Reading List

This is a list of some writing I’ve found particularly good, both on the utilitarian and literary sides of things. I’ve definitely missed some of my favorites; this skews towards books I’ve read recently and ones I’ve found myself thinking back to.

Books that I liked but that weren’t one of my absolute favorites, or that I didn’t have much to say about, are listed without comments.

If you see a lot of books you like on this list and think of others I should check out, drop me a line!

Books on Business and Entrepreneurship

  • Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell: I took a few classes in economics in high school and college, but this book taught me more about what economics actually has to teach us about the world than all of those classes put together.
  • The Most Important Thing by Howard Marks: The best book on investing I’ve read. From the perspective of a value investor working hard to outperform the market, but has many valuable lessons that generalize to other investment approaches and outside of investing entirely.
  • The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America: I had absorbed a sense of respect for Warren Buffett before reading this book, and had meant to read some of his famous annual reports, but never knew where to start. Here, Lawrence Cunningham did a great job excerpting Buffett’s writings in a way that packs a LOT of insight into a pretty short book and gives a sampler of his intellectual range. I learned a lot from this book, and now appreciate just how much Warren Buffett’s record is no accident.
  • The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco: Seems like a trashy self-help book on first glance but is actually a very clear-eyed view on how making money works. I got a lot out of this book as an engineer-turned-startup-founder.
  • Clay Christensen‘s body of work is a classic; he coined the idea of disruptive innovation among many others. I can recommend The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Solution, and I also enjoyed a collection of his HBR articles called The Clayton M. Christensen Reader.
  • I also got a lot out of reading selections from Michael Porter‘s work, including this article.
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight – the origin story of Nike, warts and all.
  • That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph: From the cofounder of Netflix. In the mold of, and as good as, Shoe Dog, but for the tech industry.
  • How to Castrate a Bull by Dave Hitz – Another view of tech entrepreneurship from the inside. Also a great and insightful read. 
  • The Soul of a New Machine: This book is a journalist’s account of the development process of a new minicomputer at one of the major players in that space some 30 years ago. A super interesting read: some things have changed completely since then, and others have not changed at all!
  • Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson is a great summary of how the world of venture capital works. Secrets of Sand Hill Road is another good book in the same genre.
  • The Power Law by Sebastian Mallaby is an excellent history of the venture industry in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and looks under the hood of how venture partnerships work in a way that no other book I’ve read has. This should be required reading for entrepreneurs.
  • The Luxury Strategy by Jean-Noël Kapferer and Vincent Bastien: A book on how to build and sustain luxury brands – but a very interesting read on how marketing and product development interact with human psychology both in the luxury niche and elsewhere in the market in contrast.
  • A Dozen Lessons for Entrepreneurs, edited by Trenholme J. Griffin: A well-curated selection of startup advice, but the author’s commentary is skippable.
  • The Mom Test and Talking to Humans: Two great (and short!) primers on talking to customers.
  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel: Deserves its popularity.
  • Principles by Ray Dalio. A great manual on company building.
  • Finding Fertile Ground by Scott Shane. Slightly tedious but worth reading for would-be entrepreneurs – this is a very good breakdown of how to think about how and where opportunities to build new companies emerge.
  • 7 Powers: Another excellent book for thinking about strategy. Pairs well with “Finding Fertile Ground” – this one’s about how to make sure the company you build can defend its margins long-term. Skip the math if you’re not in academia.
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini. Academic psychology includes a lot of chaff with the wheat, but this book is excellent.
  • Financial Intelligence for Entrepreneurs by Berman & Knight is a great primer on corporate finance and accounting for who need to understand the concepts on a high level.
  • Why Stocks Go Up and Down: A great more detailed primer on the financial metrics that investors care about – implicitly a lesson in accounting as well.
  • Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller: Packed with insights on how markets behave irrationally, as well as finance and economics more broadly – highly recommended if you don’t already have a strong understanding of the field.
  • Pioneering Portfolio Management by David Swensen: a really good intro to how a top asset manager things – useful to understand how a crucial layer of the world’s finance stack (asset management) works.
  • How I Went from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger: 100 years old and has stood the test of time. A great book to understand what sales is about and how to do it well.
  • The Founder’s Dilemmas is an excellent take on the human dynamics of startups. I was very glad I read it before starting a company.
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying: A peek under the covers of the PR industry. Pairs well with Paul Graham’s essay The Submarine.
  • Charlie Munger is a great source of wisdom about life and business. I can especially recommend his talk about the psychology of human misjudgment.
  • Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy: Even though it’s decades-old, this look into one of the all-time masters of advertising has lots of things to learn from, and it’s also full of wisdom about how to build and run a truly high-performance organization.

Periodicals, blogs, and newsletters

  • The Economist magazine is a great source for good and broad, if shallow, coverage of almost anything happening in the world. I was a subscriber for more than a decade.
  • The Money Stuff newsletter from Matt Levine is both insightful and hilarious.
  • The Marginal Revolution blog from Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok is a high-volume, high-quality feed of many very interesting things, with a contrarian perspective.
  • Scott Alexander’s Astral Codex Ten newsletter (and its predecessor Slate Star Codex) has a lot of high-quality content with a genuinely contrarian perspective.
  • Benedict Evans is consistently excellent; he has a newsletter and writes elsewhere too.
  • Paul Graham’s essays. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
  • Sam Altman also has some excellent essays.
  • Marc Andereesen – He took his blog down but some highlights are archived here.
  • Elad Gil’s blog is consistently insightful: another one of my favorites.
  • José Ancer runs a website that is full of good sense at Silicon Hills Lawyer.
  • I’ve enjoyed a number of pieces from Jerry Neumann’s Reaction Wheel blog.
  • A lot of the content on SaaStr is great – see the Best Of.

