A Growing List of Book Reviews
Below is a growing list of books I’ve used to optimize my life. I’m a big believer that books help level you up as a person. These are the culprits responsible for my personal development as a young professional and as a book lover.
By Malcolm Gladwell
On average, a decently written book with well-constructed prose and narrative takes me about a month to finish. I read Outliers in less than two weeks. Being already a big fan of Blink and The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell delivers yet again. In his book Outliers, Malcolm uncovers the harsh reality of how the most successful people, such as Bill Gates, aren’t successful due to hard work alone. The book goes into depth about how we are all products of our cultural backgrounds; our successes aren’t solely determined by our sheer willpower and effort alone.
The part of his book that intrigued me the most was his analysis of student performance between Western and Asian cultures and their relation to our systems of farming (wheat versus rice). His extensive research into how outside circumstances play a role in our lives can not be underestimated; its usefulness will be immediately apparent when thinking about your own life and the direction you’re heading in. If you’re interested in learning more about sociology, education, or how Outliers in various industries come to be who they are today, I recommend reading this book immediately.
By Ryan Holiday
Ego Is The Enemy truly is one of the best books to read after achieving a great accomplishment (such as graduating college). Life is a cycle of three stages: aspiration, success, and failure. Ego is present across all three stages and this book helps with providing exercises and key considerations for auditing your thoughts and actions while your ego is present. Ryan’s storytelling is incredible, and the advice he offers is extremely practical.
My favorite part of the book covers the topic of the Canvass Strategy. It’s the same as “managing up.” Ryan presents several stories on what it means to be an anteambulo (“one who clears the path”) for those above you. When you clear paths for them, you create new ones for yourself. The act of seeking opportunities for other people, especially those hierarchically above you definitely pays dividends over time. After reading this great book, you’ll begin to see a manifestation of change within yourself that is immediately apparent.
By Timothy Snyder
I’m a fan of writing that distills complicated and in this case, emotional topics in way that allows he reader to learn objectively. Timothy’s writing allows one who may not have any interest in politics and civics, to learn why one must be aware of their basic civil libraries. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century is a brief commentary on current times, using passages from European history to reinforce his main argument: as citizens, we are the sole protectors of our freedom. He presents a set of ideals and key considerations one should consider when evaluating our American government and our leaders. Additionally, he stresses on multiple occasions, the need for all citizens to study history. History of American and the world. In doing so, we arm ourselves with an imagination of how to shape our future for the better, as opposed to assuming that we are just inevitably headed to some utopia that doesn’t exist. If you’re interested in getting a basic education on the political and social aspects of the world that you should consider as a citizen—this is the book for you.
by Daniel Kahneman
“Rationality is logical coherence—reasonable or not (page 411).”
Of all the presents I’ve received, this book is certainly on my top 10 list. Covering a multitude of subjects, some seemingly unrelated at first, Daniel Kahneman can educate the reader in ways that I have not experienced before. I would associate his writing style with other authors such as Robert Greene or Malcolm Gladwell. The way he is able to deconstruct complex topics using both research-backed observations and great storytelling had me hooked.
It took me four months to read this book—I’m certain I will have to reread it at least two more times to completely grasp it all. One of the key takeaways I took was the differences between the two systems of the mind. Kahneman discusses how our daily decision making can be categorized between our deep thinking and our impulsive behaviors. Providing examples, Kahneman allows the reader to contemplate their own thoughts after each chapter. I find myself at least attempting to audit what goes on in my head much more than I did before reading this book. If you’re interested in deconstructing concepts such as:
- The fallacies we face on a daily basis, ones that are caused simply by us not taking enough time to consider a question asked of us
- The aspects of how we construct first impressions
- Investment paradigms and the issues with not understanding the difference between costs and losses
- Substituting one answer for another
- The remembering self versus the experiencing self
- And more…
Then I highly suggest reading this book if you’re interested in the practice of auditing your mind.
