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10 Favorite Books of 2019


These books either changed the way I looked at the world or taught me something that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The 10 books listed below deserve extra recognition for being so awesome, so without further delay, here they are (in no particular order):

10) The Making of a Manager — Julie Zhuo

Here is the Goodreads link to the book.

In this book, Julie Zhuo writes about here experiences as growing to become a manager at Facebook. She started as a designer, but during the time that she was at the company, she was promoted to a manager. And she had no experience. How did she learn to become a manager, what does it take, and what kind of “learn-it-the-hard-way” things can you bump into?

It’s a really good book on management, leadership, facilitating work and involving others to grow. For both the manager to grow and for the people around them to grow.

9) Alchemy — Rory Sutherland

Here is the Goodreads link to the book.

Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy, Rory Sutherland, wrote this book to share his rules for business and life. He goes through so many examples of life where things really don’t make sense. Rory goes to great lengths to explain these phenomena from the world of commercial products and advertising. For example, he says that “simply adding colored flecks to a plain white powder will make people believe it is more effective, even if they do not know what role these flecks perform.”

8) Radical Candor — Kim Malone Scott

Here is the Goodreads link to the book.

Kim Scott created a tool called Radical Candor, which gives managers the ability to challenge people directly and show that they care personally, at the same time. If done correctly, it will help the manager and all the people around them to do the best work of their lives and build trusted relationships throughout your career.

If followed correctly and relentlessly fostered in a company, Radical Candor can create a great place to work, and it prevent negativity and prevent politics.

Watch this video for the summary on the concept.

7) Work Rules! — Laszlo Bock

Here is the Goodreads link to the book.

This is the fundamental HR book for startups. Laszlo Bock was the Head of HR at Google for over a decade and he basically saw the company from from a startup to tens of thousands of people.

In this book, Laszlo Bock describes all the facets of HR and how they were applied to solving problems that Google had, when it came to hiring, to building better performing teams, to managing people and to growing at rapid pace. For example, how do you hire a thousand people in one month?

Take a look at the video below for more.

6) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team — Patrick Lencioni

Here is the Goodreads link to the book.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a fictional book about a tech company who has just hired a new CEO. The CEO sees dysfunctional team, and starts to work on making the team function well together.

Building a cohesive leadership team is super important in building a successful company. Without 1) trust, you can’t build a team. The next thing is 2) conflict, coupled with trust, which becomes the pursuit of truth.

Without conflict, there is no 3) commitment. There is buy-in, when there’s commitment. Without commitment, there won’t be 4) accountability. If people don’t hold each other accountable, they will bump into the lack of attention to 5) results.

Check out the video below for me.

5) Trillion Dollar Coach — Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle

Here’s the Goodreads link to the book.

I first heard about the late Bill Campbell when I read Hard Thing About Hard Things, where Ben Horowitz talks about his advisor, Bill Campbell, and the many moments where Horowitz and his company Opsware were almost about to hit the ground and crash.

Bill Campbell was a coach, mentor, and advisor for several of the Silicon Valley giants, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt who wrote the book.

One quote from Bill which encapsulates the book: “Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader.” Also, that leadership is never about you, it’s about something bigger. It’s about the team, about the mission and the vision for the company. When you have a problem with the company, you should always first have the right people in the company and then you start working on the problem with the right people.

Bill first asked people who he’d start working with: “Are you coachable?” Watch the video below to learn more.

4) Range — David Epstein

Here’s the Goodreads link to the book.

I really loved this book. It helped me think about diversifying my areas of interest, and understanding how much it matters to have lots of interest and Range.

People often say that you need to put 10,000 hours into a certain skill to master the skill. That might be true, by the true masters didn’t only put 10k hours into skill, but first sampled other skills before committing to a particular skill.

Watch the video below to learn more. I high recommend this book.

3) 7 Powers: The Foundations of Business Strategy — Hamilton Helmer

Here’s the Goodreads link to the book.

This is the best economics book that I’ve read about companies becoming dominant because of certain powers that they’ve capture. Examples range from Apple’s rise to Pixar, to In-N-Out Burger, to Netflix.

A power is a set of conditions creating the potential for persistent differential returns. Helmer then breaks it down to activities: Statics is about “Being There”. What makes a business so durably valuable? Dynamics is about “Getting There”. What developments yielded this attractive state of affairs in the first place?

It’s a fascinating book and quite easily digestible. And nerdy in a good way 🤓

I couldn’t find a proper video on the book, but this podcast episode with Hamilton Helmer from May 2020 is stellar!

2) The Score Takes Care of Itself — Bill Walsh

Here’s the Goodreads link to the book.

The Score Takes Care of Itself is probably the most inspiring leadership books out there. I was so dumbfounded after reading the first 50 pages. There was so much wisdom there, especially in the similarities of leading an NFL organization, to leading a growing games company. Bill Walsh was the San Francisco 49er’s coach in the 1980’s, and he developed totally new kinds of ways to find success.

There are stories of failure as well, but in all those failures, there was genuine insight into how you’d prevent similar failures in the future. Especially this line is important: “Concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, the process rather than the prize.”.

Check out the video below. Joe Montana talks about Bill Walsh.

1) Start With Why — Simon Sinek

Here’s the Goodreads link to the book.

This is the most fundamental book for startup entrepreneurs. This is the guide for building a company that can stand out. The message goes as follows:

Your ordinary company thinks and messages about itself with the how and what. The what could that we make RPG games, and then how could be that they have the most characters, the most detailed graphics and the quickest loading times.

The brilliant companies, the ones that stand out, are the ones who start with why. For a games company, the why could be that we challenge the status quo with our games, or that we a strategy gamers and we are building games for the strategy gamer audience, or that we’ve always been there for art in games, now we’re going to take art to the next level.

I wrote about how gaming entrepreneurs can utilize the lessons of Start With Why, check it out here.

Here’s the TED talk where it all got started.

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