Notes and Summaries From the Books I've Read

To read the notes from each book click on any of the linked titles.  I've included a short summary of the book and a 1-10 rating so you can see what you might find interesting.  I've categorized them by topic, so just click the link to get to that particular section.

Generally when I take notes, I highlight the most important passages, go back and try to blend them into a long-form, yet shorter-than-the-book reminder of the key concepts. Enjoy!

Categories

Assorted

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac

Rating: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Ride of a Lifetim

A great story and tale of caution about how to run a company. It reads more like a journalist's account, rather than a non-fiction book with lessons. Read more for entertainment than insights.

On one hand, do you want to be the kind of founder who is paranoid, parties hard, and walks the line, often going over?

But on the other, would Uber be the giant company it is today without the arrogance and ambition of it's founder?

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Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Perennial Seller, The 50th Law

A fascinating book, despite being a self-admitted departure from Ryan Holiday’s usual writing.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which I think is the best way for this particular book. The story itself is fascinating - a modern conspiracy actually carried to fruition, but the questions it brings up are even better: What would it look like if more people planned, took deliberate action, to accomplish a goal? What if more people took action to change the world behind the scenes, instead of talking about it?

Overall, a fun departure from typical non-fiction that I very much enjoyed. Would certainly recommend, and as I mentioned, I’d suggest the audiobook.

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A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Walden, A Room of One’s Own, How to Change Your Mind

A book about Michael Pollan’s desire to build a small writing hut of his own, the book goes through the process from start to finish, from design to completion.

As someone who’s dreamed about building a cabin for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Pollan’s writing is beautiful, witty, and easy to read. Recommended reading for anyone interested in building a space or house of their own.

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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Blink, Thinking, Fast & Slow

Gladwell posits that much of the success we see in the world is a result of our opportunities and history.

He links together a wide variety of topics, from why southerners get angry faster than northerners (in the US), to why Korean pilots suffered more crashes in the 1990s, and why Asians are better at math.

The key points can be summarized quickly, but it’s an entertaining and easy read.

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Biography

Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Extreme Ownership, Atomic Habits

I consider this more of a biography than a tactical non-fiction book, though there are challenges to complete at the end of each chapter. Would recommend reading more for entertainment and motivation than tactics. Read Atomic Habits for more practical advice on forming habits that last.

Goggins’ story is crazy - his physical achievements, especially in light of his childhood and starting point (very overweight) - are incredible. It’s an interesting book, and shows what is possible for human achievement if you’re driven enough.

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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), What Do You Care What Other People Think?

A funny, compelling read about the interesting life of a brilliant scientist and American.

No understanding of physics required, Feynman illustrates life lessons he’s learned through hilarious anecdotes that range widely from education, to building the atomic bomb, to drumming.

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Communication

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Never Split the Difference, Team of Teams

A book about creating a great culture. Actionable instructions on how to improve your own behavior, the behavior of your team, and of your organization, to build a great culture.

Highly recommended for anyone who works with others and wants to improve team performance. You will learn skills that are applicable to individual relationships too.

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How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10  |  Available at: Amazon  |  Related: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck - Mark Manson

My (relatively) low rating isn't necessarily reflective of the principles in the book; those are obviously timeless and things everyone should know and practice.  That, rather, is the reason for the relatively low rating. 

I'd still recommend everyone read the book once - it's a quick read - but the principles inside won't likely modify your thinking to a great degree, or cause a large shift in your perspective. 

Rather, they're things that should be obvious, and can be summarized fairly effectively as they are below.

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Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: How to Win Friends & Influence People, Influence

Great book about how to negotiate, an oft-overlooked skill that can be applied everywhere in your life.

I identified negotiation skills as a personal weakness, and I was able to immediately improve by applying strategies and tactics from this book.

Recommended for anyone who wants to be able to communicate more effectively, let alone negotiate better.

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How to Win Friends & Influence People in the Digital Age by Dale Carnegie & Associates: Summary & Notes

Rated: 7/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: How to Win Friends & Influence People, Never Split the Difference

This book is a revamped version of the original principles from How to Win Friends & Influence People, reinvigorated with examples from the modern world, and readers that are applying the principles in modern times.

I was originally skeptical of the principles in the original book, calling them “common sense”. Having a deeper understanding of some of the subtleties of negotiation and working in a team environment at work have given me a new appreciation for them.

