“What books are you reading?”
This is usually the second question that bounces around among location-independent business owners after “How’s business?”
As I’ve mentioned, reading a book a week is the fastest way I’ve found to change my life. After being asked repeatedly what I’m reading I decided to make a public list.
One thing to note: I’m not going to rate books, just include those I think are worth reading.
Here they are:
- Deep Work – This book was triangulated (suggested) by at least 3 believable people I know, and it didn’t disappoint: Deep Work is going onto my list of favorite all time productivity books. Besides changing how I structure my work, the book also gave me an immediate and critical shift in how I think. The basic premise: you need long, uninterrupted time periods of total focus to get important things done. (a la Flow, The One Thing, etc). This sounds really obvious until you realize that very few people engage in actual deep work (vs shallow work like email, constant task switching, etc), meaning that the value of those engaging in deep work will only continue to go up.
- Ego is the Enemy – Another highly enjoyable read from Ryan Holiday. His books, including The Obstacle is the Way, are great summaries of stoicism and sort of pep talks for getting out of your own head. If you want a sampler, listen to the last Tim Ferriss podcast interview with Ryan about this book.
- Personal Development for Smart People – Some solid advice on personal development from the author of this blog. Found this as highly rated on Derek Siver’s list. Couple key points include rating anything in your life that isn’t a 9 or 10 as a 1, making decisions from a higher state of awareness and understanding that most of the time you won’t be there, and that deficiencies in one part of your life can throw a wrench into everything else.
- Sapiens – Mind-blowing perspective-shifting book. I as prepared for yet another lecture on human prehistory (I studied biology and evolution). Instead I had my perspective about what makes human culture work and what the future holds turned upside down, like waking up from the Matrix.
- Principles (Ray Dalio) – The best book I’ve ever read on getting shit done (it’s also free, and you can download it here). Turns the goal-setting process on it’s head, forcing you to instead think about the problems you’re going to face to accomplish your goals first. My favorite section: “Treat your life like a game or a martial art. The game will be uncomfortable. Your mission is to figure out how to get around your challenges to get to your goals. In the process, you will become more skilled. As you get better, you will progress to ever-higher levels of the game that require greater skill. If you work through the discomfort and reflect on it in order to learn, you will significantly improve your chances of getting what you want out of life. It is up to you to take full responsibility to connect what you want with what you need to do to get it, and then to do those things–which often are difficult but produce good results–so that you’ll then deserve to get what you want. Once you accept that playing the game will be uncomfortable, and you do it for a while, it will become much easier. When you excel at it, you will find your ability to get what you want thrilling. You’ll see excuses like ‘That’s not easy’ are of no value and that it pays to ‘push through it’ at a pace you can handle. Like getting physically fit, the most important thing is that you keep moving forward at whatever pace you choose, recognizing the consequences of your actions. Eventually you will play this game like a ninja, with skill and a calm centeredness in the face of adversity that will let you handle any challenges well. When you think that it’s too hard, remember that in the long run, doing the things that will make you successful is a lot easier than being unsuccessful.”
- Too Good to Leave, Too bad to stay – A book about relationships. Don’t judge a book by it’s title. Taught me one of the most basic errors in decision-making (in or out of relationships) is to use a weight-of-evidence approach when you should be using a diagnostic approach (F#ck Yes or No). I actually found this book from the blog of the author of Personal Development for Smart People, which I later read.
- High Output Management – Excellent book on running a business from the perspective of Andy Grove (former CEO of Intel). Great process stuff. The book Marc Andreessen recommends to all startup founders he invests in.
- Black Swan – Nassim Taleb. Just read anything he’s written, including Antifragile.
- Eat. Stop. Eat. – Ignore the super spammy sales page (which kept me from buying this for a long time). This ebook about intermittent fasting was recommended by friend and Naturopathic Doctor. Turned me onto restricted feeding windows which I think is even more useful for health and performance.
- Sex at Dawn – Eye-opening book about human sexuality, despite some dubious marshaling of available evidence. The main premise being ‘why do we assume pair-bonding is normal in humans’ and ‘is this a cultural construct not necessarily dominant in pre-history’? My main question for this book is: why would humans be closer to Bonobos than Chimpanzees since ‘winners win’ and the most violent factions have pretty much wiped everyone else out?
- Profit First – Stylistically speaking, just skip the stories and and plow through this book. The substance though, is solid. It’s amazing how far in business you can get without understanding the basic ratios a business should have among operating expenses, owner’s salaries, and profit. Caused me to totally restructure the financial picture of my business.
- The Effective Executive – This is where Tim Ferris got ‘effective vs efficient’. Wish I’d read this years ago. Changed how I manage time and manage others.
- Makers – Interesting read about the future of 3D printing and DIY movement. More about the movement than about the technology though, which surprised me.
- The Long Tail – A classic, must read about how the internet works. The key premise is the fundamental difference between brick and mortar businesses and companies like Amazon.com.
- Digital Gold – A fantastic intro to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, written like a murder mystery. Gripping, fast read. After reading this I felt like I ‘got it’ enough to immediately invest in Bitcoin.
- The History of Money – Awesome book. I didn’t realize how little I understood about what money was until I read this. What is the key principle of money? How did it originate? What are current currencies backed by (hint: basically nothing).
- The Resource Revolution – Some good thoughts about the future and how innovation could circumvent apparent resource scarcity.
- The Real Estate Coach – I picked up this book after starting to think about real estate investing. Good solid foundation. Part of a series of books that includes the fantastically named Billionaire in Training, which is about buying and selling businesses.
- Man’s search for meaning – I’m not sure anything I write about this can do it justice. A must read.
- Richest Man in Babylon – This is an old story written as a parable about wealth management. The upshot is remembering the fundamental principle of lending money, and how investing should work, which caused me to immediately reinvest a bunch of money into peer 2 peer lending. More on that later.
- Ca$hvertising – A classic on copy for anyone in a marketing profession or any kind of online work.
- Small Giants – Some interesting stories about companies that decided to stay ‘small’ and great.
- Flow – One of my favorites. Happiness = the state of being fully engrossed in what you’re doing. Explains more about what ‘happiness’ is than anything else I’ve ever read.
- Abundance – Good but optimistic overview of major problems in the world and forthcoming solutions. I can sum this book up with the following story: When Napolean wanted to impress guests he served them with plates and utensils made of pure aluminum, which at the time was more expensive than gold. It’s now one of the cheapest resources on earth, we just didn’t have the technology to make it economically viable before. I’m leery of ‘science will save us’ arguments, but worth thinking about (e.g. solar power, desalinization).
- Musashi – Classic Samurai tale about the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Hundreds of pages of great Samurai drama and pithy wisdom.
- Space – Good read from Michener that provides a lot of backgound on the history of the space race. I wish it was actual historical fiction instead of being solidly based on fact since at times it was hard to tell fact from fiction.
- Ender’s Game – Another classic on leadership about a boy in the future who is trained to save the world.
- Zorba the Greek – A great book about life, and the rational vs the emotional self.
- Cryptonomicon – (Neal Stephenson) – My favorite out of the 3 books I read in sequence. This one is fictional account of the birth of cryptocurreny, alternately set during WWII and present day.
- The Diamond Age – (Neal Stephenson) – The least engaging of the 3 but really interesting scifi that predicted 3D printing.
- Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy. Navy Seal Jocko Willink’s pick for a book about ‘the evil in the world’. ‘Nuf said.
- Snow Crash – (Neal Stephenson) – Awesome book about the internet before their was one.
- Chapterhouse Dune – The 6th and final book in the Dune series. While things get weirder as the series go on, the original is a classic.