The Best Books I Read In 2013

 

I hope you like my new video content about the best books I read in 2013. Below is the list of books, the links are affiliate links to Amazon.

Paper Books

 

Kindle Books

 

Audiobooks

 

Here are a few other links to some of the other things I mentioned in my video. Hope you enjoy!

Really cool NPR interview with Paul Davies of Cosmic Jackpot.

Here is a link to Rob Kelly’s Blog (the book I was waving around at the start of the video).

My recent blog post about my favorite quotes from The Launchpad (yay Kindle).

Thanks again for reading my blog.

 

Social Media 101 – Your Social Media Reading Homework

Social media is the future of advertising and brand engagement and it can have a powerful impact on you and your business, but many people struggle to even understand its basics.

What most marketers don’t get is that the reason social media is powerful is not the platform itself – it is that unlike the era of mass media – social media lets you connect directly with the people.

That is its true strength. Seth Godin puts this perfectly into context in his blog post “What’s Your People Strategy?

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “so, what’s your telephone strategy?”

We don’t have a telephone strategy. The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and it’s only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

And then the internet comes along and it’s mysterious and suddenly we need an email strategy and a social media strategy and a web strategy and a mobile strategy.

No, we don’t.

It’s still people. We still have one and only one thing that matters, and it’s people.

All of these media are conduits, they are tools that human beings use to waste time or communicate or calculate or engage or learn. Behind each of the tools is a person. Do you have a story to tell that person? An engagement or a benefit to offer them?

Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.

Now its time for you to build your own people strategy. Here is a list of a few of my absolute favorite books on the subject. I’ve tried to keep this list as short and sweet as possible. It’s time to hit the stacks!

Core Curriculum

Crush It! (Amazon)

The seminal piece by social media legend Gary Vaynerchuck. You can probably read the entirety of Crush It in less than an hour. This book won’t wow you with a ton of never before seen social media secrets, but the raw power of Gary V’s enthusiasm, and the fact that he was one of the first people to realize the true potential of social media – make this book the starting place for any social media reading list.

If you consider yourself well versed in the basics – you can probably get away with skipping this one. But if you are clueless to social media and its potential – this is a mandatory starting place. This book answers the “Why” of social media. Here’s a picture of my favorite chapter in Crush It! (and one of the most important lessons in social media)

Smarter, Faster, Cheaper (Amazon)

I originally discovered David Siteman-Garland when looking around for website similar to Mixergy. He does a great web video / podcast series called Rise to the Top where he interviews entrepreneurs and talks about their success stories.

David’s first book – Smarter, Faster, Cheaper – is probably the book I most recommend to people who really want to dive in and learn how to build great content and develop the core of a successful social media strategy. I’ve given away several copies as gifts and lent my own copy out several times (still waiting to get it back from the latest friend I’ve lent it to). This book really delivers concrete actionable steps that can help you build a robust social media strategy based around rock solid content and execute it.  This book answers the “How” of social media.

Trust Agents (Amazon)

For the best summary of Trust Agents – check out my 23 Favorite Kindle Highlights from the book. Trust Agents is a lot like Smarter Faster Cheaper but with a business focus. Smarter Faster Cheaper is all about how to build and execute an effective social media strategy around you and your personal brand (a book for mediapreneurs as he calls it), Trust Agents focuses on doing it within the context of an existing corporation or business with a sales and customer service tint.

 

Extra Credit

These books don’t form the core of my thoughts on social media but I think each one really drills down on some of the foundations behind any successful social media strategy.

Never Eat Alone (Amazon)

Absolutely awesome book by Keith Ferrazi.  Never even mentions social media as this is a book about traditional networking, but this book redefines the entire concept. This book changed the way that I thought about networking and what it means – it’s not mashing your business card into as many hands as possible – it’s all about being a resource, helping other people become more successful, and giving more than you get. Turns out that is exactly how you succeed with social media.

