A collection of all-time favorite reads.
*November 2013: I stopped updating this page in April. I’m now using Postach.io to share what I’m reading. You can see full articles + highlights there.
Business (mostly startups)
- 100 startup reads we love by the Hyperink team
- Bingo Card Creator Year in Review by Patrick McKenzie (Kalzumeus.com) – I love Patrick’s transparency and bootstrapping journey. His blog posts and newsletters are must-reads if you are interested in building (or are currently running) your own online business.
- Google’s 2004 Founders’ IPO Letter (Google) – inspiring and unique. Snippet: Sergey and I founded Google because we believed we could provide an important service to the world-instantly delivering relevant information on virtually any topic. Serving our end users is at the heart of what we do and remains our number one priority.
- It’s Not About You: The Truth About Social Media Marketing by Tim O’Reilly (LinkedIn) – the most effective social media marketing is creating tools and content to help communities achieve their goals. Snippet: Your job, in short, is to uncover and activate latent social networks and interest groups by helping them to reach their own goals.
- Netflix CEO Reed Hasting on Culture (Slideshare) – Reed (and Netflix) have recently gone through some tough times and their story has fallen out of favor with the media. But this is one of the most insightful, unique, and honest corporate presentations I’ve seen on the topic of culture, performance, and compensation. Snippet: The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go
- Spolsky’s Startup School talk (AVC) – a crucial decision for every entrepreneur: are you building a fast-growth, VC-worthy company, or an organic, slower-growth, cash-generating business?
- The Dividing Line (Max Cho) – simple yet profound. If anyone is curious what Jeff Bezos is thinking…
Career and Life Advice
- 10 Charts About Sex (OkCupid blog) – people are fascinating. Sex is fascinating. People’s sex habits, man! Snippet: Curvy women pass skinny ones in self-confidence at age 29 and never look back. They also consistently have the highest sex drive among the groups. Curvy, as a word, has the strongest sensual overtones of all our self-descriptions. So we’re getting a little insight into the real-world implications of a label.
- Applied Philosophy, a.k.a. “Hacking” by Paul Buchheit (Blogspot) – great and simple explanation of a valuable outlook on life and work. Although as important is WHAT you work on – problem choice is as important as the HOW. Snippet: Sometimes we catch a glimpse of the truth, and discover the actual rules of a system. Once the actual rules are known, it may be possible to perform “miracles” — things which violate the perceived rules.
- Broadcast Your Desires by Steve Pavlina (StevePavlina.com) – share more and reap more. Big fan of this concept but I am only 50% of where I want to be. Snippet: If you can’t broadcast your desires, it’s fair to say you don’t own them yet. How can your desires become real if you can’t speak up about them? If you’re going to receive them, then let it be known. If you find it necessary to hide what you desire, that suggests you aren’t ready to receive.
- Go West, Middle-Aged Man (Steven Johnson) – I have enormous respect for Steven Johnson and his writings. Snippet: An old friend who did a similar westward migration a few years ago told me that the great thing about moving is that the changed context helps you understand yourself and your family more deeply: you get to see all the things that you really loved about your old home—and the things that always bothered you without you fully recognizing it.
- How I Work by Paul Krugman (Princeton.edu) – enormous respect for Krugman’s no-nonsense approach to and clear passion for the issues. Snippet: A more important regret is that while the MIT course evaluations rate me as a pretty good lecturer, I have not yet succeeded in generating a string of really fine students, the kind who reflect glory on their teacher.
- late bloomer, not a loser. (I hope) (Dave McClure). Another classic from Dave, honest, powerful, irreverent. Snippet: Most folks thought I was a decent fellow, but over the hill with my best days behind me… and I guess I thought so too. I watched as other friends helped make companies like Google and Facebook and Twitter into juggernauts, but mostly I was on the sidelines, only peripherally involved in their big ideas.
- One Week On, One Week Off by Steve Pavlina (StevePavlina.com) – focus on play as much as you focus on work. Easier for those with flexible work schedules. Snippet: An “off” week is all about sharpening the saw. Let me clarify that this is NOT the same thing as having a lazy week. It’s not about taking time off and chilling out. That’s the equivalent of putting the saw down. The blade won’t get any sharper if you just put it down.
- The Career Craftsman Manifesto (Cal Newport) – Cal is the man. Snippet: The Career Craftsman believes that compelling careers are not courageously pursued or serendipitously discovered, but are instead systematically crafted.
- The Puzzle by Christopher Michel (Explorers.com) – beautiful and profound piece by Chris Michel on travel and by extension, life. Snippet: But the answers can’t be found in accumulating more. You knew that already. Well, so did I, but I’m not sure I really believed it. I do now. Happiness is reality minus expectations. And Americans, in particular, have some pretty high expectations. You do the math.
- 10 wonderful Chinese words without English equivalents (Jenny Zhu) – keqi is such a great example. Love the nuances in language
- Can you get fit in 6 minutes a week? (NYT) – high-intensity interval training can increase strength & endurance
- That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stranger (NYT.com) – fascinating reporting on Jure Robic, one of the world’s greatest ultra-endurance athletes. Snippet: The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical weeklong race, his speech goes staccato. By Day 3, he is belligerent and sometimes paranoid. His short-term memory vanishes, and he weeps uncontrollably. The last days are marked by hallucinations: bears, wolves and aliens prowl the roadside; asphalt cracks rearrange themselves into coded messages. Occasionally, Robic leaps from his bike to square off with shadowy figures that turn out to be mailboxes. In a 2004 race, he turned to see himself pursued by a howling band of black-bearded men on horseback.
