Book Reports

I try to read as much as possible. This is a way for me to share what I’ve been reading and forces me to think more deliberately about what I take from each book. Derek Sivers’ keeps public book notes provided strong inspiration for these reports.

Chaos Monkeys by Antonio García Martínez


Chaos Monkeys by Antonio García Martínez

An insider’s story about Facebook in the years leading up to its IPO. It’s surprisingly candid — it names names and exposes internal Facebook discussions that were never meant to be public.

An engaging read, but the narrator is painfully obnoxious.

Start Small, Stay Small by Rob Walling


Start Small, Stay Small by Rob Walling

I wish that I had found this book nine years ago. It taught me a great deal about choosing the right product to build and the advantages of targeting small niches. The author makes compelling points about the importance of marketing and small founders’ common pitfall of treating it as an afterthought.

Unfortunately, much of the content aged poorly. Published in 2010, Walling intentionally kept the book pragmatic, recommending specific tools and strategies that were popular at the time. Reading it in 2019, many of the services he recommends are either irrelevant or dead. It would be nice to see an updated edition, which Walling has suggested is a possibility.

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The book contains many interesting examples of common biases and logical fallacies, but it’s buried in a lot of bluster and fluff about how smart the author is. While it was likely groundbreaking when it was published in 2004, its ideas have since permeated into the mainstream. Reading it in 2018, the ideas feel neither novel nor original. Thinking Fast and Slow covers the same material with more depth and better writing.

Deep Work by Cal Newport


Deep Work by Cal Newport

This was my favorite book of 2018. It profoundly impacted the way I approach my work and organize my time. After reading it, I find it easier to maintain concentration and to prioritize important tasks. It was also the final push I needed to un-addict myself from social media.

Happy City by Charles Montgomery


Happy City by Charles Montgomery

Given how much urban design affects our lives, it’s surprising how little we think about and participate in it. This book was eye-opening in terms of the way I look at cities and how its inhabitants interact with them.

I took for granted the idea that cities should be friendly to car-travel, but the book highlights many ways in which a focus on car-friendliness makes cities worse overall. It was interesting to see examples of how cities can flourish when they prioritize the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit.