Book Recommendations

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War

Author: Ben Macintyre This is not the author’s first time writing a thrilling true-life spy book – and once again he delivers a phenomenal story full of intrigue, insight, spycraft the all-important details.  Set against…

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Farsighted

Author: Steven Johnson People have been making decisions of great importance for as long as there have been people. With the help of evolution, some of those decision-making tools have been genetically encoded into our human…

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How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence

Author: Michael Pollan Author Michael Pollen weaves together a lot of science, stories and experience into an intriguing narrative about psychedelics. I read this shortly after finishing a science-based book about meditation. It seems both…

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The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-Being

Author: Ronald Siegel  I’ve tried meditation a few times in my life, but not yet with the dedication that I apply to other areas. Partly, I’ve been skeptical of its effects. And partly, it’s hard to…

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The Lessons of History

Authors: Will Durant, Ariel Durant Will and Arial Durant are historians who spent five decades studying world history and creating an 11-volume Story of Civilization. From Wikipedia: “It totals four million words across nearly 10,000 pages,…

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Author: Khaled Hosseini About half-way through this one, I had to search the internet to confirm that it is indeed a work of fiction. When that was confirmed, I had a sigh of relief. Much…

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Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Author: Jack Weatherford I loved this book because it opened my eyes to a perspective and an account of history that I’m rarely exposed to. I had some idea of who Genghis Khan was, but…

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Measure What Matters

Author: John Doerr John Doerr is the legendary venture capitalist who invested in (among others) Google, Amazon, Compaq, Intuit, Netscape, Symantec, Twitter and Zynga. Seriously this guy is an OG in the venture world. He…

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How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

Authors: Michael Greger, M.D., Gene Stone I’m way too busy (or lazy) to verify the quality of the myriad scientific papers and studies referenced throughout this book. I haven’t counted them either, but there are…

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Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Author: Matthew Walker PhD We all have a relationship with sleep. We tend to understand that sleep is important, but I think many don’t give it enough credit. This book hit me early with a profound…

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I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

Author: Ed Yong What an eye-opener this book is! Microbes like bacteria and archaea are everywhere. They live on pretty much every species and surface. And, their lives impact ours in myriad complex ways. Our…

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

Author: Hunter S. Thompson This book is something special! With its subject matter, it’s definitely not for everybody. Those who are very conservative and/or easily offended might want to stay away. Then again, maybe this is…

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Solaris

Author: Stanislaw Lem This book is considered one of the classics of science fiction. No doubt about it, it’s a great book. That being said, I’m starting to believe I’m tainted in the sci-fi novel…

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Author: Yuval Noah Harari I loved Sapiens, so I naturally had to give Yuval’s sequel a shot. He picks up where Sapiens left off – it’s the 21st century, our species is here, and we’ve…

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The Three Body Problem

Author: Cixin Liu, Translated By: Ken Liu This book is Chinese-language science fiction, translated into English. I’ve heard from a few folks that it’s all the rage among China’s tech community, and I couldn’t resist a…

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Authors: Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling A couple years ago I watched some of Hans Rosling’s TED talks and found them captivating. He was a Professor of Public Health, and had an amazing way…

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Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion

Authors: Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Bob Andelman I was very excited to read the founding story of The Home Depot! Though I have never had an inside look before, I always believed this was a remarkable…

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Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Author: Nassim Nicholas Taleb I must admit I may have gone about this backwards… Before reading the book, I read this excellent critique of it by Alex Lynch. It definitely helped me keep from getting sucked…

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Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond

The cryptoasset field is very new and fast-moving. That’s why I’m especially impressed that a book on the subject is so useful! Whether you’re already an investor in the space, are looking to become one,…

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Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

History, as its taught in US schools, looks upon Lincoln quite favorably. After all, he led the Union to win the Civil War, freeing the slaves in the process. From this book, I learned how…

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Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It

I liked this book so much that I’m planning to re-listen to it soon with a notebook handy. I first heard Chris Voss on Shane Parrish’s podcast, and I really liked his style. He was…

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

This was like a funnier, South African version of Hillbilly Elegy. I like Trevor Noah, I think he’s funny, and this was a nice window into his childhood. He tells stories of growing up as…

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Hillbilly Elegy

JD Vance does a nice job of story-telling in this book about his hillbilly family and their cultural origins. He really gives a voice to his people that we “urban elites” are unlikely to have…

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The Four

Author Scott Galloway does a wonderful job of dissecting the business models and situations for Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (often referred to as GAFA in popular press). For each company, he frames their competitive…

