Book Reviews

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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I just reread THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath. It was even more powerful the second time. What a brilliant and tragic story. The fact that it’s based on her actual experience makes it all the more poignant. She captures her emotions and crystalizes them for all to see. Few authors can be this honest and raw in the face of a cruel world.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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I just finished reading THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls. If you like memoirs, this is as good as it gets. It’s the true story of a girl growing up in America with two wild parents. Her mother is a carefree artist, and her father is philosophical dream and town drunk.

I won’t spoil it for you. Just read it!

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow

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I just finished reading the book Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller by Ron Chernow.

John D. Rockefeller was a mystery, even to his closest friends and family. He was a living contradiction: a ruthless oil baron, who amassed an incredible fortune by driving competitors to the point of bankruptcy by any means possible; and a deeply religious man who shunned displays of wealth, went to Church every Sunday, loved his family, and gave away most of his fortune to charity.

Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard

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If you liked my previous post about believing in yourself, you have to read the book Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard . It’s the story of how Winston Churchill made his name fighting in the Boer War in Africa.

Churchill was remarkable in that he was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, even though he was only twenty-four years old and had just lost his first election campaign.

Kissinger by Walter Isaacson

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Walter Isaacson is a master of the biography. He wrote Steve Job’s biography. If you like that, you’ll love this!

Just finished reading the biography of Henry Kissinger, who was in charge of American foreign policy under Richard Nixon. Kissinger architected the first meeting with Mao, the thawing of relations between the US and China, and the policy of detente.

Kissinger was a complex, troubled man, who was both brilliant, paranoid and devious. The author, Isaacson, did an amazing job at capturing Kissinger’s personality and explaining the complex political environment he operated in.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

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If you live in a society with high levels of social trust, you are more likely to make more money and live a longer, healthier life.

In Brazil, only 10% of people trust each other, while in countries like Norway, it’s 70%. The United States is in-between these two extremes.

If you want to know more about this fascinating phenomena, read the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.

Unfortunately, in the United States, social trust is declining!

Building the Internet of Things by Maciej Kranz

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I just read BUILDING THE INTERNET OF THINGS by Maciej Kranz. If you’re a manager in a large corporation thinking of deploying IoT technology, this is book offers a good starting point.

It’s really a beginners guide. It’s not very technical, and it doesn’t go in-depth, but it does offer some good basic advice.

It has a few interesting case studies, but I was expecting more. My main problem is that it felt repetitive. The author says the same things over and over, and halfway through, I started skipping chapters.

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg

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Just finished reading TRACTION by Gabriel Weinberg. It’s a very practical book, providing hands-on advice on how to acquire customers. It gives basic advice on SEO, PR, SEM, social networks, funnels, targeting, etc.

Great for a first-time entrepreneur. More experienced marketers can skip it.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

nixJust read THE NIX by Nathan Hill. It’s brilliant, hilarious and mind-bending… that is, for the first half of the book. After that, it slowly loses its brilliance.

Is it worth reading? Definitely, if only for the first half. It’s Hill’s debut novel, and it’s an amazing achievement for a first-time author.

I expect big things from him in the future. But it’s simply too long. He could have cut it down by 30% and had a perfect novel.

South of No North by Charles Bukowski

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I’m on a Charles Bukowski binge. Just finished reading SOUTH OF NO NORTH.

Juicy Bukowski Quotes:

“To be young is the only religion.”

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t.”

“The courage it took to get out of bed each morning to face the same things over and over was enormous.”

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

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Just read HOLLYWOOD by Charles Bukowski. It’s been years since I indulged in Bukowski’s barroom banter, and it was just as messy, screwed up and thoroughly delightful as ever.

His drunken, misogynistic musings are crude, crafty and hilarious. If you’ve never tried Bukowski, grab a bottle and chug it down. He’s the real deal.

Bukowski Quotes:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.”

The $100 Startup

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Just read THE $100 STARTUP by Chris Guillebeau. It’s a great book if you plan on starting a small business. It’s full of useful tips and encouraging words for entrepreneurs who want to quit their day job and work for themselves.

However, if you plan on starting a venture funded tech startup, this isn’t your book. It’s not written for entrepreneurs who want to build a big business that investors would be interested in funding.

The Ultralight Startup

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Just finished reading THE ULTRALIGHT STARTUP by Jason Baptiste. It goes into detail about how to launch a startup without much money or clout.

If you haven’t read many books on launching startups, this is a good book to get you going. However, if you’ve read a lot or have experience, you probably can skip this book. You’ll know most of what it says already.

The American

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Just read THE AMERICAN by Henry James. What makes this novel so fascinating is that a wealthy man, who has nearly everything, is denied his true love precisely because of his good and honorable nature.

If he had been the least bit deceitful or immoral he could have obtained his prize. Unfortunately, his own goodness condemns him to a life without love.

Industries of the Future

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INDUSTRIES OF THE FUTURE by Alec Ross is a smart, well-written book about how startups and technology are changing business and where things are headed. The biggest takeaway is that open societies where women can fully participate will flourish, while overly restrictive governments that curb free markets will suffer.

Dear Leader

leaderJust finished reading “Dear Leader” by Jang Jin-Sung. It’s the unbelievable true story of how a high-level government official escaped from North Korea.

The book works on many levels. It gives a vivid account of the suffering in North Korea; it’s a gripping tale of escape, with all the twists and turns of an action novel; and it’s a political and social commentary.

I love this book!

Inside the Dream Palace

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The book “Inside the Dream Palace” is about the legendary Chelsea Hotel.

The Chelsea started out as a 19th century experiment in communal living and evolved to become home to many of New York’s brightest writers and luminaries, including Andy Warhol, Mark Twain, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison and scores of others.

If you want to build an intensely creative, chaotic and counter-culture ecosystem, read this book!

Think Like a Freak

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I love the book THINK LIKE A FREAK. If you aren’t already familiar with the Freakonomics series, you should check this out. Like all of their work, it’s filled in eye-opening insights into economics, business and human nature.

How and why do people do what the do? That’s the question they ask, and they teach you how to think outside the box. The book is filled with examples of freaky thinkers. It reveals how a skinny Japanese guy became the world’s #1 hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed deadly bacteria, and why Nigerian email scammers write such idiotic emails.

The Future of the Mind

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Just read FUTURE OF THE MIND by Michio Kaku. It’s a mind-blowing book on how our brains work, the nature of consciousness, and the way future technologies will change how we think, communicate, and experience reality.

The Next Species: The Future of Evolution in the Aftermath of Man

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I just read THE NEXT SPECIES by Michael Tennesen. This book asks whether humans will eventually go extinct. The answer is YES. There is a 99.99% chance that we will disappear in the next 100 million years. If you look back at earth’s history, there were five mass extinctions already:

1) Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction
2) Late Devonian mass extinction
3) Permian mass extinction
4) Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction
5) Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction