As I’m reading more and more these days, I’m beginning to become a bit more purposeful in just what I read. One comparison I’ve found that seems to make sense is how what we put into our mind can have just as much of an impact as what we put into our bodies. I don’t drink soda of any kind, and likewise am trying to weed the wasteful mental intakes. But I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not perfect, I’m a sucker for what’s going on in the day to day news.
One way that I was able to read a few more books in 2014 than 2013 was thanks to the library. I have a long list of books I’d like to read. I’d go online, and place holds on the kindle versions of those books I wanted, then as they came up I would download them and get to reading. I’m a faster reader on the kindle simple because of its ease of holding and transporting. It is much easier to pull out on a crowded bus home than a book. Of the twenty four books I read in 2014, only seven were in paper form.
The library lets you check out books for three weeks, but typically I was rushing to get through each book faster than that, because the holds would never come up at the right time. I’d typically have two come up at the same time, or around the same time and then be pushed to read both in the three weeks time.
Another way I’m able to continue plowing through books is by setting a number of pages I’d like to read each day. This ranges from as little as 25 to as much 50. It of course changes from book to book, depending on how dense each page is.
Now, without further adieu, I present to you my reading list for 2014
The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein
I picked up this book up out of a curiosity in athletes and just how they are able to perform the amazing feats that they do. Sure enough, eating right and training religiously are only part of the equation. This book provided an amazing insight into how our DNA changes as we train, as well as some of the DNA predispositions a lucky few have the pushes them to the highest levels.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
This book had been sitting on my shelf for years. When I finally decided to pick it up and began reading it, I wished I had started it much earlier. JDR Sr had an amazing life story, growing up poor, to an absentee snake oil salesman of a father, he went on to build one of the largest empires this world has ever known. Quite inspirational and educational. I’d recommend anyone with an interest in business pick up this book.
Something that sticks out to me from his life’s work is how he built something so much bigger than himself. Humans use tools for leverage, thus allowing themselves to have impacts two to ten times what they could using their own two hands. Rockefeller built Standard Oil, which impacted the world. Through his work he was also able to pass down to his heirs a drive and value system that created governors, senators, a vice president, and a CEO of one of the world’s largest banks etc. At the same time they have become famous for their philanthropy, including the creation of The University of Chicago, and the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
I love the thought that what we do now can be amplified not just around the world, but also built upon through many generations to come.
The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World’s Banker 1849-1999 by Niall Ferguson
This family biography is quite a bit more dense that JDR’s above. While JDR got his start in the early 1800’s, this family began their empire as far back as the 1600’s. Through the years and prudent forethought of the family they have continued their business for almost 400 years. This has to be the most successful multi-generational family business I’ve ever learned about.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
After the two fairly long and historical reads I felt I needed something a bit lighter to relax the mind and laugh with. While David Sedaris isn’t the most light hearted comedic writer, his perspectives on everyday life are thoroughly enjoyable.
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
To err irrational is undeniable human, this book is Ariely’s attempt to identify when we begin to go down that path.
The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio By William Bernstein
Bernstein, a retired medical doctor, wrote this book after having condensed down many excellent studies on investing into a language non financial geeks can understand. In it he provides some excellent advice on investing in mutual funds and index funds, while minimizing taxes and fees. Avoid letting expensive monkeys pick your stocks for you.
“If you invested in the top 10% of last year’s funds, you would match, but not exceed, the performance of an index fund with low expenses.”
“Discouraged by this failure of active management, these plans are slowly abandoning active portfolio management. Currently, about half of all pension stock holdings are passively managed, or “indexed,” including of 80% of the CALPERS (The nation’s largest public pension fund) stock portfolio.”
Noble House by James Clavell
I wanted to pick up a fiction novel for our honeymoon to Greece. Little did I know, because I was reading on my kindle, that I had picked up an epic novel, over 1000 pages. As the story progressed, the pages seemed to flow by.
This wonderful story is about the powerful families of Hong Kong doing business together. These families have, over the course of many generations, formed their own conglomerates, or holding companies, that own many businesses in the area. It’s fascinating how they all seem to work together while at the same time spying on each other.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph – By Ryan Holiday
Lessons on stoicism applied to everyday life. Look at challenges not as road blocks in your way, but tools to make you stronger and smarter in the future.
“Failure puts you in corners you have to think your way out of. It is a source of breakthroughs.”
“Think progress, not perfection.”
“Okay, you’ve got to do something very difficult. Don’t focus on that. Instead break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do right now. And do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow the process and not the prize.”
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I believe that learning how to empower those who don’t always speak up will be better for everyone. Susan Cain presents some great ideas on just how to do so. If we can put the best ideas into practice, not just the ideas promoted loudest, we’ll end up with a better future.
This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly
Have you ever heard someone say “Ya, but this time is different?” This book goes into great detail on why that phrase is the most expensive phrase ever uttered. Some rules are to be followed for a reason and not forgotten.