They are simple, but powerful, and we should all try and remind ourselves of them regularly.

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Design

The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Design of Everyday Things, Universal Principles of Design

This is a relatively easy read from John Maeda, who was a professor at the MIT Media Lab, before becoming President at the Rhode Island School of Design and then venturing into the corporate world.

The book itself presents laws he has created for simplifying both your life, and the things you may work on or design.

The laws presented are useful, and the book is short. However, most of the core, actionable content could have been presented in a long blog post.

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Entrepreneurship

The Great CEO Within by Matt Mochary: Summary & Notes

Rating: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Disciplined Entrepreneurship, Essentialism

A summary of the best resources for startup CEOs. Considered the startup CEO bible by many of the hottest current startups.

Full of lessons that can be applied to any high-performing individual, or anyone who works in a startup. Most useful for those who have crossed the earliest stages of a startup, and are starting to scale.

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The Trade-Off by Kevin Maney: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10  |  Available at: Amazon  |  Related: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

Overall the book is focused on a relatively simple premise: those who have the courage to make rigorous choices between high-fidelity and high-convenience do better than those who make no clear and rigorous choices.

It's a relatively quick read, and lays out some of the details surrounding this theory, but it gives a good framework for thinking about where you are going to fit into a given market, and what you need to seek when developing a product roadmap.

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Anything You Want by Derek Sivers: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: ReWork, This is Marketing

Derek’s lessons from building CD Baby, a company which he eventually sold for over $20M, and had 80+ employees at the time.

A good read for those who want an alternative perspective on entrepreneurship, with some thinking along the lines of Seth Godin and David Heinemeier Hansson.

I thoroughly enjoyed it just as a reminder of all the options you have as an entrepreneur, and a reminder that you don’t have to fit any particular mold (especially not the VC-led one).

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Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10  |  Available at: Amazon |  Related: ReWork, Anything You Want

A wonderful, motivating short read along the lines of Anything You Want.

I love short books like this. This one is also put together beautifully, with illustrations and fonts that make it fun to read.

Highly recommend for anyone who pursues any type of creative endeavour, or who creates things.

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The Codfathers: Lessons from the Atlantic Business Elite by Gordon Pitts: Summary & Notes

Rated: 7/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: ReWork, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Derek’s lessons from building CD Baby, a company which he eventually sold for over $20M, and had 80+ employees at the time.

A good read for those who want an alternative perspective on entrepreneurship, with some thinking along the lines of Seth Godin and David Heinemeier Hansson.

I thoroughly enjoyed it just as a reminder of all the options you have as an entrepreneur, and a reminder that you don’t have to fit any particular mold (especially not the VC-led one).

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Fiction

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: A Gentleman in Moscow, Rules of Civility

Set in the summer of 1922 on Long Island, the story focuses on Jay Gatsby, and his efforts to reunite with his ex-lover, as told by his next-door neighbor.

It is now widely considered one of the greatest American novels, and perhaps Fitzgerald's best.

Similar to Rules of Civility, it is set between two wars, in a time period now considered quite romantic. The characters are flawed, and the ultimate conclusion dissatisfying, which is perhaps why it is so relatable, despite depicting an exclusive lifestyle.

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: A Gentleman in Moscow, The Great Gatsby

A period novel set in New York in 1937, the book recounts the most formative year of the main character's life.

The book has been compared to The Great Gatsby, and for good reason. You're transported to the glamorous New York of the early 20th century, and the world of wealthy New Yorkers.

The title comes from George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.

The writing is easy and stylish, and the book is a joy to read.

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Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Man’s Search for Meaning, The Alchemist

The book details the journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Buddha. Siddhartha seeks different experiences in life, and learns more about himself and the world as he does so.

I read Siddhartha in high school, and it’s one of my favourite books. The universal theme is relevant for all, and I discover something new each time I read it.

It is short, and there’s always more to learn about the underlying themes, which are built upon teachings of both Hindu and Buddhist texts. I re-read it at least once a year.

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Demian by Hermann Hesse: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Siddhartha, Steppenwolf

A classic tale of a boy growing to adulthood, struggling with good and evil, and with superficial ideals.

I hadn’t enjoyed a novel this much in a long time. I found it particularly compelling given that I related so well, yet it was published in a much different time period (1919).

It also contains what is probably the best description of a hangover I will ever read.

