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4 Books You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

My favorite books from the past year

Reading books has always been an important part of our family. I have fond memories of my dad reading books to my siblings and me at bedtime. Fond memories of my mom teaching my younger brothers and sisters how to read from the same books I learned on.

My dad had a huge box of western novels by Louis L’Amour in the house. My brothers and I used to devour these — we loved finding a quiet spot in the house and reading stories about the wild west, conquering the frontier, and epic duels.

My love for reading has continued, and I try to read at least two books a month. Here are four of my favorite books from the past year:

  1. Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou

There have only been a few books that I’ve read all the way through without putting down — The Alchemist, If You Feel Too Much, and now, Bad Blood. The book tells the story of the multi-billion dollar startup Theranos, and reads more like a fantasy thriller than someting from real life. Theranos is a company that is supposed to revolutionize the blood testing industry, and manages for years to convince everyone — from investors, to employees to generals to former ambassadors — that they are. Led by a charismatic young founder and CEO who worships at the alter of Steve Jobs, the story has corruption, greed, lies, and betrayal.

The story serves as a great reminder of what happens when you put success and fame above your morals, and how even the best and brightest among us can not only be fooled, but fall prey to charm and charisma and the desire to create the next big thing that’s going to change the world.

“Like her idol Steve Jobs, she emitted a reality distortion field that forced people to momentarily suspend disbelief.” — John Carreyrou, Bad Blood

2. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, Phil Knight

As a runner and athlete, I’ve been a fan of Nike since I was a kid. But I was blown away by this memoir and how personal Phil Knight gets in telling the story of the founding of Nike and the good, bad, and ugly that came with it. You don’t have to be an athlete to appreciate this book — it’s an amazing tale that follows Phil and all of the other key individuals that were involved in helping to create — and in many cases — trying to tear down the company.

“Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible…” — Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

3. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, Chris Voss

Negotiation is part of everyday life, whether you’re dealing with family and friends, at work, or making a purchase. Chris Voss used to be the lead hostage negotiator for the FBI, and now he uses those skills to help people negotiate in every day life. The book has great examples of how to apply top level negotiation tactics, from buying a car, to getting a raise, to talking with your partner. I’ve read a number of books on negotiation, and this is far and away the best.

“Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.” — Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss

4. Exit West: A Novel, Mohsin Hamid

I don’t read very many fiction books, but this was one I really enjoyed. I read this book over a couple of days in my neighborhood cafe, sitting in a booth, drinking matcha, and listening to Motown. Exit West follows the lives of Nadia and Saeed who are forced to become refugees after the outbreak of war. It’s the story of being an outsider in a land not your own, and the struggle to hold on to those things that make us human in the process: love, identity, purpose, and faith.

“Location, location, location, the realtors say. Geography is destiny, respond the historians.” — Mohsin Hamid, Exit West

Dad. Husband. Army vet. Enjoy running, cycling, cooking, & guitar. Sign up for my monthly humor newsletter:

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