Raving Fans (Amazon)

An oldie but a goodie. Written well before the time of social media this book is all about customer service. But the core message underlying the book should be the backbone of any social media plan. You have to care deeply about each one of your customers (or followers) and take the time to defy their expectations. This book is another quick read told through an easy to remember parable.

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Amazon)

Tim Ferriss called this one of his Top Five Must Read Books. Another one that you can get through in an hour or two. The core message here is that defining your own niche – or your own game as Trust Agents would say – is essential to any successful marketing strategy.

Linchpin (Amazon)

Seth Godin is widely regarded as one of the marketing geniuses of our time. Known for his pithiness, Godin’s book Linchpin can ironically ramble on at times.  I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of most of this book, but the single chapter titled “The Resistence” is worth the entire book and more. This chapter, riffing on the famous Steve Jobs line “Real Artists Ship” is all about overcoming your fears and objections and really putting yourself out there – an essential piece not only for social media success but for anyone who wants to achieve something big.

 

Bonus Blog Posts

Last but not least, I couldn’t help but include a few social media blog posts as well.

How to Build Great Content

1000 True Fans (by Wired founder Kevin Kelly)

How To Build a High Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

Three Minute Crash Course in Personal Branding

Giving is the core of any successful social media strategy.

Hope you enjoy this reading list and hit me up on Twitter!

Five Must Read Books On Entrepreneurship

“If I read a book that cost me $20 and I get one good idea, I’ve gotten one of the greatest bargains of all time.”  – Tom Peters

I am a sucker for cheesy and motivational business books and you can usually find me reading one (even on the beach). If I had to whittle my list of favorite business books down to just five selections that I would recommend to someone who is thinking about going out on their own and starting a business – these would hands down be the books that would make the cut. Warning – these books may make you want to quit your day job!! (The titles are affiliate hyperlinks if you want to check out their Amazon pages)

The Four Hour Work Week

The oddly titled book by controversial Silicon Valley personality Tim Ferriss (check out his blog here for some pretty interesting reading) is probably one of my favorite books of all time. I would say this book factored tremendously not only in my decision to ultimately leave my Wall Street job for more entrepreneurial pursuits but also in my own decision to write a book.  That said, take this book with a grain of salt. I think the message of the book is amazing – some of the concrete tips that Tim offers in the book are not entirely practical – but the framework that Tim uses to think about business and life is tremendously useful.

Tim’s biggest strength is his ability to think outside of the box. He really has an ability to see through all the preconceived notions and ideas that many people take for granted and turn them completely on their head.  Start with this book because it will get you fired up to really do something awesome – but after that are you going to need a little bit more substance.

The Personal MBA

This book is the meat and potatoes you’re gonna want after reading 4HWW.  Josh Kaufman absolutely crushes the fundamentals of business. Designed to be concise and information packed – this book tackles nearly every aspect of starting and running a business with amazing clarity. Josh read over 100 contemporary business books and synthesized them all into The Personal MBA. If you know nothing about business or think you know everything – I guarantee you will learn a tremendous amount from reading this.

This is the kind of book that you will want to keep in your bag because you keep taking it out and referencing different sections. This book focuses on teaching what Charlie Munger calls “mental models” – or “useful ways of thinking about the world that you can use to your advantage in a wide variety of situations” – giving you an arsenal of tools to tackle many different entrepreneurial problems.

The E-Myth Revisited

Michael Gerber draws on many of the themes from Personal MBA but really ties together the core of systematizing and documenting your business. The book is very straightforward and easy to follow because the core lessons follow the narrative of a fictional pie shop’s journey from disorganization to success. I’ve personally used dozens of the specific examples and lessons from this book to organize and streamline the operations of a mismanaged business. E-Myth combined with Personal MBA will give you a great foundation of business and operational knowledge to get you going.

Mindset

Mindset is the kind of book that will get you fired up to do absolutely anything. The crux of the book is that people fall into two camps – “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” – and if you happen to be a fixed mindset thinker (I was in a lot of ways) – switching to the growth mindset can open up huge amount of opportunity for you. Mrs. Dweck delves pretty deep into the psychological foundation for which mindset you might find yourself in – but to sum up the basic tenants of the book:

“In the world of fixed traits – success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the [world of growth] – the world of changing qualities – it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new.”

