Category Archives: Books

Books

One of the many enjoyable aspects of long-term travel is I get to read a lot more…for pleasure.  I am starting a new post that I will update periodically to list the books that I have read (or am reading) since our journey began.  Note that many of these authors have corresponding blogs where you can get a taste for the concept without buying/reading a whole book.  And if you have suggestions for books you think I would enjoy, please do let me know!
The Lean Startup: a very popular book relevant for both new entrepreneurs and established companies launching new products, among others…as the title suggests, the goal is to figure out if your business is viable and if so start and grow it without betting the farm…advocates practices like continual testing of assumptions, metrics that are both measurable (of course) but also meaningful, etc.

Investment Biker: older book by Jim Rogers, partner of George Soros at the Quantum Fund with legendary returns…as Amazon says, it is “the fascinating story of his 1990 investing trip around the world by motorcycle, with many tidbits of hard-headed advice for investing in foreign markets.” while not infallible, he is quite prescient and it is a good read.
Delivering Happiness: the Zappos story, a book about building the best customer service business and having fun in the process.  Tony offers some neat ideas for managing employees and creating the right culture.  I enjoyed it a lot and many of his philosophies align with my own.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: book about the Mumbai slums.  Bill Gates said, “It reads like a novel by Dickens, but is a real-life depiction of the challenges hundreds of millions of people face every day in urban slums. It’s also a reminder of the humanity that connects us all.”  The tales of corruption are truly horrifying.

Business Stripped Bare: Richard Branson book about how he got started with Virgin and his relentless focus on brand.  If you do not define your brand, someone else will.

Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela’s autobiography.  His patience, tolerance, sacrifice and humility are quite the inspiration.

The 4-Hour Workweek: another very popular book, Tim aims not only to inspire you to examine your professional and personal lives but he gives step by step instructions for freeing your time and generating income.  At first I was lukewarm because it seemed like another book heavy on philosophy (which I don’t really need since I already made the decision!), but then Tim proceeds to offer a wealth of resources for starting businesses and using outsourcing both professionally and personally.

The Kite Runner: per Amazon, Khaled Hosseini offers “an educational and eye-opening account of a country’s political turmoil–in this case, Afghanistan–while also developing characters whose heartbreaking struggles and emotional triumphs resonate with readers long after the last page has been turned over.”  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and great fiction is just what Madurai called for.  I think I particularly like historical fiction for the simultaneous escape/repose and learning.

Half the Sky: informative book on women’s rights issues around the world, which the authors wisely convey as human rights issues.  They focus largely on maternal mortality, human trafficking, sexual violence and routine daily discrimination.  The authors argue there are extensive pragmatic, as well as ethical, reasons to empower women and eliminate discrimination and repression.  A nice balance of facts and studies with many individual stories makes it an enjoyable read, and the authors recommend specific remedies at the policy level and actions you can take to help.

Little Princes: about an American man (Conor Grennan) who volunteered at an orphanage in Nepal at the start of a round-the-world trip and was drawn to return and start a children’s home and reunite children lost/trafficked during Nepal’s civil war with their families.  A very enjoyable read, and for those Latham-ites seeing this, Liz Flanagan is featured prominently as she connected with Conor, then spent time with him and the kids in Nepal and now they are married.

David and Goliath: a disappointing entry from Malcolm Gladwell.  The theme is that sometimes what we consider disadvantages are actually advantages, and vice versa.  He covers topics like the extraordinary success of many with dyslexia, inverted U-curves witnessed in studies of school class size, the limits of power, etc.  I loved Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers and had high expectations.  This is not a bad book, it is just not nearly as good as his others.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: a book about Dr. Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti and elsewhere. Though my Kindle loan expired midway through, I enjoyed what I read.  Clearly a brilliant man, Dr. Farmer’s work focuses on the intersection of medicine and anthropology.

Undaunted Courage: a terrific book by Stephen Ambrose, per Amazon “the definitive book on Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time.”  Jeremy L. recommended this book to me years ago and I finally got around to reading it…I only wish I had done so before our US road trip!

Three Day Road: Joseph Boyden’s first novel about two Cree Indian friends who leave Canada to fight in World War I.  It is said to be loosely based on the real life of a famous Canadian sniper. Quite graphic but a good read.  And as I read it immediately after Undaunted Courage, it furthered my education on some of the abuses by whites against native Indians in North America.

A Lesson Before Dying: I did not love this book

Omnivore’s Dilemma: I loved this book.  A seemingly balanced and very informative analysis of the facts and philosophy of America’s food system.  Highly recommended.

Born to Run: a very enjoyable read about the Tarahumara tribe and Mexico’s Copper Canyons.   And more generally about running and approaches to living.   A nice mix of scientific support and a riveting story.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage: fantastic book about the extraordinary survival journey of Ernest Shackleton and his fellow shipmates.  A quote for all you mariners: “But the sea is a different sort of enemy.  Unlike the land, where courage and the simple will to endure can often see a man through, the struggle against the sea is an act of physical combat, and there is no escape.  It is a battle against a tireless enemy in which man never actually wins; the most that he can hope for is not to be defeated.”

Setting the Table: Danny Meyer’s book about hospitality.  His priority is to his own team, then in descending order guests, community, suppliers and investors.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: I thought the book was good but not amazing.  The story, though, is pretty amazing.  Per Amazon, she “was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.”

Miracle in the Andes: inspiring book written by one of the survivors (he was one of two who made the trek to get help) of the famous Uruguayan rugby team plane crash in 1972 in the Andes.  A great tale of overcoming unspeakable personal tragedy.