By Marshall McLuhan
If you are a student of media communications and marketing, as Dr. McLuhan puts it, having an in-depth understanding of the history of the media we consume is key to your professional success. Dr. McLuhan’s commentary on the past innovations of man, the creation of the Gutenberg printing press, radio, newspaper, and most importantly—the television, have helped to have a better understanding of the world I live in. What’s most striking after reading the book is how similar his description of the television is to the smartphone/mobile computer that all of us today.
“It is a principal aspect of the electric age that it establishes a global network that has much of the character of our central nervous system (page 302).” This quote, along with many others, alludes to the fact that media is evolving slowly, to the point in which all of us will consume it in a system that is global and instantaneous. The instant aspect of the internet is already here; it is only a matter of time before it has complete global access. I highly recommend reading this book before that happens. Whether you’re in marketing, sales, politics, or just in any job that has you interact with people online, this book will help you gain insight into how all of us consume media, and the implications media has in our daily decision-making. It’s a fun read, his language and the way he conveys his ideas in a straightforward manner was quite surprising considering he has a Ph.D. and this book was written in 1964.
By Nick Bostrom
I heard about this book on two occasions, both from San Harris discussing AI technology on podcasts I listen to. I want to warn the reader that although this book is extremely informative, I believe the author didn’t have the intention of writing this for the average reader. I didn’t find as much pleasure from reading this book as I did others solely because of the high-level vocabulary being used. Nevertheless, this book covers a variety of topics concerning AI technology and the steps we, as a civilization, must take to avoid Siri killing or enslaving us.
The topic that I will keep with me moving forward as I dive deeper into the subject of AI would be — how do we approach policymaking? Once AI can not only replicate with 100% accuracy, human behavior but also surpass it — will we have policies and laws in place to protect our vested interests and maintain the status quo? Or, do we allow AI to make decisions on society’s future for us? Another question that came to mind while reading this book was whether or not AI should have representation in government? Seeing as AI will have the capacity to progress 20,000 years within any field of thought in a day.
If you’re interested in AI technology or just want an academic look at how The Terminator could be a thing, I highly recommend reading this book. I would just add the caveat that you should read up on AI through other blogs and Ted Talks before starting, Nick Bostrom (judging from his writing style) assumes you’ll have a surface level understanding of AI before reading his book.
By Doc Searls
I’m so glad I stumbled upon this book when I was browsing at Housing Works Book Cafe, currently the only place I go to check out books in person. For a book about the Internet, I must say that Doc Searls’ writing is both informative and inviting. He has an ability to make complicated concepts about how the Internet functions in our daily lives, easy to digest, relatable, and amusing (he just breaks things down so much that this book is long). Below is a list of the key takeaways I got from the book:
- Apple’s form of vertical growth (exponential silos) vs. Google’s form of horizontal growth (exponential collaboration). And how both work. I was enraptured by his comparison of the two companies and how they function in our economy.
- Contracts of adhesion and freedom of contract. Ever been curious about how terms and conditions work? Or how significant the “Sign up with Facebook” button is? This book will enlighten you on how much data you’ve given to companies without no negotiable terms on your part.
- A history of the Internet, how different protocols came about, and predictions of the future.
- Internet Service Provider’s effects on our use of the Internet (think Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.). He goes into detail on how these will eventually change once the Internet is completely ubiquitous.
Regardless if you’re a marketer or not, if you’re someone who uses the Internet (which is a big DUH, since you’re reading this) then read this book! The big questions that I was left with after reading this were:
- Will we as consumers, ever have true control over our data?
- How can we educate future generations on the history of the Internet starting from elementary school? Should computer science be a core subject like math, science, history, and English?
By Gary Vaynerchuk
First and foremost, I’d like to give a big and very special thank you to Devin Rajaram, my fraternity brother who bought me this book as a graduation present. I’ve been following Gary Vaynerchuk for about a year now, and I’ve always admired his work ethic and most importantly, his commitment to bringing value both online and offline. I wasn’t expecting this book to be so addictive that I read it in four days (I seriously broke night two days ago reading and rereading several chapters). My favorite part of the book is when he is talking about self-awareness. This theme has been covered not only in this book but, in other books I’ve read by other authors this year (2016) and I have to say that it is essential that we all know who we are.
