March: Amazing books and articles that I recommend

Each month, I’ll post the best stuff I read in the prior month. So this is for February.


February was a bit slower than January, primarily because I was focused on getting things done for Hyperink and prepping for the Shanghai move. Even though I finished 4 books, the bulk of the reading was done in January.

I finished:

mastery-by-robert-greeneMastery by Robert Greene [Amazon]. Came highly recommended by Tim Ferriss, and I’m a big fan of Greene’s 48 laws of power. While I don’t find Greene to be the most entertaining or efficient writer, he makes a strong case for the importance of becoming “the best” at something, and the steps necessary to get there (including picking the right field, tons of hard work over a long period of time, finding the right mentor(s) to guide your development). Examples range from Mozart to Darwin to Paul Graham.

talent-code-by-daniel-coyleThe Talent Code by Daniel Coyle [Amazon]. Of the 4 books that I finished this month, I read through this one the fastest and its lessons will probably stick with me the longest. Coyle examines places that have generated a disproportionate number of world-class performers, ranging from Brazilian favelas to Korean female golf players, and deconstructs the 3 elements that they all require (ignition, motivation, and mentorship). Some overlapping themes with Mastery. It’s a bit handwave-y at times, and not without its share of “hindsight is 20/20”, but Coyle is a great writer and his research is both thorough and accessible.

the-big-miss-by-hank-haneyThe Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney [Amazon]. While in some ways, I’m disappointed that someone whom Tiger trusted so closely was willing to write an expose of sorts, I’m fascinated by elite performers and this is the closest anyone has come to understanding and then sharing insights about one of the world’s most private athletes (minus that one bizarre scandal, of course). The book contains much more golf jargon and Hank-giving-a-written-golf-lesson than I expected, so I skipped over those parts, but the few insights that Hank does share about Tiger’s personality, his approach to the game, and his behavior quirks are more than worth the price and time. For example, did you know that Tiger loves having a popsicle after dinner, but does not proactively offer them to his guests?

name-of-the-wind-by-patrick-rothfussThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss [Amazon]. I generally don’t read fiction, because I like to think that reading nonfiction kills two birds with one stone (ie, entertainment AND education), but that’s probably wrong. However, I still don’t read much fiction. I used to love sci-fi, and this came highly recommended, and I found myself having a hard time sleeping soundly when I ended the night reading deep-educational/political-shit. So this book accomplished its goal (of helping me sleep soundly), and was very entertaining, and I will *most likely* read book 2. Rothfuss is a strong writer, and while there’s nothing groundbreaking in the story and I find his usage of written accents tew bee vairy bahhhhd.


Here’s the best stuff this month. Note that not all of it is “fresh”: I emphasize quality, not what just hit the wire (because most of the time that’s crap).

  • DEEP INSIDE: The Story of 10,000 Porn Stars and Their Careers (Jon Millward, his own site). Data-driven approach to shit guys talk about all the time.

    We now have our average porn stars: Nikki and David. They’re of normal height, but both weigh less than the national average. Nikki has smaller breasts than you might expect and she’s a brunette. She got into the business aged 22 and is originally from California—or at least, that’s where she now lives. David got into the industry aged 24.

  • Five important lessons from the dustup over the NYT’s Tesla test drive (Katie Fehrenbacher, GigaOm). Not the most comprehensive write-up but a good one on a fascinating story.

    Don’t f*ck with Elon Musk: A friend who’s spent a decade in the legal industry told me once that you shouldn’t start a fight unless you’re ready to take it to the mat; i.e. take it all the way. Elon Musk will always take it to the mat.

  • Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China (Bill Gates, his own site). Bill Gates writes book reviews. That’s right, Bill Gates WRITES BOOK REVIEWS. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?? PS I have yet to read this book but I will.

    If you’re going to read one book about modern China in the period after Mao, then this is the book you should read.

  • What tips and tricks have you learned that have made it easier to live in China? (Kaiser Kuo, Quora). Most of you know I’ve moved to Shanghai to experience China first-hand, and the advice here is very applicable and original.

    Chant the mantra, “Don’t be a whiny little bitch.” Don’t surround yourself with complainers. Steel yourself to the fact that people will crowd you, will spit, will cut queues, will stare at you at least outside of first-tier cities if you look foreign, will ask you direct questions that in your home country might seem wildly inappropriate.

  • Michael Jordan Has Not Left The Building (Wright Thompson, ESPN). Great article on the greatest retired athlete ever. Keyword: retired.

    Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on his basketball team and why he dreams of returning to play.

  • 50 Sure Signs That Texas Is Actually Utopia (Summer Anne Burton, Buzzfeed). Just because I’m from Austin, the greatest city in the great state in America, that doesn’t make me biased. Really!

    4. Breakfast tacos. An essential part of every Texan’s diet. The New York Times once ran an entire story titled “Tacos In The Morning?” about how Austin loves breakfast tacos and we were all like, “YES, TACOS IN THE MORNING. Tacos all the time.” Get with the program.

  • The Gates Foundation Annual Letter (Bill Gates, The Gates Foundation). Like all great, long-lasting performers (Jordan, Madonna), Bill Gates has reinvented himself well.

    According to a long-held Ethiopian custom, parents wait to name their children because disease is rampant, health care is sparse, and children often die in the first weeks of life.

  • What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage (Amy Sutherland, NYT). Not the first time I’ve shared this, but great reads are both re-reading and re-re-reading.

    I was using what trainers call “approximations,” rewarding the small steps toward learning a whole new behavior. You can’t expect a baboon to learn to flip on command in one session, just as you can’t expect an American husband to begin regularly picking up his dirty socks by praising him once for picking up a single sock. With the baboon you first reward a hop, then a bigger hop, then an even bigger hop. With Scott the husband, I began to praise every small act every time: if he drove just a mile an hour slower, tossed one pair of shorts into the hamper, or was on time for anything.

For a complete list, check out my Amazing media page. Most of these will be added there.

What did you read and love in February? Please share! Thanks as always for your time.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.