Below is a collection of the books I read in 2018. A few captivated my attention; others, not so much. Check out the reviews below to figure out which are which.
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
I must admit, I am a fan of everything the Heath brothers have written. Their prose is approachable, the examples given are concrete and their insights and take-aways are relevant and immediately useful. The Power of Moments is no different. Here, the Heaths tackle experiences and why some moments contained therein define our memories. Through an examination of four key components of memorable experiences - elevation, insight, pride and connection - the authors explain why you remember vividly a playground experience, and how to define moments and how they will be remembered.
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation
by Gabriele Oettingen
I was drawn to this book as a perpetual optimist that has a streak of grounded realism. Based on extensive research, Oettingen concludes that the dreams blind optimism creates often yield counter-productive outcomes. Instead, the author proposes that we use ‘mental contrasting’ – an exercise that tests the dream itself against a contrasting examination of the obstacles that stand in the way. Using the pneumonic WOOP, Oettinger teaches readers to use her four-step process of Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan to balance the dream with a dose of reality to achieve better outcomes and more frequently find success and happiness.
How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing Myths of Science Denial
by Darryl Cunningham
A very quick read given the format (think comic book for adults). This book reminds us that science is king by breaking apart several long-held myths and building up them back up with well-researched facts to establish the truth. And sometimes, that truth might not be what you expected.
Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
by Timothy Ferriss
I wanted to like this book; I really did. Unfortunately, it is a case of the juice not being worth the squeeze. Ferris sent the same 11 questions to successful/famous/important people, then assembled their responses into a book. The responses vary from thoughtful and contemplative to those that seemed contrived and forced. There were a few useful nuggets hidden within the 598 pages, but the effort is not worth the payoff. Save yourself some time: stand in a bookstore, flip through the pages and just read the callout quotations. The rest is pretty much pulp, anyway.
The Design of Everyday Things
by Don Norman
Design matters. Good design matters most. This is an important read for anyone looking to build a product of any kind. Norman walks the reader through the psychology of design and clearly explains how users interact with products. Our brains are wired in a particular manner. Take this into consideration, or you set your product up to be met with confusion, frustration and failure. Now in its third edition, you can benefit from Norman's years of reflection, revisions and updated examples. Do your part. Read this book and put an end to bad design.
You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice
by Tom Vanderbilt
It is rare that I abandon a book before I have read it cover-to-cover. If an author or subject matter fails to grasp my attention and hold on tightly within the first 100 or so pages, I will set it aside and move on. This was one of those cases; I bailed at page 127. While the premise is solid - in an age of seemingly endless possibility, how do you define taste and determine how we will respond to and interact with the world around us - the execution left me wanting. I made my choice. I expressed my preference. And it was not this book. Next!
DON'T BUY IT
Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town
by Brian Alexander
There is so much packed into this book's 296 pages. Glass House takes the reader through the rise, fall and continuing stumbles of the quintessential all-American town: Lancaster, Ohio. A town struggling to find its new identity. Alexander shines light on the impact of a fading large employer, drugs, private equity, politics, low-wage jobs and living in poverty. Each could stand as its own book topic. As such, it makes the read challenging as you work to take it all in and process. It is an important read. But one that requires thought and will trigger reflection.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
by Kim Scott
Our typical management approaches often fail us. They fall into buckets Scott has labeled 'manipulatively insincere', 'obnoxiously aggressive' or 'ruinously empathetic'. Scott builds on her experiences at a who's who of tech companies to offer an approach she calls 'radical candor'. The crux is in providing guidance which blends praise and criticism at the intersection of caring personally and challenging directly. While the intent of this book is to be a better boss, if you take a step back, this book is really about how to be a better human being. Read it and be excellent to each other.
A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back
by Kevin Hazzard
This was an impulse read that began while killing time as I waited with my son at the public library over Spring Break. As we were about to pack up, I realized that I was 100 pages in. I was drawn to this book because for four years I served as a First Responder and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). While the call volume of our rural Virginia crew was significantly lower than that Hazzard experienced in Atlanta, the nature of the "business" is the same. High pressure, life-and-death situations juxtaposed against plenty of the just plain weird. If you, too, have worked in the space, this book is like a conversation with your buddies after a shift. For everyone else, it provides peek behind the curtain of the life and times of those who show up when you call 911. Like the job, the book is a little rough round the edges. But it is worth a read.
Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave
by Adam Alter
The book takes its title from a discovery in the late 70s that a certain shade of pink had an unexplained calming effect on the agitated. It began to be used in jail holding cells, hence "drunk tank pink". Alter walks the reader through a litany of external or environmental factors that shape outcomes. Beyond color, we are subconsciously influenced by names, location, temperature, even the mere presence of other people. Read this to better understand yourself, and to get a sense for what affects those around you.
Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
by Daniel Coyle
Culture is inextricably linked with success. Organizations and groups with strong cultures win more often than not. Have a bad one, and you are doomed to fail - no matter great your product is or how perfect your plan. Using concrete examples taken from the Navy SEALS, San Antonio Spurs and others, Coyle walks the reader through the primary ingredients to build a winning culture: build safety, share vulnerability and establish purpose. Read this book and become a better leader, teammate or employee. Or maybe, just a better person.
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
by Daniel H. Pink
Timing matters. A lot. When you do something matters as much (or more) than how you do it. Pink walks the reader through the science and psychology of good timing – and conversely, when timing works against you. This book runs the gamut - when to exercise, when not to go in front of a judge and if you should go first. Now might be a good time to read this book.
Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives
by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir
If you have taken an intro level economics course, you know about the concept of scarcity (the disparity between limitless wants/needs and limited resources). Having majored in economics in college, I thought I knew it. And then I read this book. The authors do an excellent job of taking a dusty economic concept and applying it in revolutionary ways. Why do we make the decisions that we do? How does someone get trapped in poverty? How can abundance directly lead to scarcity? You can find out, too. You just have to find the time to read the book.
Brotopia: Breaking Up The Boy’s Club of Silicon Valley
by Emily Chang
This book is both hard to read and tremendously important. The difficulty comes not from the prose, but the subject matter. With each shocking tale of discrimination, outright harassment or systemic failures, Chang brings the issues facing women in tech out into the light. And, man, does that light shine brightly. At times, I was angry and ashamed for the behavior of those with whom I share chromosomes. Others, I just felt sad and frustrated. While focused on Silicon Valley and the tech industry, Brotopia is not limited to a few zip codes in California. It is something that we can all take action against. We can all be better. And it starts now.
Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World
by Rand Fishkin
Thinking of starting a company? Watched a few episodes of Shark Tank and you think it looks easy? You might want to give Lost and Founder a read, then re-evaluate. While Fishkin spends a little too much time getting a little too specific with his own company, Moz, there are many gems - and a few chuckles - throughout this book. Many founders get caught up in the scope of their grand vision, failing to think through what the journey really holds in store. Fishkin helps shine light on the bumpiness of the ride. While the road is not always smooth nor obstacle free, it makes for a helluva story.
Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts
by Annie Duke
Who better to address making decisions with incomplete (or misleading) information than a poker player? While some view the word 'bet' in a negative light, it is really just "a decision about an uncertain future." You take what information you have in front of you, measure it against your known set of experiences, assign probabilities to the possible outcomes and decide how to respond. Pretty simple in theory; complicated in execution. That is where this book comes in handy. Duke walks the readers through many examples that clearly highlight our unintentional biases, misguided belief in the concept of luck and our predisposition tore-examine past outcomes when we already know the results. Read it, and increase your odds of success.
Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
If you can weather the countless times the phrase 'skin in the game' is repeated throughout the book, this is quite an important read. It is helpful to understand the motivation of others - and what they truly have at stake. Taleb's writing style is professorial and loaded with historical references that will sail over the heads of many, but he balances this with thoughtful call outs that drive his points home. Like his other books, this requires intentionality and focus to take in and fully digest the content. Not a good choice, then, for pool-side, vacation reading. Save it, instead, for when you are settled into an easy chair at home.
The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster - and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust
by Sean Ammirati
This is the best book for after you have taken your company from zero to one and looking to move beyond the lean startup towards growth and scale. Using specific, real world examples, Ammirati takes the reader through best practices to achieve sustained, long-term growth. In other words, to be the one left standing at the top of the pile. Recognizing that a strong foundation is key, he identifies four prerequisites for success: (1) founder's core vision, (2) scalable idea, (3) solves a real problem, and (4), an excellent first interaction. If your company fails to sufficiently address these four pillars, what happens next really does not matter - your house will topple. That means the earliest chapters of this book are perhaps the most important. Pay attention.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Thank You Think
by Hans Rosling
If you need to be greatly humbled, take the 13-question quiz about global trends in this book's introduction. What you "know to be true" is probably wrong. In fact, Rosling points out that on average chimpanzees score better than highly educated people. Let that sink in for a minute. In a data-backed yet delightfully written book, the reader is walked through 10 forces that influence how we view the world - and how it is that we have canonized such wildly incorrect "facts" about this little blue ball we live on. Rosling will help us all move beyond our tendency to put everything into "A or B" or "us and them" buckets. The world is more complex and nuanced, and this book will help align the lens through which you view it.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz
It was like this book was written just for me. While I have never taken this structured an approach to my work, what I do - and how my brain works - aligns perfectly with this book. Through their work with Google Ventures, Knapp and his co-authors created an elegant and compact process to break down a challenge, assign clear responsibilities and provide a structured path towards resolution. If you are trying to solve a problem, to (re-)design a new product or feature, or just trying to synthesize input from a group into a single output, you must read this. Even if you never participate in a five-day sprint, the tenets put forth in this book will change how you look at challenges in the future and help you to reach better outcomes.
I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons
by Kevin Hart
This was an airport desperation purchase since I raced through Sprint faster than expected (you see what I did there...?). I probably would not have invested the time in the book, otherwise. I am really glad I did. Hart is a funny guy - an important skill as a comedian - but it was his story and the messages contained therein that make this a good read. Many people will look at where you at that moment - your current place of success - and think, "Man, they have it easy." Hart walks the reader through his whipsaw, up-and-down journey to stardom. The story is told certainly just as it happened, for better or for worse. Nothing is glossed over or romanticized. Like most successful people, his journey was anything but easy. Fortunately for us the reader, Hart's tale is also full of laughs, hope and inspiration.
Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change
by Morgan Simon
If you hang around the non-profit world, you have surely heard the term 'impact investing'. At its essence, it is the love child of for-profit investing and a quest for social good. The objective is to achieve a 'double bottom line': a financial return coupled with a positive societal impact. In this book, Simon leverages her extensive experience in the field to explore the potential, limitations and future of impact investing. If you are seeking to make an impact in the world - and make a little scratch in the process - this is a helpful tool to make sure your achieve both.
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything
by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
As an avid fan of Seinfeld, it was such a treat to pull back the curtain to learn of the origins of the show, dig into the combined genius of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld and to see how the show fundamentally changed how television is made. And to think, what became a cultural phenomenon – and the highest grossing show of all time – all started over a cup of coffee.
Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future
by Steve Case
Given the storied career and current work of Case, it is hard to fathom that Third Wave is the author’s first book. As stated on the dust jacket, it is “part memoir, part manifesto, part playbook for the future” (I had written something original, but it was better summarized by just leaning on the quotation). It is an enjoyable read that walks you through the early days of what became AOL, the ‘perfect’ merger and the bumpy road that followed. Woven throughout is Case’s vision for what the future holds, that we are moving from the mobile revolution to the internet of everything. And surprise, it started in 2016. If you are launching a company – or just interested in what the future may hold – this book provides important context and a theory of what is to come.
A Second Chance: For You, For Me, And For The Rest of Us
by Catherine Hoke
I am sure this was an immensely difficult book to write for Hoke. Making yourself vulnerable is hard. Now try doing it in print and put it up for sale. While Hoke herself has struggled with poor decisions and their impact, her message is priceless. One that should be heard by everyone. As a long-time volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, I have benefitted immeasurably personally and seen the huge impact on participants from an organization she started. Ask yourself the question, “What would it be like if you were known only for the worst thing you’ve ever done?” Now, think of what that alternate reality would look like. Welcome to carrying a felony conviction. This is a quick read – its spacing is similar to my eighth-grade research paper as I stretched the content to meet the page requirement – but one that will change your perspective, and possibly your life.
Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses "No, But" Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration
by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton
"What could improvisation have to do with me?", you ask. Well, to be honest: everything. Yes, And is a fascinating look into how basic improvisation tools - open-ended and forward-moving responses, team orientation and just plain listening - can materially affect the success of your work, companies and even you as a person. Building on the more than 20-year success of Second City, the infamous improvisation troupe out of Chicago that has produced countless comedy stars, the authors share the secret sauce on how to build a winning ensemble. Long ago, the founders realized that what made their actors succeed (or bomb) on stage applied to the working world. They began to hold classes, then later, to consult with some of the largest companies in the world. Now through this book, they bring the stage to you. Bravo!
The Courage to be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness
by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
While the title implies this book might skew towards the touchy-feely self-help genre, the execution is anything but. Focusing on the under-appreciated work of psychologist Alfred Adler (contemporary and peer of Jung and Freud), the authors use an ancient Greek technique of dialogue to guide the reader through the Adlerian school of thought. The book narrates a prolonged conversation between a strong-willed student bent on systematically dismantling the beliefs and teachings of a sage philosopher. Through discussion and debate comes enlightenment and wisdom, for the student - and the reader. Unlike his peers, Adler believed that the past is irrelevant and that the individual has the power via courage to set the course of their own life. By rejecting past traumas and silencing the voices and influence of others, we can find contentment and be happy. It is a lot to ask, but it is certainly worth a try.
Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most
by Steven Johnson
Making decision can be hard. Paralyzing even. Now compound that with the potential for generational impacts from whether you choose to zig or zag. In his book, Johnson wants to help us make the right ones. He gives us the tools to properly evaluate complex decisions and to move far beyond simply listening to your gut. Using concrete examples throughout recent history, Johnson illustrates that complex does not mean impossible. While we might not be able to determine all possible outcomes (come on, it is called the Law of Unintended Consequences for a reason), we will be better prepared to make considerate - and more often, correct - decisions.
The Setup: A True Story of Dirty Cops, Soccer Moms, and Reality TV
by Pete Crooks
The phrase "Truth is stranger than fiction" was first uttered with this type of book in mind. The story that Crooks recounts from his personal experience is just crazy town. Filled with twists and turns, the reader is guided through the tale of a private investigator obsessed with achieving fame through reality TV. But, surprise! One of his peers makes that obsession look like a cute, grade-school crush. His limelight-or-bust mindset causes the whole thing to come crashing down quite spectacularly, taking the PI and couple of cops on the take with it.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
As the Theranos story was breaking in real time, I will admit that I found the author's titillating Wall Street Journal articles hard to believe. How could a lauded startup on a meteoric rise to a $9 billion valuation be a total sham? Clearly the investors could see that the emperor was actually wearing those spectacular robes... But the Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was exceptionally skilled, but unfortunately, not in the science that the company claimed to be built upon. Bad Blood is a well written and painstakingly researched book that tells a clear tale of deception, obsessive secrecy, ruthlessness and just plain fraud.
Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad - And Surprisingly Good - About Feeling Special
by Dr. Craig Malkin
'Narcissism' is a loaded word. It is usually used with a sharp edge, wielded as a weapon to attack or tear down another person. But what if it isn't all that bad...? Malkin asks, then explores, that very question. He argues that we are all narcissists; the difference is to what degree. The author lays out a spectrum that ranges from complete selflessness (low narcissism) to total arrogance (high). If narcissism is self-worth, how it is expressed determines where we fall. In short, it is okay (even expected) that you are a narcissist. Just don't be one of those at the high end. Please.
