I did not get to 21 books in 2021, but ended the year on 18 books – I spent more of my time listening to podcasts (mostly about crypto). Here is a list of the books I read in chronological order along with a few notes I made while reading – a * next to the book means I particularly recommend it. Here are the links to my 2020 and 2019 book lists.
Top Pick: Range (David Epstein)
The most interesting and impactful book for me this year was Range by David Epstein particularly as I’m a father to a 1-year-old boy and had a few interesting takeaways that are applicable to parenting:
- Encourage curiosity and explore a range of interests and activities, especially at a young age.
- Creativity is the intersection of a range of experiences pattern matched to form something that only your unique set of experiences make possible.
- Being a generalist does not mean having no expertise. Pick multiple areas where you have top 95% ability/skill over a single path where you are in the top 99.9%. Your life with be more antifragile.
- *Tao of Charlie Munger (David Clark): Keep cash on hand and be patient – when there is a good opportunity invest big (concetrated bets). Focus on companies that you would be happy holding forever. Society puts value on being busy, but being busy is not the same as being effective and deliberate.
- **Essentialism (Greg McKeown): If you don’t prioritize your time, someone else will. No one regrets doing or having less but better quality. Ask yourself, “What can I go big and then explore a range of options and commit to few?” Clear goals and roles lead to thriving teams. Routine can improve creativity because the mind is freed to focus on problem solving over what to do next.
- This is New York (Miroslav Šašek): The soul of New York remains the same over the years. It will (and did) survive COVID-19 like it has many hardships over time. It made me miss New York and want to go back. I did in fact go back and now live in Brooklyn!
- The 4-Hour Body (Tim Ferriss): Your body and what you consume and do is fully in your control. Training to failure and eating a low carb diet will help you lose fat and build muscle. Don’t eat or drink sugar – it’s the worst. Take a day off a week from your program.
- Think Like a Rocket Scientist (Ozan Varol): Think from first principles, if something has a 2-way door the barrier to try it is much lower than something with a 1-way door. I stopped about half way through as I thought the book was quite derivative of other original titles and don’t recommend.
- *Powerful (Patty McCord): Teams are groups of highly performing individuals working together on clear goals, not families. Give people permission to leave if they are no longer the right person for the role. Pay people for expected value, not what the market says as it’s often a lagging signal (Netflix famous for paying well).
- *Greenlights (Matthew McConaughey): If you’re going to do something, “don’t half ass it”. Make sure you have your basics taken care of, and have a strong support network around you. I really enjoyed this book (listen to it on audio if you can) and this advice was born from his transition from a romcom actor to more “serious” roles.
- Leading (Alex Ferguson & Michael Moritz): Hold team to a high standard and reward commitment and hard work over talent. Remove people from the team who are not good culture fits. Alex Ferguson is one of the most successful football (soccer) managers of all time and for some reason he came across as a pretty difficult and dogmatic person in the book but the results speak for themselves.
- **Range (David Epstein): Opposite theory of requiring 10k hours (from Outliers) to master anything. Advocate for exploration when younger and then specialize later in life (e.g. Federer). Connecting diverse things is where creativity is born. High grit (not switching) can get in the way of discovering what you really want to do, which is counterintuitive.
- White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo): Beware of the white savior mentality. Recognize race and the difference in upbringing and opportunity openly. People who control culture often have biases. Don’t be defensive, stay open and keep learning.
- Ready Player Two (Ernest Cline): I loved RP1 but it was not like RP2 at all. It felt gimmicky and a real grind to get through. It paints a future closer to “The Matrix” than any other book I’ve read.
- A Promised Land (Barack Obama): I would recommend listening to this on audio as it’s narrated by Obama. It’s super long but I really enjoyed learning from him. He’s articulate and honest and it’s a great listen.
- *On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King): Use the word you mean, don’t beat around the bush. Remove unnecessary words that are hard to understand. Bring in your own experience to be most authentic. “Writing is refined thinking” was my favorite quote from the book. Write every day if you want to be a writer.
- Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process (John McPhee): I liked parts of the book but it felt kind of dated overall. John is clearly very smart and accomplished, but the Stephen King book resonated more with me and my style of writing.
- Atomic Habits (James Clear): Small changes compound and it takes time to see results (be patient and consistent). Need to create a situation of immediate positive response to build habit. Four rules of habit change are (1) make it obvious, (2) make it attractive, (3) make it easy, and (4) make it satisfying.
- Bad Blood (John Carreyrou): Story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Small exaggerations turn into big lies over the course of the journey. Power of charm and big vision in a culture of light diligence. She was recently found guilty by a jury.
- The Effective Executive (Peter Drucker): This is considered one of the original books on modern management (and written in the 60s) but still feels relevant. No matter what, you can always manage yourself so do that well. Effectiveness is about competency and this can be learned (it’s not all about inherent talent). Make a few great decisions, not lots of unimportant decisions. Focus on contribution and unique skills, and ignore everything else.
- Lifespan (David Sinclair): His view is that aging is a disease and we can stop or slow it the same way we treat other diseases. Intermittent fasting and daily exercise are great for life extension- calorie restriction promotes longer life. There is a whole section on experimental drugs for anti-aging (rapamycin, metformin, nmn, resveratrol) but I’m skeptical until there are longer trials.
Hope these were helpful to folks and look forward to sharing more books next year 🙂 Happy 2022!
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