My goal for 2019 is to read 52 books, one book every week.
So far: 20 books in 24 weeks (as of June 18).
May - 3 books
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018, Steven Pinker)
This was a feel good read. With so much doom and gloom on the news and the general sense of the-world-is-going-to-shit, realizing that we actually have it much better than we used to is a good feeling. Not because it allows us to rest on our laurels, but because it allows us to view any current/future problem we have as what it is: a problem, and not an insurmountable obstacle. We've faced large problems before and using our ingenuity and compassion we have overcome so many. It paints an optimistic view of our future.
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (2018, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
I forget who said it, but it is more profitable to sell advice than to take it. Viewing the world through the lens of who has and does not have skin in the game can very quickly give you an edge when making decisions. Taleb's example of selecting a professional that doesn't fit the stereotyped "look", given that they have achieved a level of success in their field, goes against my knee-jerk intuition but seems to hold water upon further examination.
Human Happiness (1966, Blaise Pascal)
Thoughts come at random, and go at random. No device for holding on to them or for having them. A thought has escaped: I was trying to write it down: instead I write that it has escaped me.
All the good maxims already exist in the world: we just fail to apply them.
We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so wain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts. We thrust it out of sight because it distresses us, and if we find it enjoyable, we are sorry to see it slip away. We try to give it the support of the future, and think how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching.
Let each of us examine his thoughts, he will find them wholly concerned with the past or the future. We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our menans, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always panning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.
Pascal sets out many arguments on Human Happiness, from wagering on the existence of God to a discuss on the merits of distractions. One of my favourite passages is quoted above, specifically We almost never think of the present, and if we do think of it, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future.
April - 5 books
Why We Sleep (2017, Matthew Walker)
This books shows you, without any shadow of a doubt, that you need to be sleeping around 8 hours a night. I listened to this as an audiobook, and for 13 hours I heard convincing argument after convincing argument. There are so many reasons to prioritize sleep. I actually fell asleep twice while listening to this book, which the author made a note to encourage. It felt on-brand.
Tuesdays With Morrie (1997, Mitch Albom)
Giving is living. Of all the messages that Morrie is able to impart to Mitch before he died: this one resonated with me the most. I've often felt that a dollar spent on another person feels better than the same dollar spent on myself. As I sit here reflecting on the 16 books I've read so far in 2019, I've noticed that there are a significant number of books that feature someone dying. Instead of chalking this up to a morbid obsession, I prefer to use Morrie's words: The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.
The Four (2017, Scott Galloway)
Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are four of the most influential technology companies today. Scott Galloway explores how they achieved this status, and examines the advantages they each have created for themselves. Will there be a fifth? How do you, as an individual today, find success in a world shaped by the Four Horsemen? The Four answers these questions and many more in an insightful look at the tech behemoths of today.
The Richest Man in Babylon (1926 ,George S. Clason)
A simple and incredibly approachable book has an easy to remember lesson: save 10% of everything you earn. Of course there are others, but at its core: this is the main takeaway of the book. It also counsels what to do with the 10% you save and has advice for those in debt. Presented as a tale from ancient Babylon removes the minutia that other books dispensing advice usually get mired in.
The Black Swan (2007, Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
In an era where every book tries to tell you exactly what you need to do, The Black Swan is refreshing antidote as it does not prescribe a step by step solution. Instead it illustrates the shortcomings of believing that we live in a bell-curve determined world, and highlights the need to protect one's self against ruinous unforeseen, catastrophic events. It really takes statistics out of the classroom and into the real world.
March - 4 books
Option B (2017, Sheryl Sandberg)
This book is all about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy. There has not been a recent event in my life that caused me to pick up this book. However, 4 years ago my parents decided to separate. Reading Option B after going through that really drives home how important the 3 Ps that Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant outline: Personalization, Pervasiveness and Permanence. Avoiding these three things encourages resilience and will allow you to "breathe again".
