Reading List

Books that I’ve read, in chronological order, some with comments.

2019

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Sebastian Junger)

No. 2 on Spenser’s all-time favorite reading list so it must be great, right? It is. Some very counter-intuitive findings, e.g. depression and other mental illnesses apparently declined in times of war. This is presented in conjunction with other evidence to make the point that we humans are happier when having purpose, community and equality. Super interesting as the author also seen some serious things.

Sprint (Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, Braden Kowitz)

A short book, I finished it on a 5-hour train ride. A tutorial on how to gather a group of people and systematically build and test a prototype in a week. Can be applied to anything from apps through hardware to business models.

A nice add-on to The Lean Startup and a small part of The New Business Road Test but I wouldn’t classify it as must-read - you’d probably be able to successfully grow a startup without reading this book.

Lost and Founder (Rand Fishkin)

Really great read, highly recommended. I’ve been following Rand Fishkin since I did some (bad) SEO as a student. I really like his no-nonsense style of communication amid an industry which is known for its shadiness.

In his book, he describes his experience founding and heading Moz, a SaaS startup which seemed successful when judged by common metrics (amount of money raised, employee count). However, the nature of being VC-funded leads to many problems which were not obvious in the beginning - for example growth at any cost and working towards selling the company. He ultimately ends up leaving.

Insightful and incredibly dense with learnings which every startup founder should rather not experience herself. In its spirit, the book is related to the writing of DHH and Jason Fried while telling the story from a slightly more personal angle.

Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There (Rutger Bregman)

Rutger Bregman argues for universal basic income, open borders and other ideas which are non-intuitive in our current societal understanding but sound plausible when backed up by the studies he cites. Highly recommended.

Funnily enough, it expands upon some of the concepts with which Sapiens ends. Therefore nice to read in succession.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)

Great read on the history of.. us? It’s surprising how fascinating history can be if well presented - contrary to my experience in high school. Some of the theories are quite thought-provoking: Why did we evolve to be so much “superior” to other animals (or are we?), how will we look back upon our way of treating animals in the future?

Recommendation of my friend Spenser (no. 1 on his all-time favorite reading list).

The New Business Road Test (John Mullins)

Continues where The Lean Startup left off. Firstly, it makes you evaluate new business ideas in a structured way. Secondly, it concedes that not every idea can be tested with a prototype as suggested in The Lean Startup.

But that’s not a huge problem as many other factors besides “building the wrong product” can kill your business, e.g. targeting a difficult market or going into a highly competitive industry. A great additional read.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King)

I wanted to improve my writing and this came up on my reading list. It can be summarized as “read a lot, write a lot, don’t forget to re-write”. It’s sometimes a bit arduous to read and you might notice that Stephen King rather prefers to write fiction. Still recommended if you’re interested in improving your writing.

2018

Articles from Aaron Swartz’s Blog

I stumbled upon Aaron Swartzes blog and started randomly reading his posts. Well written and really interesting thoughts.

Selection of articles I read: I Hate the News, Interpretation of Batman Movies (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight), Cherish Mistakes.

The Innovator’s Prescription (Clayton Christensen, Jerome Grossman, Jason Hwang)

The Lean Startup (Eric Ries)

Having gained more experience in the (Berlin) Startup Scene, I wanted to read this as people often quote it. My expectations were low and I anticipated a dull book full of business buzzwords.. However, I was positively surprised!

The whole book focuses on the problem of “developing the wrong product due to not getting customer feedback”. I agree that this is a huge and underrated problem in companies in general - it just surfaces more obviously in startups. Recommended.

House of God (Samuel Shem)

It was a great read and comparing it to my limited hospital experience sadly many things ring true. I recommend this book to all new medical students and hope they take it seriously.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (Jason Fried, DHH)

Feels a bit like an extension to Rework. Good content and very concise.

Inside Apple (Adam Lashinsky)

Found this book while tidying up. Not recommended - I prefer Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs instead. On a side note, it may be interesting to check out the recent book of Steve Jobs’ daughter for different perspective (Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs).

Being Mortal (Atul Gawande)

A great read about how our society and healthcare system fail at dealing with the growing challenges of “treating” the elderly.

Bad Blood (John Carreyrou)

Crazy story and well written. Hard to put down this book. Finished in a few days.

Complications (Atul Gawande)

Interesting read even (or especially?) for someone with a medical background like me.

Rework (Jason Fried, DHH)

Super concise, these guy’s to-the-point mentality really shines through. Heavily recommended.

The Personal MBA (Josh Kaufman)

Condensed and to the point. Great read for non-business people like me.

Benjamin Franklin (Walter Isaacson)

Would have loved to meet this guy (Franklin, not Isaacson) in person, he seems to have been quite entertaining. I’d like to emphasize his Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress.

Principles (Ray Dalio)

Why We Sleep (Matthew Walker)

A must-read for everyone who sleeps.

2017

The Black Swan (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

Hatching Twitter (Nick Bilton)

Quite entertaining read about the early stages and intrigues of Twitter.

Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)

Losing My Virginity (Richard Branson)

Made in America (Sam Walton)

Not as interesting as the reviews might suggest. I found it rather light on facts.

Delivering Happiness (Tony Hsieh)

A great read and Tony Hsieh’s humor really resonates with me.

The Upstarts (Brad Stone)

The Everything Store (Brad Stone)

Shoe Dog (Phil Knight)

Awesome and captivating book focusing on Phil Knight’s “not-so-obvious” and emotional challenges of growing his business, Nike.

Deep Work (Cal Newport)

A must-read for everyone who wants to get stuff done.

2016

The 7 Day Startup (Dan Norris)

Not that rich in content. You could summarize it by saying “ship your product fast and gather feedback”.

Zero to One (Peter Thiel)

So Good They Can’t Ignore You (Cal Newport)

Originals (Adam Grant)

Sherlock Holmes Books (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

A great read! Especially fun to discover all the hidden references after watching the series with Benedict Cumberbatch.

High Price (Carl Hart)

A really interesting and arguably more realistic perspective on drug usage.