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

There’s a lot to be learned from Benjamin Franklin. It’s nice to learn it from the man himself. Not a thorough autobiography by any means. It stops abruptly, long before the American Revolution. Franklin would…

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Artemis

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, wrote another book set in space (or more accurately, the moon). It’s not as great as the Martian, but still a neat story with a bunch of science woven…

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Principles: Life and Work

Investor Ray Dalio likes to talk about principles. He’s been writing his down for decades, and using them to build one of the most successful hedge funds of all time. The first part of this…

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Catherine the Great

I had a basic understanding of Catherine’s (her birth name was actually Sophia) story from The Romanovs. This was a much deeper dive into her story, chronicling the journey of this minor German princess to…

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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

This is a great biography that shows both sides of this complicated captain of industry. Rockefeller was both a deeply pious and generous philanthropist, and at the same time a ruthless businessman who knew how…

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The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World

My knowledge of Thomas Edison’s story and achievements was very limited before this book. I knew he had some relationship to “inventing electricity” and that our local electric utility ComEd is named after him. I…

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The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

I don’t recall where, but somewhere I heard good things about Matt Ridley’s books. This one didn’t disappoint. He calls himself a Rational Optimist – meaning he’s optimistic about the future of humans and the…

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

Christopher McDougall tells the story of his travels to the remote Copper Canyon in northern Mexico, where the people know as the Tarahumara have lived a separate existence since long ago. They are a native…

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Foundation

Isaac Asimov’s famed work of science fiction has been cited by some of today’s most well-known technologists as inspiration for their life paths. I just had to read it to learn what all the hype…

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An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back

This is an eye-opening book that drills down into the history of (probably) every segment of the U.S. healthcare system. I think it’s common knowledge that the system is broken: out of control costs, decoupled…

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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

I’ve grown up hearing and reading about Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway. I hope I’ll be forgiven for never realizing the full scope of his rise to become one of the wealthiest men…

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The Intelligent Investor Rev Ed.

If you’re acquainted with finance or investing, you’ve probably heard of Benjamin Graham’s concept of value investing. It’s also made famous by its very successful application by Warren Buffet. The content of the book can…

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

There is so much interesting history behind the Nike brand and it’s predecessor Blue Ribbon Sports, and I had no idea! Knight explains the efforts to build the business, starting with selling shoes out of…

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The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

I almost didn’t know which of my “categories” this fell into, because there for sure isn’t a self-help section. Tim Ferris uses the term lifestyle design, so I’ll consider this a topical deep-dive into that…

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Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Written by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. This book is heavy on research studies, diving into the topics of motivation, focus, and goal setting, among others. Of note was the section on…

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Einstein: His Life and Universe

There have been many biographies written of Albert Einstein. This one by Walter Isaacson is notably great for the incorporation of science, emotion, storytelling, and details. It describes Einstein’s theories, his thought experiments, and his…

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Change Agent

Daniel Suarez comes back with more after his excellent sci-fi books Daemon and Freedom. Change Agent is the story of a future where CRISPR (the REAL new tool that enables DNA edits) has developed to…

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The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War

Imagine if you and your brother worked together. Then imagine if you worked together in the government. Keep going – one of you is Secretary of State and the other is Director of the CIA….

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The Complete TurtleTrader: How 23 Novice Investors Became Overnight Millionaires

If you’ve never heard the story of the Turtles before, this is worth a listen. It’s a real-life version of the movie Trading Places. In the mid 80s, a group of people were taught a…

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Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

Clayton Christensen applies his innovation framework to the education industry, an effective monopoly that’s resistant to true disruption. With examples galore, he builds a case for how we can expect disruptive innovation to change mass…

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How Will You Measure Your Life?

Okay so this one is a tiny bit self help-y, but really not so much. The author’s (Clayton Christensen of The Innovator’s Dilemma fame) premise is that his class at Harvard Business School had the…

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The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer

Imagine if you and your brother worked together. Then imagine if you worked together in the government. Keep going – one of you is Secretary of State and the other is Director of the CIA….

