What Did You Read This Year?

The High Alpha team shares their favorite books read in 2018.

The key to success that many business leaders continuously preach is a simple one: Read. Books continue to be a source of knowledge and truth, the original resource that podcasts, blogs, and Linkedin long-form posts won’t ever defeat.

“Best Business Book” lists aren’t anything new. David Cancel of Drift recently shared his list of 25 Books Every Business Leader Needs to Read Now. News organizations, like Business Insider, are always sharing articles like The 10 Best Business and Leadership Books of 2018 so Far, According to Readers.

There are plenty of great lists out there to inspire your library, but I wanted to see what the folks sitting next to me every day had on their bookshelves at home and what they found inspiring in 2018.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

by John Carreyrou

After breaking the story and following it to its end, investigative reporter John Carreyrou details the full inside story of the rise and collapse of Theranos, the multi-billion-dollar biotech startup.

“I chose to read Bad Blood because we work with entrepreneurs and startups every day and learn about what venture-backed companies can accomplish. At the same time, it’s a harrowing tale about no matter how persuasive and passionate someone can be, they still may not have the skills or morals to execute on an idea. It also can teach us pitfalls about how we build our companies around ideas, people, and values. It was a fascinating story, a real-life crime, and mystery drama. My kids listened to the story with me, and we discussed on our way to school each day —it was that captivating.” — Julia Kauffman, VP of HR

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

by Patty McCord

Former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, Patty McCord dives into the Netflix Culture Deck and shares lessons learned building the prolific culture at Netflix.

“I liked it because it challenged me to rethink common misconceptions at work. 1) Be motivated by challenging work nothing else 2) Your company doesn’t owe you anything — not a raise, not a promotion, not even a job. 3) Sometimes letting employees move on is the best thing for the company and for them.” — Hope Williams, Associate HR Business Partner

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

by Tony Hsieh

This book focuses on the company culture at Zappos, a company doing over $1B in gross merchandise sales annually. The culture at Zappos is all about valuing employee happiness and implementing practices to encourage self-improvement and change the world all while growing a successful, global brand.

“It’s a fascinating story of Zappos and how they built a company based on culture first. It explains why Tony walked away from Microsoft and a huge sum of money rather than waste a year being unhappy. Great to consider your personal happiness over success.” — Roshan Selladurai, Venture Analyst

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

by Clayton Christensen and Taddy Hall

In Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christensen and his co-authors introduce the Jobs to be Done theory, which shifts the focus to understanding what jobs customers ‘hire’ a product or service to do and what progress they want to make.

“The jobs theory has been so important to the work we do on High Alpha’s Business Design team from ideation to customer validation. This book has been incredibly helpful in framing my day-to-day work. ” — Amna Sohail, Business Analyst

Predictably Irrational

by Dan Ariely

This book is all about everyday behavior and the common assumption that our behavior is rational. Ariely highlights how our misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless but instead how they are systematic and predictable.

“It’s one of the original behavioral economics books — about 10 years old, but still very relevant and one of my favs. It explores the psychology of purchasing products and interacting with businesses, and through many great examples and studies, demonstrates how so much of what we do is economically irrational. It’s an easy read — full of good anecdotes.” — Brigitte Hackler, Sr. Financial Analyst

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth

by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin

Talk Triggers dives into the art of customer conversations, laying out practical steps to get your customers to organically talk about your brand paired with a variety of case studies to back-up each step.

“This was probably one of the most practical books I read this year. I love a good case study and this book provides a lot of fantastic examples, from a variety of companies, as well as sharing practical takeaways that operators can start implementing right away. We had the privilege to hear Jay speak at our office as well all about this topic and its clear from his energy and excitement he truly believes in what he shares.” — Paige Haefer, Marketing Associate

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

by Matthew Walker, PhD

Sleep is the most elusive aspect of our health, we know we need it to function, but it isn’t always clear why. Why We Sleep dives into the science behind sleep and why a true “good nights sleep” can be the key to success in many areas of our lives.

“With Rise Science being one of our High Alpha Capital portfolio companies, I found a new interest and passion around sleep science and research in 2018. Dr. Walker’s research around sleep and his findings are incredible and can have an impact on all of our daily lives. I think it’s a good reminder that starting and running businesses is incredibly hard, so it helps to have healthy habits in other areas of your life—being active, sleep, etc.—to make sure you’re performing at your peak mentally.” — Drew Beechler, Director of Marketing

One book many us have started reading or plan to read in 2019…

Blitzscaling

by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

This book shares the secret to starting and scaling massively-valuable companies through a concept called “blitzscaling,” which is defined as a set of techniques for scaling up at a dizzying pace that blows competitors out of the water. One of our co-founders, Scott Dorsey, has raved about this book, so it's definitely at the top of the list for many of us.

These eight books are just scratching the surface of what the High Alpha team is currently reading. Have a suggestion for our team? We’d love to hear what your team is reading, too!


High Alpha is a venture studio pioneering a new model for entrepreneurship that unites company building and venture capital. To learn more, visit highalpha.com or subscribe to our newsletter.