I am always looking for a good book and find it interesting what people read. I’ve kept a reading list by year, which is a good habit for me as I enjoy adding a book to it each time I finish one. In 2013, I had a good year of reading, tackling just shy of 40 books. I had gotten out of the habit the last couple of years, and it feels good to be be back. My reading was centered around art, finance, start-ups, France, and just some good page turners.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Steve Martin — A smart, witty play that takes place in a bar in Montmartre; largely a dialogue between Picasso and Einstein about art and science.
Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, Pierre Cabanne — Good overview and biography on Duchamp. I’ve gone from not understanding Duchamp to thinking he’s the most influential artist of the last 100 years.
The Essays of Warren Buffett, Lawrence A. Cunningham and Warren Buffett — My second read through Buffett’s letters to shareholders. As always, it was a good read, and the thematic grouping was helpful.
The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy — The second book in the Border Trilogy. I found the story of the wolf heartbreaking. Nobody writes like McCarthy, but I liked All the Pretty Horses and The Road better.
Startup Life, Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor — Great book on relationships and life with an entrepreneur. Kris read it as well, and we’ll be implementing some of the suggestions.
What Are People For?, Wendell Berry — Good essays and intro to Wendell Berry. I often largely agree with the ideas but struggle to see how returning people to the land is feasible mechanically or economically — we’re going to be a planet of cities.
City 2.0, TED Books — Quick read, good overview on trends in urbanization and how to better design our cities.
The Lost Estate, Henri Alain-Fournier — Beautiful book about chasing the past. The original is in French, and it is routinely on the list of top French novels. I really enjoyed it.
A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle — Structured by month, a look into living in the French countryside; sounds rewarding but difficult.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald — I read this again this year, triggered by the movie coming out. It’s always named as one of the best novels, but I have to be honest: I still don’t get it. No one is likable, though maybe that is the point.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn — Great page turner.
Present Shock, Douglus Rushkoff — What happens when everything happens in the present?
Inferno, Dan Brown — A fun look at Venice and Florence framed by Dante with science woven throughout. I had read Angel and Demons and the Da Vinci Code but skipped Lost Symbols. Inferno has an absurdly impossible plot, but I found it to be a fun read.
World War Z, Max Brooks — The book has a much more interesting structure than the movie and is told through a series of interviews with survivors around the world. The movie could have been done this way, and I think psychologically it would have been much scarier. Max Brooks is the son of Mel Brooks—who knew?
How Will You Measure Your Life, Clayton M. Christensen — Wise thoughts from Clayton Christensen (The Innovator’s Dilema) on how to live your life and what to focus on.
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson — I previously started this a couple times and couldn’t get into it. Once I did, though, it became a page turner. It reads like a great novel — the rise, fall, and rebirth of a brilliant, important, and tragic character.
Sacre Bleu, Christopher Moore — Classic Christopher Moore. I enjoyed the art angle and will never look at blue in a painting the same way again. It was fun to walk around Montmartre this fall having read this.
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King — A sequel to the Shining. I grew up reading everything Stephen King wrote but haven’t read anything since the Dark Tower series. This is a great story — I forgot just how good King’s books are.
Average is Over, Tyler Cowen — I have read much of Cowen’s work, along with his blog (Marginal Revolution). This is a sharp book. One may not like the end result, but I think it’s pretty spot on. This along with Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants changed my thinking the most this year.
11/22/63, Stephen King — At 800 pages, it’s a long book, but I tore through it once I started. The premise is fascinating— what would happen if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated? It’s an exhaustively researched look at history mixed with a bit of the supernatural, as one would expect with King. Highly entertaining.
Tap Dancing to Work, Carol J. Loomis — Nice collection of writings from Forbes on Buffett over the last couple of decades.
Quantitative Value, Wes Gray and Tobias Carlisle — More of a textbook, it’s a good audit of various value-based strategies and what you can do to add alpha. At the end of the day, it is amazing how successful EBIT/EV is as a metric—a company is the sum of its cash flows. It’s that simple.
Remote: Office Not Required, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanssan — Amen. The timing of this book was perfect with the announcement from Yahoo prohibiting telecommuting. Could not agree with Jason and David more.
Cities of the Plain, Cormac McCarthy — Final installment of the Border Trilogy. It was nice to have both characters back, but it was tragic, though I’m not sure what else I was expecting. Moving onto Blood Meridian now.
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert — I had not read Gilbert before, but I really enjoyed this book. It has a strong lead character set against the backdrop of historic Philadelphia interwoven the theory of evolution. I read this at the same time as Craig Venter’s book and was then inspired to finally start the Origin of Species.
The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin — I read this throughout the year a bit at a time. I have read just about everything Seth has written —as always, he is inspiring and encouraging.
Minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus — A short read on creating a simpler life. In a world of what feels like excess everything, editing may be the most important skill set.
Benjamin Franklin, An American Life, Walter Isaacson — After reading the Jobs biography and hearing Isaacson talk (which was fantastic), I decided to tackle this book. Franklin was really unbelievable in his breadth of accomplishments, and I enjoyed the look at London and Paris as well.
Breakfast at Sotheby’s, Philip Hook — A fun collection of vignettes from decades in the art market.
Life at the Speed of Light, J. Craig Venter — Based on a lecture he gave in Dublin. The promise of personalized synthetic genomics is enormous, and the magnitude of what we are on the verge of feels underreported.
Daily Rituals, How Artists Work — A collection of original blog posts on how artists work—schedule, process, etc. The big take away is process—dedicated time each day, above all else. On one hand, it’s that simple.
The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris — A look at a group of Americans who came to Paris at the turn of the century. I couldn’t get through it.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt — Beautifully written. The first half reminds me of Dickens, and the second half of Dostoyevksy. Tartt’s writing is beautiful, and I loved the descriptions of New York, Vegas, and Amsterdam.
Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon — A very short, fun read.
The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie — I read The Moore’s Last Sigh and liked it, and Kris says that the Satanic Verses is one of her favorite books ever, so I tried to tackle this but never really got into it. Rushdie’s depth of reference is both amazing and overwhelming. I do still want to read Midnight’s Children and the Satanic Verses though.
Startup Communities, Brad Feld — The second book I read in the Startup series. I liked the Boulder thesis, and some important takeaways for me are that it takes a long commitment to build a community, and it has to be lead by the entrepreneurs.
What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly — Kevin Kelly is an oracle. I think you could take any random paragraph out of this book and find it fascinating. His views are totally unique and thought-provoking. It’s hard to argue with his thesis that technology is a natural system.