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Finance

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Rich Dad Poor Dad, The Wealthy Barber

A modern classic in the personal finance world, this is a great book for newbies to personal finance, or as a reminder for all of us that have learned the principles, but need reinforcement.

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Health & Fitness

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan: Summary & Notes

Rating: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: In Defense of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma

Michael Pollan (one of my favourite authors) distills food advice down to seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Most of the rest of this (short) book rephrases or clarifies this short points, giving brief, direct instructions for eating well.

Everyone should eat this way.

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Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Atomic Habits, How to Change Your Mind

The most comprehensive and compelling book on sleep I have ever read.

I am becoming convinced (aided by this book) that being able to sleep well is a huge advantage in life. This book is likely to convince you of the same.

It is a summary of scientific research on sleep to date, providing insight on how sleep affects cognitive and physical performance in both the short and long term, and what you can do improve your own sleep (which often involves avoiding things causing bad sleep).

Recommended for everyone, as sleep affects us all.

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Language

Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10  |  Available at: Amazon  |  Related: Fluent Forever website

Easily the best book about language learning I've ever read.  I've tried multiple resources and methods to improve my own language skills in the past, and none of them came close to being this precise and actionable.  I'll be using the techniques described over the coming months.  Would highly recommend for anyone, new beginner or advanced alike.

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Leadership

The Art of War by Sun Tzu: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: 33 Strategies of War, 48 Laws of Power

A timeless book about the strategy of war. Many of the core principles apply beyond war to business and life in general.

The only knock is that much of the strategy is specific to warfare, while more modern books like 33 Strategies of War have broader applicability to modern life.

That said, you will always find new wisdom each time you re-read this book.

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Measure What Matters by John Doerr: Summary & Notes

Rating: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Trillion-Dollar Coach

The OKR (Objectives & Key Results) bible. Worth reading in full for those responsible for implementing OKRs at their company.

Rating is a bit lower because of the filler chapters (often stories from companies). Feels like the most actionable points (and most useful) are in the resources at the end.

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Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin: Summary & Notes

Rating: 7/10  |  Available at: Amazon  |  Related: Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual

Jocko and Leif are both highly-disciplined former SEALs who are now successfully applying the lessons they learned in the military and combat to the corporate world.  

In this book he shares those principles, along with both combat and corporate examples on how they are applied.

Solid book, and if you have any interest in SEALs or combat, you'll find the book interesting just for the stories that are told.  If you're just interested in the leadership principles, you can fairly quickly skim through and get them from the final conclusions of each chapter.  

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10  |  Available at: Amazon  |  Related: Zero to One - Peter Thiel

This is the kind of book you refer back to throughout your life in business, and I think it has the most relevance for a) an entrepreneur who is scaling up, and building a large organization, or b) someone already working in a large organization, managing a relatively large department and therefore number of people.

Very actionable advice in many areas, and certainly well thought out and methodical. Definitely recommend, just keep in mind the ideal reader profiles above.

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48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The 50th Law, The Art of Seduction, Mastery, The 33 Strategies of War

An outstanding book that will no doubt remain a classic for a long time. 48 Laws of Power details the laws for attaining power in life, business, and more, and gives historical examples of each law in practice, as well as examples of those who do not respect these laws.

A book I will continue to go back and reference. Those who are cynical may see some of the laws as manipulative, and some are. That said, they are all grounded in the reality of human nature, and it's more important to understand them, and then choose how, when, and which to apply, than to just remain ignorant of them and refuse to acknowledge they exist.

A long read, but well worth it and entertaining throughout.

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The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin: Summary & Notes

Rated: 5/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Extreme Ownership, Discipline Equals Freedom

This serves as a good companion to Extreme Ownership - you might as well read this one if you’re reading the other. It’s meant to provide further guidance on how to apply the principles introduced in Extreme Ownership.

That said, for the most part, it’s just common sense. As long as you don’t take the rules to extremes and recognize how they should be applied, you’ll be fine.

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Trillion-Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Principles, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The most extraordinary part of this book is that an individual like Bill Campbell - who coached many of the top founders in the Valley simultaneously, including Steve Jobs and the Google cofounders - actually existed.

The management principles are solid, and woven nicely into the story of Bill’s life, which makes the book easy to read.

Aligns well with Principles.

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Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal: Summary & Notes

Rating: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, Extreme Ownership

A look at the changes required for modern organizations to succeed in terms of how they are structured and managed.