After reading this book I now have a better understanding as to why Gary does what he does, and more context around the practical advice he gives. Books help you grow, allow this one to be on your list.
By Edward De Bono
I would like to preface this book review by sharing two things:
- Although it is short, I’m going to have to read this book at least three more times to truly grasp all the lessons that Edward gives.
- If I had any employees working for me, I’d give all of them this book as the company’s employee manual.
“Competition is Latin for seeking together, sur/petition is Latin for seeking above.” Edward goes into great detail as to why businesses need to stop thinking about surviving against the barrage of competitors in your market and figure out ways to create value monopolies (this is very reminiscent of what Peter Thiel highlights in Zero to One when he talks about why Google is able to dominate the search engine market). The main function of a business besides housekeeping, creating products and services of high quality, the importance of having a team dedicated to creating concepts that aren’t necessarily solutions to problems but, creative hit-points that enhance any part of your business, and more.
I still feel like this review doesn’t do this book true justice so I’ll leave this one here and rewrite a new one after I read this book a second time, so stay tuned.
“The Road Less Traveled, Timeless Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth”
By M. Scott Peck
I am an avid believer that we read the books that we do when it is most appropriate in the story of our lives. I received this book as a graduation present from my mentor. It was supposed to be a coming of age gift. Little did I know how much insight Dr. Peck had when he was alive and how relevant the things he mentions in this book are in the context of today.
The Road Less Traveled taught me three critical lessons, although there are much more to be considered and evaluated. The three lessons are:
- Love is not a feeling, but an action. A conscious decision one must make with total effort for it to be meaningful. The feeling of love is called cathexis; it is one that is fleeting and has no value over extended periods of time. Even if it is necessary for the foundation of love, true love is the deliberate choice of nurturing someone’s spiritual growth as you nurture your own.
- The original sin of man is laziness. All other forms of sin, such as fear, come from laziness. He comes to this conclusion by studying the laws of physics and how entropy as a force is always constant—especially in people. And, it is our daily duty to work with love, entropy’s enemy, in order to do meaningful work and have a meaningful life.
- This is by far the most important lesson he provides, and because I highly recommend diving into this book, I won’t go into too much detail so you can read it for yourself and decide if you agree with him or not. He mentions at the end of the book that the biggest challenge humans face is becoming God. Our unconscious mind, the inner God, is constantly trying to give us guidance as to what we are hiding from ourselves. We are in constant inner turmoil because love (the unconscious mind) and entropy (the conscious mind, the main proponent of laziness) are in a constant war. We do have a choice; however, a daily choice to choose between the two, and it is always important to listen to both sides.
I am sure that the overall theme he is alluding to in this book is the focus on self-awareness and how to harness it within ourselves and how to help others gain it as well (he mentions throughout the book that psychotherapy is the best tool to use for this). This is how I interpreted the book; it reminds of the Alchemist a lot. Let me know your thoughts after reading it. You won’t regret picking up a copy.
By Robert Rose & Carla Johnson
If there was ever a book that covers the very foundations of marketing (besides Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow”) it would be this one. Robert Rose & Carla Johnson go into the most granular aspects of marketing and how to leverage content to maximize business success. From discussing the four types of content—poet, preacher, promoter, and professor—to explaining how to integrate new content initiatives in a team, their expertise in marketing knows no bounds in both its pratical and digestible concepts. One of the most important parts of the book is the urgency they express when it comes to creating content not only for your clients but, also for your internal team in order to make sure they keep the brand’s messaging and employee advocacy consistent.
