I use this page as my reading log. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear it!
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking - Samin Nosrat
The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life - J.L. Collins
A book that I would recommend anyone interested in investments to read. It is extremely accessible and down to earth in it’s tone. It cuts away all the usual BS you would see in investment books. This is my take away from the book in one sentence: invest early, invest in low fee index funds, ride the ups and downs of the market and watch it grow over time.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers - Ben Horowitz
Basically a how-to guide for CEOs. While certain lessons and points in the book are exclusive to tech startups, there’s still plenty of wisdom that he provides that is generally applicable. Some of the author’s comparisons to war and battle come off a little cringey, but I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and I think I have a better understanding of management principles CEOs apply at the highest level.
Robin - Dave Itzkoff
A wonderful and tragic tale of one of the most special comedians and actors of our lifetime. A true genius he was. There are a lot of things that I learned about his life and death that I had no idea about. I think the author does a great job in bringing the reader really close to Robin Williams the person rather than the celebrity.
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taleb’s ideas in the book are thought-provoking and insightful as always but the writing is a little convoluted. I wish he’d work on writing more concisely. For instance, I think examples are an excellent tool for explaining concepts, but if you provide too many examples the point gets diluted and the idea sticks less in people’s head. For everything he introduces, he adds way to many examples for it to be clear. Overall, good book but I’d recommend reading a summary or maybe listening to his talks around the subject.
Is This Anything? - Jerry Seinfeld
Jerry Seinfeld’s standup material over the decades, with a few bits of autobiographical material in-between. Jerry (yes, we’re on first name basis) is one of those comedians that is as funny through text as he is with his own delivery. I would definitely recommend reading this out loud, maybe with a friend or two. Expect to struggle reading through your laughter.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values - Robert M. Pirsig
I went into this book solely off of the title, it just seemed really intriguing. I came out on the other end realizing that I do not know enough philosophy and maybe I don’t have enough maturity to have grasped the many concepts that the author is discussing. It’s a book that I would have to revisit in ten (maybe 20) years to fully appreciate it.
Look at the Birdie - Kurt Vonnegut
A collection of brilliant short stories by the great Kurt Vonnegut (my favorite author).
Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir - Norm MacDonald
This book is exactly what you’d imagine Norm MacDonald would write. It’s weird, it’s confusing but most importantly it’s hilarious. Norm has this incredible skill to make you doubt everything he says but still come off as an extremely honest person.
Gift of Imperfection - Brené Brown
Brené Brown has an amazing ability to deliver useful lessons and actionable points with a compassionate and comforting voice. While I think this book won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s still a valuable read.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us - Daniel H. Pink
According to Pink, there is a misalignment between what science of motivation says and what the industry is doing. He argues that the standard reward system of carrots and sticks does not work for jobs that require creativity. Setting up an if-then reward system can lead to diminished motivation, decrease of creativity and quality of work. He instead offers another system, Motivation 3.0 as he calls it, based on the assumption that people have an innate desire to work on challenging problems. He identifies three key factors to this type of a motivation: the need for autonomy, need for mastery and need for purpose. Setting up an environment where these three conditions are met can enable people to be intrinsically motivated or in other words, they will be driven from the inside rather than having to establish external reward systems.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t - Jim Collins
A culmination of a 5 year research conducted by Jim Collins and his 21 person team. It’s an extremely dense and thoughtful book that goes deep into analyzing how certain companies have achieved excellence. Although, some of the companies that made the list have since fallen off from greatness, the value that Collins and team provide by presenting the core concepts that drive excellence is still extremely valuable.
What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars - Jim Paul et al.
