Book Summaries & Notes

I love reading. At any given time, I am reading a fiction & a non-fiction book.

Some of the most important things I've learned in life, I have learned from books (sometimes from people long dead). With non-fiction books, I take notes sometimes which I'll share here. More on this.

For each book I've uploaded the my rating, big picture thoughts, the main ideas and snippets of text I'd highlighted. These can be used to refresh your memory or to get an idea about if you'd like the book.

Write Useful Books by Rob Fitzpatrick

I loved Rob's other book, The Mom Test, and I'm interested in writing so was eager to check this out. It did not disappoint. Rob approaches writing like an entrepreneur (don't build till you have proof of demand). The book is, overall, a great guide for how to write things people will actually want to read. Very practical, very dense. I highlighted like half of the book.

Show Your Work! By Austin Kleon

Easy & fast read. The central idea of is the title of the book itself -- share your day to day, your work in progress to build an audience for yourself. It is a content strategy guide for a person trying to build a platform for themselves. Short & sweet. I found it useful.

I Wish You Bad Luck by John Roberts
My Rating: 9/10

Not a book, but a commencement speech for a prep school graduation. A favorite!

Essentialism by Greg McKeown
My Rating: 5/10

Greg's writing is better than mine, but it's writing I don't aspire to. He's clearly a smart guy & this topic has meat, but instead of filet he's serving a frozen McDonalds patty. Rating reflects core idea.

Little Black Stretchy Pants by Chip Wilson
My Rating: 5/10

Given my industry, there's no way I could skip reading this book. I enjoyed it, but less than Shoe Dog. He spends a large portion of this book complaining about how things went wrong. Chip is smart & probably a cool guy, but get the sense that he sniffs his own farts.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
My Rating: 3/10

This book wasn't for me. I really wanted to love it because of the humorous approach, but found it just too incoherent & ramble-prone. It felt like the book presented a caricature of a person suffering in a way that I wasn't.

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
My Rating: 5/10

I originally approached this book with the intent to "get something out of it", which I think was a mistake. Though there are some great lessons (see bolded text), I think it's better to read it as an entertaining memoir. I enjoyed the story, but relate more to the founder story than CEO story, so I liked Shoe Dog and Little Black Stretchy Pants better.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor by Donald Robertson
My Rating: 8/10

For ideas that impacted my life, this book is 10/10. I docked it a couple points for dryness & organization. Overall, it's excellent and I highly recommend it. I emailed the author "thank you" after reading it.

Drive by Daniel Pink
My Rating: 5/10

This would've been a good book if I was new to any of these ideas. They're sound & accessible principles for how to think about motivation in the workplace.

The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene
My Rating: 3/10

War is a big part of human history so I thought it'd be interesting to try this book. My advice would be to just stick with this summary & skip the book. While some of the supporting stories were interesting, Greene's application of these rules to everyday life is cringey. If I had a do-over, I think I'd just read Wikipedia on the topic.

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz
My Rating: 5/10

Another dynamite core idea from Mike. Building yourself out, hiring, delegation & thinking of your business as a machine are true fundamentals for an owner. The way he explains some stuff is unnecessarily confusing/unclear though.

The Myth of Stress by Andrew Bernstein
My Rating: 4/10

Good (not new) ideas here but with a confused delivery. Skip this book and look up "should thoughts" instead. That said, the worksheet linked in my notes is a great way of dealing with them & offered a powerful early experience as I got into this stuff.

A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine
My Rating: 6/10

My first book on Stoicism, it introduced me to a philosophy that would radically improve my life. It's a good one to start with, but should be followed up with How to Think Like a Roman Emperor.

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
My Rating: 9/10

Best book I've read on personal finance for anyone who wants to understand human behavior in markets and how to make good decisions. Reading this book fundamentally changed how I invest.

Deep Work by Cal Newport
My Rating: 8/10

Everyone successful entrepreneur I know has Deep Work as a cornerstone principle of their schedule. At this point, it's almost assumed you're doing it. I've been using it for years in one form or another, it's great!

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed
My Rating: 6/10

This book is edu-taining. It reads like a critique on society with some self help mixed in. It is not concise. These ideas were new to me when I first read them, but have been covered by many authors since.

Profit First by Mike Michaelowicz
My Rating: 5/10

Mike's core idea here is dynamite. He does an admirable job of trying to create a guidebook for all businesses, but I think that's an impossible task. Still, some good benchmarks and great principles I still use today. Too wordy IMO.

Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
My Rating: 6/10

When I read this book, all of these ideas were new to me & I shit my pants. I've become a connoisseur of positive psych since, so my perception has changed. Some of the research is pretty overextended and feels forced, but the book is still loaded with outstanding principles.

Radical Candor by Kim Scott
My Rating: 6/10

This is a great book for new managers. It covers the basics of how to give people critical feedback, which is so important for performance. It taught me valuable lessons about when to fire.

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb
My Rating: 6/10

More of an entertaining long essay than a self-help book. Don't expect a concise how-to, this is Taleb waxing poetic about how bad we are math. He's grumpy in an amusing way.

Decisive by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
My Rating: 5/10

I thought the book took too long to communicate it's core idea, could've been an excellent blog post. That said, the WRAP acronym is really useful. Despite reading this years ago, I still have an alarm that goes off in my head when I lay out only two possible options (narrow framing).

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
My Rating: 7/10

My rating reflects the core idea that energy is the key asset to manage rather than time. That idea is incredibly valuable to understanding how to produce your best work. The book itself is just OK.

Range by David Epstein
My Rating: 9/10

This was my favorite business book of the year I read it. Being an entrepreneur, I had intuited many of the things Epstein describes from my own personal experience, but it was wonderfully refreshing to see it all laid out and articulate so well.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
My Rating: 8/10

I really enjoyed this book, enough to process & format my notes on it. Some of the later chapters can be skimmed but the early ones are great. As the full title suggests, more a history of how great ideas come to be but there are some clear practical takeaways on how to have them.

No Self, No Problem by Chris Niebauer
My Rating: 6/10

This book started off blowing my mind. It taught me a new paradigm through which to understand experience by delineating left brain and right bring functions, but got disappointingly wacky towards the end. Worth a skim.

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
My Rating: 8/10

This book rambles at times but the core idea is solid gold. I found this whole concept important enough to make one of my 2022 goals “Satisfice on all decisions except the highest leverage ones”.

The Minimalist Entrepreneur by Sahil Lavingia
My Rating: 6/10

This book feels like the missing component to the lean startup movement. Its heavy emphasis on community & helping real people is a welcome take, and seems more hands-on practical in today’s world.