I’m always searching for good books. Send me your recommendations (contact). Bonus points for older books and non-bestsellers.
Beautiful illustrations unnecessarily constrained by oversimplified vocabulary. I enjoyed What If? much more than Thing Explainer because What If didn’t lower the bar but brought you up to it. Thing Explainer explains various inventions, biological and astronomical occurrences in simple words, limited to a vocabulary of 1,000 words. I did gain some deeper insights into everyday machinery around me, however, I felt the knowledge was too personal.
The language used to explain these concepts were too analogy focused and didn’t use the exact terms for these things which are commonly agreed upon so you won’t find much use using the analogies from this book in actual conversation. If you have a limited vocabulary and feel anxious when exposed to big words, you might enjoy the simplified approach in this book. This would be a good book for very young children, English language learners or individuals who would find more value from the illustrations than the words.
It should come of no surprise that one of the founders of Pixar would be able to craft an amazing story with the book Creativity Inc. in collaboration with Amy Wallace. Halfway through, I knew this book would are my all-time favorites list. What stands out in this book compared to other business books is the selflessness of Ed Catmul, who spoke about his colleagues more than himself and the books balanced blend of business, biography, philosophy and psychology; coming together to illustrate how to enable people to work together.
Pixar movies have shaped my childhood and continue to shape my adult hold, telling stories with deep lessons in simple ways that trigger a wide spectrum of emotions. The consistency of quality is high valued at Pixar and it has created a division called Braintrust to make sure the story feels right. In addition, Pixar has a unique culture of fostering creativity, trust, learning and communication to encourage the creation of stories worth telling.
There is turbulence along the road to success and Pixar has been on the brink of collapse numerous times. The company has found a way to cultivate skill and manufacturing luck. Change is also always around the corner and the stories about George Lucas of Lucasfilms, Steve Jobs co-founder of Apple who became a majority owner at Pixar, Bob Igner, CEO of Disney who purchased Pixar in 2006, and all the other waves of economic change posed great challenges to try to maintain the Pixar culture while allowed for positive change.
The Pixar founders Ed Catmul, John Lassetter and Jim Morris believed in Pixar; they wanted it to outlast them like the way stories last generations.
Grab a seat, this captivating thriller, a debut novel Allen Eskens, will sure take you on a ride. I was glued to this story! I should note that I’m giving this bonus points from a 4 up to a 5 because of the excellent narration by Zach Villa on audible which added soo much personality and color to the story, as well as this being one of the few thrillers I’ve read so the patterns and metaphors used were new to me.
The story follows, Joe Talbert a young college student who was working his way through school, taking care of himself and soon had a lot more on his plate as the story develops. He was given a term paper assignment to write about an elderly person, and choose to write about Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran and a convicted murderer.
A vibrant collection of ideas and images in a condensed format representing some of Marshall McLuhan’s core ideas from Understanding Media. Writing in the context of the changing media landscape due to new technologies, this was an interesting view of what a contrarian would think would shake up the media industry.
I found it this statement interesting as it is playing out even today:
“Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
At times the images were distracting and made me feel lost in the book; in a bad way. It lacked depth and I will probably read Understanding Media so I can have a fuller picture of Marshall McLuhan’s ideas.
A great example of customer-focused business building. Derek’s selflessness was very Zen-Like and his ability to focus and execute is admirable.
His passion for music, led him to work to build the craft across multiple verticals from singing, songwriting, and even production. When he needed a way to get his music to customers, he built a system out of necessity and that necessity transformed into a community and that community into a business.
When the opportunity arose with iTunes, despite the unfavorable work that would be needed to get music out, he did what he had to do to help his customers share their music with the world.
As with any growing business, there are growing pains. Derek shared the wisdom from these learning pains simply and concisely in less than 100 pages. A wonderful book on business and life.
The War of Art is a war against resistance. Resistance comes from within, it’s you sabotaging yourself from getting the work done. It’s you holding your creativity hostage from the world. There are a number of activities that bring about resistance, but most fall under rejecting immediate gratification.
Steven Pressfield is writing his declaration of war against the things that prevent him from creating art; it’s a personal book.
He goes on to make a number of other declarations, some spark inspiration, some bring about looks of confusion and aversion to the book. Pressfield writes about destiny, saying you were born to do one thing, find it. Your gifts are inspired by some higher force.
There were parts of the book I enjoyed like Identifying resistance and the difference between an Amateur and a Professional, a professional shows up consistently and gets the job done. They create an environment around their craft and self-validate their own work.
Towards the middle and the end of the book begins to unravel for me as he gets into divinity and contradicts himself on craftsmanship vs passion.
The core message of the Virgin Way is Getting the Job Done and Having Fun Getting There. A vital part of that is trusting and investing in people; giving them the freedom to contribute and learn from mistakes. Richard was open enough to admit to some mistakes he made in business, such as the mistakes to move to digital for Virgin Records, in the era of iTunes; repeating the mistakes of Kodak during the digital photo era. Richard’s wild and free spirit injects a spark of energy into the story and he promoted the importance of taking risks. You’re guaranteed to miss every shot you don’t take. If you’re instinct is positive, then just go for it. Trust the process, trust your instincts and trust your team.
