Welcome to my digital bookshelf, where I share the books I have been reading. Titles link out to Goodreads, and my Notes & Highlights can be found here. This year I have started to include two to four key highlights from each book.


Reading List 2019


Rory Sutherland, How to Be an Alchemist

“Metrics, and especially averages, encourage you to focus on the middle of a market, but innovation happens at the extremes.”

“The problems occur when people try to solve ‘wide’ problems using ‘narrow’ thinking. Keynes once said, ‘It is better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong’, and evolution seems to be on his side.”

“As any devotee of Sherlock Holmes will tell you, paying attention to trivial things is not necessarily a waste of time, because the most important clues may often seem irrelevant and a lot of life is best understood by observing trivial details.”


Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy Bad Strategy

“The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.”

“A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation.”

“A new strategy is, in the language of science, a hypothesis, and its implementation is an experiment. As results appear, good leaders learn more about what does and doesn’t work and adjust their strategies accordingly.”


Andre Iguodala, The Sixth Man *

“See, any kind of greatness takes work. Everyone knows that. But what fewer people understand is that work itself takes faith. You have to have faith that the work you’re doing will bring about results, otherwise you’ll lose interest.”

“And maybe the obsessive focus is where I feel most like myself. During the playoffs, and especially the finals, you are nowhere but in the game. At home, you’re in the game. In bed, you’re in the game. Even on days off, you’re thinking about every play that happened, how it unfolded, how it should have unfolded.”


Ichiro Kishimi, The Courage to Be Disliked

“Why are you rushing for answers? You should arrive at answers on your own, not rely upon what you get from someone else. Answers from others are nothing more than stopgap measures; they’re of no value.”

“All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in. On the other hand, what kind of judgment do other people pass on that choice? That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about.”


Tim Madigan, I’m Proud of You

“Fred wanted to know the truth of your life, the nature of your insides, and had room enough in his own spirit to embrace without judgment whatever that truth might be.”

"”In times of tragedy, look for the helpers,” Nancy McFeely Rogers would often tell her son. “They’re always there. Perhaps on the sidelines, but the helpers are always there.””


Michelle Obama, Becoming *

“Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, they helped me see the value in our story, in my story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

“You got somewhere by building that better reality, if at first only in your own mind. Or as Barack had put it that night, you may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”


Andre Agassi, Open *

“I can’t promise you that you won’t be tired, he says. But please know this. There’s a lot of good waiting for you on the other side of tired. Get yourself tired, Andre. That’s where you’re going to know yourself. On the other side of tired.”

“This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting value or meaning. This is why we’re here. To make each other feel safe.”

“I play and keep playing because I choose to play. Even if it’s not your ideal life, you can always choose it. No matter what your life is, choosing it changes everything.”


Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

“As we come to make the most important decisions in the history of life, I personally would trust more in those who admit ignorance than in those who claim infallibility.”

“As a species, humans prefer power to truth. We spend far more time and effort on trying to control the world than on trying to understand it—and even when we try to understand it, we usually do so in the hope that understanding the world will make it easier to control it.”

“So the best advice I can give a fifteen-year-old stuck in an outdated school somewhere in Mexico, India, or Alabama is: don’t rely on the adults too much. Most of them mean well, but they just don’t understand the world.”

“Suffering is not an objective condition in the outside world. It is a mental reaction generated by my own mind. Learning this is the first step toward ceasing to generate more suffering.”


Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

“Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things. I knew these truths abstractly, but I didn’t know them concretely—that they could be truths not just for everyone but also for this person right in front of me, for this person I was responsible for.”

“The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.”

“Endings matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind.”


Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

“Because I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out.”

“Paul’s decision not to avert his eyes from death epitomizes a fortitude we don’t celebrate enough in our death-avoidant culture. His strength was defined by ambition and effort, but also by softness, the opposite of bitterness.”


Tara Westover, Educated

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”

“The lecturer tried to clarify. He said positive liberty is self-mastery—the rule of the self, by the self. To have positive liberty, he explained, is to take control of one’s own mind; to be liberated from irrational fears and beliefs, from addictions, superstitions and all other forms of self-coercion.”

“You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education.”


Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow *

“Each and every one of us has been born into a given historical reality, ruled by particular norms and values, and managed by a unique economic and political system. We take this reality for granted, thinking it is natural, inevitable and immutable. We forget that our world was created by an accidental chain of events, and that history shaped not only our technology, politics and society, but also our thoughts, fears and dreams.”

“People are usually afraid of change because they fear the unknown. But the single greatest constant of history is that everything changes.”

“We aren’t born with a ready-made conscience. As we pass through life we hurt people and people hurt us, we act compassionately and others show compassion to us. If we pay attention, our moral sensitivity sharpens, and these experiences become a source of valuable ethical knowledge about what is good, what is right and who I really am.”

“In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. We just don’t know what to pay attention to, and often spend our time investigating and debating side issues. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore. So considering everything that is happening in our chaotic world, what should we focus on?”


Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind *

“Our language evolved as a way of gossiping. According to this theory Homo sapiens is primarily a social animal. Social cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction.”