Not trying to go quote crazy here but (I should probably write a whole post on this…) this quote defines how I thought about risk, success, and failure in many areas of my life before I read this book.

“Everything I was going through boiled down to fear. Fear of trying and failing… Nothing is harder than saying ‘I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.’ The idea of trying and still failing – of leaving yourself without excuses is the worst fear within the fixed mindset.”

“Instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures people with the fixed mindset may simply try to repair their self esteem… by assigning blame or making excuses.”

It’s impossible to learn from your mistakes if you deny them by blaming something else.

I will say – the one drawbook of this book is that it gets pretty repetitive towards the end – repeating the same lesson in several different contexts (business, parenting, sports etc) but the message is so powerful in my opinion that it outweighs the repetitiveness.

The Monk and The Riddle

“Imagine I have an Egg” – Mr Wizdom cups an imaginary egg in his hand –“and I want to drop this egg three feet without breaking it. How would I do that?”

If one book will push you over the edge and really give you the drive to strike out on your own – it would be this. A great (and quick) read about leadership, success, business, and life – this book is eerily timely in today’s technology world. Written and set in a pre dotcom bubble Silicon Valley – this book follows the fictional journey of Funerals.com and the not-so-fictional life of its author Randy Komisar.

“Instead of managing business risk to minimize or avoid failure, the focus here is on maximizing success… failure is an unavoidable part of the search for success. Silicon Valley does not punish business failure. It punishes stupidity, laziness, and dishonesty. Failure is inevitable if you are trying to invent the future.”

It’s really a book that makes you ask – “What do I want to do with my life?” – and forces you to think long and hard about the answer. This book is 90% inspiration 10% information – but it will fill you with the fire to take a risk, take charge of your life – and make it what you want it to be.  The quote I put at the beginning is the riddle – don’t try to answer it now. You have to sit with the riddle for a while and the answer will simply come to you.

The Books I Read To Make Over $1000 Playing Poker

Is that a fortune cookie?

Poker is one of my biggest hobbies and something I love playing. From blogs to books, I have read a tremendous amount about the game and I wanted to share my favorite poker books from my bookshelf with you.

BUILDING BLOCKS

The Pocket Idiot’s Guide To Texas Holdem (Burgess & Baldassarre)

This was the very first book I bought when I started to teach myself Texas Holdem. I already knew how to play but I wanted to round out the basics and make sure I had all my foundations covered. I think it never hurts to get a refresher and make sure your foundations are rock solid. This is my go-to for learning the rules, numbers, and basic odds.

STARTING OUT

Okay so now that you have the very basics down and know the rules. It’s time to start working on your strategy. These two books formed the core of my overall poker strategic thinking. Both books focus on all various forms of poker and aren’t limited just to Holdem. Great for building on the basics and getting onto more advanced strategic topics. Also useful if you like to mix it up at your home game and play a few hands of Omaha or Five Card Draw.

The Theory of Poker (David Sklansky)

This book really builds on the odds and fundamentals taught in the Idiot’s Guide. You start to learn more advanced topics like c-betting, implied odds, and semi-bluffing. This book builds your strategic understanding and poker vocabulary up so you can start to grasp some of the more advanced concepts in the deeper books.

Super System (Doyle Brunson)

Doyle Brunson – a poker icon – wrote this book many years ago and it was truly the first “poker book” ever created. The book features information packed chapters about various poker games, each chapter written by a respective expert in that particular form of poker. Great for rounding out your game and learning good solid aggressive poker from the Texas Dolly himself.

CASH GAMES

If you want to master deep stacked cash games – Dan Harringon’s series is considered the bible. This is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to take cash games seriously and learn advanced cash game strategies. In this two-part series Harrington walks through every poker play style and why they work and why they don’t. The books outline every street (from pre flop to the river) and how to play various hands and scenarios from every possible angle.

