I haven’t been great about keeping track of what I’ve been reading so I’m going to do that here. (And will use Goodreads to help keep myself organized as well.) I’ll add books here when I start them and when I finish them. I added this to the top nav of the site so that I can revisit it and just know it’s there.
- 1 January 2019
- 2 February 2019
- 3 March 2019
- 4 April 2019
- 5 May 2019
- 6 June 2019
- 7 July 2019
- 8 August 2019
- 9 September 2019
- 10 October 2019
- 11 November 2019
- 12 December 2019
- 13 Still reading these next couple books…
- 14 Actively in progress
- 15 Ongoing (aka I started these and probably forgot I was reading them and then started another book)
- 16 Queue
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu — Couldn’t put it down. Go read it.
The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal — I read this to start the year. It might be that any reading in the first week of the year gets magnified by new year inspiration, but this book has affected my outlook through the first part of 2019. I stretched myself at work more than I had in probably the past year. And it was energizing, I think I was able to take the time and make the effort to frame it as a challenge rather than a threat. I focused on what I’d gain in learning instead of focusing on what I’d lose in terms of time and energy. We’ll see if this lasts! But I think I have The Upside of Stress to thank, along with David Goggins’s Can’t Hurt Me. (Master your mind!)
How to Be Better at Almost Everything: Learn Anything Quickly, Stack Your Skills, Dominate by Pat Flynn — If you like learning, check this out. Pat’s philosophy of generalism resonates with me. Focus really hard on improving in an area until you can put it on auto-pilot, then move to something else. The magic (which I haven’t exactly mastered myself) is picking what to focus on, knowing how to improve quickly, and knowing when it’s a good time to move to something else.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — I re-listened to the audiobook (which oddly is no longer available on Audible, but I still have access to my purchase) after hearing Seth Godin and Brian Koppelman talking about it. If the voice in your head mostly says negative things, work on replacing it. Whenever the voice in my head is giving in to Resistance, I’ll throw The War of Art or Do the Work on for a bit and get back on track.
The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership by Sam Walker — Good book about great sports captains and how they make a difference for sports dynasties. (The 2000s Lakers are left out right at the top and there’s a chapter explaining why Jordan and the 1990s Bulls don’t make the cut.)
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel — It’s been on my to-read list for years and I finally got around to reading it. Worth the wait. In a lot of ways it’s exactly the type of book I’m trying to avoid reading because it’s about business and building enormous companies. But I don’t have long-term aspirations to build a billion-dollar company, or even short-term aspirations to try to build a million-dollar company. So it’s interesting just for getting a glimpse into how a billionaire thinks. A lot of it still applies even if not trying to start a VC-backed company. Plenty of lines have stuck with me. I’ll share this one. “You should focus relentlessly on something you’re good at doing, but before that you must think hard about whether it will be valuable in the future.”
Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony de Mello — I wrote a bunch about it here. Tim Ferriss mentions he had an afterglow for a few weeks after reading it. I felt something similar and I think I have been more mindful about certain situations in the past few weeks. I’ve noticed in a few moments of frustration that I will take a few seconds to step back and remind myself that this isn’t really a problem in the big scheme of things. And that my perception of the situation can be shifted so that I can better control my reaction to it.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport — Newport’s previous books, So Good They Can’t Ignore You and Deep Work changed how I viewed careers and day to day work. Deep Work still comes to mind multiple times each week as I go through the ritual of carving blocks of time out of my calendar. Digital Minimalism has been good in reminding me of some of the principles in Deep Work and in adding new tactics to try so that I actually make the most of those blocks of time.
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain — I finally read Kitchen Confidential last year and enjoyed it. I’m trying to get back to my goal of reading books that aren’t in self-development or business. Those books make me feel like I don’t have enough. So far, Medium Raw has been effective for thinking about other things.
Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis — Have enjoyed reading Paul Jarvis’s books in the past. I’m enjoying this so far. It’s along the lines of DHH and Jason Fried’s It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.
Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games by Walt Williams — This was the first book I read about game development that was written by somebody who was actually part of the team. In the case of Masters of Doom; Stay Awhile And Listen; Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, the author was outside of the team doing their research and interviewing people that were involved. Significant Zero gives insight into modern AAA Studios and how the process works between publisher and developer. You can get some sense of what it might be like being inside one of the giant machines that create modern blockbusters.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin — I decided to listen to this after listening to Seth Godin on Brian Koppelman’s podcast. Seth talks about finding a voice to replace the negative voice that you might have in your head. For him, it was Zig Ziglar. I thought it could be useful to you try out Seth’s voice for a good positive voice whenever I’m having difficulty with creative work. One thing I’ve continued thinking about is the idea that there is art in every type of work. If you want to excel in your current role then you can do that by identifying ways that you can make it into your art. Take the time to figure out how to separate yourself from everyone else in the same role. Then take even more time focusing on becoming great at that art.
Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky — Very practical book about creative work and a predecessor to his more recent book, The Messy Middle (which I wrote about briefly here). Last year, I made a video about David Allen’s “Getting Things Done: For Teens” and praised it for being like GTD for the rest of us (aka non executives). Making Ideas Happen captures the nuances of creative work and provides a framework to handle your work. Adding structure and discipline in the right places allows you to focus on what’s important: the creative work. (Check out the podcast episode I made about it!)
A Philosophy Of Walking by Frédéric Gros — x
Remember It! The Names of People You Meet, All of Your Passwords, Where You Left Your Keys, and Everything Else You Tend to Forget by Nelson Dellis — You’ll probably see this book and Moonwalking With Einstein both recommended if you’re searching for anything related to memory training. I really enjoyed the storytelling in Moonwalking With Einstein. If you want step-by-step guidance for actually improving your memory, Remember It! is a great place to start.
The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish — I felt like I was learning the entire time. It’s great and the first of five (I think) in a series. I’ll be looking forward to each release.
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle — x
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb —I hedge a lot when I’m writing or speaking. I put a bunch of maybes or “I thinks” here and there. Nassim Taleb does not. I find the confidence and roasting of others entertaining. Even being in one of the groups scrutinized, being a tech dork myself. I picked it up midway and finished it after a long time away from it (maybe over a year) so I plan to read it again from the beginning sometimes soon.
How to Write Funnier by Scott Dikkers — Nice follow-up to the first book, How to Write Funny. It’s always interesting to see how much work goes into writing jokes. One of my favorite books about comedy is Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head. (Check out some notes I wrote about it here.) It’s a collection of interviews with comedians and so many of them just work really hard. In How to Write Funny and How to Write Funnier, Dikkers gives great guidance and lots of examples on the craft of comedy. (If only I actually applied the steps…)
The Writing Life: Ideas and Inspiration for Anyone Who Wants to Write by Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg — I look forward to listening to this again in the future. It’s a deep conversation about writing between two people who have helped so many writers get unblocked and going.
Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover — I continue going back and forth between (A) thinking that aiming for a calm life is a good idea and (B) thinking that working very very hard at something—likely sacrificing that calmness—is a good idea. But that’s a false dichotomy. I think the right thing is to learn and apply these lessons in working very hard for things like fitness and learning. Then aim for tranquility, calm, and spending time in loved ones to, you know, enjoy life. Even if I won’t ever have the killer instinct of Jordan or Kobe, I think it’d still be good to build up a more resilient mindset.
Win or Learn: MMA, Conor McGregor and Me: A Trainer’s Journey by John Kavanagh — I’ve been trying to read more sports biographies and have enjoyed this one so far. Yes, I miss the old Conor, so I’m enjoying the stories about McGregor’s early days. I didn’t really know much about Kavanagh before starting this, except that he’s always seemed like a pretty calm guy. I’m about 1/3rd through it right now and it’s cool to learn about Kavanagh’s persistence through the early days of MMA and doing what it takes to learn BJJ when there weren’t places to learn in Ireland early on.
Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life by Dr. Jason Selk & Tom Bartow — I came across this at a physical Amazon Books location. I hadn’t seen it in any recommendations online. This was a great, practical book about changing your approach to productivity. I’ve heard people say things like “If there’s one nugget you apply to the rest of your life, then $10 for a book is nothing.” This has one nugget in particular that I’ve used multiple times each week. It’s just the phrase “fight-thru”. The idea isn’t groundbreaking: when you recognize some resistance in anything and feel like stopping, recognize it as a fight-thru moment and that can be enough to keep going. I’m sure I’ve heard similar self-talk many times before, but this one has stuck. My guess is that it’s the specific wording that acts as a reminder that it’s a small fight against resistance (aka your feeling-brain in most cases) at that moment. You’ve won many of these small fights before. I loved this book.
Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson —
The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love, and Meaning by Scott Galloway — Loved this. Going along with my theme of “Maybe I should work a little bit harder”. The topics and themes are along the lines of his 10 minute video. But with many great personal stories to make those lessons stick.
Masters of Doom by David Kushner (Re-read) — My favorite audiobook, period. I’m measuring this by the number of times I’ve listened to it. I’m happy to put it on if I can’t decide what else to put on.
Prepare to Meet Thy Doom by David Kushner
Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage
Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good by Kevin Smith
Recursion by Blake Crouch — Great book. I watched a very short interview of the author talking about Michael Crichton and it really does remind me of when I first read something like Timeline. I was previously telling people that it reminded me of when I first read The Da Vinci code just as far as books being, you know, gripping. But after hearing him mention that he loves how Crichton writes then it really reminded me of that time when I wanted to read everything by Michael Crichton and bought a box of his hardcover books on eBay. (And then only read like 2-3 of the 7 or 8 books.)
I’ve recommended this book to friends mostly to have someone to talk about it with. I’ve given summaries to Amy over and over. Check it out.
The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon — I got this book a while ago and probably for the same search that I had in the past. I was in Prague with Amy at the end of September and I just noticed my energy was pretty low. Some aspect of that is jet lag but then some of it feels like mental and physical exhaustion. And just being out of shape. Also eating food that tastes great but that probably isn’t the best for keeping energy levels up. Anyway, I didn’t read this book when I initially bought it. It’s a quick read at a little over 150 pages and the pages are pretty short.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell —
Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis
Build up a daily creative practice—This book was a really good reminder how effective it can be to create something every day. I’d recommend it to people who want to do more creative work and want practical guidance to create their practice and stick with it.
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
Take a walk, get rid of your physical stuff, and build awareness of your information diet—You’re probably on your phone too much. You probably have things you don’t really use that take up some of your attention and energy day in and day out. And you look actively for things to react to. It’s worth the effort to add a little more stillness to your day.
The Launch Pad by Randall E. Stross
Talk to users, build your product, and stay healthy. A lot of startups have come out of Y Combinator. Stross followed the summer 2011 batch closely and writes about the challenges they faced and talks about prior YC teams and the history of the accelerator. I really enjoyed this and plan to read his earlier book eBoys (2000) soon.
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Consider the long game. You can always think longer term. This book made me consider the creative work I’m doing and how focused on the short term a lot of it is. Write X newsletter issues in Y days. Make a video in an hour. Make a slideshow in 30 minutes. I want to get more focused on which of those things I’m learning from most because learning compounds over time. On the other hand, the book gave me confidence that I’m getting toward the right approach to fitness. Which mostly means accepting that I won’t get abs in 30 days (or 3 months), but I can feel a lot better day to day with more consistency and less intensity.
Insanely Simple by Ken Segall
Learn to wield the simple stick. Insanely Simple is about Apple and Steve Jobs’s focus on simplicity, from the perspective of Apple’s ad agency. The story that’s been sticking with me most is the simplicity of the 2×2 grid to describe their computer offering: consumer laptop, consumer desktop, pro laptop, pro desktop. MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro. It’s still true today. (Though people quibble about what “pro” means.)
I finished these books pretty quickly, mostly by taking a couple long walks and listening while shooting around (basketball).
What You Do is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz
This is mostly written for founders or managers of teams. But it’s really got me thinking about the disconnect between some of the things that I believe and my actual actions. One example: I know how important it is to meet with friends, but I shy away from putting the effort into planning to meet with friends. (Everyone knows they should call their mom more often, fewer actually do it.) If your actions don’t reflect the values that you have, then do you actually have those values at all?
