2019 Reading List (70 Books)

Training for an ultramarathon, I’ve had almost 200 extra hours to listen on audible in 2019. The time increase led to nearly doubled the size of my 2018 Reading List.

This year, I made a deliberate attempt to focus on diversity and inclusion. Growing up with tremendous privilege soaked deep into my lived experience. These wins, compounded by a culture plagued by institutional racism, have produced blindspots that will not go away on their own. As white male business owner, I’m a member of an exclusive class. It’s useless to apologize for my advantages, but I can leverage what I have to improve the lives of others. If we have any hope of a better world, it must start from within.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – MLK

I also experimented with more fiction. It didn’t have as profound of an impact as the learnings around diversity, but it was worth doing.

WARNING: I had a lot of ground to cover. Proofreading is typically 50% of my time when writing, which proved too much effort in this case. Excuse my typos and grab some ideas for your 2020 list.


Top Reads

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts
By Annie Duke

Concrete, all-or-nothing thinking limits our ability to think critically and solve problems. Annie, the author, provides a mental model to improve discussions and decision making.

Disconnecting outcomes and decisions seems essential for any business leader. We make bad decisions and have good outcomes. Conversely, we make good decisions and bad outcomes still occur. Analyzing decisions and outcomes separately has proved essential to my growth in 2019.

Her acknowledgement of ‘luck’ in the equation of success is always worth remembering, especially that it skews negative.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
By Ben Horowitz

This book has shaped so much of my understanding of leadership and being a CEO.

  • The unique struggle of the Founder-CEO
  • The frequency and power of WFIO (we’re fucked, it’s over) moments
  • Wartime vs Peacetime CEOs
  • You must choose the best, among all bad options.
  • Nothing prepares you for being a CEO, except being a CEO.
  • “All the easy problems are taken”
  • Mark Craney

The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy
By Scott E. Page

I loved the objective assessment of how valuable diversity is in a team or business setting. I have tremendous love and respect for those speaking from a human perspective, but The Diversity Bonus makes a compelling case for diversity that even the most ruthless business leader can’t ignore.

Pursing diversity is the right thing, but undeniably connecting it to the health, growth, and profit of a business is needed for those in the greatest positions of power to buy in.

The Ride of a Timeline: Lessons Learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
By Robert Iger

Wow. Few companies survive for 100 years. Even fewer can say their most recent decade was their most profound. Disney has thrived under the leadership of Bob Iger and I was inspiring to hear his story of persistence.

I would not be surprised if history remembers him was one of the most strategic business minds of all time.

Diversity

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide
By Carol Anderson

The historical accounts of systemic racism outlined in this book are brutal. It forced me to confront my version of history and examine how I made it so long understanding to little. There were days I didn’t want to engage the book, simply due to the guilt, shame, and discontent it provoked. Through White Rage, I summarized my greatest source of privilege: when racism makes me uncomfortable, I can stop it by putting down a book.

Months later, I still struggle through tears to summarize my evolution throughout this book.

White Fragility: Why It’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
By Robin DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson – foreword

An excellent introduction for white people to engage the topic of diversity/inclusion, why it matters, and the vocabulary supporting the topic.

Good and Mad: How Women’s Anger Is Reshaping America
By Rebecca Traister

Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
By Emily Chang

I live my life at the intersection of Business and Technology, convinced there is no greater opportunity at this intersect than that of diversity/inclusion. Brotopia does a great job of making this clear and approachable without pulling any punches.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
By Austin Channing Brown

So You Want to Talk About Race
By Ijeoma Oluo

I took away so much new vocabulary that helped me unpack the nuance around discrimination, racism, and inclusion.

Leapfrog: The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs
By Nathalie Molina Niño, Sara Grace

Honestly, much of the insights translate well to any entrepreneur but love the focus and intentionality with which the author engages women. Most men won’t read this, no their own detriment.

Memoirs

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds
By David Goggins

One word: hunger. If David’s story doesn’t leave you longing to push yourself to greater heights, nothing will. It’s an inspirational story of a man who stops at nothing to get what we wants.

I’m actively training for an ultra marathon, largely due to David’s mindset of discovering your own limits.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
By Trevor Noah

This was my initial encounter with a firsthand experience of someone growing up in South Africa during apartheid. The author’s story highlights the depravity of humanity, but also speaks to our resilience.

His attitude and humor through it exemplifies the beauty within us all.

Educated: A Memoir
By Tara Westover

It’s worth a moment of pause to acknowledge the profound impact mental illness can have on a family. At moments, the story boarder on unbelievable. The author survived tremendous trauma, defied incredible odds, and emerged with a vulnerability that boggles the mind.

It’s a wild ride. A reminder to us all the importance of advocating for children and the value of education, especially in low income areas.

Catch Me If You Can
By Frank W. Abagnale, Stan Redding

Frank Abagnale has intrigued me since childhood. He serves as a shining example of the power of confidence, adaptability, and focus.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance

I’m still working to unpack the nuances of the Hillbilly Elegy. It touches on education, diversity, adverse childhood experiences, and much more.

For decades, the people of rural Appalachia has been the topic of many jokes but I failed to recognize the larger social impact. Since whites are the prevailing culture, it’s easy to discount the issues confronting the under-education and low socioeconomic troubles of Appalachia.

