Favorite Reads

These are the books that I constantly keep thinking about. A mix of new and old. Perspectives come from new ideas and from studying history.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared M. Diamond

About the book:  "Fascinating.... Lays a foundation for understanding human history."―Bill Gates In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal.

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Dead Wake
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Dead Wake

by Erik Larson

About the book:  #1 New York Times Bestseller From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history. It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

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The Innovator's Solution
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The Innovator's Solution

by Clayton M. Christensen,Michael E. Raynor

About the book:  An innovation classic. From Steve Jobs to Jeff Bezos, Clay Christensen’s work continues to underpin today’s most innovative leaders and organizations. A seminal work on disruption—for everyone confronting the growth paradox. For readers of the bestselling The Innovator’s Dilemma—and beyond—this definitive work will help anyone trying to transform their business right now. In The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor expand on the idea of disruption, explaining how companies can and should become disruptors themselves. This classic work shows just how timely and relevant these ideas continue to be in today’s hyper-accelerated business environment. Christensen and Raynor give advice on the business decisions crucial to achieving truly disruptive growth and propose guidelines for developing your own disruptive growth engine. The authors identify the forces that cause managers to make bad decisions as they package and shape new ideas—and offer new frameworks to help create the right conditions, at the right time, for a disruption to succeed. This is a must-read for all senior managers and business leaders responsible for innovation and growth, as well as members of their teams. Based on in-depth research and theories tested in hundreds of companies across many industries, The Innovator’s Solution is a necessary addition to any innovation library—and an essential read for entrepreneurs and business builders worldwide.

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Patrick Lencioni

About the book:  In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team Patrick Lencioni once again offers a leadership fable that is as enthralling and instructive as his first two best-selling books, The Five Temptations of a CEO and The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive. This time, he turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams. Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech's CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Will she succeed? Will she be fired? Will the company fail? Lencioni's utterly gripping tale serves as a timeless reminder that leadership requires as much courage as it does insight. Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions which go to the very heart of why teams even the best ones-often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team. Just as with his other books, Lencioni has written a compelling fable with a powerful yet deceptively simple message for all those who strive to be exceptional team leaders.

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Predictable Revenue
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Predictable Revenue

by Aaron Ross,Marylou Tyler

About the book:  Discover the outbound sales process that, in just a few years, helped add $100 million in recurring revenue to Salesforce.com, almost doubling their enterprise growth...with zero cold calls. This is NOT just another book about how to cold call or close deals. This is an entirely new kind of sales bible for CEOs, entrepreneurs and sales VPs to help you build a sales machine. What does it take for your sales team to generate as many highly-qualified new leads as you want, create predictable revenue, and meet your financial goals without your constant focus and attention? Predictable Revenue has the answers!

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The Fourth Crusade
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The Fourth Crusade

by Jonathan Phillips

About the book:  In April 1204, the armies of Western Christendom wrote another bloodstained chapter in the history of holy war. Two years earlier, aflame with religious zeal, the Fourth Crusade set out to free Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But after a dramatic series of events, the crusaders turned their weapons against the Christian city of Constantinople, the heart of the Byzantine Empire and the greatest metropolis in the known world. The crusaders spared no one in their savagery: they murdered and raped old and young - they desecrated churches, plundered treasuries and much of the city was put to the torch. Some contemporaries were delighted: God had approved this punishment of the effeminate, treacherous Greeks; others expressed shock and disgust at this perversion of the crusading ideal. History has judged this as the crusade that went wrong. In this remarkable new assessment of the Fourth Crusade, Jonathan Phillips follows the fortunes of the leading players and explores the conflicting motives that drove the expedition to commit the most infamous massacre of the crusading movement.


Notes:  Probably my favorite book, and quite the morale to learn from.

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City of Fortune
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City of Fortune

by Roger Crowley

About the book:  “The rise and fall of Venice’s empire is an irresistible story and [Roger] Crowley, with his rousing descriptive gifts and scholarly attention to detail, is its perfect chronicler.”—The Financial Times The New York Times bestselling author of Empires of the Sea charts Venice’s astounding five-hundred-year voyage to the pinnacle of power in an epic story that stands unrivaled for drama, intrigue, and sheer opulent majesty. City of Fortune traces the full arc of the Venetian imperial saga, from the ill-fated Fourth Crusade, which culminates in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, to the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499–1503, which sees the Ottoman Turks supplant the Venetians as the preeminent naval power in the Mediterranean. In between are three centuries of Venetian maritime dominance, during which a tiny city of “lagoon dwellers” grow into the richest place on earth. Drawing on firsthand accounts of pitched sea battles, skillful negotiations, and diplomatic maneuvers, Crowley paints a vivid picture of this avaricious, enterprising people and the bountiful lands that came under their dominion. From the opening of the spice routes to the clash between Christianity and Islam, Venice played a leading role in the defining conflicts of its time—the reverberations of which are still being felt today. “[Crowley] writes with a racy briskness that lifts sea battles and sieges off the page.”—The New York Times “Crowley chronicles the peak of Venice’s past glory with Wordsworthian sympathy, supplemented by impressive learning and infectious enthusiasm.”—The Wall Street Journal

