With six hours of drive time a week, I began using it to catch up on reading (or listening in this case). Here are the best so far.
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
See the movie and read the book or vice versa. Either way, you’re in for a terrific ride. In a riveting fashion, Michael Lewis describes and makes sense out of the 2008 financial collapse that destroyed almost everything in its path. The real key to this story’s success is Lewis’ attention to the eccentric cast of characters who saw it coming from as far as a decade away.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
It really doesn’t matter what you think of Elon Musk, his story and work are amazing. Musk is one of the few extremely non-risk-averse entrepreneurs out there who also happens to be talented, smart and not afraid to question, defy and oftentimes battle the status quo (a LOT like Richard Branson, up next). The biography by Ashlee Vance is honest, compelling and pulls no punches with Musk’s frequently challenging personality. Take the time to read and get inspired by one of the biggest thinkers alive.
The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership
Speaking of non-risk-averse types, let’s talk about Richard Branson. His business and lifestyle motto “Screw it, let’s do it” is tempered by his thoughts on successes and failures in his career. The history alone of how Branson developed into one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time –after an unauspicious start as a sixteen-year-old dropout with dyslexia– makes one sit up and listen, but it’s his wise and experienced approach on how he chooses to lead with an emphasis on people/relationships and less on formality that makes the book so valuable. Another book by Branson, Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way gets a favorable mention here for the additional and very entertaining details on how Branson went from magazine publisher, to mail order record business to a recording studio/company to an airlines and his (ad)ventures in just about every product imaginable. Virgin Cola anyone?
Outliers: The Story of Success
Malcolm Gladwell has his critics, but I appreciate his focus and interest in areas I find fascinating. I have been a fan of his since The Tipping Point and Blink, both books which made me reexamine a few ideas I had about the world and reshaped a lot of the thinking I bring into my daily work. Outliers explores how people become extraordinary (or at least successful in their chosen fields) and it isn’t always how you might think.
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-But Some Don’t
The founder and editor of FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver gained national celebrity status after his almost exact prediction of the 2008 and 2012 elections. Here he examines the difficulty in discerning what is relevant in the statistics collected and what may be simply unnecessary and sometimes misleading information. Anyone interested in analytics, statistics, prediction, numbers, science, economics and “seeking truth from data” will be fascinated.
Thinking Fast and Slow
Intriguing book by Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, that examines the way our brain processes information. As I listened to this, I couldn’t help but wish I was reading it while able to do some of the exercises the book asks you to do to help discern its examples. Besides that, a very thoughtful and revealing view of how our perspective of the world, events, environment, etc. is easily skewed.
Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype
A recent study by Nielsen shows 63% of shoppers research products online.* Youtility mentions as far back as 2011, shoppers accessed 10.4 pieces of information before making a purchase. This provides one of the many foundations upon which Jay Baer [Convince and Convert] lays his case that objective, helpful information is more appreciated than ever before by the consumer. By examining entrepreneurs and businesses providing useful content, Baer points out the payoffs for taking the time to create collateral that may -at first- seem like a lot of effort when compared to traditional marketing tactics. I used this book in teaching Entrepreneurial Marketing and many students enjoyed it, finding it a refreshing counterpoint to traditional marketing and business tactics. Strongly recommended.
The 48 Laws of Power
I’m almost embarrassed to admit I read this one as its Machiavellian approach makes you feel as though you’re preparing for a role on Game of Thrones. In its most basic form it serves as a primer on how to manipulate your way into getting what you want. If you work in an environment of snakes –and this book assures you everyone (including yourself) is a snake– then this is the book to read. However, there is some good advice to be found in its pages and most everyone in business has read it, along with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. You might as well arm yourself so you can see ’em coming.
That’s all for now. I’ll update as I come across new books worthy of note. Please leave any suggestions for books that you have particularly enjoyed in the comments below!