2017 was an interesting year for us all, and there were some great books. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite reads from the year - in no particular order. Please let me know your favorites.
This is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s an inside glance at how AirBnB got started, the creativity and challenges the founders used to get through the early days, and how this disruptive startup took off. From the early days of “you’re letting a stranger in your house!” to their plans for the future, this book will inspire you and motivate you to see opportunity differently and to embrace the challenges that come with disruption.
This book came out in the summer of 2016, and the Silicon Valley took note. It is very much the Hatching Twitter of the ad tech world and has all the elements of a Silicon Valley story of our age: ego, technology accelerators, twists of luck, fast cars, and of course, the Rosewood Hotel. It’s a must read for anyone in ad tech. I enjoyed it but if you haven’t read Hatching Twitter and you aren’t in ad tech, I’d pick it up first.
SHOE DOG Another of my favorites, this story reveals all that Phil Knight went through to build Nike: the early days of importing shoes from Japan, the dynamics of international business historically at that time, how hard it was to raise capital before the big venture firms, and how a scrappy team pulled off such an amazing success. I recommend this book for entrepreneurs to be reminded that great businesses aren’t built overnight. I also recommend it for anyone working on a consumer product.
ELON MUSK There are few technologists as interesting as Elon Musk. Hear about his incredibly ambitious goals to help humanity, how his dedication has affected his life, and the journey of his brilliance. It will have you looking up at the sky differently.
POWERHOUSE I listen to many books through Audible, but not this one! This book is easier to read on paper. It follows many people’s account of the Creative Artists Agency through the founding years to current, and it is difficult to keep up with the names and who is saying what on the audio version. But don’t let this prevent you from picking this one up. Reading about how CAA revolutionized the entertainment business by building a culture of openness and packaging writers and actors to sell a deal is very interesting.
THE SNOWBALL Definitely listen to this one on Audible. It is long… 39 hours of listening, but worth it. It goes through Warren Buffett’s life as a play by play and tells the detailed journey of how he became one of the world’s richest men. The story highlights his initial investing strategy and how it changed throughout the years, and also his human foibles - which are all quite endearing and largely what drove him.
WHAT HAPPENED I recommend reading this book no matter what side of the table you are on. Not only does it help to understand how to be more involved politically and why it’s important, but it shows the challenges that Hillary faced as a woman - and how that has inspired the #metoo movement.
OPTION B I can’t say that I made it all the way through Lean In. I started it. But then male bosses, who were unaware of the fight women face each day in the corporate environment, started telling the women they manage to “lean in” - throwing our own struggle back at us. And so I distanced myself from the book. But I loved Option B. It is for anyone who has faced a huge personal crisis and grief, taking one step at a time to come back.
This short book is not innovative or necessarily transformative. It’s more of a sales book, and a great, easy read when you need reminders of the basics of business and how to play your ambition.