Books I Read in 2015 & Recommend

In addition to a number of Rick Steves’ and Lonely Planet books for my summer-long travels across Europe, here are a few books that I read in 2015 and recommend.

  • Biography / Business: Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon is an engrossing chronicle of the obsessive hard-driving personality of its founder-CEO and the company that has played the pivotal role in the shift from brick-and-mortar retail to online retail.
  • 'Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul' by Howard Schultz, Joanne Gordon (ISBN 1609613821)Biography / Leadership: Starbucks founder Howard Schultz’s Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul is an interesting depiction of Starbucks’ turnaround after Schultz returned as CEO in 2008. Read Onward for a case study of the founder’s syndrome in action and a self-congratulatory portrait of a charismatic entrepreneur and brilliant corporate cheerleader. Read my summary.
  • Biography / Business: Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future is a biography of America’s current most audacious entrepreneur and Silicon Valley’s most prominent innovator. While the book details Musk’s bold leadership decisions, it also serves as a great reminder of how an extreme personality and intense success are not without their costs. Read my comments.
  • Decision-Making: Phil Rosenzweig’s Left Brain Right Stuff delineates distinct but complementary skills required for making winning decisions: logical analysis and calculation (left brain skills) and as well as the willingness to take risks, push boundaries, and go beyond what has been done before (right brain skills.)
  • 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' by Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (ISBN 0393316041)Biographies / Mental Models: Physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman’s scientific curiosity knew no bounds. His academic life, acuity, life-philosophy, and ability to communicate science are inspirational to anyone pursuing his/her own life’s fulfillment. The following biographies capture his many scientific achievements, playfulness, varied interests and hobbies, and—perhaps most notably—his many eccentricities.
  • 'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835)Biography / Business: Sam Walton’s bestseller autobiography Made in America is very educational, insightful, and stimulating. Walton inspired legions of other entrepreneurs who thrive on managing costs and prices to gain competitive advantage. Read about an important lesson from this book about cost and price as a competitive advantage.
  • Decision-Making: Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 Rule advocates considering the potential positive and negative consequences of all decisions in the immediate present, the near term, and the distant future: or in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. Read my summary.
  • Biography / Mental Models: Walter Isaacson’s A Benjamin Franklin Reader is an excellent collection of the writings of Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s most beloved founding fathers. Franklin was a polymath renowned for his lifelong quest for self-improvement.
  • 'The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere' by Pico Iyer (ISBN 1476784728)Philosophy: Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness argues the importance of taking a timeout from busyness. Iyer contends, “In an age of speed … nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing could feel more luxurious than paying attention.” Read my summary.
  • Biographies / Art / Philosophy: Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith’s Van Gogh: The Life and Michael Howard’s Van Gogh: His Life & Works in 500 Images paint a vivid picture of the artistic genius and the troubled personal life of Vincent van Gogh. Ever Yours is an absorbing anthology of correspondence between Vincent and his brother Theo. Ever Yours sheds light on Vincent’s shifting moods, turbulent life, and philosophical evolution as an artist.
  • Management: Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s One Minute Manager is a best-selling introductory business book about goal-setting and giving feedback. Read my summary.
  • Biographies: Tenzing Norgay’s autobiography Man of Everest and Yves Malartic’s Tenzing of Everest portray the personal triumph of a poor and illiterate but ambitious, deeply religious explorer.

On a related note, read my article about reading hacks: How to Process that Pile of Books You Can’t Seem to Finish. Also see books I read in 2014 & recommend.

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