Books Read – Third Quarter 2019

Happy October and Happy Q4!

In early July, I published a list of books I had read in the first half of 2019.  (link here) As I regularly get requests for book recommendations, I wanted to provide an updated list of what I spent my time reading during the third quarter.

Management / Business:

  • Alchemy by Rory Sutherland – I cannot say enough good things about this one.  Sutherland is both thought provoking and highly entertaining as he deconstructs where and how things that seem “psychological” outperform the purely “logical.”
  • Storybrand by Donald Miller – Marketing is deceptively difficult to discuss.  If addressed from too high a level, we all react by saying things about how self-obvious it was.  If too detailed, it can devolve into specific techniques or platforms.  Miller strikes an excellent middle ground diving into marketing strategy – and especially around the marketing of services as opposed to goods.
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – by Jeff and J.J. Sutherland – Businesses manage to get things done in spite of themselves.  What if there were a better way to execute a management process to maximize results?
  • The McKinsey Way & The McKinsey Mind by Ethan Rasiel – These were ok but not groundbreaking.  The best thing that came from the read was discovering Say It With Charts by Gene Zelazny.  Zelazny is the Director of Visual Communications at McKinsey.  This is a great reference tool about how to convey ideas visually.

Business History

  • When Hollywood Had a King by Connie Bruck – Having read Michael Ovitz’s autobiography shortly after it came out, it was interesting to learn more about Lew Wasserman – the Ovitz of Hollywood before Ovitz.  Having now read 10-15 different biographies about those who built the modern Hollywood, I am amazed by how consistent the type of person is who has succeeded in that industry – hint – it’s exactly what you would expect – the aggressive wheeler-dealer.  I look forward to reading Bob Iger’s (CEO of Disney) new book simply because he sounds like he forged his own path.

Family Wealth

General Non-Fiction

  • How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams – By the author of Dilbert, I was amazed by how much I underlined in the book.  Adams is incredibly well thought, and his personal journey to regain his ability to speak is inspiring as well.
  • How to Build a Car by Adrian Newey – Newey, likely to be unknown to most in the US, is perhaps the greatest designer of race cars of all time.  His autobiography is a fascinating look inside the world of Formula 1 racing, along with practice and discipline applied creativity.
  • The Plaza by Julie Satow – The Plaza is among the most storied of New York’s fine hotels.  This is a fascinating biography of the hotels ups and downs since its construction in 1907.





Reading List – First Half of 2019

It has been a little while since I have posted an updated list of what I am reading / have read so far this year.

I had aspirations of getting this list published before the start of summer, but sadly that did not happen.  I have tried to group the books into some what orderly categories.

Business Strategy

  • Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt – This was fantastic, one of the best reads on strategy I have found in years.
  • 7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer – This aligned nicely with a lot of Rumelt’s points as well
  • HBR Guide to Buying a Small Business Ruback and Yudkoff – Helpful look at the strategic opportunities for smaller businesses and those who acquire them.
  • 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green – Truth be told, I enjoyed this, but about halfway through I was worn out and gave up.  Green’s work is a master tome in intrigue, power and strategy.   As you may surmise from the title there are 48 individual sections he dives into, unfortunately, it makes the book really choppy to read and keep connections in mind from chapter to chapter.
  • Bad Blood by John Carreyou – An unbelievable story, as well as a tremendous argument for doing your own work as an investor.

Management Theory

  • Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda – Great stories in here about how Apple manages the process of producing great products
  • 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covery, Jim Huling – All businesses struggle to manage the on-going ‘whirlwind’ of the business.  With such busyness, how can they possibly expect to add to or improve their capabilities?  4DX (which is arguably a version of Agile in software development) is one such tool.
  • Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt et al – Who was Bill Campbell and why did he leave such an amazing legacy among the greatest tech founders?
  • Reboot by Jerry Colonna  – Colonna, a former Venture Capitalist, turned executive coach makes the compelling case that leaders are more effective when they have faced and dealt with their own history and story.
  • Crucial Conversations by Patterson – How do we interact with others when the stakes are high?

Cognitive Functioning

  • The Reading Mind by Daniel Willingham – Fascinating look at what is known about the brain science behind literacy – thanks CF for the copy!
  • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke – When we frame our decisions as bets, it changes dramatically how we approach decision making.

Cultural Analysis

This is by no means an exhaustive list and is a continuation of a series of books I read over the 2017/2018 time frame.  I remain a cautious student of our current cultural climate.

  • Dopesick by Beth Macy – Macy does an incredibly job of laying out what is going on in the opioid epidemic destroying communities across the country
  • Them by Ben Sasse – Senator Sasse’s second book continues many of the same themes as his first book, but looks more deeply at why in a time of such global connectivity, we remain so isolated from one another.
  • White Fragility by Robin Diangelo – While this book probably warrants a much longer and thoughtful reflection, no doubt, how we talk about and experience race is worth much deeper contemplation.
  • Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff – This was absolutely fantastic.  It is a deep-dive look at the current climate of universities.

I have started David Brook’s new one – which pursues similar themes.


  • The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sancton – Plucked straight from the news papers and tabloids of France, this wild book tells the story of the willing (or not?!) largesse of one of France’s richest women.
  • The Moscow Rules by Antonio and Joanna Mendez – From the author or Argo, Mendez recounts newly declassified information about how the CIA operated during the Cold War in Moscow itself.  Amazing stories of disguises, inflatable dummies and cool spy-tech

My Favorite Reads of 2018

Well, I didn’t plan to read as much in 2018 as I did. Nevertheless, I finished 47 books this year – just shy of a personal record. Generally, I don’t enjoy reading that many books, as it becomes difficult to keep them all straight / remember salient details.  But, I kept finding good ones to read, so what are you going to do?

One thing that has helped that process is being willing to stop a book once I’ve begun. For years, I was of the view that once I started something the only path was to finish it. This year alone, there were probably 20 others I began, but put down 50-100 pages in. In certain areas where I have deep expertise, many books prove to be repetitive or offer very little in the way of new ideas.

So without further ado – here is the full list of books I read this year.  I’ve also highlighted my favorites.

Economics & Sociology

Self Evaluation/Life Planning




Business Strategy