Reading List — 2018

I love it when people share their reading lists, so I thought I’d share mine for 2018. In 2017 I decided to ramp up my reading considerably — I managed to keep this up last year with a blend of business, investing, science, technical and history stuff.

As usual I didn’t read any fiction (I tend to skim fiction which removes the enjoyment), and I didn’t read any biographies this year — I wanted but couldn’t find a good biography of John Meynard Keynes, so if you’ve read one… let me know! I’d also love to find a great introduction to public policy making (especially public health) and its impact.

Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies — Reid Hoffman, Chris Yeh

From the founder of LinkedIn, describing the specific Blitzscaling growth strategies startups can use. Well-written, lots of real-world examples and practical advice about what sorts of growth strategies are appropriate at which stages in your growth. I felt some conflation between that growth and “blitzscaling” — but the content is great regardless of the labelling.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World — And Why Things Are Better Than You Think — Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund

Balanced and interesting take on the influence of news on negative views, outdated world models etc etc. Feels like it would be worth re-reading once a year to reset/reinforce the “factfulness” way of thinking.

Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t — Verne Harnish

Set of practices/processes and more for growing companies. Well-referenced and considered; unlike lots of books it tries to build on existing knowledge/practices… but: very American, very management and consistently overpowering.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams — Matthew Walker

The science of sleep — why we need it, how it works, what it does for us. Interesting dive into this topic — extremely detailed and extensive (ie, it’s a long read). Structure was slightly annoying — overview chapters tell the whole story but without much referencing, so it feels made up… and then content is repeated in the deeper chapters.

Structure aside it’s well-written and easy to read and almost everybody I know who has read it has changed their habits as a result — myself included.

Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy — Serhii Plokhii

History of the USSR’s nuclear programme, interwoven with the history of the USSR in its final years. Interesting on the actual topic, but also the power dynamics and also how remote the stories feel… even though this happened in our lifetimes.

Through the Language Glass: Why The World Looks Different In Other Languages—Guy Deutscher

Apparently the language you use, and the concept of language itself, affects the way you think. To be honest… less interested in the academia and historiography than in the examples, like the Guugu Yimithirr language which only uses cardinal directions, rather than left/right/in front of you etc. Friends with linguistics degrees have rolled their eyes at the theory… but it’s an enjoyable read and an interesting concept.

Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy — Seth Fletcher

Great overall introduction to Lithium — its role within batteries/electric vehicles and how its mining will influence the countries with big deposits. A lot of content about the Chevrolet Bolt and, of course, Tesla.

Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction — Philip Tetlock, Dan Gardner

The story of the IARPA tournament designed to see how the “average New York Times reader” could compete with intelligence professionals on predicting the future.

Enjoyable style of writing — the author brings a breadth of concepts to the writing, Munger-style “multiple models”.

The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone — Kate Pickett, Richard Wilkinson

How equal societies are better for all participants, even if they are not obviously disadvantaged by the inequality. Interesting concept although very statistics-driven, leaving the non-academic reader to worry about causation/correlation.

The central point is laboured and laboured and then laboured some more — suitable for an academic piece… but maybe not for a wider audience.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose — Tony Hsieh

The story. Compelling and well-written. Interesting to see the actual communications and emails that were used internally at the company at a given point in its journey. Although sometimes it’s a bit weird to read 10+ pages of internal emails from a company that you don’t work at. Very US/SV centric in terms of culture stuff.

The Undoing Project — Micheal Lewis

History of psychology and heuristics with great examples and a decent narrative. The writing and research is fantastic as with all Micheal Lewis stuff… but I don’t think he’s that good at actually explaining stuff. I don’t have much background in psychology, but when reading The Big Short with a working knowledge of finance and investment, I definitely found his explanations confusing and misleading at times.

Polio: An American Story — David M. Oshinsky

History of Polio, the March of Dimes, Roosevelt etc and its treatment in the US. Interesting on the way the research was handled, public policy was put together and the ethics — but read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks first!

Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor — Tren Griffin

Part of ongoing reading on finance/investment — definitely not the first or last book to read on the topic but good supplemental reading and plenty of words of wisdom.

The Design Of Everyday Things — Don Norman

One of those classics I should have read earlier. Slow read overall — fascinating topic but quite textbook-y. And sometimes I just find it hard to relate — yes it’s not always obvious how to open a door or turn on a tap, and yes usability is of crucial importance. But you don’t have to be a genius in order to sometimes, you know, just work it the hell out.

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron Paperback — Bethany McLean,‎ Peter Elkind

The Enron story, with this book being called “one of the best on a crowded shelf”. Good read and of mine (and reminded me a lot of what it’s like working for a big American company).