"Wow, that's a lot of books!"
"It sure is! And I've even read some of them."
I don't use "virtual backgrounds", so when I'm on video calls, people will often remark on the large library they can see behind me. I've responded with the "Dad joke" above more often than I care to admit.*
I've always love to read. When I was a kid, my mother would take me to my local library every Saturday and let me choose whatever books I wanted. I would sign out between twenty and thirty books every week... and have them all finished before our next library visit. Eventually this became a real problem, as once I read everything that was appropriate for my age, I began reading things that were absolutely not. (When at the age of eleven I asked my mother what a word meant in VC Andrews' "Petals on the Wind", she was horrified, forbid me from continuing with the book, and began monitoring my weekly book selections much more carefully.)
These days, most of the books I read are business books and autobiographies, because I love business in general and reading about successful entrepreneurs in particular. I also tend to read a lot of personal and professional development books (in an ongoing effort to improve myself), books about technology and its impact on society (in an effort to better understand our world), and books about the future (in an attempt to prepare myself and my children for it as best I can).
As we approach the holidays, I thought I'd share five book recommendations with you. These are books I personally enjoyed reading over the past year, and whether you're looking for something to read yourself over the holidays or looking for books to buy as last-minute Christmas presents, I don't think these five selections will disappoint you.
So here they are, in the chronological order I finished them.
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell
I hadn't heard of Bill Campbell before learning of this book, but the back cover was pretty compelling: "Bill Campbell helped to build some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies—including Google, Apple, and Intuit—and to create over a trillion dollars in market value. A former college football player and coach, Bill mentored visionaries such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt, and coached dozens of leaders on both coasts. When he passed away in 2016, “the Coach” left behind a legacy of growing companies and successful people and an abundance of respect, friendship, and love."
The book was not only an enjoyable (and easy) read, but also a fascinating look at how the smart lessons of a kindhearted football coach helped shaped the world of technology as we know it today.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business
When it comes to my personal life, I have more than a few bad habits: I don't exercise enough, I eat when I'm bored, I procrastinate... the list goes on (and on, and on). This book helped me understand how habits are formed, and more importantly, how they can be adjusted.
If you're a marketer, this book will help you understand how you can get consumers "hooked" on whatever it is you're selling. If you have a few bad habits you'd like to lose, this book will explain exactly how to do it.
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention
If you've been following me for any amount of time, you'll know that I'm an entertainment-junkie; it's arguably one of my many bad habits (see above). So it should be no surprise that I'm a huge Netflix fan. But I love them for more than all the great content they offer: I love the way they think about work, talent, and culture... all of which is thoroughly outlined in this book, co-authored by Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings.
By the way, if you like this book about Netflix, I have a bonus recommendation for you: "That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea" -- written by Netflix's other co-founder Marc Randolph -- explains exactly how a crazy, improbably idea became the entertainment behemoth we know and love today. It quickly became one of my all-time favourite business books, and I think it should be a must-read for anyone who's ever considered becoming an entrepreneur.
The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industry, and Our Lives
This book promises nothing short of, "a blueprint for how our world will change in response to the next ten years of rapid technological disruption." And you know what? It actually delivers... and then some!
The authors describe how "exponentially accelerating technologies" will impact us in the next ten years and, "reinvent every part of our lives—transportation, retail, advertising, education, health, entertainment, food, and finance—taking humanity into uncharted territories and reimagining the world as we know it." It's not a light read... but it sure is an eye-opening one.
Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos
Most people have a difficult time understanding the real difference between a million and a billion, and I recently came across an analogy that puts those two figures into proper perspective: if you have a MILLION seconds left to live, you have about 11 days left... if you have a BILLION seconds left to live, you'll be alive for another 31 years.
Now consider the fact that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is the world's richest person with a net worth of $182 BILLION; in seconds, that would be 5,642 years. And the company he started just 26 years ago has a market capitalization today of almost $1.6 TRILLION. How does that even happen?
"Invent & Wander" answers that question, and gives readers an insider look into the visionary mind that created what's been called "The Everything Store".
It begins with an introduction of Jeff Bezos written by Walter Issacson, who authored the excellent biography of Steve Jobs a few years ago. After that, readers get to review every Amazon shareholder letter from 1997 until 2019. I fully realize that to some, a book mostly filled with shareholder letters would not be considered an interesting read. But remember that each letter was personally written by Bezos himself: every year, he told shareholders what the company did well, what the company did less well, and what the company planned to do in the future. Reading each letter, one after the other, showcases not only Bezos' tremendous vision, but also how consistent he's been in his mission since Day 1. (And as you will quickly learn from this section, at Amazon, it's always Day 1.) After the shareholder letters come insightful excerpts from various speeches Bezos has given at various times over the years, further showcasing how Amazon's founder thinks about the world and its future.
If you're interested to know exactly how Amazon went from zero to nearly $2 trillion -- and in doing so made it's founder the richest person on the planet, by a LOT -- you'll enjoy this book.
And if you're not into reading? Well, that's okay too... you can always watch Netflix's recently-released 2020 Year in Review and catch-up on all the shows you might have missed this year. Then on to Amazon Prime Video and Disney+...
P.S. It's a Dad joke, for sure, but it's also very true. I have absolutely not read all of the books I own... not even close. But I'm a firm believer in the concept of the antilibrary, and it absolutely helps with my "intellectual humility'.