I enjoyed the section where Richard talked about public speaking and communication skills.
I had no idea Richard did not enjoy public speaking, his perception to me was that of an outspoken CEO and great speaker. He prefers Q&A style talks.
He also admits the Virgin Way isn’t for everyone. It takes a huge cultural shift and a leader who would allow all their people to lead.
If Ego is the Enemy, then we’re in for an endless war. At any point in our life, we are between the three cycles of Aspire, Success, & Failure. This book was born out of the need for a guide in facing the many obstacles that await through the pendulum of life’s journey between these states. The thesis is that your ego is not an overachieving power that you’re forced to satisfy at ever impulse. It can be managed and directed.
I felt the title of the book personifies and causes an anchoring effect, towards making one think they can “defeat” Ego. Ryan does try to emphasize the management of ego, and being cautious of extremes by re-adjusting one’s attitude and finding a golden mean. I see Ego as something one can overdose on; it is a natural byproduct of growth and ambition, so it’s not inherently bad. Similar to Medicine, in that it can heal us, but also kill us. Too much Ego can shorten success.
The tone of the book seems to lack compassion and leans too much on declarations that make it seem preachy, in an aggressive way. The latter seems to be a common pattern in Ryan’s writing. Someone who is frustrated and whose anger tends to leak into his writing voice. I was surprised that there were fewer references to Stoicism in this book compared to his others.
Still, you can get some gems from the book. Ego is The Enemy provides us with the tools to keep our Ego in check and think less of ourselves. The stabilizers that balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition are Sobriety, Open-mindedness, Organization, and Purpose. We should be Humble in our aspirations, Gracious in our success, and Resilient in our failures. Then we can suppress ego early, replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline, and have more control over our fate.
Although the book had a very academic tone, it was very well organized and easy to follow, aided with many pictures of facial expressions of various emotions. Ekman guides you into learning how to identify the subtle emotional cues that show up on our face, where we want them to or not.
The goal of the book is to help you build awareness in detecting when emotions arise. You learn to recognize and understand the emotions felt and may display, as well as recognizing the emotions in other, helping you to understand better and communicate with other people.
With great power comes great responsibility and ability to fool yourself; be careful not to jump to conclusions at the cause of emotions you think you may have observed.
Compared to other Sacks books, this one is more focused as it follows 7 people and their stories as opposed to dozens of case studies. This approach humanizes them more and focuses on how they live and view the world, instead of how their disability takes them from the world. How would the world be without these people and their gifts? What can we learn from them today?
Oliver Sacks was like an Anthropologist on Mars as these people’s world seemed so different than ours, but to these people, our worlds seemed so different to theirs.
One of the most impactful book’s I’ve read. Stoicism is the guiding philosophy of life, I never knew I was in search of. This ancient philosophy which originated out of Greece, and evangelized by the Roman’s has stood the test of time with many principles and relevant pieces of life advice.
Irvine summarizes the core Stoic lessons and techniques for attaining tranquility and living the good life in modern times. Some big lessons I learn were how to minimize anxiety and worries, how to detach myself from past failures, and focus on the things within the realm of my control, as well as how to reduce negative emotions like anger, anxiety, fear, grief, and envy.
I found the book to be a good introduction to Stoicism before diving into some of the source material from Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and other Stoic Philosophers. I’ve read this book multiple times and it still has a strong impact on me and I come about with something new on each read.
The author provides some suggestions to prevent the worst from happening, and I enjoyed the depth of research and how he made the content accessible to readers who lack a strong economics background.
Success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right. To get there, find your purpose by figuring out what drives you. Don’t focus on being busy, focus on being productive. Go all in on what matters to you, and say no, to defend your priority, everything else can wait.
When you attain mental peak performance, you will learn how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcomes, how to trust self 2 to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures, and how to see “non-judgmentally” – that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how poorly it is happening. The Inner game of Tennis uses tennis as a medium to discuss these skills.
The most indispensable tool for human beings in modern times is the ability to remain calm in the midst of rapid and unsettling changes; this is an important book to help you get there.
Your time perspective reflects attitudes, beliefs, and values related to time. The six-time perspectives identified are Past-negative, Past-positive, Present-Fatalistic, Present-Hedonistic, Future, and Transcendental-Future. Once you become aware of your personal time zone, you can begin to see and manage your life more mindfully, and have a better understand of other people’s time orientation.
The book shows how different cultures, locations, economics and interactions with other individuals time zones can influence different time perspectives. A biased future time perspective serves people well in some situations but poorly in others. Only a balanced time perspective opens all paths to happiness. The Time Paradox gives you a practical plan for optimizing your blend of time perspectives so you will be able to overcome mental biases that keep you too attached to the past, too focused on immediate gratification, or unhealthily obsessed with future goals.
