I could keep reading irrespective of the medium.

Given my day job, miraculously I beat my goal and figured I’d share the list.

Note: I ready exclusively nonfiction so if that’s not your thing, thanks for reading up to this point!

TL;DR

In no particular order…

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto)

Truly a life-changing book and highly recommend for anyone interested in contemporary philosophy. Antifragility is the idea that a thing benefits from shocks to the system as opposed to being fragile (weak) or robust (can withstand shocks but doesn’t benefit from them). A simple example is one’s immune system: you become ill but your body builds antibodies to protect against the illness in the future.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” — Nietzsche

We practice this philosophy at NodeSource on how we think about building our business in an antifragile way — distributed by design.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is one of my favorite authors of all time and his background is oddly enough in finance. If you like this one, read all of his books.

How to Speak Money

Quick read and super useful in understanding common and uncommon terms in finance. John Lanchester points out that most terms in finance are “reversified” meaning, the word itself does the opposite of what the word means. “Bail out” for a bank, for example, actually means putting loads of money in the bank.

Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits

When reading philosophy, a set of aphorisms is my preference and Nietzsche is my favorite philosopher — this book is perfect as it has both. In Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche covers a number of different topics from metaphysics to the renouncing divinity’s supposed influence of art. Overall, the book is a warmup for some of his greatest works to come like Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil.

The part that resonated with me the most was Nietzsche’s take on the “free spirit”: one who goes against the herd, and “onwards along the path of wisdom” in order to improve society. Refreshing.

The Prince

Classic guide on how to acquire and maintain political power. The Prince tends to be polarizing for many people but in my opinion, there is loads of wisdom in Machiavelli’s words. YMMV.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

A best selling book multiple times over, Daniel Pink brings the art and science to selling, especially in how radically different “selling” actually is in the modern sense. Highly recommended for anyone that works directly or indirectly in sales.

Growth Hacker Marketing

I’m a huge fan of Ryan Holiday; his book, The Obstacle Is the Way is another life-changing read, so I gave Growth Hacker Marketing a spin. If you are the least bit adept with social media, technology and/or communications, skip it. The content is for the lowest common denominator when it comes to topics like “Twitter” so if you’re reading this post of mine on Medium, it’s likely you’re not the target audience for this book.

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

Don’t let the title fool you, this is one of the most informative and historical books on how the idea (myth) of money and how it came to be; from thousands of years ago to the financial crisis in 2008, The Ascent of Money is truly a fascinating read by the infamous Niall Ferguson. Chock full of knowledge and a long read but it sure doesn’t feel that way when reading it.

Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get from Start-up to IPO on Your Terms

Another one with an unfortunate title, but don’t let it dissuade you, this book is incredibly useful and full of valuable insight and information from former entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Jeremy Bussgang. Naturally, I read this after I closed my first round of funding for NodeSource.

Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)

I’ve used the adjective “life-changing” a couple times already in this post but this book may be my favorite read of the year. Exponential Organizations speaks to the futurist in me, particularly around creating companies of the future and what that means and how one gets there. Trust me. Read this.

In business, performance is key. In performance, how you organize can be the key to growth.
In the past five years, the business world has seen the birth of a new breed of company―the Exponential Organization―that has revolutionized how a company can accelerate its growth by using technology. An ExO can eliminate the incremental, linear way traditional companies get bigger, leveraging assets like community, big data, algorithms, and new technology into achieving performance benchmarks ten times better than its peers.

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

A fascinating read given the spike in interest in mindfulness over the past couple of years, Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author of numerous New York Times bestselling books, argues that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow, and that how we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the quality of our lives. Harris explores the science behind spirituality down to the biochemical and neurological levels. Truly a fascinating read whether you are a theist or not.

The House of Rothschild: Volume 1: Money’s Prophets: 1798–1848

While reading The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson spoke about the Rothschild family and how they monopolized fixed income in the early 19th century so naturally, I read a nearly 500-page book (which is only the first volume) on the family itself!

The Rothschilds in the early 19th century built a vast political network with “Houses” in every major city at the time in Europe and the UK (London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, etc.). The Rothschilds were pioneers in currency arbitrage and building vertically integrated financial institutions, including their own messaging service so they could get information before other people; the dawn of frontrunning or better yet, insider information. This book is thickkkkk but worth reading if you find this sort of history interesting.

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner conducted a multi-year study with thousands of participants to study the art and science of predicting the outcomes of events: What will happen to the stock market in the next year? Was Yasser Arafat poisoned with polonium? What kind of impact will Middle Eastern politics have on oil prices in the next six months?

It turns out that the best individual forecasters are the ones that consistently updated and even changed their positions based on new information they received, you know kinda like the scientific method, which, as an aside, makes the obsession with politicians flip-flopping on an issue (because either they received new information and/or have new information that improves their current political position), well, absurd.

As forecasters were moved into groups to make decisions together it turned out that the groups that were the most diverse were in fact the best at forecasting events, further supporting evidence of the power of diversity in groups, communities and teams.

Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change

Meetings. The worst part of most people’s day at work are meetings. Most often they are unproductive, boring and in many cases, a complete waste of time. Moments of Impact attacks meetings head on with an approach to three different types of actual meetings that drive strategy: Building Understanding, Shaping Choices and Making Decisions. I try hard to keep meetings in one of these three groups (sans one-one-one’s) and have found them to be more way more effective when I do.

Moments of Impact also covers bits like the time of day for a meeting (mornings are more effective, afternoons are bad), changing the meeting room environment and even the type of food to serve (high protein versus high carbohydrate) and when in the day to serve it! A fascinating, scientific approach to…meetings. Recommended.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

As a self-proclaimed Product Guy™ I found Nir Eyal’s book on how to create habit-forming products a useful read, albeit long at times.

Eyal introduces a 4-step approach to creating products that keep users engaged and most importantly, coming back. I would posit this process works extremely well for consumer-related products and applications, but is much more challenging to apply to products for say the enterprise software space. Either way if you’re product-focused this is a must read.

Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals

For those of you who may be easily offended, don’t read this book. Naturally, I thought it was hysterical. Have a look at the author’s GSElevator Twitter account for a trial run.

John LeFevre, former investment banker and creator of the infamous @GSElevator (Goldman Sachs Elevator) Twitter account, tells the behind the scenes story of being a highly privileged, white male, investment banker in Southeast Asia and all the insanity that comes along with it. The title says it all as it quite literally covers a number of tales of deviance, debauchery and deals. After reading it, it’s hard to see the vilification of Wall Street ending anytime soon.

Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers

A great recommendation from a friend who is also running a software company, Crossing the Chasm is the Bible for entrepreneurs who aim to introduce new products to a majority of potential users or customers.

Geoffrey A. Moore asserts that in the adoption of any new technology there is huge gap to clear between the early adopters of the technology to the early majority of potential users. The early majority is where one begins to catch momentum thus bringing along the late majority of users and eventually the laggards to the new technology.

The challenge is getting to those early majority users as they typically need to be convinced that the technology offers improvements in productivity in order for them to adopt the new technology. This is the challenge for any groundbreaking technology. If you’re in the software business this is an essential read.