“So why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.”

“The willingness to admit ignorance has made modern science more dynamic, supple and inquisitive than any previous tradition of knowledge. This has hugely expanded our capacity to understand how the world works and our ability to invent new technologies.”

“Behind the meteoric rise of both science and empire lurks one particularly important force: capitalism. Were it not for businessmen seeking to make money, Columbus would not have reached America, James Cook would not have reached Australia, and Neil Armstrong would never have taken that small step on the surface of the moon.”


Seneca, How to Keep Your Cool

“There is no reason to trust the words of angry people, which make loud and menacing noise despite the great timidity of the mind that lies beneath.”

“Delay is the greatest remedy for anger. Ask of your anger, at the outset, not to grant forgiveness but to exercise judgment. Its first impulses are harsh ones; it will relent if it waits.”

“Soon we’ll spit out our life’s breath. For the moment, while we still draw it, while we’re in the human world, let’s cherish our humanity. Let’s not be a source of fear or danger to anyone.”


John Carreyrou, Bad Blood

“Why had Holmes always been so secretive about her technology? Why had she never recruited a board member with even basic knowledge of blood science? And why hadn’t a single venture capital firm with expertise in health care put money into the company?”

“But in her all-consuming quest to be the second coming of Steve Jobs amid the gold rush of the “unicorn” boom, there came a point when she stopped listening to sound advice and began to cut corners. Her ambition was voracious and it brooked no interference. If there was collateral damage on her way to riches and fame, so be it.”


Paul Jarvis, Company of One

“Start small, define growth, and keep learning.”

“The more you begin to treat new customers as real relationships that you can grow and foster, and the more you can figure out how what you do can help them, the more likely they are to want to stay on as customers.”

“Marketing is simply building a sense of trust and empathy with a specific group of people by consistently communicating with them.”


Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind *

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

“When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way.”

“There is no way set up for us. Moment after moment we have to find our own way. Some idea of perfection, or some perfect way which is set up by someone else, is not the true way for us.”


Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings

“What moves me is watching young men bond together and tap into the magic that arises when they focus—with their whole heart and soul—on something greater than themselves.”

“One thing I’ve learned as a coach is that you can’t force your will on people. If you want them to act differently, you need to inspire them to change themselves.”

“Acting mindfully is key to building strong, trusting relationships, especially when you’re in a leadership role.”


Phil Knight, Shoe Dog *

“History is one long processional of crazy ideas. The things I loved most—books, sports, democracy, free enterprise—started as crazy ideas.”

“No matter the sport—no matter the human endeavor, really—total effort will win people’s hearts.”

“Oneness—in some way, shape, or form, it’s what every person I’ve ever met has been seeking.”

“Have faith in yourself, but also have faith in faith. Not faith as others define it. Faith as you define it. Faith as faith defines itself in your heart.”


Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising

“The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.”

“The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place himself in the position of the buyer. His success largely depends on doing that to the exclusion of everything else.”

“We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, success. Then point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite.”


David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising *

“The Benton & Bowles agency holds that ‘if it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.’ Amen.”

“Sustain unremitting pressure on the professional standards of your staff. It is suicide to settle for second-rate performance.”

“Advertising which promises no benefit to the consumer does not sell, yet the majority of campaigns contain no promise whatever.”

“Concentrate your time, your brains, and your advertising money on your successes. Back your winners, and abandon your losers.”


Mark Horstman, The Effective Manager

“Your first responsibility is to deliver whatever results your organization expects from you.”

“The problem with not having clearly delineated responsibilities is that you can’t make intelligent choices about where to focus. You begin to feel that “everything is important.” You begin to “try to get everything done.””

“Before trying to get more of everything done, get the most important things done first.”

“If you want to be a great manager, do these things with love. What I mean is professional love: the willingness to risk yourself for the benefit of another.”


Fitzpatrick & Collins-Sussman, Debugging Teams

“Almost every social conflict can ultimately be traced back to a lack of humility, respect, or trust.”

“Try to appreciate inquiry: when someone questions a decision or statement you made, remember that this person is usually just trying to better understand you.”

“Trust is your most sacred resource. Watch it carefully. Measure the size of the bank account. Before every move, think about how it will affect the bank account. Focus on your long-term image, not short-term conveniences.”


Epictetus, The Art of Living

“Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor what they seem to be. They are what they are.”

“Be suspicious of convention. Take charge of your own thinking. Rouse yourself from the daze of unexamined habit. Popular perceptions, values, and ways of doing things are rarely the wisest.”

“As concerns the art of living, the material is your own life. No great thing is created suddenly. There must be time. Give your best and always be kind.”


Ben Reiter, Astroball

“If a human being can sense it, a human being can quantify it. If he can quantify it, he can learn about it.”

“Innovation, by definition, suggests change will be taking place. If there’s change taking place, it’s not likely going to feel right. If it felt right, it would have been done a long time ago.”


Reading List 2018 (17)


Reading List 2017 (13)


Reading List Prior Years