What I Read 2021

Hi Friends!

Happy New Year! Apologies for the late email. I know you all waited up this weekend… 

This year I’ve grouped the list into the following categories: 

  • Self Improvement
  • Just For Fun
  • Business
  • Self Reflection / Psychology

I’ve ordered the books in each category from best to worst in my opinion.

All of these books were recommended by top performers (chess masters, political strategists, hedge fund managers, CEO’s, polymaths, etc.) as must reads.

Hope you enjoy! 

Cheers,

Rob

View previous lists here:2020201920182017

Top 2021 Books:

  1. The Alminak of Naval Ravikant – Eric Jorgenson: (242 Pages)
  2. The Psychology of Money – Morgan Housel: (242 Pages)
  3. Effortless – Greg McKeown: (272 Pages)
  4. Courage is Calling – Ryan Holiday: (304 Pages)
  5. High Output Management – Andrew Grove: (272 Pages)
  6. Is This Anything – Jerry Seinfeld: (480 Pages)

Self Improvement:

The Alminak of Naval Ravikant – Eric Jorgenson: (242 Pages) Some books you never want to end. This book will make you want to become millionaire monk. It’s a handbook of philosophical wisdom and practical advice for succeeding over the long term, without luck. I plan to reread this every year. Description: Getting rich is not just about luck; happiness is not just a trait we are born with. These aspirations may seem out of reach, but building wealth and being happy are skills we can learn. 

The Psychology of Money – Morgan Housel: (242 Pages) This may be the best book on personal finance I’ve ever read. Why do people like Martha Steward, who are wildly financially successful with plenty to lose, make miscalculated decisions (like insider trading) that risk everything? (Another example is financial managers who over leverage their books and end up losing the firm). Peoples ability to earn money, says nothing about their psychological relationship to money. This book will reframe the way you think about saving, spending, and personal wealth. Everyone with a checking account should read this one. 

Effortless – Greg McKeown: (272 Pages) If you’ve read Essentialism by Greg (one of my top 5 books from 2020), then you already know how to exponentially improve your effectiveness. But what happens when you have distilled down to just the most important projects, and you still don’t have enough time? Greg faced this question when his book became an international sensation – constant book tours, speaking gigs, and collaborations. Then he was hit with a curveball – his daughter was diagnosed with a debilitating disease that required all hands on deck. This book is his solution for keeping all the balls in the air, maintaining excellence, and ensuring longevity. We often try to run faster and harder to keep up. But what happens when you give an all out effort, and then you’re asked to do it again? This book is the answer.

Courage is Calling – Ryan Holiday: (304 Pages) Holiday does it again! I’ll let General Mattis sum this one up: “Worthy for anyone trying to develop their own code, this is a superb handbook for crafting a purposeful life. Masterfully composed and highly readable, using stories from antiquity to the modern-day realities confronting all leaders, the ‘march’ of the chapters brings forward valuable gems on each page of the journey. Holiday’s themes will remain with you and strengthen you long after you finish reading it.”

The One Thing – Gary Keller: (240 Pages) Keller is the cofounder of the largest real estate firm in the world. This is he playbook on cutting through the noise, achieving better results, and decreasing stress. Its a very simple read that is packed with great questions and other take aways that you can begin using immediately. 

Just For Fun:

Is This Anything – Jerry Seinfeld: (480 Pages) If you want to see what expert writing looks like and laugh out loud the whole way through, read this book. While 90% of it is simply Jerry’s act’s over the years, the word smithing and precision is something to marvel at. The other 10% is Jerry’s commentary on his mindset and process during different periods of his life. It’s an incredible look at one of the most driven, detail oriented, and successful entertainers of our time. See also: Jerry’s explaining to the NYTimes how to write a joke. 

