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Books I’ve Read – 2019

One of the most popular posts I wrote in 2018 recapped the books I’d read throughout the year, so I’m bringing it back in 2019.  I’m undecided on the format so it may change from time to time, but the three most likely candidates are:

  • Three takeaways, primarily consisting of the three passages I found most interesting
  • One big lesson / theme
  • Intuitive point v. counter-intuitive point (this is my favorite, but I am unsure it will apply to every book)

Below are the books I’ve finished in 2019 in reverse chronological order.

4. Red Notice – Bill Browder

It’s not often that I read a book mostly for fun, but I heard great things about this story so I decided to give it a shot especially since I’ve been behind the pace I’d like to have for the year.  Bill Browder’s story is amazing, he certainly followed the Keith Rabois approach of being the best at one thing, unfortunately, that thing was making money in Russia.  What follows is an unbelievable story of fraud, theft, and murder by some of Russia’s top oligarchs.

3. Influence – Robert Cialdini

This book highlights the 6 principles on which we all make our decisions, it’s a great book for anyone in sales or marketing that wants to better understand the behavioral psychology behind our decision-making process.

Lesson: We all make decisions on stereotypes, our rules of thumb that classify things intuitively.  Once we see a trigger connected to one of the six principles of decision making we almost always answer in the affirmative. This process has allowed us to advance as a species in that we’ve extended the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.

2. How the Internet Happened: From Netscape to the iPhone – Brian McCullough

I knew a lot of the basic history behind the web and the dot-com bubble, but this book was a fascinating story of how it all came together, fell-apart, and came together again. Highly recommend if you’re interested in learning more about the dot-com era. There’s one thing that’s clear from this book: luck and timing matter.

A few favorite takeaways:

  • Microsoft was hesitant about the internet because it didn’t see how it would make money.
  • AOL bought Time Warner after considering eBay but didn’t want to double down on the web.
  • The middle-class suffered two major bubbles within 7-8 years after being told to a) invest and hold internet stocks and b) buy a home it’s a safe investment. Both of these events are likely to have played a role in the distrust we currently see in our political and economic system.


1. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

I mentioned on my Twitter feed that this book was the first one I’ve ever read where one minute I was in staunch agreement and the next I was thinking “that will never work for most companies”.  It was the inspiration for format number three above and so I will use it here.

Intuitive: Your company is your product and so tweaking it in the same way you would actual software makes sense. Elon Musk has championed this theory in the past, build the machine that builds the machine.  Less waste, more production, and few distractions.

Counter-Intuitive: No long-term planning, make it up as you go. While I agree that no one knows what the world will look like in 36 months, it’s a great exercise to anticipate and think through scenarios.  Yet, the book is spot on here, “Seeing a bad idea through just because at one point it sounded like a good idea is a tragic waste of energy and talent.”