The Industries of the Future

The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross

Rating: 4/5

Alec Ross was the Senior Advisor for Innovation under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her time in office. In The Industries of the Future, he details the futures of industries including robotics, genetics, machine learning, cyber security and big data among others. Alec obviously has some expertise in these fields based on his time abroad visiting other countries and speaking with diplomats.

I found the book really interesting particularly the sections on robotics, machine learning, and genetics. Alec lays out some cultural specifics around places like Japan that could lend them to be leaders in the robotics industry in the near future. For machine learning, Alec describes translation aids that could allow a group of 10 individuals from around the world to converse in their native tongues while still understanding one another (this section is pretty eye-opening). With genetics, I’m optimistically looking forward to a time when we can tailor drugs towards specific individuals based on their genetic makeup.

If you’re interested in the fields mentioned above, I would encourage you to give this one a read/listen. Some of the advancements Alec hints at are extremely impressive and will give you a clearer picture of what some of these fields could look like in the future.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Rating: 3.5/5

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, author and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz tackles many topics usually left out of business books like how to fire an employee and when to decide you should sell your company. He uses examples from his own career to illustrate the various points. It wasn’t my favorite recent read, but I found it entertaining for anyone that enjoys books on management and leadership.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Rating: 4/5

I’ve read quite a few books that might be categorized as “self-help” books. This was certainly the most direct and brutally honest. Mark lays out why we should stop caring about many things and why our focus on always being positive isn’t productive for actual happiness. A central idea is that we should focus more on how to stomach hard lessons than how to spin those hard lessons into positive moments. Mark uses a humorous style filled with many personal stories and antidotes. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something that breaks the traditional positive thinking self-help mold.

Doing Good Better

A photo of the book Doing Good Better by William MacAskill

Rating: 5/5

Doing Good Better by William MacAskill details the effective altruism movement, essentially how individuals can apply their time, talents, and money to do the most good in the world. MacAskill breaks down specific questions individuals can ask when donation time or money to determine if this is the best cause for their efforts. I thought the book was extremely eye opening and provided a different outlook on common philanthropic efforts like fair trade coffee and sweatshop work.

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The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership

A photo of the cover of The Virgin Way by Richard Branson

Rating: 3/5

The Virgin Way covers Branson’s thoughts on leadership and the culture behind the Virgin Group including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Records. Branson definitely operates in stark contrast to a CEO like Jeff Bezos. It was interesting to see the comparison. Branson prizes giving employees creative freedom to make a difference and treating them exceptionally well. While I appreciate his ideas and insight, I didn’t uncover anything specifically new hence the low rating. I think there are other books that cover these topics just as well if not better.

What To Do When It’s Your Turn

Rating: 4.5/5

In What to Do When It’s Your Turn, Seth Godin continues his work on motivation pushing creatives to step out on a limb and “take their turn” by building, leading, doing, and shipping. The book was a quick read and formatted like many Seth Godin books, full of short pieces that could almost stand on their own. If you like Seth’s work, you’ll like this book. If it’s your first book from Seth, I would suggest Linchpin instead.

The Everything Store

Rating: 5/5

The Everything Store looks inside of Amazon, one of the most successful companies on the planet. It’s a detailed look at the founder, Jeff Bezos, and the complete rise of the eCommerce giant. I thought the pieces about the company culture were especially interesting. Bezos and Amazon seem to drive employees very very hard in a high pressure environment.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Rating: 5/5

As the subtitle implies, Shoe Dog covers the history of Nike from the very start. As a runner myself and running history enthusiast, I found the book extremely interesting. I learned a ton about the sports giant that I didn’t previously know. For example, Nike originally started by selling Onitsuka Tigers (a shoe now sold through Asics). If you like biographies, give this one a shot.

Radical Focus

Radical Focus is all about how to use OKRs in your organization.

Rating: 3/5

Described as “A business book in the form of a fable,” Radical Focus explains the framework of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) used at Zynga, Google, and elsewhere. It’s a useful tool for focusing your team on one big “thing” with metrics indicating success. The first part of the book uses a story to illustrate why OKRs are useful by following two new startup founders through a difficult transition in their company. The latter half details how to use OKRs in your organization. The book was alright, but if you’re already familiar with how OKRs work, it’s probably not that helpful.

Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback is about the art of receiving (and giving) feedback well.

Rating: 5/5

As the subtitle indicates, Thanks for the Feedback is all about “The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.” Though the book is tailored towards receiving feedback, there were many important points on how to effectively deliver feedback as well. It’s the most valuable book I’ve read on professional development in 2016, and I found myself earmarking virtually every page. I would highly recommend it.

Reading Notes