Archive for January, 2015

The Best Books I Read in 2014

It’s that time of the year to “nominate” last year’s education and entertainment reading standouts.

I reviewed my 2014 reading (and listening) library and found these terrific books I still think about months later.

the-martianBest Fiction: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian is Andy Weir’s first novel and a fantastic story about an astronaut’s survival on Mars after a sand storm surprises him and his fellow explorers. It’s science fiction and drama, believable for today, while seeming to take place in the near future when Mars exploration becomes an eventual destiny for mankind. The technical detail is mesmerizing and very thoughtful. How would someone stranded on Mars figure out a way to survive with the supplies at hand? Communicate with Earth? The Martian is great storytelling.

 

 

Runner-up: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Donna Tartt treats us to a visually rich and engrossing story  about Theo, a teenager growing into manhood, and an intricate, riveting plot that carries him from New York City around the world in self-exploratory odyssey.

 

hard-thingsBest Business Book: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

I have read The Hard Thing About Hard Things three times. The book is so appealing to me because I have started 3 software companies since 1995,  and the startup challenges Ben Horowitz describes are real-world scenarios about succeeding, failing, pivoting, and enduring the emotional roller coaster that is a startup. Ben has been at the origin of great companies and their impact on the modern Internet era. Starting with Netscape and Loudcloud, to Opsware and the influential Andreessen Horowitz venture firm, Ben offers practical, relatable advice on how to grow a company.

 

 

Runner-up: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt

I’m always curious how (my perception of) innovative organizations like Google work. Last year I read The Everything Store and got my Amazon fix. This year was Google. This is not a “tell all” type of book, but rather a collection of best practices presented in anecdotal narrative format on how Google works as a company and a thriving organization. Topics range from best practices on product management, innovation, hiring and firing, running team meetings and in general being a company that wants to do good.

 

benjamin -franklinBest Biography: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Shame on me for not knowing the strategic role Benjamin Franklin played in the founding of America. I had a cursory understanding of Mr. Franklin’s importance as a founding father, but after reading Walter Isaacson’s detailed accounting of his life, I now see Franklin’s hand in shaping the America we know today. Franklin believed a nation of thrifty, hard-working, “merchant” class people was the best formula for long-term success.

We all know the stories of discovering electricity with lightning rods and quotes such as “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” but what I did not know was the significant role Franklin played crafting the founding principles of America, negotiating treaties with France to aid the colonies against the British, and the intricacies of his unconventional hybrid-family structures.

 

 

10-happierBest Self-improvement: 10% Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier changed my life. I discovered the positive benefits of meditation. This book opened my eyes to mindfulness and gave me a way to approach daily meditation that I know is reducing stress and increasing my personal happiness.