This is an incomplete list of (non-programming, non-fiction) books I have read. Some have links to notes I’ve taken or others have, a quick description, or an opinion. I regularly add new books to the top of this list as I read them. Use at your own peril.
Books I particularly enjoyed or recommend are marked ⭐️.
(PS. If you’re struggling to read a lot of books, listen to The Podcast 43 where I explain how I got to a rate of 25-30 books per year)
Factfulness • Amazon • Audible
Notes. The world is bad, but better. The vast majority of westerners believe the world is poorer, more violent, deadly, primitive, and awful than it actually is. This book beautifully illustrates our ignorance, updates your knowledge, and gives you tools for a fact-based worldview.
Courage to Be Disliked • Amazon • Audible
Notes. This is a very strange book, and I can’t say I liked it very much, but there is some useful philosophy inside (and perhaps a lot if you or someone you know is struggling with low self-esteem).
Digital Minimalism • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Cal Newport’s new book is a great distillation of what I’ve come to believe is the right, sustainable, healthy approach to social media, and technology more broadly. Browse less, make the best of it, and live more.
Punished by Rewards • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). Incentivizing people — punishing or rewarding (with bonuses, commissions, grades, public praise, and other bribes) is manipulative and doesn’t actually work. It seems to work, but only in the very short term and causes severe long-term damage.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Another classic manifesto from Jason Fried and DHH, challenging the status quo of business today. Properly sparkled with both “fuck”s and wisdom. Fuck 50 or 80-hour work weeks, the always stressed, always anxious way of working, constant crunch. Let’s all calm down. It doesn’t have to be crazy at work.
This is Marketing (Seth Godin) • Amazon • Audible
If you do (or want/need to do) some marketing, want to be good at it, and distrust standard marketing bullshit the world is filled with, this might be a book for you.
Bullshit Jobs • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Funny, scary, thought-provoking book. Thesis: what if a large portion of our population performs jobs they secretly know don’t need to be performed, and if they disappeared, no one would notice?
The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership • Amazon • Audible
A book about management in big organizations. Though still somewhat interesting if you work in small organizations for perspective.
Billion Dollar Whale • Amazon • Audible
Another good story of a big, multi-billion-dollar scam. They’re fun!
Bad Blood • Audible
A story of a big, decade-long Silicon Valley scam. Good read.
What do You Care What Other People Think? • Amazon • Audible
Amusing anecdotes from Richard Feynman’s life. They never disappoint.
The Pope of Physics • Amazon • Audible
Biography of Encrico Fermi, and, among other things, another perspective on the Manhattan Project.
Titan: Life of John D. Rockefeller • Amazon • Audible
Nice read, but be warned: this is long.
Merchants of Doubt • Amazon • Audible
Recommended read. If you want to spread FUD and lie to millions of people about issues such as tobacco smoking or global warming, this is a perfect handbook for you. If you don’t, you’ll learn their tactics.
Age of Ambition • Amazon • Audible
If you don’t really understand or know a lot about China today, this is one perspective. Good book.
Conspiracy (Ryan Holiday) • Amazon • Audible
Fascinating story of how Peter Thiel masterminded the takedown of Gawker — with some help from Hulk Hogan.
Profit First • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. A simple system for managing money based around human flaws. Written for entrepreneurs, but you can adapt it for personal finance.
⭐️ The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Despite the apparent red flags about the book, it’s actually pretty genius! Read it with the right mindset (filter out bullshit), transform your relationship with objects, and declutter your life once and for all.
The Culture Code • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Ideas about developing teams that work together better. Underwhelming — took just a few base concepts and then stretched them very thin by applying to them a dozen different (not always compelling) stories.
Turn the Ship Around • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Guide to transforming top-down organizations into lean ones, where everyone is a leader. Written by a submarine commander, it’s mostly useful to managers in big corporations and other institutions.
A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived • Amazon • Audible
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing • Amazon • Audible
Finding My Virginity • Amazon • Audible
Richard Branson’s second autobiography. As someone not very familiar with his work, it was an interesting read (but as always with autobiographies, take it with a grain of salt).
⭐️ Better Than Before • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. A great book of strategies for cultivating good habits and overcoming bad ones. Highly recommended.