I cannot stress enough; the leverage one gets when reading this book. Not only am I more aware of how I should approach marketing my brand as a consultant, I am also more aware of how capable (and sometimes not so much) companies are at creating experiences for me when I interact with them. One of the biggest issues most businesses face in today’s marketplace is finding new ways to tell a compelling story to their potential clients. Whether you work in the B2B or B2C space, this book will help you understand how to communicate with your customers. Not only are the concepts a vital part of any business’s success, but the authors also make them easy to comprehend, and I was actually surprised by how fast I was able to read this book. I can definitely say that I will be reading this a second time.
by Shane Snow
Smartcuts by Shane Snow (CEO of Contently) is the first book I ever gave to a mentor of mine—and he read the whole thing. This is a personal testament to how valuable this book is, it’s jam-packed with useful knowledge. And this isn’t your typical business book; Shane has written it in such a way that anyone can relate to it. The biggest takeaway I got from reading this book is—no matter the profession, having mentor(s) guide you along the path of success greatly increases your mental output and ability to create and do great things.
Other anecdotes that he provides value through are:
- The story of Skrillex and his rise to fame both in screamo and EDM, teaching the concept of “Riding waves.”
- How to be a super-connector (taken directly from Malcolm Gladwell). To help generate a valuable network (ethically).
- Thinking 10x, using Elon Musk as the prime example. Showing how he managed to launch the first private space rocket successfully and what it took to get there.
- As previously mentioned, mentorship and how, if done organically, it can help anyone master a skill (or set of competencies) faster than the average person. Additionally, showing how one can learn how to save time by removing unnecessary distractions from your learning process.
- Rapid feedback and how to shift our paradigm of failure so we can use it as a tool. He uses the story of surgeons learning from each other’s successes and mainly failures, as the example.
I highly recommend reading this if you’re interested in learning how to optimize your work and sustain habits of learning—making them faster and more efficient.
By Malcolm Gladwell
After reading the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell I wanted to follow up on the lessons, I learned from that book. I don’t regret buying another of his great works, Blink. If you’re in the business of selling, studying how people think, or just want a better understanding of yourself, please read this book.
Things you can learn from this book:
- How to truly interpret first impressions.
- Understanding and controlling your unconscious biases.
- How marketing products effectively take more than just basic market research. It takes the right kind of tests in the right context to truly understand why your consumer purchases what they purchase.
- Great anecdotes of how cops react in stressful situations, how music labels choose which artists to sign, and what’s better: Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
- The power of stereotypes and how to train your brain against them.
This book has certainly made me more aware of how I react to my surroundings and how to train myself to be aware of those reactions in real-time. Also, it can certainly help anyone interested in marketing to understand better the psychology of the human being and how we always battle with the effects first impressions have on us. You can’t sell a product, service, or an idea, without understanding your audience’s unconscious decisions. This book will help you to understand them better.
By Ryan Blair with Don Yaeger
Now this is an autobiography about a true badass. In this book, Ryan Blair recounts his childhood, young adolescent life as a gang member, and life as a businessman growing companies, tying it into a great manual on business that all entrepreneurs have to read. He covers hiring the right people, creating the right business plan, how to create a good exit strategy when selling your company, a founder’s responsibility to shareholders and much more. His story is inspiring and humbling, showing that anyone, with any background, can become a successful entrepreneur so long as they use their past to strengthen themselves and not deter them from greatness. If you are looking for a good read to learn the basics of entrepreneurship and to gain firsthand accounts of the challenges that entrepreneurs face, please read this book! You won’t regret it.
By Harry Beckwith
Harry Beckwith’s fantastic book brings light to several of the strategies marketers use to affect our buying habits and our culture. From how our childhood will always influence our buying habits, how stories drive us to engagement, and how reputations alter the experience with our products such as Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi. Harry allows us to see behind the scenes how history unfolded in the media, pop, culture and much more (for example: how the Beatles should have never been underestimated and why they were and much more). The main purpose for reading this is to understand how marketers influence our daily decisions and why understanding how ads work on social media affect how we interact with the world and other humans as a whole. “In every conversation, someone is selling, and someone is being sold to, ” -paraphrasing a dear friend.
