As this amazing summer comes to an end, I thought I’d capture some quick thoughts on some of the books I read over the past few months. I tried to read more history books than business books this year and I found a couple pretty good ones.
The list is in no particular order and you can find last summer’s post here.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.
A phenomenal book about two of America’s most accomplished entrepreneurs. It was incredibly eye-opening to read how hard it was for them to build their product and, once they had a successful prototype, how hard it was to actually sell it. It’s not clear which part was more difficult. Like most radical innovations, the masses thought their ideas were crazy. Their first planes were sold to clients in Europe because they couldn’t find any buyers in the U.S. that were interested in the product. I’m a big fan of McCullough and this is one of his best.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris.
I’m surprised it took me so long to get around to reading this one. This book is full of productivity tips and a really compelling perspective on how to get more from your energy. From only checking your email to once a day to outsourcing most of your personal life, a lot of the tactics he uses aren’t for everyone. But his perspective is great and there are a few good tips in here that will work for everyone.
King of Capital by John E. Morris.
This is the biography of Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of the Blackstone Group — the massive private equity group. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The private equity business has always fascinated me and this is a deep dive into how it works and how the best of the best were able to sell it as an asset class. Buying a public company by borrowing money where the only collateral on the loan is the company that’s being bought is mind-boggling to me. And this is great deep dive into the personalities of the founders and early employees that gives great insight on how they got these deals done. A great read for deal makers.
Money Master the Game by Tony Robbins.
A colleague recommended this book to me and, given all that has been written about personal finance, I was shocked that I found this book so informative. Lots of solid and practical advice. Robbins spends a ton of time on mutual fund management fees and makes the case that everyone needs to immediately check the management fees that they’re paying on their retirement accounts. He points out that they’re a total waste of money because less than 1% of managed mutual funds will beat the S&P over a 10 year period. You must move your retirement to an index fund with lower management fees. Over time, these fees will have a compounding negative impact on our portfolio and can cost you literally millions of dollars. Most of us know a lot of the stuff in here but definitely worth reading if you need to brush up on personal finance.
The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough. This book details the tragedy that occurred after a dam that was holding water in a lake at the top of a small mountain broke and poured water into the small valley town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The water that poured into the small valley was the equivalent of the amount of water that flows down Niagra Falls for 36 minutes. An incredible tragedy. The writing is great but the story drags a bit and I wish he gave a bit more perspective on the larger impact of the flood.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson.
Dead Wake is the story of the Lusitiania, the sister ship to the Titanic that was sunk by a torpedo fired by a German submarine as it traveled from New York to England. Many believe that this was the key event that brought the United States into World War I. This was hands down the best book I read this summer. It gives incredible detail on some of the individuals involved, including American, German and English political leadership and the captains of both the Lusitania and the submarine that fired the torpedo. It also gives great historical context on what was happening around the world at the time. Like most great non-fiction, this one feels like you’re reading fiction for most of the time. Highly recommended.
Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. This is a book written by a self-made billionaire that details some of the basic lessons needed to build or grow a business. His message is basically that sales and marketing are the only things that matter at the beginning and gives tips on how to get started. There isn’t a ton in here that’s terribly new but for entrepreneurs or business-people that aren’t used to engaging in sales and marketing activities it might be worth skimming.