Four Months Worth of Book Reviews in Ten Minutes

It’s been a while since I’ve written any book reviews, though I’ve still been reading at a normal pace. My time has been taken up on a few interesting personal projects. Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick rundown of what I’ve read and whether it’s worth a look. In the unlikely event that anyone wants a longer review, just let me know.

General Business Topics

  • How to Build a Business and Sell it for Millions by Jack Garson.  A manual on the process of selling a successful business. It starts from the premise that you need to be aware up front that selling the business is an option so that when the time comes it’s set up to be convenient. Recommended. (A signed copy of this was kindly given to me by Giang Biscan).
  • Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim. Do you want to be an entrepreneur, and if so how do you go about it? It’s a good book, but I don’t think I’m the target audience.
  • The Little Big Things – 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence by Tom Peters.  This is sort of a stream-of-consciousness collection of thoughts on corporate excellence. I didn’t like this much, it felt unstructured and sort of thrown together and it bored the pants off me. YMMV
  • Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. Fantastic read. Livingston interviews successful startup founders about the chaotic days of company building. Real in-the-dirt war stories from the dot com days, really enjoyable and inspiring.

Creativity

  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while. This is very relevant for anyone selling a technology product, as it digs into how to bridge the gap between all the information you know about your product (The ‘curse of knowledge’) and what your customers need is. Highly recommended.
  • A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. This is a manual on how to train your mind to be more creative. I’m not sure why I read this one, as I already have more ideas than time to do anything with them. It’s short, pretty common sense (to me maybe), but enjoyable.
  • It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. A guide to making the best of yourself by an award winning creative. Contrarian advice with a useful message.
  • All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin. A book on framing your story for the audience you’re trying to reach, and telling authentic stories that resonate. Maybe I’ve read too many of Seth’s books at this stage, but this just felt like ‘more of the same’. A good read if you haven’t read some of his other stuff.

Design

  • Cadence & Slang by Nick Disabato. A fantastic book spawned from a kickstarter project. This covers the gamut of product design, usability, and technology in one really nice looking book. Concepts that mildly annoyed me were the occasionally proscriptive tone ‘A product should…‘, and some minor philosophical ideas which go against the Lean Startup philosophy which I’m fond of. Very comprehensive, beautifully designed book covering a huge breadth of topics really well.
  • Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter. How to create technology that is intrinsically social by figuring out the interactions of the users and their needs at the outset, and keep users coming back. Really digs into the specifics of social oriented technology design very well. Ten demerits for a totally out-of-place chapter on “Authentic Conversations”. Puh-leaase.

As a break from the usual business books, I also read “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand to see what all the fuss is about. The Fountainhead has more straw men than an archery contest, but the underlying message is an interesting take on ignoring the status quo and creating something of value for the sake of creation alone. Great arguments against design-by-committee, and contrarian attitudes in general. The book doesn’t quite explain the difference between a creative loner genius who the world doesn’t have the intelligence to recognize and the loner nutcase who’s just deluding himself, but maybe they’re different sides of the same coin seen from different perspectives.

Most interesting point that I took from the Fountainhead is that people will happily sink into whatever tripe that society throws at them. Rand describes the sort of moronic time-wasting that people spend their time on in the 1930s, and it’s no different to today judging by the amount of X-factor and “the apprentice” tweets offending my eyes every week. Bitter rant aside – go read some books. I’m going back to writing code.

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