Bookshelf

The following is a list of books I’ve read since the beginning of college. I was inspired to compile this list after reading the blogs of James Somers, Derek Sivers, and Patrick Collison.

Interested in reading any of these? Find them at your local library by searching here.

  1. Men We Reaped: A Memoir Jesmyn Ward.
  2. Republic C. D. C. Reeve.
  3. In The Plex. Stephen Levy.
    • This books allows you to understand how Google thinks.
  4. The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible. Lance Fortnow.
    • An excellent introduction to the greatest unsolved problem in computer science. I wrote a blog post about the subject if you’re interested in learning more.
  5. Rich Boy Sharon Pomerantz.
  6. Life of Pi Yann Martel.
  7. The Secret History Donna Tartt.
  8. Blue Highways: A Journey into America William Least Heat-Moon.
  9. King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone David Carey and John E. Morris.
    • Unlike  Barbarians at the GateKing of Capital is a pretty unbiased view on the subject of private equity.
  10. Dark Pools: The Rise of the Machine Traders and the Rigging of the U.S. Stock Market Scott Patterson.
    • An entertaining view into the growth of electronic trading.
  11. Old School.  Tobias Wolff.
  12. Flash Boys: a Wall Street Revolt. Michael Lewis.
    • High-frequency trading is immensely cool from a technical perspective, although the proprietary nature of the subject means I’ll never find much more literature on the ins-and-outs.
  13. Hackers and Painters. Paul Graham.
    • Paul Graham is a really good writer (check out the essays on his website for more reading material).
  14. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike. Phil Knight.
  15. Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. Edward Frenkel.
  16. The Lean Startup. Eric Ries.
    • Moral of the story: test assumptions using legitimate data, and iterate on product development both early and often. Rinse and repeat.
  17. Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. Antonio García Martínez.
    • Reads like the screenplay for The Wolf of Wall Street sometimes; make of that what you will. Martínez provides an enjoyable introduction into startup investors, acquisitions, and modern ad exchanges. Consider it a worthwhile primer about what drives revenue at Google and Facebook.
  18. What I Believe. Bertrand Russell.
  19. The Most Important Thing. Howard Marks.
  20. 10% Happier. Dan Harris.
  21. A Mathematician’s Apology. Godfrey Harold Hardy.
  22. Lean In. Sheryl Sandberg.
    • It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: everybody should read this book.
  23. Principles. Ray Dalio.
    • When I read this, it was a website. I can’t speak to the quality of the print version, but reviewers on Amazon can.
  24. Poor Charlie’s Almanack. Charles Munger. Edited by Peter D. Kaufman.
  25. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger. Peter Bevelin.
  26. Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. James Wallace and Jim Erickson.
  27. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.
    • Loaned to me by a friend. In short: this feels like a modern version of Freakonomics, which the author admits has “gone out of favor in intellectual circles”. I’m hesitant to endorse the findings of research that doesn’t describe its shortcomings–although Seth might do that in his academic work, he certainly doesn’t do it here. His treatment of the future of data analytics is well-done. He describes how “social science is becoming a real science”, and he provides overviews of enough peer-reviewed academic work to make this a good use of your time.
  28. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Roger Fisher and William Ury.
    • I read this for two reasons:
      1. Charlie Munger recommended it in Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
      2. It often appears in the book stacks of law school students, who are likely better negotiators than me.
    • Read up on the book’s criticisms before or after reading it.
  29. Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism. Jeff Gramm.
    • A great read for anyone interested in corporate governance or activist investing.
  30. How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life. Massimo Pigliucci.
  31. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Robin Sloan.
  32. The Appalachian Trail: How to Prepare For & Hike It. Jan D. Curran.
    • I’m toying with the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail after graduating in April. Though a little dated in terms of gear recommendations, this book provided details that I hadn’t known before: how much food to pack, how best to replenish supplies, and how far away various towns are from the trail.
  33. Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Planner. David Lauterborn.
  34. The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact. Edmond Lau.
    • Borrowed this title from the library. I found it so valuable that I’ll be buying a copy to keep on my desk at work.
  35. You Had Me At ‘Hello, World’: Mentoring Sessions with Industry Leaders at Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Zynga and More. Dona Sarkar.
    • This should be required reading before anyone starts their first tech internship. I came to learn a lot of the lessons Dona teaches on my own, but only after having talked about them with coworkers. Because time with your smart colleagues is short, minimize opportunity cost by reading this and focusing conversation on more substantial topics.
  36. The Power of Habit. Charles Duhigg.
  37. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  38. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Yuval Noah Harari.
  39. Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro. Rachel Slade.
  40. Rise: 3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, and Liking Your Life. Patty Azzarello.
  41. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management. Scott Berkun.
    • I read this as a way to prep for starting my job after reading a post by Joel Spolsky. Berkun comes across as wise and impartial. I’ll let you know if his tactics are helpful.
  42. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Marshall B. Rosenberg.
    • Satya Nadella recommends this book to his direct reports.
  43. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Evan Osnos.
    • Osnos helps explain the dynamics between Chinese citizens and the Communist Party, which is important given China’s increasing influence in the modern world.
