As the author Joyce Carol Oates exclaims: “Read widely and without apology. Read what you want to read, not what someone tells you you should read.”
Good advice in my opinion.
Charlie Munger, the billionaire partner of Warren Buffet states: “I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart.”
I read to learn and stretch my imagination. I believe it’s important to get out of your own bubble and experience the wider world through reading.
I also believe in inter-disciplinary reading. Most of my new ideas for the music business come from things I learned reading about another industries, historical figures or human psychology.
This list is my second edition. Here is the 2014 list.
Here are some of my favorite books I read in 2015. Hopefully you will find one or two useful to you and your journey.
Boyd, The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War – Robert Coram
Colonel John Boyd was a fighter; both as an undefeated combat pilot in the US Air Force and later as an intellectual renegade in the halls of the Pentagon. Boyd relentlessly attacked every challenge and obstacle while forever influencing the design of aircraft, theory of conflict and military strategy. Some say he is the greatest military theoretician since Sun Tzu.
Thinking Fast & Slow – Daniel Kahneman
For those interested in how the human brain works, this New York Times best seller – written by a renowned pychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in economics – is a great place to start. Kahneman explores the idea of two separate systems of thinking: System 1 is intuitive, fast and impulsive; System 2 is rational, logical and methodical. Through stories, studies and antidotes, he reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions to make judgements. The book includes applications for business, investing and life.
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator – Ryan Holiday
I was so impressed and inspired by this book I wrote an entire post on how to hack the media using the methods described. Pulling from his diverse background as a book marketer, Director of Marketing for American Apparel and as a writer – author Ryan Holiday takes the reader through entertaining, uncomfortable and shocking examples of media manipulation. His approach with the book isn’t malicious, rather he reveals how to exploit the sausage factory of lazy, incomplete and rapid media practices and why you shouldn’t follow the exact methods he used. You will be appalled, entertained and invigorated all at once.
Fooled By Randomness / The Black Swan / Antifragile – Nassim Taleb
Prepare to question everything you’ve ever believed about why things happen, control over destiny and fortune. These three books are a trilogy that, read in succession, pull the reader towards an inevitable conclusion in the final volume – Antifragile. Taleb is a trader in the financial markets and an unapologetic intellectual with bold ideas that fly in the face of most common education and conventional wisdom. Refuting most bell-curve statistical methods, Taleb instead proposes that world-changing events are in fact random, black swan events that cannot be predicted, explained or risk-managed by conventional methods. This topic is covered extensively in both Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. In Antifragile, Taleb takes this idea and puts it into practice. If events are random, how should you structure your life to benefit and not just survive? Something that is Antifragile is something that benefits from volatility instead of breaking down or merely maintaining. These books contain heavy mathematical and philosophical concepts, but still can be enjoyed without understanding of the exact models the author describes.
Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived – Laurence Shames & Peter Barton
When successful entrepreneur and businessman Peter Barton learned that he had contracted a deadly disease, he choose to chronicle the experience – physically, mentally and emotionally – leading to his life’s end. Barton, assisted by Shames’ gentle writing, demonstrates vigor in his thinking and living and leaves the reader with a raw portrait of mortality and the essence of humanity. I challenge you to make it through this book without shedding a tear!
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
This New York Times bestseller by a renowned historian leads readers on a journey – from the days when multiples species of humans roamed the earth, to the current age, and eventually explores a future where artificial intelligence reigns. I found it fascinating to explore the history of my own species as homo sapiens gradually took over the world to arrive at the top of the food chain. Even more interesting was contemplating the notion that all human institutions – nation states, values, laws, rights, etc are nothing more than narratives we collectively believe rather than fundamental truths as defined by physics (gravity for example). This book was more interesting and understandable than I originally expected.
On Writing: A Memoir to the Craft – Stephen King
In an era of creativity and knowledge work, I believe that the skill of writing has emerged as the most important to develop. Ideas need to be teased out, ideas need to be sold, ideas need to be explained. Someone who can write effectively will stand out among people used to communicating in blurbs and emojis. Stephen King, the famous fiction writer, takes the time to provide a reader with his own journey as well as offer his perspective on writing well.
What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars – Jim Paul
I picked up this book after a couple high-profile recommendations by Nassim Taleb and Tim Ferris among others. There are plenty of “charlatan” (as Taleb says) books on how to make money, trade stocks, etc – but very little on how to lose money (or how not to lose money). The author shares his personal story of a quick rise to “success” in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange only to watch his fortune disappear as a result of bad decisions and over confidence. The second half of the book educates readers on how to avoid the mental-traps that lead to failure in the markets and how to design and apply systems that protect the downside while allowing for an upside. I don’t take book recommendations from Taleb and Ferris lightly, neither should you.
Zero To One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel
Thiel is an entrepreneur, venture investor and outspoken libertarian thinker. Prepare to drink from a firehose of ideas, directives and blunt opinions. The author eviscerates the blind worship of “competition” in capitalism and instead proclaims “monopoly” as the ideal goal for any business. Thiel goes on to lay the groundwork for those interested in starting a business on what to avoid and how to think. The viewpoints are strong and unambiguous.
Letters from a Stoic – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The ancient philosophy of stoicism has been surfacing in contemporary writing and thinking. Stoicism is a school of thought that teaches personal development of self-control as a means to overcoming destructive emotions. Seneca rose to prominence in Rome in the first century AD. He experienced both the highest levels of success and complete despair as an exile. He is a man committed to not letting external circumstances shake his ethical grounding. Ancient wisdom that feels surprisingly relevant today.
SEE ALSO: Music Business Resources