The story is told through the lens of McChrystal's command of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) in the early/mid 2000s, and many of the lessons are drawn from that experience.

I found the principles useful, but the stories a bit scattered and the principles not as clearly laid out as they could have been. Worthwhile principles to absorb, but not the easiest read.

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Learning

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mastery

A great book on developing broad expertise instead of specializing in a narrow field.

Not only does this provide some welcome respite from the common narrative that "you must specialize early", but it provides context for why broad experience can be a big advantage.

The book provides guidance on finding your optimal work and life, and how to view explorations that might seem inefficient (and how to make the most of them).

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The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mastery, The Art of Learning

One of the most innovative books about learning I've read, focusing almost solely on maximizing our innate ability to learn intuitively.

Though this is specifically about tennis, and uses tennis for examples throughout, the lessons can be applied in learning almost anything, especially things which involve physical skill.

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Mastery by Robert Greene: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The 50th Law, The Art of Seduction, 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War

One of my favourite books ever. The best book I’ve ever read on how to master a craft, and full of great advice on how to navigate life, your career, and learning, on your path to achieving some level of mastery in your field.

The book details every step along the way from figuring out what it is you’re meant to do - your “Life’s Task” - to how to learn quickly, and the necessary auxiliary skills (ex: Social Intelligence) to succeed.

Highly recommend the book for anyone seeking to figure out their career, how to learn best, and ultimately, how to become successful.

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Life

Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Tools of Titans

I liked this book, though I didn’t find it as useful as Tools of Titans, and it’s not really comparable to the 4H series of books. Short tidbits of advice from some amazing people.

It's a good book to pick up and read a few interviews when you’re looking for some motivation or having trouble with a big question, and there are some trends that can be extracted.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mark Manson's blog, 12 Rules for Life, Principles

This book doesn’t reveal anything mind-blowing, but what Mark is good at is stating obvious things, reframing, and generally shaking people up with some language.

This is typically a book I recommend to people when they’re stuck in a rut, just had a breakup, etc. I’d suggest you pick it up if you’re in a similar situation. If you want to go a bit deeper, you can read some older philosophy, but this is a much easier read.

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12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Principles

I really struggled to come up with a rating for this book. Ultimately, the rating I gave it (6/10), is a reflection of the solid principles of the book. However, the poor organization and flow prevented me from rating it higher.

Overall, there are great sections, and a large amount of information in the book. In my opinion, the organization just makes it far too difficult to actually absorb it.

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Principles by Ray Dalio: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: 12 Rules for Life, Tribe of Mentors

A fascinating book with an extraordinary amount of information. It’s difficult to get through because of the sheer quantity of information, but worth reading for Part 1 and 2 alone (focused on Life Principles).

Part 3 is the complete list of principles based around running Bridgewater, and is mostly relevant for running a large (or at least, not small) organization, so may be of limited use to some.

Would certainly recommend reading the first two parts in detail, and then investigating only the rules you find interesting in Part 3. Overall, a practical guide to both life and running an organization, and a brief look into the mind of one of the world’s top performers.

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The Defining Decade by Meg Jay: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: 12 Rules for Life, Tribe of Mentors

An easy read, a mix of psychology research and anecdotal experience, and touches on all the key points of how to live in your twenties. I found lots of instances where I’ve had the same thought patterns as her patients, which made it extremely relevant.

Recommended for anyone in their late teens, twenties, or parents with kids around that age group, as it will be invaluable for both. I’ll be gifting it to lots of my friends in the near future.

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Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: 12 Rules for Life, Principles - Ray Dalio

Often ranked among the most meaningful books for many, it’s fairly obvious why - the account of Frankl’s time in a concentration camp is both horrific and impossible to stop reading.

His own work in developing logo-therapy is interesting as a result; perhaps the most interesting learning is the flipping of the typical “finding life’s purpose” into recognizing that “each man is questioned by life”.

The book offers a prescription for finding one’s meaning in life, from someone who has seen the worst of it. A short, worthwhile read.

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Poor Charlie's Almanack by Charlie Munger: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Principles, Tribe of Mentors

A book that has had a large impact on how I think and approach problems. Formatted after Ben Franklin’s yearly publication of advice, Munger lays out all sorts of things, from clear investing principles, to an introduction to mental models and how more people should be thinking with interdisciplinary tools.

Particularly relevant for those interested in business and finance, but as he makes clear in many of his speeches (transcripts included in the book), it should be relevant for all, from lawyers to economists. Highly recommend.