  44. Don’t Make Me Think. Steve Krug.
  45. Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits that Plunged the Airlines Into Chaos. Thomas Petzinger Jr.
  46. Debugging Teams: Better Productivity Through Collaboration. Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian W. Fitzpatrick.
    • Recommended by my skip-level manager at work. All engineers can learn something for this book.
  47. The Charisma Myth. Olivia Fox Cabane.
  48. Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America. Chris Arnade.
    • Arnade was a bond trader at Citigroup before quitting to interview and photograph residents of left-behind communities (like Gary, IN; Bakersfield, CA; Prestonburg, KY). He has a quasi-political theory that he explains in a blog post called “Divided by Meaning”. This book is an expansion of that.
  49. Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire. Lincoln Caplan.
    • A dated (but still good) introduction into the way Biglaw works.
    • Skadden became a large firm primarily because of their M&A expertise during the wave of private equity activity in the 1980s.
  50. Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs. Gina Keating.
    • Netflix is cool because of the depth of their technological moat. This book shows how that technological moat existed long before they had a streaming offering (and how Blockbuster let it happen). Consider Matthew Ball’s essay series Netflix Misunderstandings if you’d prefer to read about the company’s streaming era.
  51. The Docks. Bill Sharpsteen.
  52. Ninety Percent of Everything. Rose George.
  53. The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution. Gregory Zuckerman.
    • How can somebody not be interested in a super-secretive, super-successful quantitative hedge fund?
    • One of my summer internships was in the same building as Renaissance’s Manhattan office. One day while leaving for lunch, I saw a Rolls Royce Phantom parked at the curb. I suspect it was Jim Simons’ car.
  54. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Atul Gawande.
  55. Your Money or Your Life. Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.
  56. Making It in Real Estate: Starting Out As a Developer. John McNellis.
  57. Business Adventures. John Brooks.
    • Bill Gates considers this the best business book he’s ever read. I thought it was OK.
  58. The Nonsense Factory: The Making and Breaking of the American Legal System. Bruce Cannon Gibney.
  59. The Lines that Make Us: Stories from Nathan’s Bus. Nathan Vass.
    • Nathan Vass is a national treasure. This book made me think about the human condition–something we all ought to do more often.
  60. Taxes Made Simple: Income Taxes Explained in 100 Pages Or Less. Mike Piper.
  61. The Mom Test: How to Talk to Customers and Learn If Your Business is a Good Idea when Everyone is Lying to You. Rob Fitzpatrick.
    • Great read! First learned about it from this Twitter thread.
    • A few good quotes from the book:
      • “Rule of thumb: Ideas and feature requests should be understood, but not obeyed.”
      • “…if you have an exciting idea for a new product and go talk to a couple customers who don’t actually care about it, then that’s a great result. You just saved yourself however much time and money it would have cost to try building and selling it.”
      • “There’s more reliable information in a ‘meh’ than a ‘Wow!’ You can’t build a business on a lukewarm response.”
  62. LLC Vs. S-Corp Vs. C-Corp: Explained in 100 Pages Or Less. Mike Piper.
  63. The Now Habit. Neil Fiore.
  64. Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages Or Less. Mike Piper.
    • Can you tell by now I really like Mike Piper?
  65. What the CEO Wants You to Know: How Your Company Really Works. Ram Charan.
    • Cedric Chin’s summary of this book made me think this would be a good read—the summary was actually better. And while we’re on the subject of Cedric’s blog, go ahead and read the Cash Flow is King post too.
  66. The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. Bryan Caplan.
    • Thought-provoking read. Caplan argues that education premiums (i.e. the extra money college graduates earn compared to high school graduates, or high school graduates compared to drop-outs) are 20% the result of extra knowledge (“human capital”) and 80% the result of merely signaling intelligence, diligence, and conformity by sticking it out for N years to get a degree.
      • A lot of my friends don’t agree with Caplan’s take—they think the education is mostly human capital. I suspect there’s a little bit of choice-supportive bias going on.
  67. No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention. Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings.
    • Expansion on the Netflix culture deck, which you should definitely read if you haven’t already. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the principles, it certainly looks like it’s worked well for Netflix.
    • Although I enjoyed this book, it did come off as a little MBA-y—I was hoping to learn more about Netflix, not how other organizations might be able to emulate Netflix. I got too little of the former and too much of the latter.
    • One good lesson that I learned that seems broadly applicable: how to effectively give and receive feedback. The authors nicely wrap it up in what they call the 4A framework (see what I mean about the book being MBA-y?):
      • On the giving side of feedback:
        1. Aim to assist: give feedback with positive intent, and explain how the feedback will help the recipient or the company.
        2. Actionable: focus on what the recipient can do differently.
      • On the receiving side:
        1. Appreciate: have an open mind when hearing the feedback; don’t become defensive.
        2. Accept or discard: choose whether or not to learn from the feedback and move on. In other words, “take it or leave it”.
  68. The Monk and the Riddle. Randy Komisar.
    • Mentioned by Robbie Cape on this podcast.
  69. Think Like a Rocket Scientist. Ozan Varol.
  70. Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon. Colin Bryar and Bill Carr.
  71. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes. Bryan Burrough.
  72. HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business: Think Big, Buy Small, Own Your Own Company. Richard S. Ruback and Royce Yudkoff.
  73. Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes: The Unstoppable Growth of Prescription Drug Prices. Robin Feldman.