ktheoryAaron Suggs’s blog

June 2, 2021 — Tags: books

Here’s a log of audiobooks I’ve listened to recently, with some notes.

Nonfiction

Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari

This was a wonderful book. Some of my favorite points:

  • Corporations and nations are a collective fiction like religions.
  • Money is an uniquely valuable technology because it transcends culture.
  • Agriculture and the Neolithic revolution changed humanity in harmful ways, increasing the likelihood of violent conflict and poverty (reminiscent of Ishmael by Daniel Quinn).
  • The chapter on happiness and Zen Buddhism gave me galaxy brain.

The Essential Drucker by Peter F Drucker

A wide-ranging collection of insights on business management, many from the early-mid 1900s.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

I read this because it’s popular among Glossier leaders, with frequent references to a ‘flywheel’ and ‘getting the right people on the bus’. I found it quite valuable.

Some notes:

  • Humility and egolessness are critical leadership skills.
  • You are more likely to get revolutionary results from an evolutionary process than a revolutionary process. I.e. evolving a process is like compound interest.
  • Opportunity selection is more critical than opportunity creation.

Inspired by Marty Cagan

I read this b/c an Eng/PM friend recommended it when I confessed a lot of role confusion amongst PMs, Eng Managers, and tech leads. It’s a good primer on what Product Management should be. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on finding reference customers as a symbiotic partnership.

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

A thought-provoking exploration of an economics that doesn’t assume indefinite growth. She argues that systems thinking (stocks and flows) are much more helpful to economics than trying to discover physics-like natural laws and constants.

Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

I especially liked applying the multi-armed bandit approach to explore/exploit trade offs in everyday life (like whether to try a new restaurant).

Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S Kuhn

I re-read this for the first time since college. One point that really stuck out what that work on novel paradigms is often accessible to a non-academic audience. Examples were Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s Origin of Species. In contrast, as a paradigm is well-established, academic work becomes deeply niche and inscrutable without decades of training.

Turns out, the hard sciences are more subjective than we realize.

Fiction

  • His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  • The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. Rocky! I liked The Martian and Artemis. This is my favorite of the three. Weir has really found his groove.
  • Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy) by Cixin Lui