The Emperor of All Maladies • Amazon • Audible
History of cancer (and the research and people trying to combat it) taught through (very good) storytelling.
Driven to Distraction at Work • Amazon • Audible
Rough Notes. This book identifies common patterns among people struggling to stay focused, and offers some coping strategies. Haven’t found it as inspiring as I’d hoped, but has some good stuff.
The 4-Hour Body • Amazon • Audible
Rough Notes. Never finished it to be honest, but the part about dieting supplements the classic Why We Get Fat (the former explains the theory well, while Ferriss’s book gives practical dietary ideas)
⭐️ Nonviolent Communication • Amazon • Audible
Podcast. Rough Notes. A brilliant guide to resolving conflicts with other people, cultivating empathy, and understanding other peoples’ feelings and needs.
Homo Deus • Amazon • Audible
Rough Notes. A rather dystopian prediction of the future of humanity. Can’t say I agree with it all, but definitely something to think about.
Skunk Works • Amazon • Audible
History of Lockheed Martin’s secret division that created many of USA’s greatest military innovations. I don’t care for the military, but to create an organization this lean and innovative inside a big, slow, bureocratic corporation is very rare.
Insanely Simple • Amazon • Audible
Podcast. Rough Notes. Yet another history book about Apple and Steve Jobs through one person’s perspective. Not super inspiring, but entertaining.
A Guide to the Good Life • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). A modern, approachable guide to Stoicism — a philosophy of life whose goal is to maximize the experience of tranquility. This is a seriously useful bag of psychological tricks.
Bad Science • Amazon • Audible
Examples of good science, pseudo-scientific bullshit, and how to discern between the two.
How to Read a Book • Amazon • Audible
Rough Notes. A very meta book with some serious advice on how to read books well. Frustratingly long for its content, though.
Fooled by Randomness • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Ramblings about randomness and all the ways in which our minds aren’t properly equipped to deal with it.
Sleep Smarter • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Practical advice on how to improve the quality of your sleep. Quality is the key word — there are more factors come into play than just the amount of sleep.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! • Amazon • Audible
A collection of stories from Richard Feynman’s life. Very entertaining.
This Is Your Brain on Parasites • Amazon • Audible
Another biology-related book. Explores the role of parasites (and bacteria, disease, disgust) in human behavior, attraction, even politics, morality, religion. Some of this is is cutting-edge, speculative, or not fully proven — but very interesting stuff indeed.
Life Ascending • Amazon • Audible
An earlier biology book by Nick Lane. With his characteristic richness of detail, it explores the evolution of DNA, photosynthesis, movement, sight, sex, consciousness, and death.
The Vital Question • Amazon • Audible
A fascinating book exploring the role of energy in biology and evolution. It explains how eucaryotic life emerged and why it grew in complexity, while bacteria have remained unchanged in their simplicity for billions of years. It also presents the best theory of abiogenesis we have, and a lot more.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Despite the (intentionally) provocative title, the book actually has some pretty good life advice. A modern take on Stoic philosophy, among other things. Quite entertaining. YMMV.
Guns, Germs, and Steel • Amazon • Audible
Theory of history of human civilizations. This fascinating book explains why Eaurasians came to dominate most of the world, why native American, Australian, and sub-Saharan African peoples never had a good chance; and why European diseases decimated the native American population, but not the other way around.
Why I Left Goldman Sachs • Amazon • Audible
A story about inner workings of the financial sector from someone who worked and succeeded at Goldman Sachs for over a decade. An enjoyable read.
Ego is the Enemy • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. At every point in your life, your ego is the enemy. You know this, I hope, but we all need this reminder to get back to earth.
Finansowy Ninja • Buy
🇵🇱 Notatki Podręcznik finansów osobistych. Podstawy, które każdy powinien znać (a nie każdy zna), i wskazówki, gdzie iść dalej.
A Man on the Moon • Amazon • Audible
The history of the Apollo program. Worth a read if you’re into space, though a bit long.
Under New Management • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). Modern companies inherited its management philosophy from the industrial age. But the nature of today’s work is very different. The book offers a bunch of ideas for how to run organizations better.
