Below is a subset of books that I found meaningful and worthwhile sharing with others. Books that had an outsized impact on me are listed in red.
- The Song of Achilles - I read this as part of a book club among friends. This was a very accessible, wonderfully written adaptation of The Illiad, rendered from an unexpected perspective. A great lesson in the danger of pride.
- Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed - I hosted a book club for this and was compelled to read it because it's become a Silicon Valley classic. We generally agreed that Scott presents an important cautionary tale, but that the analysis was a bit outdated and lacking.
- Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography - Jobs was an incredibly Zen entrepreneuer. This book presents a strong case for why rationality does not always trump intuition.
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City - A useful look at how well-intentioned policy can have the opposite intended effect.
- Politics Is For Power: How to Move Beyond Political Hobbyism, Take Action, and Make Real Change - The chapters on comparing Chicago-style machine politics with our modern, armchair politics were the most useful.
- Why We're Polarized - Klein achieved a great feat in managing to weave together academic theory with political journalism. This is an excellent survey book on the subject of polarization.
- The Inner Game of Tennis - My favorite book in 2020 despite not really knowing how to play tennis.
- Energy Trading & Investing: Trading, Risk Management, and Structuring Deals in the Energy Markets, Second Edition - A good intro to energy trading that helped me see why renewables have come to dominate the power market.
- Red Plenty - I read shortly after watching Chernobyl and becoming very interested in 20-th century USSR history. This is a phenomenal look at 1950s Soviet life and also an example of how we should teach history.
- The Wisdom of Insecurity - I'll have to revisit this one because I suspect it's the type book that requires rereading. However, it's a pretty good introduction to Watts.
- Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance - I really admire everything the Skocpol research group puts out. This book is vital to understanding US electoral politics in the last decade.
- The Enchiridion - Another Stoic classic, but Meditations is better known for a reason.
- Zen in the Art of Archery - An eye-opening series of anecdotes—trying to understand them is a koan in and of itself.
- When Breath Becomes Air - A useful memento mori.
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future - I've read this multiple times, as have many in the Valley. Thiel is really brilliant and has a way of asking questions that force you to really think and generate your own understanding of what he's trying to say. Ch. 6, You Are Not A Lottery Ticket, is probably what I've spent the most amount of time pondering.
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't - Pretty standard HBR type of book, but I find Sinek to be a remarkably compelling speaker. Worth at least watching the TED talk.
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World - Cal Newport at his best. This book motivated me to delete a few social media accounts at the time.
- Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections - The media dynamics that many worry originated with Facebook actually began much earlier with the rise of cable TV (and arguably before even that).
- Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics - I really liked the bit in this about how social issues coupled with the American eletoral map exacerbated polarization (see Ch. 4).
- What the Best College Teachers Do - I read this book before I taught CS50. It helped me understand that a teacher helps students discover the truth rather than just tells them it.
- Meditations - A wonderful introduction to stoicism.
- How Democracies Die - The most important part of this is the bit about informal rules; our democracy is more than its legal code.
- Barking Up the Wrong Tree - My key takeaway was that excellence is less about possessing some set of ubiqutious traits and more about optimizing for your own individual needs.
- The Book of Not - An infuriating sequel to Nervous Conditions, but I had to read it because I admire Dangarembga so deeply.
- Purple Hibiscus - I found this to be a really engaging Nigerian drama.
- Nervous Conditions - My favorite bildungsroman, and one of those rare books where it is just as impactful as the last every time you read it.
- The Windup Girl - I read so long ago that I can't remember anything other than that it was certainly worthy of the Hugo Award.
Got recommendations? Let me know!