Brad Feld

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A weekend of books, leaves, and no Internet

Oct 12, 2004
Category Books

Amy and I spent the weekend in New Hampshire. We stayed at a Stepping Stones – a bed and breakfast we used to stay at regularly when we lived in Boston – and hung out, read, slept, and looked at leaves.

Once we crossed the New Hampshire border (from Boston – where we spent the night at XV Beacon – one of my favorite hotels in the world), we saw plenty of pumkins, corn, and leaves (yellow, orange, and red). However, my Sidekick immediately stopped working since apparently New Hampshire doesn’t have any cell phone towers (according to the locals.) Our B&B didn’t have high speed Internet either, so I decided to punt on email for the long weekend and read instead.

I had started Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir so I gobbled that one down first. It was intense – it reminded me of a book I read this summer called Learning Joy from Dogs Without Collars : A Memoir. Both are books about homelessness, written by children (Joy: daughter; Bullshit: son) of chronically homeless parents (Joy: mother; Bullshit: father). Bullshit was much more abrassive – in addition to being homeless, the father was portrayed as a generally unpleasant human (compared to the mother in Joy – she had her problems, but at least she seemed to try.) Both authors struggled to figure out their lives and these books were clearly a reflection on their experiences while simultaneously being a catharsis of sorts for them. Bullshit knocked me out – the author Nick Flynn is an awesome writer and – when I was done – I needed something very different.

Rich Karlgaard’s Life 2.0 : How People Across America Are Transforming Their Lives by Finding the Where of Their Happiness was next. I don’t know Rich, but I fondly read his Forbes column (he’s the publisher and rates a nice column at the front.) The first section of Life 2.0 is delightful – Rich pilots his own small plane across America (in Richard Bach-like fashion) and meets with entrepreneurs and executives who are reshaping their lives by fleeing the big coastal cities (San Francisco, Boston, NY) to find a more rewarding life in small town America. I identified with many of these stories – which are fun and inspiring – since I left Boston ten (yes 10) years ago to move to Boulder. While I still spend plenty of time on the coasts, I try to live my life in Boulder and Homer, Alaska – two places that definitely fit in the small town category. In the second section of the book, Rich tries to – in his words – “pull together the meaning of these individual portraits of people and places and to examine the long-term economic, technological, and spiritual implications of the move to a saner style of life.” He does an ok (not great) job here – it feels more like the obligatory “I just told some stories – now – here are my conclusions” section. The third section is a fun list of 150 “cheap cities” which I think is a misnomer – they are 150 “small cities worth paying attention to and knowing about” – along with Rich’s commentary. Overall, a very worthwhile read if you are stuck on either coast and wondering why you’re (a) struggling to make ends meet and (b) frustrated with big city life. Of course, if you love big city life, don’t bother with this book.

Next – Term Sheets & Valuations – A Line by Line Look at the Intricacies of Venture Capital Term Sheets & Valuations. Yeah – I know – pretty dry. I grabbed this book hoping I could recommend it to you. I can’t – I was really disappointed. While it’s an ok primer for anyone faced with a VC term sheet, it’s very shallow, somewhat disorganized, and lacking in clear anecdotes and examples. I was intrigued by the publisher – Aspatore – which has a whole series of VC books – and claims that this one was the best selling venture capital book of 2003. Egads.

I finished with Breaking Ground: Adventures in Life and Architecture. Amy and I had the honor of having dinner with Daniel Libeskind on Wednesday night with a small group of folks from the Denver Art Museum (I’m on the technology advisory board for the museum and we are long time supporters.) Daniel is an amazing person – if you don’t know of him – he’s the master plan architecture for the World Trade Center Reconstruction Site. He’s also the architect for the extension to the Denver Art Museum – which will be his first constructed building in the United States. Amy and I love architecture – we’ve done a few designs with Coleman Coker (the “eldorado canyon” project is one of them) – and jumped at the opportunity to have dinner with Daniel. Amy fell in love with him (she got to sit next to him in the seat of honor) – I had to remind her on our way home that he was already married. His book exceeded my expectations – it’s beautifully written, tells an incredible story, and blends his philosophy, vision, life history, and architectural journey in a very accessible way.

Now – back to work.