Disrupted • Amazon • Audible
Podcast. A hilarious and terrifying story of a startup. If you enjoy Silicon Valley, you’ll appreciate this book.
⭐️ Peak • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). Forget about natural talent — it’s bullshit. Skills are not innate, but developed through practice — lots of it. And not just any practice, but the kind that leverages the talent all of us have: malleability of our brains. And this book is all about it.
The Now Habit • Amazon • Audible
Notes. A guide to procrastination: why we do it, how we do it, and a number of tips and strategies to help overcome it. Overall a dry read, but there are a few bits I found useful.
The Inevitable • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). A story about how the world will change in the next few decades. The nature of technology available today makes certain trends almost inevitable. Even though the exact future is unknowable, we can still extrapolate from high-level trends to make some good predictions about the future.
Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age • Amazon • Audible
To me, this biography of Nikola Tesla is a cautionary tale of what happens when you start believing you’re the smartest person on Earth. After a brilliant invention and commercial success of his induction motor, he created nothing else of great significance. He promised a lot, but delivered nothing.
Smarter Faster Better • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast (Part 2). Stories and case studies about the invisible forces that shape how productive we are — both individually, and in organizations. A good read.
⭐️ The Gene • Amazon • Audible
The fascinating history of genetics, told from the very beginning up until today. Covers the broad range of genetics-related science, its development, and its implications. Long, but very well written, and a pleasure to read (or listen to).
Naked Statistics • Amazon • Audible
The book’s stated goal is to convey an intuitive (as in: very little math) understanding of statistics, and I think it succeeds at that. It shows both the awesome power of statistics (for research, science, predictions) and the dangers of its misuse.
Naked Money • Amazon • Audible
An interesting read about macroeconomics, the nature of money, the role of central banking, and other related topics. Lots of history, and packed into a very enjoyable and approachable book.
⭐️ How to Fly a Horse • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. More stories and insight on creativity. In particular, the book makes a strong case for just how ordinary creativity is, and makes you notice the things that hold us back from creating or lead us astray when we do.
⭐️ Originals • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Good advice for generating, recognizing, and championing original ideas, as well as for creating resilient cultures that promote creative thinking, and resist groupthink. A lot of stuff to unpack, a good read.
4 Disciplines of Execution • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. A system for pursuing goals, keeping track of progress, and making sure they ultimately get done. Useful in organizations and individuals. You won’t find the ideas very innovative, but the approach is helpful, and yet not something we tend to do. Worth a read if you have goals you have trouble actually finding time for.
Start with Why • Amazon • Audible
We tend to focus on the “what” and “how” of our companies and products. This manifesto reminds us to always start with “why” — the reason we do the things we do, to let that guide our decisions, the whats and hows. Personally, I found the book neither very insightful nor inspiring, but YMMV.
Whole Earth Discipline • Amazon • Audible
An ecopragmatist book making a compelling argument that urbanization, nuclear energy, and genetic engineering are good for the environment and must be pursued. This is all counterintuitive — environmental movement traditionally despises those things. But we’ve gone so far changing Earth, there might not be another choice.
⭐️ Deep Work • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Yes, yes, yes! We live very distracted lives and most of our working days are filled with shallow tasks and interruptions. Although programmers get the importance of flow, it’s so hard to achieve. Our environments don’t support it, and shallow work is just easier. The book makes a compelling case for why we should double down on deep work, and offers some practical strategies for achieving it.
Zero to One • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Thoughts on building innovative new companies. There’s some startup BS in Zero to One that turned me off, but still enough interesting insight to recommend the book.
Industries of the Future • Amazon • Audible
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well-prepared for what’s to come in the next few decades. Still, things will change, and this book offers one perspective at the industries that will flourish, and how wealth will be distributed in the world.
Narconomics • Amazon • Audible
If you’ve enjoyed Narcos, you’ll like this book. The world of drugs, cartels, gangs, violence, and prisons looked at from the perspective of an economist.
Your Brain at Work • Amazon • Audible
Notes (More notes). A lot of knowledge about how our brains work, packed into useful, practical terms. Understanding this stuff will help you be more productive, deal with stress and emotions better, even get better at working with and influencing other people.