Again, another book about managing teams, which isn’t something I’m doing now or in the near future. But there’s still a lot of good lessons here that you can apply on a personal level. In particular there’s a chapter I really enjoyed that was about managing yourself. It can be really useful to sit down and figure out your strengths, weaknesses, and what you really enjoy doing and hate doing day to day. With that awareness, you can build toward a day to day with more things you enjoy and fewer things you hate doing. (It might be that you hate doing something because you’re not good at it and a little bit of focused effort to improve there can have an outsized impact in the long run.)
Loserthink by Scott Adams
Understand why you think the things you do. Understand why others think the things that they do. You’ll be able to change your mindset more effectively. This book does remind me of Daniel Kahneman talking about how knowing all he knows about how humans think, he still doesn’t have control over his initial thoughts and reactions to things. **But** it does mean he’s better at recognizing when he’s thinking irrationally and can start deploying the mental toolset to make thoughtful decisions. Loserthink will help you build up awareness around your thought process, and that’s the first step toward changing your mindset.
The Five Deadly Sins of Presenting Creative Work by Jerry Z. Feuerman
Finished this in one sitting—really fun read. (It’s also just over a hundred pages—I’m no speed reader.) I’ve been picking up more and more books about design. A lot are more things that I’ve been flipping through for inspiration and that sort of thing. This was more on the execution end and it’s pretty specific to presenting creative work to clients while working at an agency. Which I have zero experience with. As mentioned at the end of the book, the principles apply to the other types of presentations you do. Which—sort of like pointing out that everyone is a writer these days (how many emails have you written this week?—is a lot more than you might initially think. Sharing work quickly with a nudge and a “Hey check this out…” can be improved by avoiding the deadly sins pointed out in this book. Basically: be clear and prepare (even minimally).
The New New Thing by Michael Lewis
Listened to this mostly during morning walks in Central Park. Man do I love listening to these stories about Silicon Valley before 2000. This really captures what it was like in the in-between where most people didn’t know the internet would be integrated into pretty much every waking hour. I didn’t really know who or what the book was about beyond it being about Silicon Valley, so a lot of Jim Clark’s story was new to me.
A nice, unexpected timing thing was that it connected indirectly to a couple of books I was reading at the same time. What You Do is Who You Are (wrote about it above) is by Ben Horowitz who is of course very closely linked to Marc Andreessen, who Jim Clark founded Netscape with. Horowitz also was part of Netscape and Silicon Graphics. Which is the second indirect connection, because I’ve also been reading George Lucas: A Life and Industrial Light & Magic eventually became SGI customers.
Jim Clark made Jar Jar Binks possible.
I just saw that there’s an episode of This Week in Startups with Jim Clark (link on YouTube). I’ll have to check this out as soon as possible.
Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright & Bradley Hope
Started this while shooting around. Starting to think more and more that nonfiction narratives really are the books that work best for me as audiobooks. They don’t require quite as much as focus as a fiction book does. I suspect it’s that details in one chapter return down the road more often in fiction. Narrative nonfiction also isn’t aided quite as much by the structure that a physical copy gives for lots of how-to/self-development books.
Oh yeah so the book itself—excellent so far. (About 15% in.) If you like The Wolf of Wall Street or hearing about people spending crazy amounts of money, you’ll love this. It’s spending that would even look irresponsible in a rap video. I bought this a while back but started it because Ryen Russilo had Tom Wright on recently and they talked about Billion Dollar Whale.
Update: I finished Billion Dollar Whale and have proceeded to try to ham-handedly steer any conversation toward it to ask people if they’ve heard about it so that I can talk to someone about it. Have had the same amount of success as trying to find people who’ve stuck with Mr. Robot to its final season.
Picked this book up without too much thought and now I think it might change my life. There is, of course, an endless number of books about work and organizing your work for all sorts of fields. This one really resonated with me for this particular time in my life. I’m able to start things and not finish them because I get distracted, often by wanting to start something else. There are hints of things I’ve started everywhere: gear laying around, drafts of other things where I’m writing drafts of this thing, social media, books I want to finish, books I’ve finished that I want to write about.
