Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw
I decided to pursue an economics minor in undergrad after reading this book. A deeply insightful analysis about the debate around the one of the most important questions shaping the last century: central planning vs free market economics. As Stalin said, "Mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division; and from the antagonism between poor and rich means abstracting oneself from fundamental facts."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
This book holds a special significance in my development. It has had a reverberating impact on the way I think about my life and actions. It also serves as an informal historical guide pre-partition India and gives me pride in my South Asian heritage. Perhaps one of the most important books ever written in the past century considering its impact on other great leaders like MLK Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
I read this book when I was a 19 year old production manager at Lake Orion Assembly and again when I was a manufacturing engineer at Flint Engine Assembly. It was my first insight into the sociology of work. Many lessons here are applicable to broader management principles that apply far from the factory floor.
This books is a must read for anyone who is interested in the American experience. The three periods in Malcolm X's life are as fascinating as they are dramatic: drug dealer, member of the Nation, and finally orthodox Islam. After reading, one can't help but think he was one of the greatest Americans that have ever lived. There are few people that have left such a lasting and distinct mark on American culture.
This is perhaps my all time favorite business book even though it's an autobiography. Maybe because it's hard to separate Sam Walton from Walmart, it seems it's as much of a story of a business as it is a man. There is an irony in the book title as Walmart has become so synonymous with selling products which are indeed not made in America.
I read this not so well known book in 2005, just a little under 10 years after it was written and was struck by how clairvoyant and approachable it was. I read it shortly before I moved into high tech from the automotive industry and served as a great primer to how much things can change in a short time. The ideas now seem dated and the book serves more as a historical account then anything else but it's still great.
I happened to read this book nearly back to back with 1984 and quickly thought that the future would much more likely resemble this book than 1984. This is because we resist control from others but willingly subjugate ourselves if we get something in return. I would recommend reading it for no other reason to see aspects of our modern society so accurately reflected by someone writing in 1932.
Just looking at the cover of this book stirs a deep emotion in me. It was perhaps the first book that I read out of interest and left a deep impression. Mandela was a revolutionary but unlike others, he succeeded in lifting his people from the yoke of foreign oppression and lived to harvest the fruits of his sacrifice. The tale of South Africa is a bittersweet one however and in the words of Mandela "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb".
This book is both well written as a memoir and as an informal instruction manual. In someways it's the writers version of Ray Dalios book Principles. The path to excellence is strikingly similar to other people who have attained the highest level of success: dogged hard work, discipline, persistence, a desire to master the skill and luck.
Jared M. Diamond
This is must read book if you are interested in how civilizations have developed and wonder about questions like "why are some countries rich and others poor?" It's much more dense and therefore rewarding than many pop-culture books that have come to dominate airport convenience shops.
Alfred P. Sloan
After a few pages of this book, I knew it would be amazing. It is the history of the early auto industry from the perspective of Alfred P. Sloan in 1941. It is littered with locations that I grew up in and went to school around. Sloan's pragmatic approach is refreshing and resonates with my own view of organizations within technical businesses. No surprise, I finished the book the same day I started it.
To understand the 20th century, one must take sometime to understand Lenin. This is one of the best books i've read about the leader of the October Revolution. Robert Service's grasp and depth of understanding of his subject is so good I immediately read his book on Stalin right after this and once again, I was not disappointed.
This is a gripping book that makes mountaineering seem both amazing and hideous. Reading about the eventual fate of the tragic 1996 Everest expedition that author was a part of makes the reader ask "why?". Why would you risk life and limb for something so pointless as climbing a rock. The answer dawned on me that it is no less noble than a life wasted away in an office cubicle.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I read this book long before I started investing. It casts a long shadow on the way I think. Most specifically not to over learn in early stage investing in both success and failure. Taleb argues that events that happen with little help from luck are more resistant to randomness. What I learn from that is that there should be some process to drive repeatable outcomes, even in something with as much variance as early stage technology investing.
Booker T. Washington
Shortly before Booker T. Washington was freed from slavery in his early teens, Abraham Lincoln wrote: "If slavery isn't wrong, nothing is wrong." Washington would spend most of his life not fighting for freedom but the long shadow of slavery. He recounts literally building Tuskeegee and puts forward a role model for self-reliance. After reading his own words, I'm someone who cannot support the criticism Washington received later in his life, most notably from W.E.B. Dubois. Washington was pragmatic and through that lens spoke on the condition of America at the time.
Said K. Aburish
I read this book sometime before the 2003 Iraq invasion. In some ways the handwriting was on the wall then that could have helped us avoid the catastrophe that has unfolded over the past many years. Although the book provides a comprehensive study of Hussein, it's also a good read to understand Iraq and its recent history.
Unsurprisingly maybe, there are many similarities to starting a stand up career and being a founder. Stand up is one of my favorite forms of entertainment because how unvarnished it is. You can't fake being a good stand up comedian. Similarly you can't fake building a great product. Martin, without any pretension, revels the struggle of the art. The book is both honest, entertaining and moving.
Bryan Burrough, John Helyar
Is 800 plus pages about essentially one private equity deal interesting? You bet it is. Although a bit sensationalized, this book is well researched and written. It’s also somewhat settling that modern warfare is fought in board rooms and proxy votes rather than canon fire and bayonets. Reading this book will also drive home the fact that, like many things, private equity is more than some a simple caricature of investors buying companies and firing people so they can buy bigger yachts.
One of the most striking things about Darwin was his amazing work ethic. What I found inspiring was the dogged nature of his quest for knowledge and truth. I think Darwin's daily habits underline a belief I've had for quite some time that our best work is done alone. Perhaps the reason this isn't championed more often as a path to success is that it is boring and by nature we are social animals. Also intriguing about Darwin is the non-obvious nature of his impact. There seems little evidence from Darwin's teenage years that he would become such an influential scientist.
This book is not only an education on Niger Delta and its people, but also on the blind spots of capitalism. Reading this book opened my eyes to the modern ways that managment of large, private organizations can participate in gross abuse.