Book Notes

  • Sapiens - by Yuval Noah Harari

    Rating: 10/10 Jan 17, 2018

    Sapiens is a deeply insightful recount of humanity’s history, told from what feels like an alien’s perspective. What allowed humans to succeed is our ability to cooperate in large groups, due to our belief in shared fictions, such as money, religion, law, property, and nations. These beliefs scaffold on top of one another, creating ever larger and more complex abstractions, culminating in today’s global supply chain and society. Reading this book will make you see the world differently. ... Read More

  • The Righteous Mind - by Jonathan Haidt

    Rating: 10/10 Apr 7, 2018

    Most of what we perceive as “critical thinking” is actually the opposite. The brain has built-in centers, like taste buds, which make moral judgements for us subconsciously. Our conscious brain, rather than making decisions, exists largely to come up with excuses to justify our subconscious judgements, giving us the illusion of free will, and allowing us to justify our actions to others. A must-read, with huge implications for how we see the world, understand ourselves, and make change happen. ... Read More

  • Daring Greatly - by Brené Brown

    Rating: 9/10 Dec 4, 2018

    Happiness isn’t possible without deep, real relationships, and real relationships require vulnerability. However, most of us are too afraid of being judged to be truly vulnerable, meaning we can never be happy. This is particularly true of white american men. Nothing short of transcendental for me to read, despite the fact that much of what is in it should be obvious. Had a huge impact on my approach to life and leadership. ... Read More

  • Zero To One - by Peter Thiel

    Rating: 8/10 Jan 16, 2018

    “What important truth do few people agree with you on?” Peter Thiel offers up ideas on how to start and build a successful tech company- build something 10x better, start with a small market and dominate, and aim to build a monopoly business. I particularly enjoyed his description of the differences between definite/indefinite optimism/pessimism, and the implications culture have on your worldview. Definitely worth a read if you work in the tech industry. ... Read More

  • What Got You Here Won't Get You There - by Marshall Goldsmith

    Rating: 8/10 Jan 20, 2018

    A must-read for anyone who leads people who wants to level-up (literally and metaphorically). Basically, your strengths are also your weaknesses, and successful people tend to have lots of both. Because it becomes harder to get feedback as we get more senior, it’s critical to have a structured practice around getting and acting on 360 feedback. Particularly insightful discussion of the power of apologizing and following up. Changed the way I look at growing myself and my career. ... Read More

  • Goodbye Things - by Fumio Sasaki

    Rating: 8/10 Feb 17, 2018

    Minimalism has always intuitively appealed to me, from stoics like Marcus Aurelius to Hippies living out of a van. At the core of minimalism is 2 concepts: 1) over time, the things we own come to own us, due to fear of losing them, 2) building our happiness on things is fragile, as things come and go. Goodbye Things is a practical guide on how to declutter your home, life, and mind. ... Read More

  • Influence - by Robert Cialdini

    Rating: 8/10 Oct 14, 2018

    Decisions are cognitively expensive to make, so in nature they’re often made using “trigger features,” like a turkey mother identifying chicks only by their cheep. Humans also have “trigger features,” which can be exploited to manipulate us. I was worried this would be a sales book, but this book was genuinely insightful. Along with Sapiens and The Righteous Mind, this book helps drive home how human decision-making happens, and how we can make better decisions as individuals, countries, and as a species. ... Read More

  • Born a Crime - by Trevor Noah

    Rating: 8/10 Oct 16, 2018

    Inspiring, insightful, humbling, and laugh-out-loud funny. Trevor’s journey is nothing short of miraculous, making it from the slums of South Africa to international fame. It’s hard to believe that the person I’ve seen on TV so many times is the same person referred to in this book. There we were many elements of this book that I could relate to personally (to a much lesser degree, of course). Strangely light and heavy at the same time. ... Read More

  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - by Yuval Noah Harari

    Rating: 8/10 May 30, 2019

    Very interesting follow-on to Sapiens and Homo Deus, particularly after the rise of nationalism. A more practical book than the prior two, it outlines some basic precepts for an unknowable and ever-faster-moving future. Yuval speculates as to what the future could look like, and introduces some radical new ideas: we are already in the matrix, we have always lived in a post truth world, and we need to enbrace uncertainty and change. ... Read More

  • Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart - by Gordon Livingston

    Rating: 8/10 Jul 24, 2019

    A psychologist, Vietnam veteran, and father twice bereaved lays out what he has learned from his own struggles and decades of practicing psychotherapy. A treatise on radical ownership (“Hope is more powerful than sympathy”), Livingston shares profound yet practical advice for a well-lived life: don’t ever be a victim, own your problems and work to grow, have high expectations and judge others on their actions, take risks, laugh, and ultimately, learn to find happiness in an imperfect world. ... Read More

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck - by Mark Manson

    Rating: 7/10 Sep 4, 2018

    As a contrarian, I enjoyed this book. We live in a world of extreme privilege, and also extreme anxiety, and so can use Mark’s advice - don’t try too hard, care less, happiness comes when you don’t look for it. Life is an endless stream of problems, whenever you solve one, you get a new one, so instead of wishing for no problems, pick problems you like. Particularly useful is his views on personal values, and why they’re critical to living a happy and fulfilled life. ... Read More

  • The Four Agreements - by Don Miguel Ruiz

    Rating: 7/10 Sep 25, 2018

    A classic. Based on Toltec mysticism, this book contends that as children, we are subliminally indoctrinated into a culture of self-comparison based on the mistaken belief that we are the center of the world, with the ultimate result of losing our freedom and happiness. By following “The 4 Agreements,” we can loosen the strictures the outside world has over us, and learn to truly live again. Though new-agey, this book contains a deep truth, if you access it. ... Read More

  • Winning - by Jack Welch

    Rating: 7/10 Jan 18, 2019

    Most business books are terrible. Winning is an exception- a business book filled with insightful and useful tools, although they might be a bit “old-school” and “common sense,” but that is part of their appeal. I deeply agree with his ideas around radical candor, leadership, transparency, and strategy development. Worth your time if you’re early in your career, new to leading a big org, or just want to hear how one of the best did it. ... Read More

  • 12 Rules for Life - by Jordan Peterson

    Rating: 6/10 Mar 19, 2018

    Lots of conventional wisdom in this book (take care of yourself, pick your friends carefully, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t judge or lie, do hard things), repackaged in an somewhat novel way. Jordan is at his worst when he uses unnecessarily gendered imagery (“the masculine vs the feminine”), uses too many religious allegories, and gets over-sensational in his tone (he literally cries on the audiobook recording), but nonetheless the book is a heartfelt call to the dejected to get back on their feet. ... Read More

  • Delivering Happiness - by Tony Hsieh

    Rating: 6/10 Nov 3, 2018

    “Great companies are about more than making money.” In the end, life is really all about the people, and this is an interesting study in one of the greatest coporate culture stories in recent history. Tony came up selling earthworms, got into raver culture, got rich on his first company, and then almost bankrupted himself building Zappos. Can be a bit culty sometimes, but if you’re into the subject matter, it’s worthwhile nonetheless. ... Read More

  • Shoe Dog - by Phil Knight

    Rating: 6/10 Jan 8, 2019

    I didn’t enjoy this book as much as thought I would. Phil’s story is amazing, no doubt, but it read like one long testament to his privilege to me- he borrowed money from his rich relatives, partnered with his genius running coach, and talked to his family friend who was a CEO for advice. To his credit, he does openly acknowledge the role of luck in his success. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I was into the product (sneakers). ... Read More

  • How to Win at the Sport of Business - by Mark Cuban

    Rating: 5/10 Mar 27, 2019

    “Work hard,” “Sales cures all ills,” “You only have to right once,” and “No balls, no babies” are some of the pieces of advice Mark Cuban offers in this short and practical how-to guide. Lot of useful information, but none of it particuarly new/insightful - have an obsession, learn quickly, sell early, know your strengths, hire the best, and have fun. The meta-point of the book might be the most interesting: success is simple, hard work + luck. ... Read More

  • Homo Deus - by Yuval Noah Harari

    Rating: 4/10 Sep 4, 2018

    Mostly repetition and extension of the last chapters of Sapiens, and as a result, I found it pretty boring, despite interesting subject matter. If humans continue to progress at the current rate, we will change ourselves, or environment, and “life” completely. What happens when we can upload our consciousness into the internet? Live forever? Create super intelligent robots? Design our babies? Are we as humans ready for such a world? (NOTE: NO RAW NOTES)