Harrington On Cash Games (Vol 1)

Harrington On Cash Games (Vol 2)

SIT N GOS

My personal favorite games to play are Sit N Gos (SNGS). These are small table tournaments from 2 player heads up to 9 player single table and sometimes even larger. These are quick and short mini-tournaments and offer a great way to make money playing poker. SNGs are easy to find online. Moshman himself has made hundreds of thousands playing online SNGs and he shares his wisdom in these two books.

Sit ‘n Go Strategy (Colin Moshman)

This book is awesome. This book hammers out all the key concepts of SNGs and gives you a full understanding of the math behind SNG play. A full breakdown how to play all the stages of Sit ‘N Gos from the start down to the most important part – the “bubble”- that determines if a player makes money or loses it.

Heads-Up No-Limit Hold ‘Em (Colin Moshman)

Heads up is such a drastically different game than almost any other form of poker that it requires an entirely different strategy. One of my personal favorite game modes because it is so aggressive and action packed – I found this book to be an invaluable resource. As you can see from the picture of my bookshelf, I’ve read through this one a number of times.

DIGGING DEEPER

Here are a few more books that I read to round out my game and dig a bit deeper. Not core by any means but good reads to sharpen up your poker mind.

Read ‘Em And Reap (Joe Navarro)

Really interesting book for finding tells and reads on your opponent. This book combines insights from Phil Helmuth and an FBI interrogator to give a list of concrete tells to look for in your opponents. Pretty advanced stuff and tough to pull off, but these reads can be valuable if you learn to make even a few of them.

Every Hand Revealed (Gus Hansen)

Get inside the head of a top pro player as he gives you his thoughts on every hand he plays over the course of a tournament he ends up winning. Gives you an awesome insight into how top pros read people’s hands. Great for adding another layer of depth to your game and learning to be aggressive in more spots than you think.

Zen and the Art of Poker (Larry W. Phillips)

Tilt’s a bitch. I’ve lost a bunch of money over the course of my poker career solely from tilting out and getting mad. This book encouraged me to step back and evaluate my game more objectively.  Part Sun Tzu and part poker playbook – this has some awesome quotes and some good philosophies for tilt management and staying objective about your game.

STORY TIME

Here are two books that don’t contain much poker strategy but are awesome true stories about poker players and their lives.

Education of a Poker Player (Herbert O Yardley)

I think this book is actually out of print but it’s an awesome read. Written in the 20s or 30s – the book reads a bit weird and can be slow at times. The best advice I have is to skip over the parts were he talks poker strategy and just stick with the stories. One of the craziest stories is how the author was a US spy in China and caught an enemy spy as a result of a poker hand.

The Professor, The Banker, and The Suicide King (Michael Craig)

Wild story about a businessman who tries to take on some of pokers top pros. The book is a bit dated now but still a pretty wild story. Shows you what life is like in the top circles of poker’s elite and how hard it is to find action sometimes.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Well – that’s my poker education in a nutshell. I’m sure you can find a few gems in there that would help your own game out. I think the biggest key to improving your poker game is just to play for real money. Play money is a joke and doesn’t teach you poker fundamentals at all.

I took 1000 play money chips in a couple weeks and made over 1mm play chips on Full Tilt when I was learning the game. I thought – wow if I can crush the play money games this hard, I can’t wait to start printing cash.

When I finally moved into playing real money games for the first time – I struggled to maintain my $100 bankroll for nearly 4 months – dipping down to at one point having my entire remaining $13 on one cash table and getting a lucky double up to keep my account from going busto.

Once I started delving into these books and really studying the game – I ended up making over $1000 playing $5 buy-in sit n gos. Poker is a tough game and the swings can be sick sometimes, but skill does win out over time.