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Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss: Summary & Notes

Rating: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Tribe of Mentors, 4-Hour Workweek

This book is derived from many episodes and interviews of The Tim Ferriss Show, and includes information on a huge variety of topics, including productivity, athletic training, psychedelics, life extension, and more.

The amount of information is staggering. One of the common criticisms is that it isn’t organized thematically, but I think the intended use of the book is for someone to pick and choose their favourite parts, and refer back when needed. For this purpose, I think it’s fantastic. Highly recommend for (literally) everyone.

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The Art of the Good Life by Rolf Dobelli: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Art of Thinking Clearly, Thinking, Fast & Slow

Rolf Dobelli, who also wrote The Art of Thinking Clearly, lays out 52 rules for a good life.

The rules are adopted from three primary sources: psychology research, Stoicism, and investment literature, particularly that of Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett.

Good book with important rules. Some may be familiar for those who are already well-read on the primary sources, but a worthwhile compilation nonetheless.

If you are unfamiliar with the primary research, both this and The Art of Thinking Clearly are a great introduction.

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Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 3/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mark Manson's blog, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I like Mark Manson. I enjoyed The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and I enjoy his blog.

I couldn’t, however, finish this book. I think it’s the style of writing. It’s colloquial to the point of being annoying, and overstuffed with his trademark "f*ck"s.

The notes below are those I added while skimming through the book.

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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Art of the Good Life

A fantastic book. Essentialism is the way of living that I'd been converging towards in many areas of my life, without knowing it.

How do we combat the busyness of current life? The overwhelm of options and information? The lack of clarity that we all seem to have? Essentialism gives you a framework to develop your own purpose and stay focused on your goals. Applicable to both work and personal life.

This book will be one I re-read frequently, and gift to many.

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Love & Dating

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida: Summary & Notes

Rating: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Models, The Art of Seduction

A guide for embracing your masculine side (regardless of gender or sexual orientation).

Covering everything from work, relationships, and sex, this guide may seem outdated for some, but there is likely to be something useful for most men and women.

Beware the Barnum effect in much of the book (vague statements we identify with), but take what you find useful.

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Models by Mark Manson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Mark Manson's blog, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, The Truth

In typical Mark Manson (who is known for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck), this is a no-BS guidebook for men on dating.

More actionable than something like The Art of Seduction and less manipulative than The Game, I’d recommend for anyone looking to up their attractiveness and success with women without resorting to weird techniques or essentially becoming an actor.

One of the most applicable books I’ve read on love and dating.

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Marketing

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries & Jack Trout: Summary & Notes

Rating: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

I should have read this sooner - the principles are timeless, and it’s a quick, easy book to finish.

The rules are concise, and anytime you undertake any marketing or sales activities, this book provides the set of rules by which you should evaluate those activities.

Definitely recommended reading for any CEO/salesperson/marketer.

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Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Notes

Rated: 7/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Obstacle is the Way, Ego is the Enemy

I’m a big fan of Ryan Holiday in general, and this book didn’t disappoint. I think it’s one of his most well thought-out, and it certainly resonated with me. I put it up with his best books.

Generally an instruction manual for exactly what the title says: “Making and Marketing Work that Lasts”. It’s one of his most actionable books, going into detail about the pre-, during and post-process of creating great work.

Definitely worth reading for any entrepreneurs, creators or artists alike.

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The 1-Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

I was initially skeptical about this book (mostly due to the title), but I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is a concise, clear, actionable handbook for everyone from small-business owners to high-growth technology startup founders. It lays out exactly how to go about positioning a company, creating marketing systems to sustain growth, and ultimately build a company that can run by itself.

It’s not as in-depth as others, but is a great overview. Recommended.

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Extreme Revenue Growth by Victor Cheng: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human, The 1-Page Marketing Plan

A book originally recommended by Dan Martell, this is another succinct, actionable read for those interested in growing companies, particularly those with high-growth potential (ie. scalable).

The most valuable part of this book is the idea of thinking in systems, and the breakdown of those systems as they apply to “growth engines” (methods of making your company grow), hiring, product development, and more.

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This is Marketing by Seth Godin: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The 1-Page Marketing Plan, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Tribes, Purple Cow

This is Marketing is a collection of thoughts from Seth Godin about marketing. It’s a relatively quick read, and gives a brief overview of much of what his other work has been dedicated to: permission marketing, telling stories, engaging with customers.

