Since switching to the iPhone 6+, I’ve been reading a lot more in the past few weeks than (ashamedly) in the past year. I suppose the battery life, screen, and overall user experience of the phone prompts me to open the Kindle app more frequently.
Anyway, here is my round-up of books I recommend for 2014 — all non-fiction; I rarely read fiction anymore.
How Asia Works by Joe Studwell
Whizzed through in one sitting. Studwell makes compelling arguments for his thesis on the respective economies of Asia (developed and emerging). Easy to read and not ‘academic’ at all; which makes it an ideal book for non-business majors who want to learn about “Asia”.
I might be a bit biased, as this book combines two topics of my current interest (well, near obsession) with: economics and Asia.
The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War by Fred Kaplan
In 2012, I had the privilige of experiencing life in Washington D.C. during a US presidential election year. I met many people from all walks of life I probably wouldn’t have met in NY, LA, or SF.
2012 was also the year General David Petraeus – then Director of CIA – was under fire for a scandal. I couldn’t understand why tabloid topics were hogging air time and recall voicing it aloud a few times… which led to several conversations with random ranking or retired officers from the US military on their views of the General. The more stories I heard, the more I wanted to learn about this man everyone spoke so highly of. The anecdotes of him on the ground in the Middle East left me speechless — and will happily re-share (in person).
In January of 2014, this book was published and had been rotting on a ‘To Read’ list… until the 6+.
For the record my military, government, and defense knowledge are limited to what I learned in school and read in mainstream media. This book opened up a whole new world for me but, more than learning something new, I am in awe of General Petraeus’ leadership skills and strategic mind.
This GQ piece from 2008 encapsulates why I was so intent on learning more about him. Read the article here.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Zero to One simplifies complex business models and theories, goes over building companies and basic economics in an easily digestible way. Peter Thiel’s experience as well as passion for tech and The Valley are consistently laced throughout. The breadth of Thiel’s academic knowledge is showcased as he pulls in history, key historic figures, and even walks us through Silicon Valley during the consumer Internet years while sprinkling current factoids. His extraordinary business mind is clear from the first word to last.
It feels like a conversation with Peter Thiel as a mentor or investor of my startup and serves more as a self-help, motivational book for entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and nerds vs a business book.
As much as I respect him and his accomplishments, I wish I could say it changed my life. Sadly, I didn’t learn anything ground breaking . (Or perhaps I simply needed to lower expectations.)
Nevertheless, still a great read and resource.
A few of my highlighted passages: (click image to expand)
Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World by William D. Cohan
A peek at what made GS, GS. This book mainly goes over how they work as a company, more than their lobbying / policy / government affiliations. To be frank, I was waiting for the latter, but GS is notorious for being tight-lipped. I guess I’d have to get a job in the government affairs department in order to learn about their political game.
Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012
It’s no secret Warren Buffett is extraordinary and this book highlights his life in what I presume, chronological order through magazines articles compiled by his long-time journalist friend of Fortune magazine. But, what really hit me, was the quality of the writings and I am a bit sad Fortune (amongst other publications) no longer publish pieces of this caliber. So it goes.
Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott
This book had lots of helpful little lifestyle tips — also, I am not a Francophile.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Gregory Hays (translator)
Classic — everyone should carry this with them and read passages when something shitty happens, before updating on Facebook or Twitter ;) It must be the Hays translation.
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton
Because everyone loves a juicy story of a multi-billion dollar company.