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Siddhartha’s Brain: Unlocking the Ancient Science of Enlightenment

This author makes a case for the idea that mindfulness/meditation has tangible benefits, backing it up with studies and wrapping it around the story of Siddhartha and the foundation of Buddhism. The studies are, by…

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

The story starts 70,000 years ago and takes you through the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution, and all of the revolutions since then. It starts out with a strong “anthropology” focus, giving insights (and the…

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@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

This book is written by a journalist who has been following cyber-security for a long time. Your computer is probably already hacked. Cyber war is the next frontier of war, and the US doesn’t want…

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Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar

A good biography of the royally screwed up Caesar family, from Julius through Caligula. (View on Amazon)

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The Case Against Sugar

Holy Crap! I started avoiding sugar after reading this. A really compelling argument, backed up by plenty of studies, about the dramatic negative effect refined sugar has on us. (View on Amazon)

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The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

The story of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who I admittedly didn’t know anything about before this book. They essentially founded the field of behavioral economics. They discovered/documented many of the biases that humans have,…

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Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

Written and narrated by Bill O’Reilly, it’s a really detailed story of Lincoln’s final days and his assassination. (View on Amazon)

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Pre-Suasion: Channeling Attention for Change

An interesting perspective on the impact of what happens immediately before a persuasive event. Stuffed full of findings from various psychological studies, which I really enjoyed. (View on Amazon)

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The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve

Doomsday-ish, conspiracy theory-ish, and most concerning is that it’s eerily hard to dispute a lot of the author’s claims. The author tries (and in some ways succeeds) to make his point that the federal reserve…

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The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

It was surprising to learn just how much of our modern world was invented at Bell Labs. The transistor (which is in pretty much every electronic device), satellites, cell phones, lasers, and so much more….

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Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed

A great read if you’re into airplanes and invention. Lockheed’s skunk works is responsible for some really cool aircraft (U-2 spy plane, Stealth Bomber, etc.) and Ben Rich was basically there for it all. (View on…

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You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

This is another book full of references to scientific studies. A deep dive on preferences, where they come from, and how they change. One key insight: we like what is familiar. (View on Amazon)

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Napoleon: A Life

Napoleon rewrote the rules of war in 19th century Europe, conquering pretty much everything in his path. The book explains how this (essentially middle-class, non-french) guy from Corsica became Emperor of France. And then he…

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The Gene: An Intimate History

Everything you ever wanted to know about genetics, from the very very beginning when humans knew nothing, through some of the amazing things that scientists are able to do with today’s modern technology.  (View on Amazon)

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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

I had never heard of Robert Moses before this book. It is spectacularly well researched, detailed to the max. After the first chapter, I was hooked on the story. This guy RAN New York through…

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The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

The prevalence of “normal” and “average” have always bothered me. The author does a great job of adding evidence to my feelings. People are “jagged”, and averages are often BS. There’s a story in here…

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NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior

I’m a big fan of this book. I learned a lot about the oddities of how the mind works, and corner cases where it seems like it’s not working. Especially memorable topics were “Blindsight”, Conscious…

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Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World

Bill Nye! A thorough overview of all of the technologies that are being theorized or developed that can help address the obvious human impact on our climate. Don’t believe in the human impact? Let’s talk…

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The Billion Dollar Spy: A True Story of Cold War Espionage and Betrayal

After reading about how Kim Philby played the UK and US for so long in the Soviet Union’s favor, I was happy to learn the story of a dramatic spy operation going the other direction….

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A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Kim Philby was an upper-class English guy who went to the “right” prep school and college, then joined the intelligence service during WW2. He rose to become the head of counterintelligence at MI6, focused specifically…

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The Martian

It’s as if this book was made for the audiobook format. Because it’s mostly written as a diary, it really fits. And the narrator kicks ass at his role! (View on Amazon)

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The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell references many studies to support his theory for how ideas spread “virally” – mavens, connectors, and salesmen. There’s a really interesting part of the book about why so many people continue to smoke…

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The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

It’s hard to overstate the impact of the Morgan family & their legacy firms on global business. The story is a deep dive from the family’s beginnings when Junius Morgan became the partner of George…

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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

I drank the Elon Musk kool-aid. This guy is amazing, and the biographer (Ashlee Vance) does a great job of telling his story. (View on Amazon)

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Andrew Carnegie

A true rags-to-riches story. Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune in the steel business, and then worked for many years to “give it away”. After he sold out (to JP Morgan), he…

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The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt was another remarkable titan of industry. Making his original fortune in steamships, he switched gears and went all-in on railroads once he caught wind of the opportunity. Fun fact from the author – at…

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The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia

Russians are crazy! This book details what happened through the transition from communism to capitalism, and how that resulted in a few newly-minted Billionaires taking the lion’s share of property for themselves. (View on Amazon)

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Atlas Shrugged

Regardless of your view of Ayn Rand’s politics, it’s hard not to enjoy this book. It’s a really amazing story that tugs at a variety of human emotions. And if you also believe in some…

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Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

The Koch family is relatively well known for their political involvement in the last couple decades. There’s a lot more to the story of this remarkably successful and yet ridiculously dysfunctional family. (View on Amazon)

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