- The Virgin Father (NYMag) – how Trent Arsenault fathered hundreds of kids through unorthodox sperm donation methods. Snippet: By now, he has perfected his donor routine. He drinks his evening smoothie precisely two hours before the recovery. He drinks spring water to hydrate, and winds down from the workday by changing into comfortable clothes. He now uses medical specimen cups rather than Ziplocs, which are hard to keep warm and possibly unsterile. He no longer accepts recipients who require shipping or who are not in a romantic relationship.
- This man fasted for 382 days and lost 276 lbs!!! Wowowowwowow… (Postgrad Medical Journal)
Humor and Lighthearted-ness
- 21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity (Buzzfeed) – yes I’m a sucker for these things
- 33 Animals Who Are Extremely Disappointed In You (Buzzfeed) – hilarious photos (including the disappointed bear above! :)
- Funny jokes about the difference between men and women (Quora)
- OkCupid: An exploration into just how low some guys will go (Mandatory.com) – hilarious how desperate we can all become in our attempts to find true (or imagined) love
- The distractions of social media, 1673 style TomStandage.com – helpful reminder of history’s cyclical nature. Snippet: When coffee became popular in Oxford and the coffeehouses selling it began to multiply, the university authorities objected, fearing that coffeehouses were promoting idleness and diverting students from their studies.
- What Is Your Biggest Secret Desire That You Are Ashamed Of Telling Anyone? Reddit – love reddit for precisely these sorts of half-crazy, half-brutally honest windows into human psychology. The top vote-getter: In the middle of the night, I would pack one bag and drive away from my life. Not look back for one second and drive clear across the country. Find a small, rural town and just rebuild where nobody has an idea of who I am.
- Arrest Us All (Guardian) – pretty powerful stuff. Snippet: Akku Yadav was lynched by a mob of around 200 women from Kasturba Nagar. It took them 15 minutes to hack to death the man they say raped them with impunity for more than a decade.
- The End Of Gay Culture by Andrew Sullivan (The New Republic) – great cultural analysis by a great writer on the mainstream assimilation of gay culture. Snippet: I mean simply that what encompasses gay culture itself will expand into such a diverse set of subcultures that “gayness” alone will cease to tell you very much about any individual.
- Thomas Friedman’s One Party Democracy – the U.S. political system is stagnating. Snippet: One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
- A Pickpocket’s Tale by Adam Green (New Yorker) – his videos are mind-blowing. Snippet: “It’s all about the choreography of people’s attention,” Apollo said. “Attention is like water. It flows. It’s liquid. You create channels to divert it, and you hope that it flows the right way.”
- Cities and Ambition by Paul Graham (PaulGraham.com) – a personal favorite among PG’s non-startup essays. Snippet: How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. […] Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time.
- How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Westegg.com) – a seminal and enduring work on social skills. Snippet: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
- Late Bloomers by Malcolm Gladwell (Gladwell.com) – we think of genius as a young, wildly innovative blaze of glory; there is another type of genius, which develops late in life, employing a more experimental and incremental approach. Snippet: This is the vexing lesson of Fountain’s long attempt to get noticed by the literary world. On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all.
- The Heart Grows Smarter, by David Brooks (NYT). Snippet: The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.
- The Sure Thing by Malcolm Gladwell (Gladwell.com) – argues that successful entrepreneurs (like Ted Turner) are actually the LEAST risk-loving and in fact simply see a great opportunity before anyone else and then move fast to capture it. Snippet: People like Dassault and Eastman and Arnault and Turner are all successful entrepreneurs, businessmen whose insights and decisions have transformed the economy, but their entrepreneurial spirit could not have less in common with that of the daring risk-taker of popular imagination.
- Venice Under Water (The Atlantic) – wow!! Venice under several feet of water. I remember visiting Piazza San Marco as a teenager and being stunned by the natural beauty, the pigeons, the classical music and cafes…but most importantly…the ground…
- 10 tips from David Ogilvy on writing (BrainPickings.org) – Snippet: Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
- Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin on writing (io9.com) – Snippet: But there’s bad days, too. Where I struggle and sweat and a half hour creeps by and I’ve written three words. And half a day creeps by and I’ve written a sentence and a half and then I quit for the day and play computer games. You know, sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.
- George Orwell: Why I Write (Orwell.ru) – Snippet: And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.
- John McPhee, The Art of Nonfiction No. 3 (The Paris Review) – a great writer and more importantly (for me), a great writing teacher. In the snippet he explains a process that is remarkably consistent across great writers, including Hemingway and Murakami: stop when things are still going well, which makes the next day’s work easier. Snippet: My writing methods changed in a different way. I used to write and write. I didn’t want to stop because I had broken through all these dreads. I would go on into the night, maybe even to three a.m. But what I gradually discerned was that it was quite inefficient, because the next time I’d be able to do some writing would be two and a half days later or something. At the end of the month, you’d have more done if you quit at seven. So I quit at seven. If I am in the middle of a sentence, and I’m all excited and it’s really going well, at seven o’clock I get up and go home.
- Why Authors Don’t Have to Be Broke: A $10,000,000 Case Study (Brendon Burchard) – very cool story of how an author turned a book into a multimillion dollar business. Snippet: As a writer, I’ve no more focused on just the book than Apple has focused on just the iPod. I created an integrated product suite, and I believe all writers should follow suit if they hope to fully monetize their content and knowledge.