I don’t think this is a breakthrough marketing book. For me, it was the first book of his I’d read (though I’ve subscribed to his blog for a long time). I think it’s a good introduction to his work, and afterwards you can go back to some of his more well-known work - Tribes, Purple Cow, All Marketers Are Liars, Linchpin.

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Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human, The 1-Page Marketing Plan

Invaluable for those new to growth, and even those who are experience will find value.

Gives an overview of the whole growth process across acquisition, activation, retention, and more, and clearly instills the growth mindset. Supports the lessons with lots of examples from real companies too.

Recommended for founders, marketers, product managers and anyone related to growth.

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Philosophy

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Skin in the Game, Antifragile, Fooled by Randomness

One of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. Overall, the books of the Incerto have changed my thinking on a number of topics, but this book has probably had the largest impact.

Essentially, the book is all about "how to convert knowledge into action and figure out what knowledge is worth”. What that really means is an in-depth examination of where in our world we apply false, naive models (typically Gaussian, or bell-curve type models), and the impact they can have.

It goes further, to talk about how we can reduce the number of these occurrences by alternative prediction methods (using fractal distributions) and mitigating our exposure to true Black Swans, which are "outliers of extreme impact", or “unknown unknowns”.

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Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Summary & Notes

Rated: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Black Swan, Skin in the Game

An excellent book that has influenced my thinking more than almost any other, and continues to be a reference I go back to. This book builds on The Black Swan.

Taleb puts forward evidence and definitions for fragility, robustness and antifragility, and explains where they apply in life, and why you want to strive for antifragility. Great for improving contrarian thinking.

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Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Perennial Seller, The Obstacle is the Way

A relatively quick read of historical examples and Stoic philosophy for living a successful life, particularly through your work.

Good when you need some motivation, or to keep yourself grounded.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Shop Class as Soulcraft, Siddhartha

Pirsig details his theory about what defines good, or in his terminology, “Quality”. He tells it as a series of smaller philosophical discussions, taking place during a motorcycle road trip he takes with his son and another couple through Western America.

I liked the details about motorcycle maintenance. I liked the travel writing. I also liked the discussion of the value of technology, and the differences between “classical” and “romantic” approaches to life. I did not like the philosophy, which unfortunately takes up the majority of the book.

I suspect it’s mostly due to my general dislike of philosophy, save for that which is direct and actionable (ie. Stoicism). The book has been popular for over 40 years.

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The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Perennial Seller, Ego is the Enemy

The best introduction to Stoic philosophy and how to apply it to modern life.

One of Holiday’s best books, this introduces concepts of Stoicism and how to apply them to real life. The principles can be applied to any and all obstacles we face in life, which is what makes Stoicism so powerful.

I don’t have much patience for philosophy, and one of the final lines sums up why I like this book so much: "The essence of philosophy is action—in making good on the ability to turn the obstacle upside down with our minds...Now you are a philosopher and a person of action. And that is not a contradiction.”

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Productivity

Getting Things Done by David Allen: Summary & Notes

Rating: 10/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Atomic Habits, The Power of Habit

The single best productivity book I have ever read.

This book will teach you how to capture and create action items (aka tasks), organize all your projects and reference information, and keep it up-to-date.

Pair this with Tiago Forte's PARA system, start using progressive summarization, and you'll be in the top 1% of organized people. It will change your life.

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The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Discipline Equals Freedom, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance

A fun read. This book is fascinating for all - not just those in medicine. Gawande illustrates the power of checklists in fields including medicine, construction, investing and aviation.

The downside to this book is that it could probably be a long article. The main takeaway: make checklists for any complex decisions/procedures.

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Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport: Summary & Notes

Rated: 5/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Deep Work, Atomic Habits

Newport makes an argument for how and why we should be reducing our use of social media, and technology in general, or at least being more specific and careful about our use.

While it supported the growing concern of technology and social media use, I just didn’t find the information dense or compelling enough to warrant a full book.

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Deep Work by Cal Newport: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Digital Minimalism, Atomic Habits

Newport makes the case for cultivating time to do “deep work” - times where you are concentrated solely on one task, and how powerful this ability can be in the modern world. He also outlines how you can go about growing the amount of deep work in your life.

