What I Read: Q4 2023

Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson is such a fantastic biographer. He provides an intimate, unfiltered look into the mind of one of the most polarizing figures of our time. Isaacson’s ability to dissect complex personalities has never been clearer. He presents a balanced and uncensored portrayal of Elon Musk that reaffirms one thing: the man is a genius. A portrait of a somewhat broken and flawed man, who works excessively hard, demands a lot of others around him, and has created some really impressive things. As with many biographies of living people though, it’s challenging to create a complete portrait without giving time the chance to settle their legacy. I think we can consider this part one.

The Hair, David Sodergren

This was bloody, disgusting, beautiful, sad, and charming in an odd way. The characters felt like clichés and caricatures, lacking any deep personality. The psychological horror was minimal but the gore was turned up to ten. The story could easily be a screenplay for a really good 80’s B horror flick. It’s a quick read, a revenge thriller and a bizarre romance.

People Powered, Jono Bacon

I had the chance to meet Jono at All Things Open 2023 and received a free copy of his book at a book signing. Very cool! This was a great extension of the conference and provided a deep dive into some interesting aspects of open source communities. Though not completely relevant in my day to day, it gave a nice overview and provided inspiring stories with useful action items that could easily be mapped onto what I do. A great read, not just for community managers, but also for those that want to operate in more of a community – which we all desire.

The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks

Another one of my childhood favorites that I was eager to rediscover. I went as far as finding the edition that I had in the 1980s. Nostalgia wins! Reading this reminded me of the magic of being a child. Having something that was yours, which felt so special and magical. It really brought me back. I can’t wait to read this with my daughter!

Going Infinite, Michael Lewis

This is the story of Sam Bankman-Fried, with his strong, unconventional personality, and his relatively quick rise in an unregulated industry. The book was published before the fallout of FTX/Alameda Research was settled, which made it feel like it was written a bit too early. The second half of the book felt rushed and unfinished. The first half provided quite a bit of information about effective altruism and how FTX got to where it was. But the development/descriptions of the characters fell a bit flat. There was no meaningful insight into FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried or his inner circle. In most books, there is a “so what” that is typically the key learning point or major message. There was no “so what” and you are sort of left hanging. Everything and everyone was a mess in this story and nothing was cleaned up by the end. Only more mess.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I should have read this one 30 years ago. It’s been on my list since then. I don’t know what I expected but I wasn’t expecting this to be as silly as it was. It felt like reading Monty Python. I saw this in another review and it sums it up perfectly: “The book as a whole jumps about like a manic puppy on methamphetamines, and there are at least a few jokes in there that will completely fly over the heads of any readers who lack a basic comprehension of quantum physics.” So long, and thanks for all the fish!

The Little Liar, Mitch Albom

There are so many novels written about the Holocaust that it’s a challenge to stand out in the crowd. However, Mitch Albom does it. The narration was beautiful and keeps you hooked from the very first page. It’s a book you won’t want to put down. The story was well researched, well calculated and each event was well delivered. The characters were thought out, so much so that you will find yourself enthralled with their individual lives. He doesn’t hold back in telling of the horrors of the Holocaust and the intertwined stories will pull at your heartstrings. This is a great piece of historical fiction that will stay with you forever.

The Simple Path to Wealth, JL Collins

This was a book club read. As usual, I feel like the kind of person who reads this book is the kind of person who already knows about everything in this book. If you are that kind of person, it’s still worth reading. It is an easy read. It is easy to reference. And it will probably tie together a lot of finance/investing knowledge into one pretty package. You can also feel confident in recommending it to anyone that isn’t that kind of person.

Same as Ever, Morgan Housel

Morgan Housel is one of my favorite thinkers and I was really excited for this book. It mostly reads like a collection of Housel’s blog posts, and lucky for me, I love his blog. His ideas and thoughts always make me stop and think. In this short but wisdom-packed book, he talks about timeless principles and patterns that keep repeating with relevant stories and practical examples. In short, you need to understand human nature to know what’s going to happen in the future and become a better decision-maker. This is a must read for everyone.

Da Gobbo Rides Again, Rhuairidh James

A fun, quick little read. The length of this felt just right. An orkish adventure full of memorable characters that makes you feel like you were trudging around with them. Not a lot of depth but I wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise. This was supposed to be fun! I’m happy I found this annual tradition and really want to get my hands on the first two books!

Holidays On Ice, David Sedaris

A collection of both fiction and non-fiction holiday themed stories defined by a bit of humor with some dark turns, and sprinkled with subtle social commentary. Sure, these stories were sometimes filled with crude humor and bleak holiday cheer, but they are funny! SantaLand Diaries is the first story and it is the star of the show. However, the rest don’t disappoint. This might not be one of his strongest collections but it’s a fun way to spice up the holidays!

Feelings are Overrated, Rick Brand

I’m going to be a bit biased because Rick’s son was one of my closest friends growing up and Rick had a meaningful impact on my life – probably more than he realizes. Many of the lessons I remember him teaching us as kids shined through with the stories in this book. Not everyone was as fortunate as I was to have Rick in their lives, but this is the chance to get a taste of what it was like – the entertaining story teller, the mentor who instilled a hard working ethos, and the jokester that made tough life lessons feel a bit sillier than they should. Even if for selfish reasons, I’m really happy that he wrote this book.