I got anxious just reading the book You, Me & The U.S. Economy.
Last Thursday, I had a beautiful dinner at Susan and Richard Casey’s house. The Casey’s co-founded and run Square 1 Bank and have become good friends over the past few years. During dinner we had a wide ranging conversation about a bunch of things “not-tech.” On my way out, Susan handed me a book titled You, Me & The U.S. Economy by her friend Stacy Carlson. I tossed it in my bag along with the book Richard gave me (Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society). I started reading it last night and finished it up today.
It lived up to its subtitle “A Plainspoken Story of Financial Crisis.” The only other book I’ve read on the financial crisis of 2008 was Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail. Amy and I were in the UK on a week off the grid from 9/12/08 to 9/20/08 so we left as the crisis was blossoming and returned to a very different financial superstructure. I found Too Big To Fail to be riveting but felt that it was missing something. After reading You, Me & The U.S. Economy I realized that Sorkin was doing too much storytelling and didn’t really get under the skin of some of the massive intellectual contradictions going on. I think Carlson filled that gap for me without necessarily trying.
Carlson was Paulson’s speechwriter during the financial crisis. The book is told in her voice and describes the events as they unfolded. She does it is clear language (she is a speechwriter after all), is delightfully self-deprecating, and defines and endless array of terms and acronyms in a way that a human can understand. She also gives a somewhat different view of the events from the inside – less drama and inside baseball than Sorkin, but just as much sense of stress, anxiety, and urgency.
If you are interested in the history of the financial crisis, want to understand what it looked like from the inside to someone who was part of the battle but not on the front lines, or just want a dose of anxiety, you’ll enjoy You, Me & The U.S. Economy.
I just read Rework, the new book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals. It’s fantastic. If you are starting a business, or thinking about starting a business, or running a business, or breathing air, this is a book you should read.
There are an endless array of “startup books” to choose from. Most suck. Many are ego trips for successful entrepreneurs. Others are self-help books from entrepreneurs that haven’t been successful, but are trying to be successful as entrepreneurial self-help book writers. Very few are useful, authentic, or powerful.
Rework nails it on every dimension. I was annoyed during the first chapter since the book started out with the typical “bootstrap your business rather than raise money from clueless investors” screed that Fried is famous for. While I strongly agree that is one way (my first company was started with $10 and that was all the money we ever raised), it’s not the only way and I get tired of hearing polarizing rhetoric around this.
It turns out that was Fried and Heinemeier’s way of getting my attention. Rather than passively rolling into chapter two, I was fired up. And then, in the style of Gary Vaynerchuk, they Crushed It (another awesome book, BTW). I was glued to my couch for the next hour as I pounded my way through the book. It’s a collection of short essays and cool drawings built around one liners that everyone running a business should ponder. As a bonus, they have a great essay on four letter words and why “fuck” and “shit” are not ones you should be concerned with. And, in a demonstration of their mad skills, they have an awesome attack ad for the book.
I spent most of today grinding through another draft of “The Tao of TechStars”, a book that David Cohen and I are writing based on lessons we’ve learned from TechStars. After reading Rework, I’m hopeful that we’ve written something as good, and as important, as what Fried and Heinemeier have written. Time will tell.
If you read one book in 2009, read Daemon.
It’s unusual for me to recommend a book so early in the year. Daemon is only my fourth book of 2009. It’s a first novel. And it’s mental floss. But it’s as close to flawless for a book of its genre.
I first heard about Daemon in December from Rick Klau. I got to know Rick at FeedBurner; he’s now at Google running Blogger. Rick told me that I had to read this book. He pointed me to a blog post he had written in 2007 about it.
“I can remember the feeling I had, sitting in the audience as the credits rolled after seeing The Matrix on opening day. I knew I’d seen something that was different, important, and something that I’d want to see again. And again. When I finished Daemon this afternoon, I had that same feeling. Daemon is to novels what The Matrix was to movies. It will be how other novels that rely on technology are judged.”
I immediately one-clicked it on Amazon. It wasn’t available for the Kindle so the hardcover showed up a week or so ago. I devoured it this weekend. Rick’s assessment was correct – this is by far the best techno-thriller I’ve ever read.
The author – Daniel Suarez (also known as Leinad Zeraus) describes himself as “an independent systems consultant to Fortune 1000 companies … An avid gamer and technologist, he lives in California.” He doesn’t mention that he is a magnificent writer and brilliant storyteller.
I won’t ruin any of it for you. It’s got everything you’d expect in a fast paced book that will appeal to anyone that likes Crichton, Brown, Clancy, or my newfound friend David Stone. The tech holds together well and is completely accessible to non-nerds and nerds alike. It’s a page turner with very little wasted plot or character development. And it sets up the sequel (Freedom) superbly.
I rang in the new year with some mental floss. I found David Stone’s The Echelon Vendetta on one of our bookshelves in Keystone as I was looking around for a palate cleanser after my run of serious books last week.
Last night I got about 80% of the way through it. At around 11:20, long after Amy had gone to bed, I actually got scared reading it. I hadn’t figured out the end game yet, so my brain was whirring around a lot. The book was taking place mostly in the Rocky Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado) and I suddenly had an image of the bad guy stalking me from the giant open space behind the two story picture window I was lying in front of.
I rarely get scared reading a book – the only thing that really gets me is when bad stuff is happening in a setting near me. For example, I had to stop reading Dry Ice by Stephen White because of the Boulder setting.
So, that was it. I closed the book, got a glass of water, went up stairs to sleep, and woke up around 10:30 am. Yum. Welcome to 2009.
I just finished off The Echelon Vendetta and it’s easily one of the best spy / CIA / conspiracy / thriller that I’ve read in a long time. Stone’s bio says it’s “is a cover name for a man born into a military family with a history of combat service going back to Waterloo. Stone, a military officer himself, has worked with federal intelligence agencies and state-level law enforcement units in North America, Central America, and South East Asia. Retired now, Stone lives in an undisclosed location with his wife, photographer and researcher Catherine Stone.”
It shows. I just bought Stone’s other book The Orpheus Deception on my Kindle – given my poor impulse control I expect I’ll read it next.
Disclosure: If you click though the link on this book, I get paid a small amount from Amazon (approx 6% of the purchase price) based on my affiliate code that I put in the link. Please read the post I wrote titled The Dynamics of Full Disclosure for more on this. I don’t plan to put this disclosure note on any more book posts this year – hopefully this will be satisfactory for anyone that cares.