Inspired by Eli Bendersky’s book reviews, here are my summaries for the books I’ve read between January and April 2024.

  1. ๐Ÿ“š Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

    I’ve received this book shortly after reading The Scout Mindset where I learned about the soldier vs scout mindset where the later one can be shortly described in one quote:

    โ€œYour strength as a scout is in your abilityโ€ฆ to think in shades of gray instead of black and white.โ€

    Think again is more about different types of thinking (the preacher, the prosecutor, the politian and the scientist) and their main characteristics. I also learned that a debate is more like a dance where the choreography between the partners has not been negotiated yet. Each one has his own steps in mind but professional debators know how to “end up in rhythm” with their partners. Adam Grant also gives concrete advice how to learn to develop the habit of thinking again and revising your own beliefs.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

  2. ๐Ÿ“š The Startup CTO’s Handbook: Essential skills and best practices for high performing engineering teams by Zach Goldberg

    This is a comprehensive guide for CTOs and technical leaders in startup companies. It covers a wide range of essential topics for these people including technical leadership, team building, technology choices, infrastructure, technical debt. It also gives advice how to master the startup growth, have a fast hiring process, how to retain talent and how to scale technology infrastructure to meet increasing demands.

    Although I didn’t know what to expect, for my taste it was too high-level. However, I liked the chapter about the technical debt and its seven types. I also first learned about DX (Developer Experience) which refers to tools & processes to make it easy to “have highly reliable and reproducible environments and dependency chains”.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

  3. ๐Ÿ“š Company Of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis

    I remember Cal Newport once mentioned this book in one of his episodes (this is how I got to read this book). In “Company of One,” the capitalistic credo of (continuous) growth is questioned. Instead, “companies of one” should intentionally stay small. The main focus here is not the competitor’s growth but rather focusing on customer relationships and their own success. According to Paul Jarvis, if you’re focusing on growth, growth will happen. If you, however, want long-term customers and sales, you should focus on your few customers and their needs. There is absolutely no need for infinite growth just for the sake of getting bigger.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

  4. ๐Ÿ“š The Minimalist Entrepreneur: How Great Founders Do More with Less by Sahil Lavingia

    If you know Gumroad then you probably also know about Sahil Lavingia who got by this essay. Compared to the previous books on entrepreneurship, this focused more on the community for which you want to build products. Sahil emphasized the crucial part of identifying your ideal customers and building solutions for their needs. Once you figured out your potential customers, it’s time to find out if they’re willing to pay for your solutions:

    “A business is a way to solve problems for people your care about - and get paid for it.”

    The author also suggests you first become a creator and then an entrepreneuer. This way you should make sure your creativity is unleashed in order to create the best solutions for your business.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

  5. ๐Ÿ“š Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression - and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari

    After having heard a lot about depression, its chemical root causes, the effects on humans in Andrew Huberman’s podcast I was more than determined to read this book. Himself having to deal with depression, Johann Hari takes a journey to find out more about the mental illness that caused him to take pills (a la Prozac) and soon to find out they weren’t a long-term solution. What if depression was not solely caused by some “imbalance of serotonin” in your brain? What if depression was merely a mix of environmental factors, childhood traumata, and predisposition (genes) to some behavioral patterns?

    Hari comes up with 9 causes for depression: Disconnection from 1) meaningful work, 2) from other people, 3) from meaningful values, 4) childhood traume, 5) from status and respect, 6) from the natural world, 7) from a hopeful and secure future and finally 9) role of genes and brain changes. To quote the author, we all need to reconnect again:

    You arenโ€™t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met. You need to have a community. You need to have meaningful values, not the junk values youโ€™ve been pumped full of all your life, telling you happiness comes through money and buying objects. You need to have meaningful work. You need the natural world. You need to feel you are respected. You need a secure future. You need connections to all these things. You need to release any shame you might feel for having been mistreated.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

  6. ๐Ÿ“š Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    During the pandemic, a friend of mine recommended Harari to me and last year I read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by the same author. His thoughts immediately resonated with me so I (chronologically backwards) started to read his other masterpieces.

    From time to time, there has been some criticism about Harari and his criticism of today’s humankind. Nevertheless, I think the book is an excellent journey of how homo sapiens managed to dominate the world, organize in groups, come up with financial, economic, and political systems. For me, it has been an extraordinary time travel which made me understand our world’s mechanics.

  7. ๐Ÿ“š Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention - and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari

    Ever since I’ve read about the Attention Economy (first in Digital Minimalism) I knew there is a whole (social media) industry whose main purpose is to monetize our time spent on their platforms. The more time we spend, the more ads can be shown, the more money can be generated.

    But this is just one reason we cannot focus anymore. Among the increased amount of information our brain has to deal with every day, technology that uses insights from behavioral psychology to capture your attention, the collapse of sustained reading (books!) the Hari makes an interesting point:

    So we arenโ€™t just facing a crisis of lost spotlight focus โ€“ we are facing a crisis of lost mind-wandering.

    Not only have we lost our ability to focus for a longer period of time, but we also no longer allow our minds to wander, which is crucial.

    […] rapidly switching between tasks, and I realised that in our current culture, most of the time weโ€™re not focusing, but weโ€™re not mind-wandering either. Weโ€™re constantly skimming, in an unsatisfying whirr.

    ๐Ÿ‘‰ Read my notes

Some other small books: