When I was younger, I was obsessed with reading. Mostly I was into fantasy novels, letting my imagination run wild. Up to about puberty, one could find me with my nose stuck in a book. Sadly, I lost my motivation to read through much of my young adulthood. Still, I got back into the habit several years ago. Now I read roughly a dozen books a year, although none of them are fantasy-related anymore. Inspired by a friend and business contemporary, Alex Medick, I will share my 2020 reading list with you.
You will find several themes in the books I’ve read in 2020: Stoicism, Venture Capital & Startups, and Travel. These topics make sense given that my focus year was on my pivot into the VC industry and traveling the world. Also, with Covid-19, I was certainly open to calming my brain down with some stoic philosophical principles. My interest in philosophy is nothing new, but I habitually read some passages daily to incorporate them into my life.
Here is my reading list for 2020 with links to purchase through Amazon (I receive a kickback) without further ado.
My Review: This book is one of the fundamental pieces for understanding the VC world and startups. Several editions have been published, along with an online certification (which I also completed). Not necessarily a quick read, but a necessary one for breaking into VC.
Book Info: How do venture capital deals come together? This is one of the most frequent questions asked by each generation of new entrepreneurs. Surprisingly, there is little reliable information on the subject. No one understands this better than Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. The founders and driving force behind the Foundry Group―a venture capital firm focused on investing in early-stage information technology companies―Brad and Jason have been involved in hundreds of venture capital financings. Their investments range from small startups to large Series A venture financing rounds. The new edition of Venture Deals continues to show fledgling entrepreneurs the inner-workings of the VC process, from the venture capital term sheet and effective negotiating strategies to the initial seed and the later stages of development.
My Review: Ok, this one is outdated, but some principles still ring true for creating the work-life you want and traveling the world while doing it. I’ve always believed that Tim Ferriss is a bit of a blowhard, but regardless I’ve always admired his work and love his writing.
Book Info: Forget the old concept of retirement and the rest of the deferred-life plan–there is no need to wait and every reason not to, especially in unpredictable economic times. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, The 4-Hour Workweek is the blueprint.
My Review: This book is my first introduction to Paul Theroux and his travel writings. It is a “collection” of stories from his other books, and because of that, it is only ok. Three of the books chosen I couldn’t put down; the other three I couldn’t wait to get through. My recommendation would be to read the better books on their own instead. Here they are:
Book Info: Author and travel writer Paul Theroux does what no one else can: he travels to the isolated, unusual, and fascinating spots of the world and creates an elegy to them that makes readers feel they are traveling with him. Evocative, breathtaking, intriguing, here is the armchair traveler’s guide to the sites of the world he makes us feel we know.
My Review: If you are unfamiliar with Marcus Aurelius and his stoic teachings, this book is a good primer. If you want to dive in fully, I’d recommend “Meditations” on its own instead.
Book Info: Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the last famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.
My Review: This book provides useful insights into how our brains handle distractions. It gives a step by step guide on getting those distractions under control. Easier said than done, though, as I look at Twitter in between typing these sentences. It was a quick and easy read, which I always appreciate.
Book Info: You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. Later, as you’re about to get back to work, a colleague taps you on the shoulder to chat. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold.
What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? What could you accomplish if you could stay focused? What if you had the power to become “indistractable?”
My Review: The Beat Generation, including Alan Ginsburg, Neil Cassady, William S. Burroughs, and author Jack Kerouac. I first heard of this book in high school by my hippie friend Evan, and it took me fifteen years to read it. This one is far and away the best book I read this year. Kerouac’s writing flows in a way that I just could not put it down. I also cannot wait to drink a Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee.
Book Info: Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naiveté and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
My Review: A very “pick-and-choose studies to support my thesis” book on veganism. Look, I actually enjoyed this one and agreed with the premise, and I love books that present factual evidence. I always question anything the takes a hard stance for or against a particular diet. In any case, it is, in fact, a good book. Thanks to the infamous Bob Rodger for the recommendation. Now I need to try to put down this piece of bacon.
Book Info: In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-renowned nutrition expert, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the fifteen top causes of premature death in America–heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more–and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches to help prevent and reverse these diseases, freeing us to live healthier lives.
My Review: A classic for startup founders. This one was extraordinarily impactful to me because the premise is using lean manufacturing Six Sigma principles in creating software products for fast-growing startups. Given my background is in supply chain, and I have a Six Sigma certification, I got giddy over Eric Ries’ parallels to create this concept.
Book Info: Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This is just as true for one person in a garage or a group of seasoned professionals in a Fortune 500 boardroom. What they have in common is a mission to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.
The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively. Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute.
My Review: The Marcus Aurelius classic. I have trouble incorporating stoicism, meditation, mindfulness, etc., into my daily life, but I still try. Reading a passage each morning helps in that endeavor.
Book Info: Few ancient works have been as influential as the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, philosopher and emperor of Rome (A.D. 161–180). A series of spiritual exercises filled with wisdom, practical guidance, and profound understanding of human behavior, it remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. Marcus’s insights and advice—on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity and interacting with others—have made the Meditations required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. For anyone who struggles to reconcile the demands of leadership with a concern for personal integrity and spiritual well-being, the Meditations remains as relevant now as it was two thousand years ago.
My Review: So, the only reason I bought this was that it was on a Kindle deal for like $5. With that said, I actually really enjoy Jordan Belfort’s style. It’s a classic sales technique book, but it’s a fun ride.
Book Info: For the first time ever, Jordan Belfort opens his playbook and gives you access to his exclusive step-by-step system—the same system he used to create massive wealth for himself, his clients, and his sales teams. Until now this revolutionary program was only available through Jordan’s $1,997 online training. Now, in Way of the Wolf, Belfort is ready to unleash the power of persuasion to a whole new generation, revealing how anyone can bounce back from devastating setbacks, master the art of persuasion, and build wealth. Every technique, every strategy, and every tip has been tested and proven to work in real-life situations.
My Review: I was first introduced to Viktor Frankl in a college psychology course where I read “The Trial.” Why it took me so long to pick up this one? Id not know. But, it was the right year to read it. IT’s a quick read and a good one.
Book Info: Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.