The Robber Barons by Matthew Josephson
This book was a gift from my father in law who sent it to me after I told him how much I enjoyed the JDR biography Titan. It tells of the turn of the century titans of industry who pioneered new technologies, and whose empires sometime worked together and sometimes had epoch clashes.
The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen
This is the story of a Russian immigrant who moved here hardly speaking any English. As a boy he worked at his uncle’s small grocery store and from there, in his later teenage years, went out on his own. He started out by working in the train yards loading and unloading box cars. From there he noticed the fruit buyers from the large companies would buy bananas, but only those that had no brown spots. He found that he could buy those bananas that had been passed up and make a tidy profit if, and only if, he could sell them quickly. He did, and from there he grew his business eventually establishing farms and a company whose power rivaled that of the countries it grew bananas in. An amazing story.
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t by Nate Silver
Nate Silver made his reputation be using probability and statistics to predict elections. He has broadened the use of his mathematical models and tells us about them in this book. In it he goes after baseball, elections, the financial crash, poker, and climate forecasting. From this I learned that there is quite a bit we can apply probability and statistics to, and it is probably a much better bet than going with that gut feeling.
The Little Book of Big Dividends: A Safe Formula for Guaranteed Returns by Charles B. Carlson
This book was a gift from my grandfather who has long been a fan of dividend stock investing. It’s a great starting point for someone interested in that avenue of investing. For the time being I’m going to stick with my Vanguard index funds, but that’s not to say that I won’t supplement my investing with a few dividend stocks.
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
As a Seattlite I felt it was my duty to read this book to become an informed citizen of this great city. Amazon is having a huge impact in the world overall, and especially Seattle. They are hiring like crazy, apartments are going up everywhere, and software developers are a dime a dozen. This book goes over the story of Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s humble beginnings. Jeff actually didn’t have such humble beginnings, he graduated from Princeton and was working at a hedge fund before starting Amazon, but the story of his company is a fascinating one. In it you hear many of the early patterns that became routines, and are now commonplace in this massive company. Jeff has a knack for squeezing as much energy and output from his employees as possible. I enjoy shopping at Amazon, and would probably like to own some of their stock, but I don’t think I would like to work there.
Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu by J. Maarten Troost
I wanted a fun travel book that would make me laugh. This book did not disappoint. Troost gets to go on some amazing adventures, mainly due to his wife’s line of work. After reading this book I’ve added a few spots I’d like to visit, and experiences I’d like to partake in. His hilarious interactions with the locals had me excited to turn each page.
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
Goleman points out in this book that there are lots of people in this world that have IQ’s of 130 who are working for others with IQ’s of 100. There is much more to success than just a high IQ, knowing how to relate to others can be a big part of it.
“Aristotle observed, what is wanted is appropriate emotion, feeling proportionate to circumstance.”
“My hunch is that for a given level of intelligence, your actual achievement is a function not just of talent, but also of the capacity to stand defeat.”
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
Peter Theil is a one of the founders of Paypal, along with Elon Musk. He is a genius, and this book is jam packed with all sorts of goodies.
“Victory awaits him who has everything in order – luck, people call it.” Roald Amundsen – First explorer to reach the South Pole in 1912
The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm and America at War by A.J. Baime
Adam Carolla had this author on his podcast to discuss this book. It is an amazing story of Ford Motor Co., Henry Ford, his son Edsel, and the part they played in WWII. The idea of turning a car manufacturer into a bomber manufacturer boggles the mind when you think about the logistics required, but that is just what they did.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Our brains have two modes of thinking. One sees things as they are and makes quick assumptions, the other reads between the lines. Consider this example:
A bat and a ball together cost one dollar and ten cents. The bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much do they each individually cost?
The quick thinking mode of the brain will want to say the bat costs one dollar and the ball costs ten cents, but this is not the case. In that case the bat would only cost ninety cents more than the ball. The correct answer is that the ball costs five cents and the bat costs one dollar and five cents.
Business Adventures by John Brooks
I was directed towards this book by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I figured if two of the most successful businessmen in the world were recommending this business book I’d better take a look. It was written in the sixties about some of the most successful companies of the day and the lessons still remain true.
Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A.J. Baime
Enzo Ferrari is known as an asshole who built amazing cars. At some point in time he ticked of Mr. Ford who became determined to beat Ferrari at his own game, the 24 hours of Le mans. This is a grueling race in France every year where a team of drivers rotate driving their cars to the limit for twenty four hours. To take the beatings the cars have to be built like rocks, and able to withstand constant acceleration, hard breaking, and hair pin turns. Ford turned out a legendary car named the GT 40 that went on to win the race several years in a row. That is what this book is about.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
We’ve all felt like the underdog at some point in our lives. This book is just what you should read when you are feeling small. It tells the stories of amazing feats tackled by individuals who were not taken seriously until they applied their own unique approach.
Another gift from my father in law, this book was just the boost that I needed.