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Empires of the Sea
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Empires of the Sea

by Roger Crowley

About the book:  In 1521, Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power, despatched an invasion fleet to the island of Rhodes. This was the opening shot in an epic struggle between rival empires and faiths, and the ensuing battle for control of the Mediterranean would last sixty years. Empires of the Sea tells the story of this great contest. It is a fast-paced tale of spiralling intensity that ranges from Istanbul to the Gates of Gibraltar and features a cast of extraordinary characters: Barbarossa, the pirate who terrified Europe; the risk-taking Emperor Charles V; the Knights of St John, last survivors of the crusading spirit; and the brilliant Christian admiral Don Juan of Austria. Its brutal climax came between 1565 and 1571, six years that witnessed a fight to the finish, decided in a series of bloody set pieces: the epic siege of Malta; the battle for Cyprus; and the apocalyptic last-ditch defence of southern Europe at Lepanto - one of the single most shocking days in world history that fixed the frontiers of the Mediterranean world we know today. Empires of the Sea follows Roger Crowley's first book, the widely praised Constantinople: The Last Great Siege. It is page-turning narrative history at its best - a story of extraordinary colour and incident, rich in detail, full of surprises and backed by a wealth of eyewitness accounts.

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Lost to the West
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Lost to the West

by Lars Brownworth

About the book:  Filled with unforgettable stories of emperors, generals, and religious patriarchs, as well as fascinating glimpses into the life of the ordinary citizen, Lost to the West reveals how much we owe to the Byzantine Empire that was the equal of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy. For more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture. And the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history. Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering in the tens of thousands. From the Hardcover edition.

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The Age of Wonder
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The Age of Wonder

by Richard Holmes

About the book:  "The Age of Wonder" explores the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of "dynamic science": an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives dominate the book: William Herschel, his sister Caroline, and Humphry Davy.

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Cool Gray City of Love
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Cool Gray City of Love

by Gary Kamiya

About the book:  Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land's End. This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco's sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world's most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her. This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author's 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps ofthe 49locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White's Here is New York, Jose Saramago's Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City.


Notes:  Amazing book, makes me want to tour all these little known parts of the city.

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Iberia
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Iberia

by James A. Michener

About the book:  Spain is an immemorial land like no other, one that James A. Michener, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and celebrated citizen of the world, came to love as his own. Iberia is Michener’s enduring nonfiction tribute to his cherished second home. In the fresh and vivid prose that is his trademark, he not only reveals the celebrated history of bullfighters and warrior kings, painters and processions, cathedrals and olive orchards, he also shares the intimate, often hidden country he came to know, where the congeniality of living souls is thrust against the dark weight of history. Wild, contradictory, passionately beautiful, this is Spain as experienced by a master writer. BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from James A. Michener's Hawaii. Praise for Iberia “From the glories of the Prado to the loneliest stone villages, here is Spain, castle of old dreams and new realities.”—The New York Times “Massive, beautiful . . . unquestionably some of the best writing on Spain [and] the best that Mr. Michener has ever done on any subject.”—The Wall Street Journal “A dazzling panorama . . . one of the richest and most satisfying books about Spain in living memory.”—Saturday Review “Kaleidoscopic . . . This book will make you fall in love with Spain.”—The Houston Post


Notes:  Have tried to look at Spain the same way Michener does ever since

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Mastering the VC Game
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Mastering the VC Game

by Jeffrey Bussgang

About the book:  Entrepreneurs who dream of building the next Amazon, Facebook, or Google can take advantage of one of the most powerful economic engines the world has ever known: venture capital. To do so, you need to woo, impress, and persuade venture capitalists to take a risk on an unproven idea. That task is challenge enough. But choosing the right investor can be harder still. Even if you manage to get backing, you want your VC to be a partner, not some adversary who will undermine your vision in order to make a quick return. Jeffrey Bussgang is one of a few people who have played on both sides of this high-stakes game. By his early thirties, he had helped build two successful start-ups-one went public, the other was acquired. Now he draws on his experience and unique perspective on the "other side" as a venture capitalist helping entrepreneurs bring their dreams to fruition. Bussgang offers detailed insights, colorful stories, and practical advice gathered from his own experience as well as from interviews with dozens of the most successful players on both sides of the game, including Twitter's Jack Dorsey and LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman. He reveals how to get noticed, perfect a pitch, and negotiate a partnership that works for everyone. An insider's guide to the secrets of the world venture capital, Mastering the VC Game will prove invaluable for entrepreneurs seeking capital and successful partnerships.

