I spend a lot of time reading. Too much of that time is spent browsing nonsense on the interwebs, but at least I salvage this by reading 25 or 30 real books a year. I’m up to 21 so far in 2018.
While I do read a lot of business books, not everything I read is about finance. I mix in a lot of history as well, along with a little sociology, psychology, and science. I almost never read fiction because it is the equivalent of reality TV. Besides, I learn stuff from almost every non-fiction book I read. A science fiction novel isn’t expanding my knowledge.
Anyhoo, here are five of the best books I’ve read thus far in 2018. These are Amazon links, so thanks in advance for the nickel if you end up buying one of these. I sure do like nickels. Dimes are okay too.
Fortune’s Children is the best book I’ve read in a long time. I could not put it down.
When he kicked it in 1877, ol’ Cornelius Vanderbilt was the richest man in the world, worth a cool $100 million. William, his son, managed to double his old man’s fortune to $200 million by the time he died eight years later. What followed William’s death was a whirlwind of consumerism and lavish spending that would even make Paris Hilton blush. Just 50 years later a direct heir died penniless and the other members of that generation weren’t doing much better.
This book will further cement the lesson it’s not what you make, it’s what you spend that truly matters.
Oh, and you’ll love the descriptions of the parties that cost a cool $200,000 to throw. In 1890s dollars. That’s like shelling out $10 mil on a shindig today.
The Lost Continent
I’m not usually a big fan of uppity American writers who decide willingly they’d rather live in the UK, but Bill Bryson is an absolute delight. I’d wholeheartedly recommend anything he’s ever written, but I believe The Lost Continent is his best work. It’ll hook you in from the first line.
I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.
The Lost Continent chronicles Bryson’s return to America after a decade away. His father had recently passed away and he wanted to relive his youth by taking a road trip to all the same places he went as a kid to see if they were as good as he remembered. The result is a hilarious (and sometimes touching) tale of childhood, travel, and saying goodbye.
Not many business memoirs read like a novel, but Shoe Dog had me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
With just $50 to his name and a passion for running coursing through his veins, Phil Knight dreamed of owning his own shoe company. He eventually built Nike into the powerhouse it is today, but not without a few bumps along the way. Joined by an eclectic cast of misfits, he battles uncooperative Japanese suppliers, cash flow issues, hostile bankers, and plenty more, all standing between Nike and success. We all know how it turns out, but you’ll be amazed at the ride to get there.
At age 52, Dan Lyons was on the top of his game. A veteran and respected journalist at Newsweek, his work was widely read and he was paid well for it. Until he became the latest statistic of the media industry and found himself looking for a job.
It didn’t take him very long to find something, getting hired at Hubspot, a tech startup. Lyons writes about his adventure in Disrupted, which mostly revolves around the fact it’s painfully obvious he does not belong there. Fortunately for us, this fish out of water tale is ridiculously entertaining. When you’re not laughing you’ll be rolling your eyes at the absurdity just oozing out of Hubspot and the sector in general.
Daring to Succeed
I am a sucker for the genre I call business biographies — which follows the life of a business just like a similar book would for a person. You probably didn’t need that little definition there, did you?
Daring to Succeed follows the path of Alimentation Couche-Tard, which grew from a single store in Montreal in 1980 to a 5,000+ location powerhouse with locations across North America, Europe, and Asia. Alain Bouchard was the mastermind behind the whole thing, but he was also helped by longtime CFO Raymond Pere and others. It is a truly inspiring book that will have you itching to start your own empire by the end.
And that’s it. Please give me your book recommendations in the comments. I like having about nine books ready to read at any point.