The Everything Store (2013, Brad Stone)
In three months I will begin working for Amazon, so I feel it is fitting to get up to speed on the history of the company. After reading this book I more fully understand the divisive split in people I know that love and hate Amazon. With friends and family working in the book publishing industry, it's not hard to see why. I believe that knowing the history of a company allows it to move forward by repeating its successes and avoiding past failures. I'm still very excited to work for Amazon and obsess over the customer experience while learning and innovating.
The Language Instinct (1994, Steven Pinker)
I have a distant memory of learning nouns, verbs and prepositions in grade school. In the Montessori system, nouns were black triangles and verbs were red circles. Language never particularly interested me, until I read The Language Instinct. Steven Pinker illustrates a compelling argument that language is truly an instinct that all humans posses, through a thoughtful and compelling dissection of a variety of case studies, like how deaf children acquire and create sign language.
Digital Minimalism (2019, Cal Newport)
I've found myself aimless scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Hacker News and even LinkedIn. I hate it, but I couldn't stop. I clung to the "good" that each of these services brought to my life. So when I came across Digital Minimalism in an Indigo, something clicked. I bought it immediately and had finished all 250 pages before I went to bed that night.
February - 4 books
Radical Candor (2017, Kim Scott)
The two big ideas of Radical Candor is to care personally and challenge directly. Even though I've spent so little time in the world of business, I was able to related almost every chapter to something that I've faced personally. That being said, I won't have an opportunity to apply any of these concepts concretely until I start working for Amazon in July. I'll definitely review this book at that time to refresh myself on it's main points.
That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together (2018, Joanne Lipman)
This book reopened my eyes to a variety of issues that currently exist in the workplace. It emphasized the fact that men need to be brought into the loop and included when discussing equality in the workplace. Championing women does not mean attacking men, as Iceland shows: everyone needs to be rowing the boat in the same direction. Finally, teams perform better and companies are more profitable when there are more women. Pushing for equality isn't just the right thing to do, it's good for the bottom line too.
The Last Lecture (2008, Jeffrey Zaslow and Randy Pausch)
I was in high school when I first watched Randy Pausch's Last Lecture. The lecture's title was Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, and contains two of Randy's "head fakes". A head fake is a term taken from football, where a player moves their head to fake a change in direction and deceive opponents. Randy's Last Lecture contains intellectual two head fakes. The first is that the lecture isn't actually about how to achieve your dreams, but how to lead you life. The second head fake is even better and I'll let you experience it for yourself. The book allows Randy to elaborate on his philosophy and talk about what was happening behind the scenes before, during, and after the last lecture.
When Breath Becomes Air (2016, Paul Kalanithi)
When Breath Becomes Air was independently recommended to me by three different friends. Suffice to say, I had high expectations before reading. After three days, I can say that my expectations were shattered as I was emotionally floored by its heartbreaking story. Breaking my heart is one thing, but to simultaneously provoke, inspire, and challenge is a feat few pieces of literature have done. I tend to reread very few books, but I have no doubt that I will continue to revisit these pages for many years.
January - 4 books
Bad Blood (2018, John Carreyrou)
Bad Blood is an amazing story to experience. The first part of the book sets the stage by identifying the key actors and telling the story of Theranos up to a point. Then the tone dramatically shifts to the first person as the author tells the story of how he first broke his investigative reporting piece about Theranos. This second half was a thriller and after one chapter into the second half I was hooked and had to finish the book that very night.
The Courage to be Disliked (2013, Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi)
The Courage to be Disliked is structured as a conversation between a Philosopher and a Youth. The Youth attacks the Philosophers beliefs throughout the novel and plays the role of the cynic that lives in our own heads. As it presents all sides of the argument, I feel the conclusions it draws quite convincing.
Wild (2012, Cheryl Strayed)
Wild was a wild ride. It was inspiring to see Cheryl face and overcome adversity. The most uncomfortable parts for me was in her interactions with predatory men. These moments emphasized her vulnerability doing this hike alone, and made me feel sick to my stomach while reading about it.
Bridge of Clay (2018, Markus Zusak)
The Bridge of Clay has a non-linear narrative that tugs on your heart strings time and time again. We learn about Clay, the second youngest of five boys, and the trials and tribulations that his family has gone through. It's from the perspective of his eldest brother and that really puts you in the center of it all.