The Salt Shaker Theory – Danny Meyer’s Secret Sauce For Restaurant Management

Danny Meyer’s “Setting The Table” is one of the best books ever written on the restaurant business. An exciting read that covers not only Danny’s life but also his philosophies on business and success. One of the most remarkable ideas from Setting The Table is the “Salt Shaker Theory.”

“Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job. It is the job of life. It’s the law of entropy! Until you understand that, you’re going to get pissed off every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset.

I love the last line – “Its not your job to get upset” – its a remarkably insightful line that almost channels buddhism. Business owners and restaurant operators often struggle in the face of change and uncertainty. How should you react if your salt shaker keeps getting moved?

“Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like to you. And if you’re ever willing to let them decide where the center is, then I want you to give them the keys to the store. Just give away the fuckin’ restaurant!” Wherever your center lies, know it, name it, stick to it, and believe in it. Everyone who works with you will know what matters to you and will respect and appreciate your unwavering values. Your inner beliefs about business will guide you through the tough times. It’s good to be open to fresh approaches to solving problems. But, when you cede your core values to someone else, it’s time to quit.”

The salt shaker is a powerful metaphor for one of the keys to success in the restaurant industry – maintaining high standards and core values. Change is inevitable and you will always be faced with challenges along the way. The key phrase is “let them know what excellence means to you” – this quote isn’t about never changing or never adapting – its about never wavering on your values. Danny Meyers takes this compelling parable and explains how it informs his managerial style.

“Understanding the “saltshaker theory” has helped me develop and teach a managerial style I call constant, gentle pressure. It’s the way I return the saltshaker to the center each time life moves it.

I send my managers an unequivocal message: I’m going to be extremely specific as to where every component on that tabletop belongs. I anticipate that outside forces, including you, will always conspire to change the table setting. Every time that happens, I’m going to move everything right back to the way it should be. And so should you! That’s the constant aspect. I’ll never recenter the saltshaker in a way that denies you your dignity. That’s the gentle aspect. But standards are standards, and I’m constantly watching every table and pushing back on every saltshaker that’s moved, because excellent performance is paramount. That’s the pressure. Constant, gentle pressure is my preferred technique for leadership, guidance, and coaching. It’s the job of any business owner to be very clear as to the company’s nonnegotiable core values.”

It’s such a simple analogy but I think it drives home a great point – your values define you and sticking to your standards is essential to effectively managing and leading your business.

If you enjoyed this – you might also like my post Five Random Life Lessons From Danny Meyer. He is a truly inspirational restaurateur and has so much to teach about life and the restaurant business.

Wall Street Crash Course – Books I Read To Land A Job On The Street

I majored in Political Science, so how did I parlay my seemingly unrelated major into a 2 year gig at Goldman Sachs? I read a ton of books about finance.  Here’s my full throttle finance crash course that took me from knowing literally nothing about the stock market to understanding derivatives, risk, and trading psychology.

I read books from across several business disciplines to round out my business knowledge. Think of this more as a menu of options than a concrete reading list if you want to learn about business in general and finance in particular.

FINANCE

The Neatest Little Guide To Stockmarket Investment (Jason Kelly)

This was my go-to guide for understanding the basics of the stock market. This book taught me how to think about and value stocks using basic industry terminology like growth stocks, dividends, PE ratios, etc. Great for a beginner to get a handle on the fundaments of equities.

 A Random Walk Down Wall Street (Burton G. Malkiel)

A classic book and solid foundation for understanding Wall Street. This book will give you a robust grasp of the fundamentals of stock market trends and analysis. The single best part of this book is the chapter explaining all of the bubbles in the history of the financial markets.

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Edwin Lefèvre and Roger Lowenstein)

The best book ever written on trading psychology. Written in the 1930s by a trading legend at the time, this book will teach you how to think like a trader, feel the market, and understand how markets act and react.

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (Roger Lowenstein)

Single best intro into the fixed income world you can find. This book provides a fascinating story that is also packed with information about bond markets and interests rates.