Non-business nonfiction

Here are a few of my favorites from outside of the world of business.

  • The Power Broker – not just the best biography I’ve ever read; also the best book I’ve read on how power actually works.
  • George Orwell’s essays are probably the best of all time in the English language.
  • The Red Queen and The Selfish Gene gave me quite a bit of insight into the workings of evolution and the implications for the way people are.
  • Man’s Search for Meaning has changed the lives of many readers for the better, and I count myself among them.
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport: An unparalleled primer on productivity for creative workers. Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You is another gem from Newport; one of the best career books I’ve ever read. (Develop a “passion” rather than looking for it!)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a well-deserved classic.
  • The Box: A surprisingly entertaining account of the container revolution in shipping.
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: An excellent history of cancer.
  • Endurance: An account of Shackleton’s voyage, and a lesson in leadership.
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem: As advertised, a lesson in the banality of evil. This book changed my view of the world significantly. 
  • Iron Coffins: A page-turning account of the submarine war in the Atlantic from the German perspective, and a lesson in competence and leadership.
  • In Cold Blood: Some of the best long-form journalism I’ve ever read.
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion.
  • Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life: A great adventure story.
  • Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman: An ode to the joys of science, and of keeping technical work fun.
  • Seven Years in Tibet: A German mountaineer and POW escapes from a prison camp in India during WW2 and spends years of his life in still-independent Tibet. A great true story.
  • McDonald’s: Behind the Arches. The building of the biggest restaurant chain ever.
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
  • The Inner Game of Tennis – not just for tennis, a short and worthwhile read
  • The Biggest Bluff – Very well-written, both a great story and a well-thought-out take on social science and its applicability in the real world.
  • The Prize: A good history of the oil industry. I wish it had been shorter, but it was good enough that I read most of it.
  • How to Prevent a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates – by far the best take on climate issues, and what to do about them, that I’ve read.
  • The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – The astonishing and braggadocious memoirs of one of the great artists of Renaissance Italy, who was also a notorious murderer – interesting both from the point of view of Cellini’s experience of his life and world, as well as for getting a sense of the mentality of a very different era through a narrative that feels surprisingly modern.
  • Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns
  • The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 by Geoffrey Parker
  • The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer
  • Life with Father by Clarence Day


  • Cormac McCarthy: The Border Trilogy, especially The Crossing, has been something I’ve found myself thinking back to and quoting more than any other book. Blood Meridian is another classic.
  • War and Peace: Lives up to its reputation.
  • A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin – among my all-time favorite books.
  • The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson is a new favorite. See also Michael Chabon’s review.
  • Ernest Hemingway is another favorite. Two of my favorites from him are “The Sun Also Rises” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (both of which I’ve read multiple times). 
  • East of Eden by Steinbeck is a powerful story and Biblical exegesis. Another one of my all-time favorites. Steinbeck’s other work is consistently very good as well.
  • Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald is one of the most unusual and beautiful books I’ve ever read. The translator deserves great credit for capturing the tone of this book.
  • Stefan Zweig is a writer unjustly forgotten by history. His “The World of Yesterday” (a nonfiction work) is such an evocative portrait of pre-WW1 Europe than it permanently changed the way I perceive Western history. His “The Post-Office Girl” is an understated and excellent novella.
  • Stoner by John Williams is another underappreciated classic. A view into the inner life of a quiet man, it expresses unspoken struggles common to everyone.
  • Charles Bukowski is another inimitable voice. His Post Office is excellent.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an excellent story and a quiet but firm indictment of communism. 
  • The Crucible: An all-too-human story and a reminder of our tendency to hunt down and destroy the lives of imagined internal enemies. Relevant to this day.
  • I, Claudius is historical fiction at its finest. Graves was a classicist and used his knowledge to paint Roman society as realistically as possible. The sequel is also very good.
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A well-crafted story largely set in the Burmese prison camps of WW2. 
  • The Naked and the Dead: Another WW2 story set in the Pacific.
  • The Things They Carried is an excellent book about war and its ugliness.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front: Another reminder of the ugliness, and the banality of the ugliness, of war.
  • All the Light We Cannot See: Another beautiful book set in and around WW2.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: A classic coming-of-age story.
  • Bonfire of the Vanities is a modern classic and a great send-up of a society that’s still recognizable in our country today.
  • Two Years Before the Mast: A really great account of sailing as a merchant mariner by an author on leave from Harvard in the 1830s.
  • The Good War, an Oral History of WW2: Interviews with all kinds of people who lived through the war.
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  • My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard – technically nonfiction, but reads like a novel. In a similar style to Proust but more modern and I found it much more engaging. Knausgaard is very good at seeing and depicting both himself and others honestly in a way that very few other writers can.
  • Men at War is a collection of short stories curated by Ernest Hemingway. Almost all of them are very good.
  • All the King’s Men is a very good novel, and incidentally an interesting peek into the world of politics (although The Power Broker is a much more detailed, and real, way to get a sense of what the world of politics is like.)
  • The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth

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