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue
By Ryan Holiday

So many discussions have been prompted because of the topics covered in this book. The strategic thinking of Peter Thiel. The dedication of Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea). The shit-storm that is media business. The writing expertise of Ryan Holiday. Such an incredible intersection.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
By Christopher McDougall

Fiction

Ender’s Game: Special 20th Anniversary Edition
By Orson Scott Card

Wow. What an escape?! A great union of military strategy and story telling.

Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline

Ready Player One seems to fit in the same category of Guardians of the Galaxy and Stranger Things. A unique story combined with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

The Hobbit
By JRR Tolkien

Fiction by Brad Thor

I first discovered Brad Thor on the James Altucher Podcast. I found Brad’s transition into writing fascinating. He abandoned his corporate job on the prompting from his wife. From the first year, he has written a book a year for 20+ years.

I found the thoughtful nature of how he describes his writing fascinating. Short chapters. High impact language. No fluff or excess. I read the first book and completed the series within 3 months.

I’m not breaking down each one. While each is filled with unique stories and plot points, it’s the overall consistency and commitment of the author I still find most compelling.

The Lions of Lucerne
By Brad Thor

Path of the Assassin
By Brad Thor

State of the Union
By Brad Thor

Blowback
By Brad Thor

Takedown
By Brad Thor

The First Commandment
By Brad Thor

The Last Patriot
By Brad Thor

The Apostle
By Brad Thor

Foreign Influence
By Brad Thor

The Athena Project
By Brad Thor

Full Black
By Brad Thor

Black List
By Brad Thor

Free Fall
By Brad Thor

Hidden Order
By Brad Thor

Act of War
By Brad Thor

Code of Conduct
By Brad Thor

The Athens Solution
By Brad Thor

Foreign Agent
By Brad Thor

Use of Force
By Brad Thor

Spymaster
By Brad Thor

Backlash
By Brad Thor

Mental Health / Inner Peace

Loserthink: How Untrained Brains are Running America
By Scott Adam

Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models
By Gabriel Weinberg, Lauren McCann

Stillness is the Key
By Ryan Holiday

The stoic themes in the author’s books keep me coming back.

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
By Bob Goff

Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World
By Andy Stanley

It’s puzzling how we complicate things and then become frustrated when people are not interested. I love how the author breaks down the message of Jesus and reminds readers to embrace the spirit of love that’s lived out in the pages of the Bible.

Also, it many of the teachings fly in the face of what pastors often teach. I love it, though can’t ignore the significant career risk Andy endured to bring this message to so many who needed to hear it.

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
By John Mark Comer, John Ortberg – foreword

Is it bad I listened to this at 2x speed? 🙂
In short, it’s a great reminder to explore where we find our peace and fulfillment. If we’re counting on achievement and success to make us happy, we’ll be disappointed over time.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business
By Gino Wickman, Mark C. Winters

A great compliment to Traction, the EOS self implementation guide. If you’re looking for tools to level up your business, it’s worth a read after you finish Traction.

The Infinite Game
By Simon Sinek

This indexes heavily on a topic I love contemplating: Long-term, strategic thinking. He unpacks the dichotomy of living in a society that focuses on finite-thinking amidst and infinite game.

The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million
By Mark Roberge

What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture
By Ben Horowitz

The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth
By James Allen, Chris Zook

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
By Al Ries, Laura Ries

Practical concepts that could improve most brands.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
By Atul Gawande

As knowledge workers, the complexity of our work has exceeded our mental capacity. Emphasizing the value and pursuit of checklists is sure to improve any business.

Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great
By Joshua Medcalf

Put in the work! A practical story about the value of showing up and nailing the fundamentals. Think: Wax on. Wax off.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
By Daniel Coyle

The Business of Expertise: How Entrepreneurial Experts Convert Insight to Impact + Wealth
By David C. Baker

This book provided the push I needed at Polar Notion to double down on our expertise, rather than pushing harder on merely delivering good work.

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
By Eric Ries

A must read for every startup founder or individual whose job requires them to bring ideas to life.

American Entrepreneur: How 400 Years of Risk-Takers, Innovators, and Business Visionaries Built the U.S.A.
By Willie Robertson, William Doyle

Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy
By George Gilder

A war is waging. As privacy and data security continue to take center-stage, we must confront giants like Facebook and Google, whose business model rests on the sale of their vast data.

The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations out of Poverty
By Clayton M. Christensen, Efosa Ojomo, Karen Dillon

Clayton Christensen explores the difference between Efficiency Innovations and Market-creating Innovations. As the world changes, Market-creating innovations play the primary role in lifting people out of poverty.

The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future
By Steve Case

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
By Yuval Noah Harari

The New One Minute Manager
By Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson

Simple, practical disciplines to guide direct-reports without micromanaging.

The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win
By Jocko Willink, Leif Babin

Leadership means embracing constant tensions. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. The author outlines the most common tensions to manage.

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders
By L. David Marquet

In short: Rather than expecting team members to ask permission, empower them express their intent based on their judgment and assessment of the situation.

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love
By Richard Sheridan

Subscribed
By Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert

Great nuggets about Software as a Service and a business build on recurring.

Personal Finance

I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works (Second Edition)
By Ramit Sethi

I’m 70% confident Ramit ghost wrote Unbreakable by Tony Robbins. Almost identical in areas. Great minds think alike a guess.
So many practical insights and actionable steps. Having experience with the author, I could have done without the large percentage of the book that was spent building credibility among the audience, but was appreciative of how well things were broken down.