This book had a large impact on me, in that I now constantly think about how I can increase the amount of time where I spend doing “deep work” of some sort, or more generally, how much I spend in a flow state (see Flow by Csikszentmihalyi).

Important read for anyone in a profession particularly prone to shallow work distractions.

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Indistractable by Nir Eyal: Summary & Notes

Rated: 5/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Deep Work, Atomic Habits

A book about how to reduce the impact of distractions throughout your life, with tactical advice on reducing the impact of your phone, how to better focus at work, how to raise ‘indistractable’ children, and more.

The book has a wide scope, covering a combination of habit advice and reducing the impact of devices in our lives.

Unfortunately, I think this is to the detriment of depth and clarity on each subject, and I didn’t find much new content.

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Psychology

The 50th Law by Robert Greene: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The 48 Laws of Power, Mastery, The 33 Strategies of War

An excellent book from Robert Greene - one of my favourites among his work, and much more digestible than some of his others.

The general concepts explored come down to fearlessness, and what he calls The 50th Law.

The book goes on to break down this law into its components, and details examples of each, as well as actionable guidelines for how to cultivate qualities and skills yourself.

It’s a book you should read and digest, and then refer back to constantly. Perhaps one of Greene’s most relevant books to life in general, it provides the set of principles by which you should live. Definitely recommend.

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Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Extreme Ownership - Jocko Willink & Leif Babin, Thinking, Fast & Slow

This book is an introduction to self-justification and cognitive dissonance, and by extension, cognitive biases. It’s a great overview of everyday situations and historical examples where these play a role in everything from learning to our relationships.

The takeaway: we must learn to spot our own self-justification, and stop it when required, to prevent further action based upon false self-justification.

Overall a great book that has led me to examining in more detail the cognitive biases we all are subject to, and even further to mental models which help thinking. Would definitely recommend reading.

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When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Drive, To Sell is Human

Pink’s latest book is all about the science of timing, and what scientific studies have shown in terms of how to time our days, and our lives. It’s concise, and relevant to everyone.

One of the best parts about this book is how actionable the content is - he presents the science and studies, and then provides a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” for each chapter with resources on how to apply the lessons to your own life.

Highly recommend the book, and I’ll be making some changes to my own life using the content I learned here.

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Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

A fantastic overview of some of the most common psychological principles that rule our decision-making and lead us to poor results. This book has been cited by many, and forms the basis of many of the “mental models” frequently used by people such as Charlie Munger.

A valuable read for those wishing to improve their objectivity and thinking, as it will allow you to identify the most common psychological errors we all make in daily life.

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Atomic Habits by James Clear: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Power of Habit

Fantastic book. Everything a good book should be: concise, clear, and actionable.

This is the best book on habit formation I have read, and will no doubt be a resource I continue to come back to. James does an excellent job of providing all the required planning resources to go along with the book.

Recommend for everyone who is trying to change and build new habits (ie. pretty much everyone).

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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Influence, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

This is a widely-cited, occasionally mind-bending work from Daniel Kahneman that describes many of the human errors in thinking that he and others have discovered through their psychology research.

This book has influenced many, and can be considered one of the most significant books on psychology (along with books like Influence), in recent years. Should be read by anyone looking to improve their own decision-making, regardless of field (indeed, most of the book is applicable throughout daily life).

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Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Deep Work, Mastery

A fantastic book that brings together research on “flow” states to craft a story (and actionable suggestions) on how we can all become happier with work and life.

I continue referring back to this book, and it blends well with many other books, like Deep Work, or Mastery. Heavily cited by other authors, it will force you to think about how you structure your life and the activities you pursue.

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Drive by Daniel Pink: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Pink uses a variety of psychological research and case studies to show that pure monetary incentives are no longer the best way to motivate people.

Instead, particularly for jobs which require problem solving (without a clear path to solution), we should aim to increase intrinsic motivation. To accomplish this, we should focus on providing opportunities for autonomy, mastery and purpose.

A fascinating book that has many implications for today’s knowledge economy. One of the most useful parts of the book is the models and summaries provided at the end. Skip to those to get the main points.

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The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Black Swan, Thinking, Fast & Slow

A fantastic book summarizing a variety of biases that affect our thinking and decision-making.

Dobelli leans heavily on people like Kahneman, Taleb, and others to build this extensive list (99 items!) of things to watch out for.

Well worth the read, and will likely require revisiting when making decisions.

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The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Atomic Habits, Thinking, Fast and Slow

Until reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits, this was the best book on habit formation (and breaking) I had read.