By Eric Reis
Eric’s pragmatic approach to building a successful and sustainable business has helped me tremendously. It has helped me understand how to approach testing an idea and how to learn from customers. The biggest takeaway that this book provided me with was that all entrepreneurs must prioritize learning goals over performance goals. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or just someone who has a good idea but does not know how to implement it, I extremely recommend reading this book. This should be the essential employee manual for all startups who want to survive the uncertainty of the entrepreneur uni verse.
By Patrick Lencioni
As a member of a fraternity, Tau Kappa Epsilon, I had to read a book called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. The way that Lencioni uses storytelling in order to drive home the lessons of this book is amazing. He perfectly defines the reasons why so many teams fail to reach success together. From lack of trust to inattention to details, Lencioni clearly describes all the issues any team in any setting could face if they are not all working towards the same goal and are aware of what is holding them back. This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who is currently working with a team (which is the majority of the workforce). As a leader, you will gain insightful information on how to tackle any challenges you may be encountering working with a new team. The most important thing to read in this book is the team building exercises that are in the end. You won’t regret practicing one in at least one of them in your next team meeting.
By Eric Schmidt
Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg show in this book the power of a new style of leadership. When a company’s employees are entirely comprised of smart creatives (a term coined by the author) one must approach the challenge of leading them to success in new and innovative ways. This book has taught me a lot about entrepreneurship and how the future will be quite different than what any of us could expect. From how to hold a proper meeting, to the importance of interviewing, and how to create the perfect career plan, this book helps shine a light on anyone interested in learning more about the internet search company that has become the center of innovation for the entire world.
By Stephen King
Stephen King surpasses all expectations in this memoir of his childhood, college life, and ultimately his insights on writing. Never writing in the passive voice, using as little adverbs as possible (he hates them), and the second draft is always: the 1st draft – 10%. I endeavored in reading this book expecting to be a simple guide on the do’s and don’t’s of writing but, got much more. This book has shown the importance books have in our lives as humans and I truly appreciate everything I gained from reading his memoir.
By Peter Theil
This book has truly made me rethink starting a business at least fourteen times. Before anyone endeavors into creating a startup, consider reading this book. Peter covers topics such as “The Founders Paradox”, seven essential questions you need to be able to answer for your business to be successful, the difference between a monopoly and competition, and much more. The part that had the biggest impact on me was about product distribution. His insights on how to create a successful business are unparalleled and his experience creating PayPal certainly help. If you want to see a new perspective on startups definitely read this book.
By Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell has forever changed how I view marketing and how ideas are spread. His in-depth analysis on social epidemics is second to none as he shows a new perspective on how they are started and how they can be stopped. From teenage smoking throughout the years to the New York crime sprees in the 20th century, his revolutionary ideas from 2000 still have profound relevance today. He enlightens his reader on how social groups can be used to spread ideas through the rule of 150, the law of the few, the power of context, and much more. If you are interested in merely understanding how humans influence each other on a mass scale I highly suggest this book.
By Richard Branson
This is a very inspiring book on how Richard Branson rose to build his empire and his advice that any leader should heed. Whether you are building a business or looking to advance it, this book has a vast amount of advice every business professional should have. From building a fun and productive company culture to how to capitalize on opportunities; Richard Branson shows his audience what it truly means to be a leader. He displays his knowledge through the four L’s of success: Listen, Learn, Laugh, and Lead. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wishes to expand their mind and potential.
By Don Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements is a wonderful book on self-discovery and self-love. Another essential book any leader should read and ponder on. Don Miguel expresses his ideas on self-confidence and how to share it with others in your team. A spiritual book that will at least, if nothing else, show you another perspective on life.
By Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie shows his audience how to properly engage with others in any situation. For business etiquette and negotiations, this book is a great resource in making sure your points come across clearly and without argument. I have obtained a vast amount of social skills from this book and I highly recommend a purchase when possible. This is a great addition to anyone’s leadership collection.