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Critical Theory Today
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Critical Theory Today

by Lois Tyson

About the book:  This thoroughly updated third edition of Critical Theory Today offers an accessible introduction to contemporary critical theory, providing in-depth coverage of the most common approaches to literary analysis today, including: feminism; psychoanalysis; Marxism; reader-response theory; New Criticism; structuralism and semiotics; deconstruction; new historicism and cultural criticism; lesbian, gay, and queer theory; African American criticism and postcolonial criticism. This new edition features: a major expansion of the chapter on postcolonial criticism that includes topics such as Nordicism, globalization and the ‘end’ of postcolonial theory, global tourism and global conservation an extended explanation of each theory, using examples from everyday life, popular culture, and literary texts a list of specific questions critics ask about literary texts an interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby through the lens of each theory a list of questions for further practice to guide readers in applying each theory to different literary works updated and expanded bibliographies Both engaging and rigorous, this is a "how-to" book for undergraduate and graduate students new to critical theory and for college professors who want to broaden their repertoire of critical approaches to literature.


Notes:  Read this at school and it opened up a whole new world of analysis just by taking different looks at the Great Gatsby.

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Cicero
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Cicero

by Anthony Everitt

About the book:  “All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.” —John Adams He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his somewhat botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for exposing his opponents’ sexual peccadilloes. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius of political manipulation but also a true patriot and idealist, Cicero was Rome’s most feared politician, one of the greatest lawyers and statesmen of all times. Machiavelli, Queen Elizabeth, John Adams and Winston Churchill all studied his example. No man has loomed larger in the political history of mankind. In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt plunges us into the fascinating, scandal-ridden world of ancient Rome in its most glorious heyday. Accessible to us through his legendary speeches but also through an unrivaled collection of unguarded letters to his close friend Atticus, Cicero comes to life in these pages as a witty and cunning political operator. Cicero leapt onto the public stage at twenty-six, came of age during Spartacus’ famous revolt of the gladiators and presided over Roman law and politics for almost half a century. He foiled the legendary Catiline conspiracy, advised Pompey, the victorious general who brought the Middle East under Roman rule, and fought to mobilize the Senate against Caesar. He witnessed the conquest of Gaul, the civil war that followed and Caesar’s dictatorship and assassination. Cicero was a legendary defender of freedom and a model, later, to French and American revolutionaries who saw themselves as following in his footsteps in their resistance to tyranny. Anthony Everitt’s biography paints a caustic picture of Roman politics—where Senators were endlessly filibustering legislation, walking out, rigging the calendar and exposing one another’s sexual escapades, real or imagined, to discredit their opponents. This was a time before slander and libel laws, and the stories—about dubious pardons, campaign finance scandals, widespread corruption, buying and rigging votes, wife-swapping, and so on—make the Lewinsky affair and the U.S. Congress seem chaste. Cicero was a wily political operator. As a lawyer, he knew no equal. Boastful, often incapable of making up his mind, emotional enough to wander through the woods weeping when his beloved daughter died in childbirth, he emerges in these pages as intensely human, yet he was also the most eloquent and astute witness to the last days of Republican Rome. On Cicero: “He taught us how to think." —Voltaire “I tasted the beauties of language, I breathed the spirit of freedom, and I imbibed from his precepts and examples the public and private sense of a man.” —Edward Gibbon “Who was Cicero: a great speaker or a demagogue?” —Fidel Castro From the Hardcover edition.

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The Fall of Constantinople 1453
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The Fall of Constantinople 1453

by Steven Runciman

About the book:  First published in 1965, this is a scholarly and highly accessible study of Constantinople's fall, an event which had tumultuous repercussions across both East and West. Runciman demonstrates the inevitability of the Turkish conquest and the impotence of the Byzantine Empire which, at the time, comprised only one ineffectual city. This vivid account reconstructs the dramatic events which won the Turks an imperial capital, with a vital geographical location, and examines how the Greeks reacted to this devastating blow.

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