- Ishmael — Daniel Quinn Introduced me to the power of origin myth, which has been the most powerful way to assess Why Things Are The Way They Are so far.
- Name of the Wind — Patrick Rothfuss My favorite story of all time. A fantasy novel that is a cross between the grittiness of Game of Thrones and the boy-wizard trope of Harry Potter in a setting like Lord of the Rings. Whew.
- Complete Cloud Compliance: How Regulated Industries De-Risk the Cloud and Kickstart Transformation — Travis Good, MD; Kris Gösser Okay, this is half-serious, half-joking. The book I wrote with Travis in 2018 is one of my favorites! Find the softcover on amazon.com and the hardcover on blurb.com.
- Principles — Ray Dalio One of Bill Gates' books of the year, and a modern codex for Silicon Valley-ism which could make it seem overhyped, but it most definitely exceeds expectations as a book to help you think about organizing and managing your life and work.
- Sapiens — Yuval Noah Harari Never have I seen a book so succinctly summarize all of human-related history in a way that is so easily digestable. The freaky-future ending is interesting to think about, but was hard to get onboard with.
- The Information — James Gleick Helped me understand words and language on a level I never thought prior. It had the added benefit of explaining a history of computation I hadn't known before, which was oddly thrilling.
- Debt: The First 5000 Years — David Graeber Graeber helps you grok the concept of "debt" then connect to how far back it goes. After you're done, you tend to spot patterns you missed earlier. Debt is as old as humans, and is central to our origin myths.
- View from the Devil's Mountain: How to Manipulate the Masses — Philip Regal This is a self-published book by a University of Minnesota professor named Philip Regal, now retired. I had the fortune to obtain a copy and read it. Regrettably you can't buy it anywhere. This book does not portray any opinions. Instead it looks at the historical use of power to manipulate populations by systematically examining Chinese dynasties, Roman emperors, the British, and modern-day America. It uses nothing but scientific, peer-reviewed data to provide historical assessments which formulate suggested models on how power manipulates people, which you can then use to examine present day news.
The best business books I've read
- What Customers Want — Tony Ulwick The most transformative way of thinking about the intersection of design, business, product and technology is the Job To Be Done framework. This book is the one that puts it all together for me.
- The Goal — Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox Completely reshaped the way I view problem solving. It has given me a way of operational thinking.
- Revising Prose — Richard A. Lanham This book single-handedly helped me be a better writer, which has helped me be a better thinker, a better designer, and a better problem solver.
- Financial Intelligence — Karen Berman, Joe Knight The more I have learned about the business, the more I understand why finance (strategically) and accounting (tactically) really are the roots of a healthy organization.
- Four Steps to the Epiphany — Steve Blank The classic school of thought on how to employ Lead Startup methodologies in a scientific way. I recommend it as one of the first books for those looking to join a startup. It's best for beginners, because what I have notied after 15 years of startups is eventually an entrepreneur will begin to intuitively think like the teachings in this book.
- Positioning — Al Ries I'm not sure there is a better book that coaches you on the most important part about marketing.
- Innovator's Dilemma — Clayton Christensen Seminal piece by Clay on disruption theory, and the beginnings of Job to Be Done theory. I find the two classic acamdeic papers he published, Marking Malpractice and Finding the Right Job for your Proudct are better and faster resources on the topics, though.
- Raving Fans — Kenneth H. Blanchard A classic and still the best book at advocating for the business value of customer service.
- The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World's Most Disruptive Company — John Rossman While I've never been an Amazon employee, the publicly published leadership guide for employees is still the best real-world manifestation of Ray Dalio's advice on principles.
Fundamentals—in business, design, and problem solving
Thinking in models is powerful. If your mind can fully understand a model, you wield a powerful tool in learning adjacent abstractions. These entries excel at teaching various models that have been fundamental to the way I approach work.