One of the few honest books about investing/trading. The book is split into two parts. The first part is the story of Jim Paul, how he made money and became a big shot in the trading world and how he then lost it all on a single bet. The main lesson in the first part is how personalizing outcomes, be it success or failure, can hinder one’s decision making to the point of delusion. After losing everything, Jim Paul realized that he didn’t actually know trading, he simply got lucky by either being at the right place at the right time or just by knowing the right people. This realization sets him on a path to learning how to trade successfully by studying strategies of famous investors and traders. But as it turns out, the strategies offered by these experts are all different and sometimes contradictory, hence the key isn’t about how to win rather how not to lose. He comes to the conclusion that there are thousands of ways of making money in the markets but there are only a few ways of losing it. The second part of the book goes deep on this premise. It provides analysis on the psychological factors that lead to losses and strategies on avoiding them with the biggest advice being on always having an exit strategy or a stop-loss in trading terms.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference - Malcolm Gladwell
A really interesting, well-researched book about social epidemics. Malcom Gladwell dissects the process of how certain ideas gain traction and eventually reach a tipping point that brings them into widespread adoption. He proposes a theory on the spread of ideas with three central concepts: 1) The Law of the Few: There are three different categories of people that are essential contributors to social epidemics: connectors, mavens and salesmen. Each of these people have a certain special talent that make them crucial for rapid spread of ideas. 2) The Stickiness Factor: The presentation of the message can either make or break the spread. The idea has to have a certain stickiness to it, i.e when heard by people it has to remain in their minds. In general, it’s hard to know what type of message will stick, usually experimentation and refinement is required. 3) The Power of Context: How an idea is spread is highly dependent on the context of when it is first heard. Human behavior can have a large variance depending on the context and even the tiniest changes in the environment can have hugely consequential results.
Bossypants - Tina Fey
A hilarious and insightful look into Tina Fey’s life and career. It’s a light and entertaining read. Although after reading it, I found out that there’s an audio version narrated by Tina herself and I’d imagine that’s a much better way to experience this book.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - Carol S. Dweck
There are two types of mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. A person with a fixed mindset thinks that theirs and other’s abilities are fixed and are mostly inherent. Either you’re smart or not, either you’re talented or you’re not, there’s little or no room for improvement. People with this mindset dwell too much on numbers that “measure” their capabilities and are easily dissuaded by challenging endeavors. On the other hand, people with a grow mindset think that talents can be acquired and essentially nothing is fixed. A challenge for them is nothing but an opportunity to learn new things. The book provides an insightful look into both type of mindsets, with plenty of examples that illustrate how each mindset reveals itself in different settings such as education, sports, business, relationships etc. The author is a professor of Psychology at Stanford, and this book is essentially a summary of her research. The book is extremely accessible and insightful.
Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
I went into this book completely blind, I started reading purely based on the title, it sounded intriguing. It is an interesting book with a lot of good advice on overcoming fear but I would’ve liked a lot more on the nature of fear than this book provides. It’s also more “self-helpy” than scientific, which is not my taste.
The Art of Loving - Erich Fromm
Fromm argues that our understanding of love is misguided in thinking that it is something that happens to us rather than something that we actively engage in. Most people think that love itself is easy but to find the object of love or to be loved is difficult. We so often fail in love because of our misunderstanding of it. Love like any other discipline, requires knowledge and most importantly practice. The same way you wouldn’t expect to be a good engineer without hard-work, you shouldn’t expect to be good at loving without dedicating time and attention to it.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami
On the surface level this book is Murakami’s memoirs on his experience and passion for long-distance running, but at a deeper level this book is a manifestation of his philosophy on living. He identifies writing and running as similar activities in the sense that both require endurance and persistent focus, yet I think the real message in this book is that the act of living possesses a similar nature as well. Life is the one true marathon that we all run, and in order to live the fullest we must develop endurance and resilience to the hurdles that are constantly thrown at us. Overall, it’s a short and very readable book and I don’t think you necessarily have to be passionate about running to be able to enjoy this book, although I can see it being a little harder to relate to if you’ve never completed a long run and don’t know how it feels when your body and mind are screaming at you to stop but you keep going.
Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers - Mike Sacks
When observation is a skill that is required to succeed in your career you tend to become good at filtering out the noise of life in order to get to the truth. This book provides an insightful look into the minds of people that have above average observational skills. The interviews are in a candid style and are pretty fun to read. Most of the interviews have interesting and just straight non-BS wisdom on life. The book is also packed with some really good advice on writing in general, not just comedy writing. Would recommend it to anyone that’s trying to become a better writer. It’s also super interesting to peek behind some shows I’ve really loved over the years. For example, I was fascinated by the fact that the creator of Freaks and Geeks, Paul Feig, wrote a 55 page bible of the show that has detailed descriptions on what the world and the characters should be like. He even compiled a list of songs/artists that were labelled with freak or geek.
Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Humans have a tendency to predict the future without realizing how unpredictable the future really is. We consistently overestimate our knowledge of the causal effects of events. Taleb argues that there are highly improbable but hugely impactful events called Black Swans. These Black Swan events essentially dictate how the world shifts around us. Trying to predict these events is hopeless, but being ready for an occurrence of one is a requirement, if we want to survive.
Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions - Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths
An interesting take on the parallels of computer science and human decision making. Although, I think the book falls short on explaining the concepts well enough to make them intuitive for a non-technical audience. They have enough information for someone with a CS background, but some of the chapters are not really that accessible for people outside the discipline.
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha - Tara Brach
Tara Brach describes the incapacitating condition of self-judgement and self-criticism, what she calls the trance of unworthiness. She offers a conceptually simple solution, just accept it. Recognize what you are feeling (mindfulness) and let yourself feel it without judgement (compassion). The book contains useful lessons from the Buddhist teachings and real life examples from Tara’s practice with people that struggled with trauma, shame, fear, addiction and self-denial.
How to Lie with Statistics - Darrell Huff
A gem of a book about how easy it is to trick or be tricked by someone by essentially making you focus on the wrong things. It’s kind of like how illusionists do their illusions, no one is ever looking in the right spot and that’s no accident. The book has really accessible explanations on concepts like, correlation does not imply causation, importance of sample statistics, data visualization and many more. It’s written in a playful/witty language and has heavy usage of examples to ground the concepts.
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
Dawkins masterfully explains how evolution is driven by replicators and their quest for immortality for which we serve as vehicles. He defines a replicator as a fundamental unit of natural selection, which is basically the thing that gets copied over and sometimes gets mutated (a DNA molecule is an example of a replicator). He also introduces the meme as a replicator. A meme is a unit for cultural evolution; the ideas we have, the songs we sing and the symbols we use are all examples of memes.
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
This was not at all what I was expecting but the surprise was a pleasant one. It’s a hilarious read that has some deep implications on the contemporary human condition. Although, the interpretation is up to the reader, to me Metamorphosis is about the degradation of human society into something unrecognizable, something as ugly as a bug. We have lost touch with our humanity by allowing the world we ourselves have constructed to completely take over our being.
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts - Annie Duke
Life involves a lot of bets and uncertainty, it is more like poker than chess. The most important take away from this book is the fact that we often judge actions by their outcomes rather than the rationale behind the act. We have to recognize that sometimes we can do everything right but still lose. The bet was right, the luck just wasn’t on our side in that instance.
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari
- Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
- Meditations - Marcus Aurelius
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing - Burton G. Malkiel
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence - Michael Pollan
- Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
- Man’s Search for Meaning - Viktor Frankl
- Cat’s Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
- Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
- Welcome to the Monkey House - Kurt Vonnegut
- Our Minds, Our Selves: A Brief History of Psychology - Keith Oatley
- The Prince - Nicolo Machiavelli
- The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect - Judea Pearl
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future - Peter Thiel
- The Problems of Philosophy - Bertrand Russell
- Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion - Sam Harris
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream - Hunter S. Thompson
- Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! - Richard Feynman
- How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
- Mere Christianity - C. S. Lewis