The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers
by Scott Carney
This is a fascinating, if not a little uncomfortable, read. Did you ever wonder how that dusty human skeleton hanging in your middle school science class made it there? Where the hair in that wig or weave came from? Probably not. We live in a time where needs and wants are fulfilled - and not many questions are asked about how. In this book, Carney explores the dark underbelly of the "red market" - a largely unknown (and intentionally overlooked) underground economy - that supplies the world's need for human-based materials. From bones to organs to blood to children, even, there is a complex system of procurement that fulfills the demand. And more likely than not, it is at the expense of the poor in lower-income countries. Read this book, and take a closer look at how you own choices might be might be making this market a darker shade of crimson.
Building A Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
by Donald Miller
Did you ever wonder why that elegant and expensive marketing campaign fell flat? How that perfect sales meeting ended with you not closing the deal? You probably forgot who the real hero was. (I will let you in on a little secret: it is not you or your product.) Miller provides the reader with simple and straightforward tools to help you connect with your customer, clearly communicate what your company/product does and how it will benefit them. It sounds pretty elementary, but most miss the mark. By a country mile. Read the book. Your customer is waiting.
The Tyranny of Metrics
by Jerry Muller
Ever feel simultaneously over-measured and yet under-valued? Welcome to the world of ever-prevalent metrics. We love to instill systems of measurement, sort the results and make decisions, take action or reach conclusions. But what happens when metrics begin to rule behaviors? You get arbitrary, forced rankings at annual review time, bankers opening fraudulent accounts to hit unrealistic targets and teachers teaching to the test. Measurement, ranking and comparison can be beneficial, just be wary of how you wield them. Unintended consequences have their own law for a reason.
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
At first blush, the title including such a bold statement as "Rewrote the History of Modern Art" seems like hyperbole in the purest form of the word. But then you read the book. A man charmed his way into art circles - and the most protected archives of art museums - and meticulously created false documents and records to substantiate the wares of a highly capable forger and credit them to famous artists. It is this "provenance" that gives a work of art its value. The series of receipts, gallery catalogues and/or artist notes provide a buyer with assurances that their purchase is genuine. One man's greed - and drive to belong to a select community - has forever changed the historical record of several artists. Corrupt the provenance, and what is real anymore?
What The F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves
by Benjamin Bergen
I will admit, my inner 13 year-old boy percolated to the top when first diving into this book. The frequent, colorful swear words splashed across the pages were a little distracting. And funny. Then, the youthful reaction settled back down into the recesses and intellect soon took over. The words lost their punch, and instead, the rich and nuanced history of why - and how - we swear took center stage. Swearing is fascinating, really. Most of us partake of the occasional use of salty language but with little understanding of why the words are loaded. (Well, other than the fact that our mothers washed our mouths out with soap if we used them.) I encourage you to give this book a read, and the next opportunity to throw out a well-chosen expletive arises, you can do so with the confidence of a full understanding of the historical context and relevance for your particular dialect or region. No asterisks or bleeps required.
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century
by Kirk Johnson
The author's chance conversation with a guide during a fly-fishing trip led to a years-long obsession to unravel the tale of a masterfully-executed (and still not fully understood) crime. Of rare, exotic birds from the archival drawers of an obscure English natural history museum. To use their feathers to follow Victorian-era fly-fishing patterns for salmon. No kidding. And what a beautifully written and compelling book it is. The author provides a fascinating look into the underground world of a small group of fly-tying aficionados that collect, trade and sell hard-to-get feathers from exotic birds, many of which are on protected lists. This story is set in motion when a rising wunderkind in the circle decides to 'liberate' a collection of birds - some with great historical and genetic significance - from a museum. Following the twists and turns as the author chases down the feathers around the world makes for an enjoyable ride. And a good read.
The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History
by David Enrich
Okay, most of you might not feel a personal draw to this book. But over 18 months beginning in 2005, LIBOR (the London inter-bank offered rate) ruled my world. As a trader working for Nestlé, my performance - and compensation - was tied to a benchmark derived from LIBOR (the three-month rate minus 12.5 basis points, to be exact). The rate and its determination were a little murky at best. And according to this well researched and compelling book, it was manipulated for a period of time as well. This book chronicles the tale of a trader and his efforts to bend the common benchmark rate to benefit his trading positions. The funny thing is, everyone else was doing it, too. But as is common in the justice system (this time, Britain), central figures are held out as examples and given harsh, publicity-driven sentences while others complicit to the scheme just go about their business.
Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us
by Dan Lyons
One page, and I was hooked. Lyons combines well-chosen examples with sharp wit (and well-placed profanity) to walk the reader through the dumpster fire that is the current work culture and environment. Employees have often become the unwitting test subjects of off-center management strategies like holocracy (no bosses, no org structure) and the shift from familial, employee-centric cultures to 'team, not family' approach where you can be benched - or cut altogether - at a moment's notice. This choppy sea of constant change, uncertainty and anxiety takes its toll - most heavily on the employees, but also the company and its performance. This is the current Silicon Valley approach to things. You cannot build a company, or care about your employees (or more likely, independent contractors), when you are moving fast, breaking things and racing towards the exit where you hand the bag to the next round of suckers, er... investors, like a hot potato. And because big companies like to emulate what is happening out West, everyone else suffers, too.
Habeas Data: Privacy vs. the Rise of Surveillance Tech
by Cyrus Farivar
I approached this book with a little bit of caution as the title hinted to the potential to go off the rails and into foil hat wearing territory. Instead, Farivar keeps his feet grounded in reality and navigates numerous examples that have shaped how our privacy is viewed, defended or exploited. At times, the prose can be a bit sluggish (like walking in mud, really) as Farivar descends into deep specifics of legal precedents, but it is important to know and understand how the fate of our privacy is determined. Often, those decisions are grounded in court rulings from the 1960s - or even the Constitution itself. Even in the digital age, parchment still matters.
The Art of Logic In an Illogical World
by Eugenia Cheng
This is the second book this year I abandoned before finishing it. But, it has the unique distinction of being the only one that compelled me to hit the eject button well before my 100-page 'benefit-of-the-doubt' threshold. I tried, but I just could not hold on that long. While the title and topic are of great interest, the writing style is plodding and lacking of any flavor. With a nightstand fulling of much more interesting (and well-written) options, this one just wasn't worth the effort. Next!
DON'T BUY IT
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
by Yuval Noah Harari
To say this is a well-researched book would be a gross understatement. Harari begins his tale 13.5 billion years ago, then takes the reader through the ensuing millennia to lay out why we, the homo sapiens, are the ones on this side of history - and not six feet under like other hominids. Given the scope of the material to cover, this book could have easily slipped into a text book vibe and execution, but instead, it is an immensely compelling read. At 416 pages (and about two pounds), it is understandable you could be intimidated by this book and instead pick up the latest, vapid fiction bestseller. But push through that concern and break open this book. You will better understand our history, the world around you and yourself.
It Doesn't Have to be Crazy at Work
by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
This book rests at the far, opposite pole of Lab Rats (see above). Like miles and miles apart. Written by the co-founders of Basecamp, a software company that has been profitable since its launch in 1999, the book lays out their strategy for success: the 'calm company'. Unlike other successful tech ventures, Basecamp is built upon 40-hour work weeks, existent and properly weighted work-life balances and respect - for the customer, the product and the employees (and their families). While they most likely will never achieve hyper-growth or that over-romanticized unicorn exit, they have built a healthy and steadily-growing business that just happens to also be a great place to work. I think that is something we can all aspire to.
Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms
by Hannah Fry
Borrowing its name from a tutorial in a 1970s-era programming textbook, this book explores our evolving relationship with computers and the algorithms that currently rule the day. Math is seen as infallible. One plus one without exception equals two. When we begin to extrapolate this unwavering view to algorithms, everything can begin to fall apart. See, algorithms are not math. They are formulas based on math or series of if-then statements. Get the logic wrong - or worse, let implicit biases influence their flow - and the outcome is flawed. What if that algorithm is not delivering you search results for a cheap vacation, but instead, is handing down sentencing in a criminal case or deciding if that abnormal cell is cancer? Technology and its application is unlimited in its possibility. We just have to understand the consequences of handing over the keys and blindly following its lead.