Lieberman suggests solutions we can learn something from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Many of these ideas are the core of the Paleo movement. He also states that culture created the environment for the decline in our health; we live longer but live with much more illnesses. So interventions for mismatch diseases he recommends, are public health policies that assist us in making better choices.
By focusing on “process, not product,” you’ll learn to live in each moment, where you’ll find calmness and equanimity. Creating the practicing mind comes down to these simple rules: keep yourself process-oriented, stay in the present, make the process the goal and use the overall goal as a rudder to steer your efforts, be deliberate, have an intention about what you want to accomplish, and remain aware of that intention.
Some of the most powerful traits you can get from being more process-oriented are becoming a more patient and disciplined individual. You’ll be able to pick a goal and apply steady effort to reach it while finding love in the journey of getting there.
Decisive can help you improve your rational thinking and decision making by using four principles that can help you overcome the brains’ natural biases to make better, more informed decisions. These four principles are: Widen your options, Reality-Test your assumptions, Attain Distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong. If you’ve read the Heath brother’s Made to stick, which focused on ideas, Decisive’s focus is to help you make better decisions.
Set goals for every three months and year, three years out
Identify the people, places, and things required to meet those goals
Reach out to the people who can help you achieve your goals.
If you’ve read Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People, you’ll be sure to enjoy this as well.
Taleb’s states that people and institutions are either fragile, robust, or antifragile. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better. Having a better understanding of this can help us better design and approach ideas, life decisions, technology, medicine, politics, war, urban planning, finance, legal, economic and other systems to protect against fragility, prediction errors and adverse events.
I should note; the book has a very philosophical and academic tone that can make it difficult to read. The book is divided into seven parts also called books, seen as stand-alone essays that support the central idea or go deeper into other areas.
A simple way to think of the differences between extroverts and introverts is by the kinds of activities that require more mental & emotional energy and the activities that recharge them. Extroverts can gain energy from being around other people, whereas, after a while, that can be a very draining activity for an introvert. An introvert can be by themselves and recharge, whereas being alone can be a draining activity for an extrovert. Introverts are more motivated by internal factors, such as fear and often think first and prefer listening as oppose to speaking. Extroverts are more motivated by external factors, such as rewards and often act first and prefer to do the talking.
Quiet does talk a lot about the work and career implications of being or working with an introvert, so you can learn to mesh better with a team or correct misperceptions about people you work with who tend to like their quiet time.
Quiet is backed by a lot of research and written in an approachable manner with excellent narration. It’s awesome for both extroverts and introverts.
Forgetting about the past and the pain that comes with it is easy, but remembering and understanding is very hard. Coates talks about ‘The Dreamers’, who have forgotten the origins of this country’s wealth and seek to preserve themselves in this countries privileges, backed by systems that have robbed and imprisoned a generation of peoples.
Throughout the rest of the book, I felt his pain and anger. I saw a man who had given up faith in beliefs of a higher faith, in a broken educational, judicial and cultural system and who saw the American Dream as a destructive illusion.
I wondered to myself, what would my father write to me? I had no father to ask this advice. Raised by a single mother, who was breaking under the pressure of the world, I could not ask these questions as she always pointed me towards asking God; there was no response. If I had read this when I was Coates, son’s age, would I have accepted his message and done the choices I have made?
Influence describes the six categories of techniques that have the potential to influence us without our conscious awareness. These are called the ‘Weapons of influence’, which are: Reciprocation, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity. The book’s chapters are organized around these areas and provides many examples and anecdotes with some research sprinkled in.
I’m not sure if my undergraduate marketing classes taught me everything I needed to know about influence, but I felt like I didn’t gain much new knowledge from this and more so new perspectives and some extra validation. I found parts of the book repetitive, dry and felt the examples were not strong enough. Even so, having these principles carried the book and are useful if you want to improve your understanding around marketing and sales.
The early origins of agile were talked about as well as the importance of regression testing and unit testing. TMMM was one of the early champions for having good documentation and the DRY principle, Do not Repeat Yourself. Two of the most popular concepts from the book are the myth of of adding more developers to a project, which can in fact cause a project to be even more late and No Silver Bullets, which is the delusion of a quick shortcut to productivity.
We need to have more personal responsibility, and this book aims to teach you how to go about finding inward (personal happiness and health) and outward (fulfilling work and wealth) success. He details his Daily Habits, which include four areas he promotes we should consistently invest towards: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual. The book provides a good foundation for going forth and lighting the spark internally to create something of your own.
Lanier’s arguments are heavily focused on technologies impact on the creative and outside labor market and fail to acknowledge outside forces like government policy. Although Lanier, is a fan and heavy user of technology, his gloom and doom lack is tied to the rise of technology and it will continue to rise so what could we do to capitalize on the growth in more empowering ways.
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