This year is no different.
Let’s start with the books I’ve enjoyed most in 2019.
Books – Learning and thinking
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know – Malcolm Gladwell
This is another masterpiece from Gladwell. He knows how to tell a story and to take you from A to B in a fascinating way.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth
I enjoyed this one as it’s not ‘just’ talking about the importance of Grit but also on how to deal with the complexity of life.
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century – Yuval Noah Harari
If you read the first two books you got the main ideas. However, it’s a great book with many good internal stories. I liked it a lot.
- The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek
It’s all about life and the “infinite games”, like business or politics. The players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.
- The Fifth Risk – Michael Lewis examines the transition and political appointments of the Donald Trump presidency, especially concerning three government agencies: the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce.
It sounds like a Sci–Fi Book…
- The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace – Ron Friedman
This book tries to answer the big question of “What makes us successful at work?”
Combining powerful stories with cutting edge findings, Friedman shows leaders at every level how they can use scientifically-proven techniques to promote smarter thinking, greater innovation, and stronger performance. This book is full of good stories that drive the points. Big like.
- What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence – Stephen A. Schwarzman
It’s the story of building Blackstone from zero into the leading financial institution it is today (e.g. managing over $500 billion). Schwarzman tells how his life story with an emphasis on starting this business. He was focus on hiring great talent, setting the right culture (accountability, performance, freedom), and establishing processes that allow the firm to systematically analyze and evaluate risk while making bets that made lots of profits.
- The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology – Ray Kurzweil
It’s a ‘heavy’ one but from one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a thirty-year track record of accurate predictions. I was amazed to learn that it was published in 2005 as some of the ideas are ‘new’ even today.
- Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones – James Clear
It’s all about getting a bit better (but every day).
The book is mostly about lessons on how to change your habits and get 1% better every day.
- Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success – Adam Grant
For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. This book is all about ‘peopleware’.
- Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies – Reid Hoffman
This book is about what you do when you need to grow really quickly. It’s the science and art of rapidly building out a company to serve a large and usually global market, with the goal to become the first mover at scale.
I read the other two books that Reid wrote in the past (The Start-Up of You and The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age) and they are all insightful and full of (real world) wisdom.
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – Daniel H. Pink
Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never ending stream of ‘when’ decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork. Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art; in When, Pink shows that timing is in fact a science.
- Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell – Eric Schmidt
It’s a good story on a man who helped build some of the world’s greatest companies, including Apple and Google. A former college football player and coach who became a mentor to leaders like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Ben Horowitz, and Bill Gurley, to name just a few. I’m thankful to Eric Schmidt for writing this book.
- Brief Answers to the Big Questions – Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is one of those rare luminaries whose life symbolizes the best humanity has to offer. The book is a typical Hawking. He starts by addressing the questions in physics and cosmology that he dedicated his intellectual life to answer, using easy-to-follow arguments and drawing from everyday images and thought experiments. It’s a real joy to read.
- Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip Heath
It’s a known fact that the only constant in our lives is changing. However, change goes against our basic nature. The winners are people who learn to do hard things. Managing change is one of them because it enables you to become flexible and adapt to any new situation. The book gives a few ideas and tips on how to be (more) successful when you wish to change course. I liked 80% of them.
- The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You – Julie Zhuo
I loved this book mainly because Julie is very articulate and she did a great job of filling it with practical bits of advice. Some of the bold ones:
– Your job as a manager is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.
– Since you are going to have a lot of meetings – you want to make them more productive. Preparation is the key to productive meetings.
– You should listen more.
-Trust is the most important ingredient to develop a healthy manager-report relationship.
She focuses on the ‘3P’:
Purpose: “The first big part of your job as a manager is to ensure that your team knows what success looks like and cares about achieving it.”
People: “To manage people well, you must develop trusting relationships with them, understand their strengths and weaknesses (as well as your own), make good decisions about who should do what (including hiring and firing when necessary), and coach individuals to do their best.”
Process: “For managers, important processes to master include running effective meetings, future-proofing against past mistakes, planning for tomorrow, and nurturing a healthy culture.”
- Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts – Annie Duke
It’s a good book on a topic that I’m interested in for the past 15 years. How can one improve the decision process to be better? Annie is describing that you win bets by striving to calibrate your beliefs and predictions to more accurately represent the world. It’s harder in most cases then you might think. Mostly because we carry many types of biases. Being smart can make bias worse due to the ‘blind-spot’ you will have on the topic at hand. I liked that she defines Betting as a form of accountability to accuracy.