Duhigg clearly describes the research behind habit formation, as well as breaking down habits into clear parts. He then uses this to teach how we can successfully form new habits by substituting components.

No doubt some of these ideas informed James’s book as well.

I would read Atomic Habits first, but if you want another perspective, you’ll gain valuable insight from this book as well.

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The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The 50th Law, The Art of Seduction, Mastery, 48 Laws of Power

This book is just as full of life knowledge as his others, and even easier to apply to real life.

I didn’t like this book on initial read as much as Greene’s other books (and he’s one of my favourite authors). It is dense and will be long to get through initially, but it will be worth it.

Full of lessons on psychology and strategy that will help you in work, relationships and life.

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The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: The Power of Habit, Atomic Habits

A book about the challenges of creative endeavors, and the forces that aim to stop us.

I now have "Resistance is the enemy" among the motivational quotes I keep on the wall next to my desk.

This book positions Resistance as the force that prevents us from starting, the force that prevents us from pursuing the things we want, and offers strategies for countering. Above all, the identification of this force as a third party is a mind shift that is enormously beneficial. Name the enemy, and your ability to counter it goes up.

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Sales

To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Drive, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Daniel Pink starts by showing that a surprisingly large portion of the workforce is engaged in “moving others” (aka selling) in some form, and that we all constantly do this in our lives. The rest of the book discusses how we can improve this skill, which, given how much we use it, is extremely important.

I haven’t yet had the chance to go through all the suggested exercises, but I enjoyed the book and found it useful. It breaks down several myths about selling that cause most of us (myself included) to view “sales” as something negative, and there’s a lot of actionable advice about how to improve our own selling.

I picked the book up originally to help me professionally, and it did, but almost the entire book can be applied to improving our own personal interactions. Definitely recommend, regardless whether you’re directly in sales or not.

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SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human

A great read for anyone involved in sales, though particularly for those in a B2B (business-to-business) environment.

Konrath’s description of the new “frazzled” customer is very accurate, and her strategies for dealing with them are specific and actionable.

Essentially a step-by-step guide for those involved in sales that will be helpful for those just starting out and those with lots of sales experience alike.

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Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler: Summary & Notes

Rated: 6/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: To Sell is Human, SNAP Selling

Good introduction to sales techniques. Downside is it may be a little outdated, or specific to certain situations.

Still definitely worth reading for any entrepreneur or sales executive.

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Writing

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost: Summary & Notes

Rating: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Dreyer's English, On Writing Well, On Writing

A fantastic, quick read that can serve as a reference for improving anyone's writing.

Not as in-depth as Dreyer's English, but more focused than On Writing.

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The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Cashvertising, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook

A classic in the world of copywriting, this is a short, easy read full of both advertising and life wisdom.

It’s written as a series of letters from successful copywriter Gary Halbert to his son (Halbert is in prison at the time), and is itself an example of great writing.

A book you re-read over and over.

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Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: On Writing, On Writing Well

As entertaining as a deep book about words and grammar can be.

What I enjoyed most about this book is that it portrays language as a series of choices, a grayscale, rather than the typical black-and-white rules we are given. Dreyer does a great job discussing when and why some choices are made, and then suggesting a course. This context gives much better understanding than most grammar lessons.

Not for those who are casually interested in writing - read Stephen King’s On Writing instead. Excellent for those who seriously want to improve their understanding of English.

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On Writing Well by William Zinsser: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: On Writing, Dreyer’s English

The best book on writing non-fiction I have read. Where Dreyer’s English and The Elements of Style focus on grammar and words, On Writing Well goes deeper and covers specific genres, composition, interviewing, and more.

If I had to recommend one book on how to write non-fiction well, this would be it.

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On Writing by Stephen King: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Dreyer’s English, On Writing Well

An entertaining mix of autobiography & guide to writing. More focused on fiction than other writing guides, and easier to read.

Lighter on writing and grammar rules, but useful because King shows that many of the commonly held beliefs about writing fiction can be ignored.

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Zero Waste

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10 | Available at: Amazon | Related: Sustainable Home, 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

The best book I have read on how to implement the zero waste lifestyle. A must-read for anyone interested in the topic.

Perhaps the best part about the book is how specific and actionable the advice is. You will both understand what the zero-waste lifestyle is about, and have a long, detailed list of how to implement it.

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