Books I Read On My Q114 Vacation

I’m going to start doing something new on my posts. Rather than having separate posts promoting stuff I’m up to, I’m going to begin including a short header in each post with either a thing I’m involved in or something I read recently that I think is particularly germane. For now, I’ll style these in italics – at some point I’ll come up with some new CSS to set it apart more clearly. Feel free to offer any/all feedback on this. Today’s tip is from Alex Iskold, the Techstars NY Managing Director and is 7 Calendar Tips for Startups. If you struggle with your calendar, it’s highly recommended.

Last week Amy and I went to our favorite place in Cabo San Lucas for our Qx vacation. We went off the grid (no phone, no email). I ran a lot, slept a lot, and ate a lot. I watched all of Orange is the New Black and almost all of Caprica thanks to hotel WiFi and Neflix on my iPad. But most enjoyably, I read a lot. Following is a summary with links.

Is Amazon Bad For Books?: What a yummy article that gives a lot of history about what has been going on between Amazon and the traditional publishing industry. Highly relevant for a lot of our thinking around FG Press.

The Science of Battlestar Galactica: I listened to this on Audible while running. If you are a BSG fanboy like me, this is a must read.

How To Defend Against Patent Trolls Without Breaking The Bank: Ken Bressler has been super helpful in one of the more vexing and annoying patent troll cases I’ve been involved in. As the Supreme Court once again has a chance to do something about software patents and patent trolls, I remain cynical and pessimistic that this gigantic tax on innovation will get resolved anytime soon.

The Underwriting: More Startup Fiction – this time in a weekly serialized format. I paid for it before I left but for some reason I only had two episodes. I just paid for it a second time so hopefully they’ll start coming in a steady stream. It’s pretty fun – a little too much sex and investment banking for my tastes, but we’ll see where it goes.

Battlestar Galactica Series Bible: The original series bible written by Ronald D. Moore. Another BSG fanboy must read.

The Secret of Raising Money:  Seth Goldstein and Michael Simpson have written a really strong book on how to raise money from angels and VCs at the early stage. I’ve known Seth since the mid-1990’s and think he and Michael did a great job of capturing the essence of this very hard and often complex process.

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?: I hadn’t read this since it first came out a year or so after Lou Gerstner retired as IBM’s CEO. This is his memoir of his experience at IBM and was a fantastic history lesson. While some of the strategic advice felt a little dated and “big corporate”, there were endless gems throughout the book, including a clear view on key decisions that Gerstner made relatively early which dramatically changed IBM’s downward spiral into the depths of mainframe doom. I’ve felt for a while that Microsoft is having its “IBM moment” that occurred for IBM in the early 1990s and to date have been uninspired with how they have approached it. I don’t know Satya Nadella but I hope he’s read this book.

Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World: Amy and I plan to give away all of our money while we are alive. We’ve been active philanthropists since the late 1990s and are always trying to learn more. Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen’s book is a wonderful combination of personal history, advice, and storytelling about what other people are doing. I was especially pleased to see a long chapter on our friends Linda Shoemaker and Steve Brett’s efforts in Boulder around their philanthropy.

The Trial: I’ve been describing our annual fund audit process as “Kafkaesque” to whomever I talk to about it. I realized I had never read The Trial so I grinded through it. I thought I knew what I was in for, but the copy I read fortunately had a Kafka history as well as a history of The Trial with a short summary at the beginning, so it made a lot more sense as I read it. And yes, the audit experience is still something I believe is Kafkaesque. Hopefully they won’t kill me like a dog at the end.

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison: I randomly watched Season 1. I figured I’d bounce after a few episodes but found myself deeply engaged in it. So I grabbed the book and read it. The book was even better than the show. Piper Kerman blew my mind – both with her experience and her writing about it. So powerful, depressing, upsetting, and enlightening, all at the same time.

Neuromancer: I read Neuromancer my in college shortly after it came it. I loved it then. I haven’t read it since so I decided to listen to it my iPhone while running, just like I did earlier this year with Snow Crash. Like Snow Crash, it somehow felt richer when I listened to it during my long runs. Case, Molly, Wintermute, and the Dixie Flatline still delight, as does Gibson.

  • Florian Komm

    Thank you for sharing your reading list. For your next Qx vacation I recommend to add ‘Brains versus Capital’ to your list.

    • Just grabbed a copy.

  • Oh thanks for publishing this list. I truly indeed would love to know what you read. I publish my list at yearly basis on pinterest here:

  • Thanks, Brad. Great list. Glad you enjoyed vacation. I just finished The Promise of a Pencil (loved it) and am finshing Young Money (so far so good). PoP was outstanding if you haven’t read it. I just ordered Orange is the New Black based on the above.

    • Just grabbed The Promise of a Pencil. Thanks!

    • Thank Jeremy, I saw that Brad ordered, I will order it and read it too 🙂

    • Promise of a Pencil looks really interesting, just ordered a copy.

  • Thanks for sharing! I really like Neuromancer & Snowcrash (two of my favorite books). If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy Diamond Age (also by Neal Stephenson). The general concept is that programmers eventually become low-skilled factory workers, crafting the blueprints for 3d printed objects on demand. A focus is on the creation of a new format for educating the masses, and it gets a little weird with the idea of a massive computer powered by the metabolic process of a cult that lives under the ocean… 😀 I also just read The Forever War and really liked it – it’s a science fiction war novel that entertains a scenario where technology advancement outpaces our ability to cope with change (exaggerated by the time dilation of space travel).

    • I read Diamond Age 14 years ago during a trip to Africa. Loved it. Time for a listen on books on tape. And – I’ll grab The Forever War.

  • RBC

    Hey Brad, glad to see you enjoyed the Amazon article. Interesting discussion of the challenges of publishing, and why the approach you’ve taken – publishing a few books before deciding how to tackle the industry is more interesting to me. Wonder if you could do a review of it?

    • Review of what? The Amazon article or something you’ve written?

      • RBC

        The article on Amazon. I focus on the b2b news and data, so it is not my area of expertise however interested in the developments of non-publishing groups entering the unblushing space.

  • For some reading, I’ve been on a Fromm kick. I think you’d really enjoy reading Art of Loving. Written in 1963, but still covers some very important and pressing issues such as gender equality and codependence.

    How in the world did you manage to not check email when you were using your iPad? Did you turn off notifications and hide the mail icon in a folder named, “Don’t Open”?

    • Extreme self discipline. I just didn’t open the app!

      Thx for the suggestion on Fromm.

  • Nadella’s opportunity is a great as Lou Gerstner’s only with better finances. Nadella can tweak and win big. If it works, he goes into the CEO Hall of Fame

  • For those of you who’ve read the Amazon article, how do you think this perspective on Amazon fits with the generally positive experiences of independent authors like Hugh Howey or James Altucher? Do you think Amazon is being friendly to authors in order to edge out traditional publishers and that their benevolence is short-lived? Do you think the article is simply portraying the frustrations of an outdated approach? Something else entirely?

  • ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance’ provided me some great insight into the MACHINE that we refer to – It boggles the mind to oversee that many people and that size of revenue – You better have a GREAT Board and 7 – 9 Executives on your team – Not sure why thumbnails are changing for when I post but it’s me….Steve

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