2019 turned out to be another great year for knowledge compounding by reading a wide variety of books. I took a conscientious decision in the recent years to quit some social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and whittling away my overusage of Twitter (although Ive been failing at this one). I still see a lot of value in Twitter, so I find it hard to quit completely — especially since I get to connect with some brilliant people and have/follow interesting ideas and conversations.
In addition to quitting social media, I made a decision to reduce my consumption of news. Most of today’s news – be it financial media, political media etc is nothing but drivel that generates excessive noise, and I wanted to get rid of that from my life. These little changes opened up so much time; allowing me to do more of what I wanted to do for the past few years: read more books.
I had a goal of reading 25 books in 2019 and managed to hit the target. Here’s a summary of the books I read in the second half of 2019 (you can find the 1H 2019 update here) and my short take on each.
- Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies from McKinsey – A great book for all investors. Valuation is such a subjective matter and you can find more opinions than metrics in the investing world. This book is a great foundation builder and I highly recommend it. Verdict: ★★★★
- How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer by Adrian Newey – A fantastic book if you are into F1 detailing the evolution of Adrian Newey; from his upbringing and finding loopholes in rules to how his designs changed the sport over the past few decades. Verdict: ★★★★
- Total Competition: Lessons in Strategy from Formula One by Ross Brawn & Adam Parr – Another F1 book, this time from the brilliant Ross Brawn. This book is structured as a back-and-forth conversation between Ross Brawn & Adam Parr and tries to capture all tactical & strategic decisions that went into Ross’ tenure as a team principal at Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn & Mercedes F1. Verdict: ★★★
- Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison by Howard Green – A good read profiling one of the most celebrated CEOs in corporate America. Hunter Harrison has been heralded as the best railroader ever, who understood the business from ground-up, rising to the top and leading as CEO of 4 different North American railroads. This book provides a window of how he operated and provides both the good and bad of his day-to-day activities. It was also interesting to read about the boardroom battles endured during the activist investor moves into CP & CSX. Verdict: ★★★★
- Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein – This book was a bit underwhelming. Perhaps my hope was too high based on the community recommendation, but I found that this book rehashed some of the ideas from other books I had already read. In addition this book did not explore the ideas at a deeper level, which other books did well, so will get a low rating from me. Verdict: ★★
- Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond by Gene Kranz – An interesting & inspiring book. After reading Rocket Men earlier in the year, I was looking for similar topics and found this one from the same Apollo program. While not as good as Rocket Men, this book was still good to provide some perspective on the difficult task of putting a man on the moon. Lots of failure stories were shared in this book which was refreshing as most books simply share the success stories. Verdict: ★★★
- Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by Mitchell Waldrop – Not sure where I got the recommendation from, but ended up randomly picking this book and found that this was about the start and growth of Santa Fe Institute, an institute that has intrigued me in the past. This book sure has intrigued me and I will probably return to it in the future for reference. After I read this, I also found a podcast and some courses hosted by SFI — that provides more threads to pull in the future. Verdict: ★★★★
- The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson – This was an interesting book going through the history of shipping containers & it’s impact on the economy. Lots of filler going into trade unions & local political issues of the ‘50s & ‘60s. However, reading about docks, containers, cost reduction etc, I couldn’t help but draw a lot of parallels to today’s software industry & the developments in the cloud environment. Verdict: ★★★
- The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger – An easy read and a good business book. There are some business lessons sprinkled all over the book. The section on Iger’s relationship with Steve Jobs & the Pixar acquisition was probably the most interesting bit of the book. Verdict: ★★★★
Have you read any interesting books lately? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.