The books I read in 2015 | Part 1
Those of you who got my December newsletter saw the whole list, but just in case you had not signed up by then, here I want to expand a little more as to why did I read those books and what are some of my takeaways. I’m working on more in-depth book reviews to post in my business website, but for now, this is a TLDR version, I hope you enjoy it and it saves you time.
Over a year ago, my husband came up with a pseudo-bullet-proof way of selecting new books for our Audible queue. He went through Amazon and sorted business books by rating and then, with some Excel basics, calculated a weighted average of the rating relative to the number of reviews (let’s just say the man knows a thing or two about statistical significance). The result is a collection of must reads that focuses a lot on technology and innovation, but whit lessons that can be applied in much broader ways.
Not all the books we read come from Nick’s spreadsheet, some were recommendations from friends or random selections that had high value potential and that got us with a 1 minute Audible sample, like The Charisma Myth, one of the best books I read in 2014 andthat I found while listening to The Economist podcast.
All the books I read in 2015
I didn’t really read these, I listen to them, audio books forever! Here are last year’s books, in descending order of awesomeness (spoiler alert: the order is not perfect because I want to leave some good stuff for last).
This book is an unapologetic view into the pre-crisis world of Wall Street. The creator of the infamous and hilarious @GSelevator Twitter account, John LeFevre, tells lit like it is, with no moral tone or regret. In interviews, he said that the purpose was not to redeem himself in any way and that he had a blast (which is evident if you read the book), but to tell a telling-worthy story. Entertaining from begging to end and with language NSFW. Stay away if you don’t enjoy stories about Asian prostitutes, drunk rich guys making fools of themselves and the complete loss of human decency.
“How social epidemics work”
A classic Gladwell that I waited too long to read. As someone interested in fashion and with a fairly good sense of trends and pop culture, this book is fascinating (but also if you care about more important things, like the control of sexual transmitted diseases or preventing teenage suicide). In the book, Gladwell explored the factors that determine adoption of a product or behavior by the masses and the agents that make this process happen. What made a boring and almost forgotten brand of shoes resurface as an uber-cool New Yorker staple? Are people who smoke cool, or do cool people have a higher tendency to smoke? What help spread the 1990’s syphilis epidemic in Baltimore? These and more interesting questions about how people behave are explored and answered in this must-read for any social scientist.
Just do it, trust me.
Elon Musk is an incredible individual, not just because he runs three companies at the same time, or because he wants to help humans go to Mars, but he also has a very interesting life story. This is the tale of a gifted child who read so much he finished up the entire local library and couldn’t socialize with other kids because he was simply thinking in a different dimension, a kid who grew up to come to America and sell his first company at age 27, only the first one of a series of entrepreneurial endeavors that ended with the creation of Tesla and SpaceX, both companies pursuing the goal of expanding the human race: the first one by decreasing our dependency of fossil fuels and the second by making us an interplanetary species. These are not simple things and Elon is not a simple man, learn more about his upbringing, his family life and business challenges in this terrific authorized biography you’ll want to finish in one sitting.
Nerds and non-nerds can both enjoy this… but it’s mostly for nerds
If you are the type who likes to double-check calculations and scientific accuracy in fiction books, this one is going to drive you crazy… because it’s perfect. While technically a science fiction book, the realism behind The Martian makes you feel way too much in danger of a hydrogen-triggered explosion: an astronaut gets left behind in Mars after his crew thought he had died and he finds himself facing the toughest physics, chemistry and bottony challenges of his life in order to survive. Rationing food, creating water and growing potatoes are hard enough here on Earth, now try it on Mars’ soil. Alone. This story is not only any engineer’s dream, but also one of the highest expressions of humanism I have seen in a while, an entire planet comes together, scientists, astronauts and different nations all chime in and change their plans to save one man’s life. Beautiful.
If you watched the movie and liked it, the book will blow your mind with the rare level of detail and suspense. I highly recommend the audio book, as it is extremely well-produced and the narrator is excellent, these are very important features I look for in audio books and this one got an A++.
How to work better
If you work in Silicon Valley this might be redundant, since you probably have always worked using the Scrum framework. Scrum was created 20 years ago and it substitutes the traditional waterfall method of doing things, it is a super simple methodology that is now considered the gold standard to get things done. It plays on the natural way people think and work, rather than outdated rules about how we are supposed to work. I loved the description of the process and the different case studies that prove how effective and efficient Scrum is. If you feel that you’ve been doing things wrong and need a change in the way you , your team or your organization works, I highly recommend you give it a try, it is particularly helpful for larger teams, but the logic can even be applied in smaller scales. Do twice the work in half the time. 100% recommended.
The Amazon story
Whether you are a fan of Amazon or not, this book will help you understand the mind behind the largest marketplace on Earth and the reasons for its success. Jeff Bezos is an iconic figure and hthe book explores some of his personal life, but ultimately, the topic is the model and the logic behind this retail giant. An incredible story of a company that challenged and redefined how people shop, anyone involved in retail can learn some good dos and dont’s from Amazon. Must read for: business owners, marketers, VC’s, financial analysts and, of course, shoppers.
(to be continued…)