Liar’s Poker (Michael Lewis)

Required reading for anyone who wants to work in finance. Period. This book is hilarious and entertaining and gives you a great grasp of the psychology of working on Wall Street. People will expect that you have read this if you even consider a career in finance.

More Than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places (Michael J. Mauboussin)

Really insightful read especially if you want to learn about finance from an outsiders perspective. This book is a cross-disciplinary analysis that brings in different fields and ideas and relates them back to finance. A good mix of psychology and statistics with a finance touch.

Lords of Finance (Liaquat Ahamed)

Amazing explanation of global economics and a surprising parallel to the mess we find ourselves in today. This book details the history and causes of the great depression. Excellent read that will really deepen your understanding of global economics and tell an interesting tale.

Black Swan (Nassim Taleb)

Honestly Taleb’s writing really bothers me and I think he’s intellectually arrogant and one of the most annoying and dense writers to read. Not a fan of his book or his writing. That said – you pretty much have to know what a Black Swan is to work or live in a post 2008 crisis world. You don’t have to read the whole thing but you better understand its core concepts.

ACCOUNTING

How to Read a Financial Report: Wringing Vital Signs Out of the Numbers (John A. Tracy)

Simple and easy to use book. This can make financial reports seem much less intimidating for someone with no experience using or understanding them. I still keep this book as a reference.

The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand (Darrell Mullis)

Hands down the best book I could ever recommend on learning or teaching accounting. This book takes a child’s lemonade stand and brings you along for the ride – balancing the books and doing all the financial reporting yourself with pen and paper as the lemonade business grows. It’s like an accounting coloring book. The hands on approach is unbelievably effective. I taught myself accounting with this book and later went on to get a near perfect grade in the two college level accounting classes I took at Richmond.

ECONOMICS & GAME THEORY

A Beginner’s Guide to the World Economy (Randy Charles Epping)

First book I read when I started out learning the basics of business. The book really rounded out my fundamentals and taught me basic economic things like how interest rates work, what GDP is, what inflation is, etc. Structured in short mini-chapters almost like blog posts – this book was exactly the tool I was looking for to teach myself the ground level economics I needed before moving on to more advanced reading.

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (Robert Wright)

One of my favorite books of all time. Regardless of all the tie-ins to economics – this book is a fascinating read that looks at the entire history of human technological and cultural development through the lens of game theory. This will teach you about society, economics, and a dash of game theory. Even if you don’t touch another business book I would pick this up anyway.

The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives (Leonard Mlodinow)

I used to dread stats class. This book completely changed the way I view statistics and opened my eyes to how powerful they are. A truly interesting history of statistics, randomness, and probability. Great math and econ background reading. This is what Black Swan should have been.

In Defense of Globalization (Jagdish Bhagwati)

This is the next step up from “A Beginners Guide To The Global Economy.” Taking a look at global economics and free trade on a much more detailed level and explaining how the global economy functions. Insightful book that delves into how free trade impacts everything from global capital flows to child labor or the environment.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner)

This book has been widely popularized but I think it’s a good intro to economics for two reasons. One – it’s a fascinating read and the stories are truly interesting. Two – it shows you how economics break down and analyze date and how to think like an economist when you are trying to solve a problem.

Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life(Avinash K. Dixit, Barry J. Nalebuff)

A book for the game-theory nerds (myself included). If you want to delve into some deep analysis of game theory using real life examples from business and politics – this book is a fun read and will deepen your knowledge substantially.

STILL WANT TO WORK ON WALL STREET?

Getting a job on Wall Street isn’t easy. You have to work your ass off. I read more than 15 books just to learn the basics – that doesn’t count interview prep and everything else that went into my job search.

One last big piece of advice – if you’re looking to get a job on Wall Street you absolutely need to read the Vault Guide To Investment Banking. This will polish off your market and economic knowledge with a few key terms that you won’t find in finance textbooks or classes. The Vault guide helped me understand key market terminology and get that last little edge in my interviews.

Good luck and even if you have no desire for getting a job on Wall Street – there are still some gems in here that I would highly recommend picking up and reading.