The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman: (192 Pages) This NYTimes #1 best seller is like a Myers Briggs test for your emotions. People receive love in different ways but mostly will have one type that they desire most – Quality Time, Acts of Service, Gifts, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation. Why does this matter? If you’re partner feels most loved when you spend time with them (Quality Time), but you’re efforts to show affection is to buy them gifts (possibly because that’s what your language is), those gifts will not make them feel loved in they way they most desire, and you won’t understand why your efforts are not enough. Really fun and enlightening read. …*While my primary language is not Gifts, I did appreciate this one. Thanks Cat!*

Freedom – Sebastian Junger: (160 Pages) The NYTimes Best Selling author of Tribe does it again. Junger looks at thejuxtaposition between Freedom, and Community. In short, additional freedom requires a retraction from community and social infrastructure – imagine a mountain main on the lawless frontier forced to defend himself from Indian’s,  outlaws, and the elements. But, no one can tell him what to do.   Ultimately, Jungers point seems to be that while we believe as American’s that we have complete freedom which entitles us to do whatever the hell we want at the expense of others in our social infrastructure, this is not true. We benefit hugely from our collective society (i.e. you shop at super markets, you don’t grow your own food; you work for a corporation which is built into the system, you don’t make clothes from hides and sell them at a local stand), and because of this we are accountable to serve that community in some way. As he says, “Only children owe nothing.”

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius: (256 Pages) Reread. Marcus Aurelius (the guy from Gladiator) was the ruler of Rome and commander of the army when Rome was at its peak. He is considered to be the last of the 5 great emperors. This book is his personal journal. Despite having more power than God, Marcus relentlessly pushed himself daily to be more compassionate and forgiving, and to constantly improve. Above all, he focused on suppressing his ego. This book is written in plain english (it’s his short-hand scribbles to himself), and is packed with actionable advice for daily living. It feels more relevant in 2021 than it was 2000 years ago. 

Business:

High Output Management – Andrew Grove: (272 Pages) This book has been recommended by so many CEO’s, and Founders that I had three copies… This should be the 101 reading for every business student. Its a perfect crash course on how a business operates, how to think about supply chain (even if your product is SaaS or a service), and how to make tough decisions around bottle neck areas. And best of all, it wasn’t boring! (hard to believe, I know) I burned through this one.

Case Interview Secrets – Victor Cheng: (292 Pages) For anyone going into management consulting, this was a great starting point to study for case interviews. As the description says, “You’ll discover step-by-step instructions on how to dominate what many consider to be the most complex, most difficult, and most intimidating corporate job interview in the world—the infamous case interview.” Victor’s flexible approach to cases is more challenging to learn, but much more effective for solving non-traditional case questions. 

Leading at a Higher Level – Ken Blanchard: (362 Pages) This book recommended by a former leader at Kellogg. It was a great crash course in managing people – hiring, setting goals, performing reviews, and achieving results. For anyone stepping into a leadership role, this is a great resource. It can also be used to identify which practices you’d like to ask your managers for to improve your own performance. 

The Pyramid Principle – Barbara Minto: (177 Pages) This was recommended to me by multiple MD’s, and Managers at Bain, BCG and Accenture. It is considered the bible for better written communication (emails, memo’s, presentations, proposals). It teaches you how to structure your thinking and display it in a way that is easiest for the reader to understand, and respond/take action in the way you need. So boring, but certainly helpful. 

Case In Point – Marc Cosentino: (244 Pages) This book is a good intro to case interviews, but Cheng’s book is superior. This is the most famous book for case interviews. It breaks down case questions into 12 possible scenarios and provides a process to memorize these 12 frameworks. It feels good to be able to quickly memorize a set of steps, but ultimately it creates a rigid thinking pattern that is less efficient. 

Self Reflection / Psychology:

In An Unspoken Voice – Peter Levine: (384 Pages) Levine is rock star PhD in medical biophysics and psychology. This is his “best of album,” and it was recommended by a number of people as the cheat sheet to all of his other books. Formerly working as a stress consultant for NASA, Levine is the developer of Somatic Experiencing, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma, and founder of the Foundation for Human Enrichment.  This book explores the idea that trauma is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather an injury caused by fright, helplessness or loss that can be healed by engaging our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotions. 

Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach: (352 Pages) This book was recommended to me by a PhD neuroscientist and is what finally helped me tame anger, one of my most destructive (and persistent) emotions. It’s easy to aim for “successful” and be miserable. This book is the antidote.” – Tim Ferriss. We can easily be ensnared by the trap of chasing external incentives (keeping up with the Jone’s). As Tim mentions, this book is the solution. 

The Fear Book – Cheri Huber: (192 Pages) A really fun and educational read. As the description reads: “Rather than explaining typical strategies for overcoming fear, this book examines how fear is an experience, how to recognize that experience as nothing more than conditioned reaction to circumstance, and how to mentor oneself into letting go of beliefs about “appropriate” responses to fear.” Its also VERY short – mostly pictures. 🙂

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