My life, work, and mind are fairly disorganized. (My fiance is impressed when I schedule, well, anything.) It was also refreshing to read a book in this space with similar lessons and completely different stories than you’d usually see in business books. I’ve also had a casual interest in cooking or at least a high interest in being entertained by watching other people cook. So it kept my attention. I continue to want to find books like this: work adjacent. Books with lessons at the right level of abstraction, helping me improve in the work I do without directly thinking about the work I do. (Read more about it in a post I wrote here.)
Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis
Serving as the same reminder I get whenever I read a Michael Lewis book: I should read every Michael Lewis book. One of the funniest books I’ve read. The 80s were wild. (Acknowledging that the 2010s look similarly wild if you were viewing it from the 80s and probably even more so if you’re looking at it from the 2040s.)
(Dropping a link to this video here so that maybe I’ll remember to write about it: Michael Lewis in Conversation on the Art of Writing.)
Still reading these next couple books…
Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez
I’m a few pages in. I’m reading this for a little bit of creative motivation. Everyone can make videos and share them with the world all on their phones. This book is about how Rodriguez made a Hollywood film on a non-Hollywood budget. When there was no chance that you could record video with something that fits in your pocket. I’m always interested in stories about working under constraints and the creativity that comes out of it, so I’m excited to get into this book.
Other books I’m sort of reading but haven’t yet fully committed to finishing this month: A Fighter’s Heart, Hackers and Painters, Dark Matter, Redshirts
Re-listening to these passively and hoping to pick some stuff up by osmosis: Compound Effect, Magic of Thinking Big, Expert Secrets
Actively in progress
I think these have at least a chance of being finished and added to the current month.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein —
Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland — The Way of the Fight by Georges St-Pierre
No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy — Loving this so far. It captures a lot of the challenges I’ve experienced in my career with straightforward actions to take to handle the situation better in the future.
Rogues edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois — This is a book I saw recommended by Thomas Frank (in his video “What to Do If You Hate Reading”). I’ve been on and off trying to listen to fiction audiobooks and I think short stories might be the way to go. There are different narrators for each story. Really enjoying getting back into fiction. And this book gives me the feeling I always get with good fiction: that I should read a whole lot more of it.
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell — This is a collection of Gladwell’s New Yorker articles. Similar to Rogues above, it makes for a great audiobook because each piece is (1) well written, (2) diverse in topics, and (3) short enough to finish on a couple commutes.
Ongoing (aka I started these and probably forgot I was reading them and then started another book)
I’ll throw things in here that I’ve at least started. I skim a bunch of books so I’m trying to only list things here that I’m really going end-to-end on. Some of these might graduate to the finished list. But I do want to use this to refer back to whenever I finish another book and am looking for the next thing to read.
Poor Charlie’s Almanack by Charlie Munger (compiled by Peter D. Kaufman)— I’m going to to take this one nice and slow this year. It’s really a joy to read.
Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles by David Allen — If you like the day-to-day actionable stuff in Getting Things Done and want more of it, this might not be for you! But if you like the philosophy of GTD, you’ll love this book. I’m in the latter camp. I’ve strayed from the specific GTD tactics, but still think about next actions on projects and striving for a clear mind. I’ve listened to it twice now while doing other things. I bought a paperback copy to really read through and write notes in before I graduate it to the “read” section.
Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames — I read financial independence / retire early (FI/RE) stuff here and there. It makes sense. At the same time, I enjoy living in New York. Listening to this was a good reminder to make the effort to experience things in the city. If every single day I just stick to the routine, go to work and the gym and that’s it—well, I can do that in just about every other city in the country.
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson — x
The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin— x
The Untethered Soul at Work by Michael Alan Singer— x
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore — x
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang — It opens with “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate”. I thought about that story for the entire week after. And it still comes to mind.
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo Marvel Comics: The Untold Story Moneyball by Michael Lewis
I need a better system for picking books. I need to add some links here to different podcasts where people talk about how they pick different books to read.