⭐️ Sapiens • Amazon • Audible
The history of humankind from 2 million years back all the way until today. Fascinating read. I liked that it wasn’t just a list of events, but an overarching “theory of history”. Also enjoyed that this one topic was presented through many lenses: history, evolutionary biology, archeology, economics, even philosophy and theology.
Good to Great • Amazon • Audible
Notes. A research-based look at what causes companies to move from mediocre or good to great performance. Not super engaging to read, but the methodology behind the book gives its ideas more credibility.
The Everything Store • Amazon • Audible
A biography of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. An enjoyable read, some history, and some insight.
⭐️ Why We Get Fat • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. Before I read this book, my understanding of what makes us fat (what made me fat!) was highly mistaken. That, or this book is bullshit. But I don’t think so. My research and experience applying the lessons so far seem to confirm it. Hard to argue with 10kg lost in 4 months with little effort.
The ONE Thing • Amazon • Audible
Notes. A few great insights, but also some cringeworthy parts. Would recommend Essentialism over this one.
59 Seconds • Amazon • Audible
Notes. A big collection of easy life ideas based off of psychology research. Some good ones, lots of meh though.
The Innovator’s Dillema • Amazon
The Innovator’s Solution • Amazon • Audible
Important classics if you’re interested in understanding what makes businesses fail or succeed. Boring at times.
The Checklist Manifesto • Amazon • Audible
A short read to remind us to always. make. checklists. Sounds like an idea not deserving a book, but it does. Recommended as an audiobook.
Elon Musk (Ashlee Vance) • Amazon • Audible
Great stories from Elon Musk’s youth, early companies, Tesla, and SpaceX. Many I’ve never heard before.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Podcast. They always say to follow your passion. But it’s actually a terrible career advice. The book offers an alternative model to think of your career more compelling than that.
⭐️ Essentialism • Amazon • Audible
Podcast. A manifesto for doing less and focusing on the essential. Stop pretending there are no trade-offs. Recommended read.
⭐️ Superintelligence • Amazon • Audible
Super fascinating, and incredibly scary read about general artificial superintelligence. Amazing read. Highly recommended as an audiobook (fantastic narrator perfect for the topic).
Creativity Inc. • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Management and leadership stories and lessons from Pixar. Too long IMHO, but enjoyed it.
Making Ideas Happen • Amazon • Audible
Boring. Few compelling ideas.
The Millionaire Next Door • Amazon • Audible
Our preconceptions of what most millionaires are like are likely way off. An interesting read, though a bit old.
Becoming Steve Jobs • Amazon • Audible
The best biography of Steve I’ve read.
Outliers • Amazon • Audible
Blink • Amazon • Audible
David and Goliath • Amazon • Audible
The Tipping Point • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Great reads from Malcolm Gladwell. I liked Outliers best, but it was my first one, so that might be a bias.
Quiet • Amazon • Audible
About introversion. If you’re an introvert, you’ll like this book. If you’re not, you should read this book.
The Healthy Programmer • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Refactoring your health for programmers.
The Mythical Man-Month • Amazon
A very old book about the practice of software development. Interesting both how much and how little has changed since the 70s.
Peopleware • Amazon
Notes. On managing software develope teams — not the technical side, but the soft human side.
The Lean Startup • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Some good insights, if you can stand the Silicon Valley startup BS lingo.
⭐️ The Power of Habit • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Essential read, a manual for your brain (RTFM)
REMOTE • Amazon • Audible
37 Signals/Basecamp’s lessons learned from running a remote, office-less company.
⭐️ REWORK • Amazon • Audible
A manifesto / collection of short essays about how to run a company in the digital era. Delightful. Shaped my thinking greatly when I first read it, now it just seems like common sense.
How Will You Measure Your Life • Amazon • Audible
Notes. Ideas from Clay Christensen’s business theory (disruption theory etc.) applied as lenses to look at life.
Poke the Box • Amazon • Audible
⭐️ Linchpin • Amazon • Audible
The Icarus Deception • Amazon • Audible
What To Do When It’s Your Turn • Amazon
I love Seth Godin’s insights! Linchpin in particular is a worthy read, and had a big impact on me.