Weekend Briefing No. 411

Welcome to the weekend and Merry Christmas!

When I was a kid, I never liked reading and it’s super embarrassing to admit. When I graduated from high school, I read only one book from cover to cover. (It was a book about mountaineering.) This year, I read over 80 books—a new personal record. I find that I’m getting more intellectually curious as time goes on, and my love of reading is increasing as well.

So, I’m going to focus this issue on my favorite books of the year. Instead of doing complete ranking, I’ll rank my top three books in a few categories.

In case you’re curious, here’s the full list of books I read in 2021, including a rating, description and URL. (You can even choose different views, sort and search the list if you like.)

Also, as I mentioned last week. I’m launching a new weekly email in January called Funding Fridays. My goal is to clearly and concisely communicate the state of startup funding from Pre-Seed through Series C in about two minutes. I hope that Funding Fridays will equip founders with accurate real-time market data to make smart decisions their next round of funding. We’ve already had hundreds of people sign up. If this sounds interesting, click here to sign up for Funding Fridays and forward the link to a friend you think might be interested.

Lastly, I know many people like to take some time to reflect on the year on the week between Christmas and new years. So, I wanted to share with you my framework for end of year reflection. I hope it helps you reflect. If you use it, let me know what you liked about it and how it could be improved.

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Best Overall

  • Navalmanack by Eric Jorgenson. This is a collection of Naval Ravikant’s wisdom and experience from the last 10 years, shared as a curation of his most insightful interviews and poignant reflections.
  • A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell. This is the story of Virginia Hall, who became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines. Despite her prosthetic leg, she helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it. Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall—an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance and personal triumph over shocking adversity.
  • Pappyland by Wright Thompson. The story of how Julian Van Winkle III, the caretaker of the most coveted cult Kentucky Bourbon whiskey in the world, fought to protect his family’s heritage and preserve the taste of his forebears, in a world where authenticity, like his product, is in very short supply.

Best Future

  • The Exponential Age by Azeem Azhar. Exponential Age offers a revelatory new model for understanding how technology is evolving so fast and why it fundamentally alters the world. He roots his analysis in the idea of an “exponential gap” in which technological developments rapidly outpace our society’s ability to catch up.
  • The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Moog. Davidson and Rees-Mogg explore the greatest economic and political transition in centuries—the shift from an industrial to an information-based society. This transition, which they have termed “the fourth stage of human society,” will liberate individuals as never before, irrevocably altering the power of government. This outstanding book will replace false hopes and fictions with new understanding and clarified values.
  • Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio. Dalio brings readers along for his study of the major empires, including the Dutch, the British and the American, putting into perspective the “Big Cycle” that has driven the successes and failures of all the world’s major countries throughout history. He reveals the timeless and universal forces behind these shifts and uses them to look into the future, offering practical principles for positioning oneself for what’s ahead.

Best Business

  • 7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer. Helmer develops from first principles a practical theory of strategy rooted in the notion of power, those conditions which create the potential for persistent differential returns. Using rich real-world examples, Helmer rigorously characterizes exactly what your business must achieve to create power. And create power it must, for without it, your business is at risk.
  • High Output Management by Andrew Grove. In this legendary business book and Silicon Valley staple, the former chairman and CEO of Intel shares his perspective on how to build and run a company. The essential skill of creating and maintaining new businesses—the art of the entrepreneur—can be summed up in a single word: managing. 
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. In this candid and riveting memoir, for the first time ever, Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing and profitable brands.

Best Personal Growth

  • A World Without Email by Cal Newport. We have become so used to an inbox-driven workday that it’s hard to imagine alternatives. But they do exist. Drawing on years of investigative reporting, author and computer science professor Cal Newport makes the case that our current approach to work is broken, then lays out a series of principles and concrete instructions for fixing it.
  • Effortless by Greg McKeown. Getting ahead doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. No matter what challenges or obstacles we face, there is a better way: Instead of pushing ourselves harder, we can find an easier path. Effortless offers actionable advice for making the most essential activities the easiest ones, so you can achieve the results you want without burning out.
  • Indistractible by Nir Eyal. What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? What could you accomplish if you could stay focused? What if you had the power to become “indistractable?” Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology without letting it get the best of us.

Best Marketing

  • Marketing Made Simple by Donald Miller. Based on proven principles from Building a StoryBrand, this five-part checklist  is the ultimate resource for marketing professionals and business owners as they cultivate a sales funnel that flows across key customer touchpoints to effectively develop, strengthen and communicate their brand’s story to the marketplace.
  • Influence by Robert Chaldini. In this widely adopted, now classic book on influence and persuasion, Dr. Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations.
  • $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi. This book shares how to create offers so good that people feel stupid saying no. When I first started reading this book, I was super skeptical. It starts out pretty cheesy, but the core principles are solid.

Best SciFi

  • Dune by Frank Herbert. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined.
  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. This is the way the world ends for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Wier. Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish. His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species. And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Best Biography

  • Grant by Ron Chernow. Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him. As Chernow reveals in his masterful biography, this author is the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.
  • The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. After helping to discover CRISPR, Jennifer Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in 400. In nearly every country, the Mongols conquered. They brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege.

About the Weekend Briefing

This is a Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society by Kyle Westaway—Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo by Bernd Klutsch.

Should We Work Together?

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Weekend Wisdom

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.Charles Baudelaire

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