Evan Williams recommends6 min read

Categories RecommendationsPosted on

photo: Joi (flickr)

Co-founder of two of the internet’s top ten websites: Blogger and Twitter – tells about works he is inspired by. His book list contains business books, biographies and fiction.

                  “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Courtenay’s book is a favorite on the summer reading lists of schools, from Hebron Academy to the Pittsburgh public schools. Though ostensibly a novel on South African differences, much of the intriguing human interest element focuses on Doc and Peekay, united in their love for music, and Doc’s need to categorize cactus plants. Similar to Mitch Albertson’s classic, Tuesdays with Morrie, a prevailing theme is that many people (and institutions) contribute to our formal and informal knowledge of the world. (One of the characters is named Morrie, and furthers Peekay’s financial education.) Some of Peekay’s less prestigious centers of learning include a boarding school and a prison, which adds some excitement to the book.

                  “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis

-Evan Williams on goodreads

By virtue of the title alone, this work of Michael Lewis deserves its spot on the reading lists of financial institutions and Forbes magazine. The British newspaper Guardian did not hesitate to name it as a welcome addition to summer reading lists, pointing to the “nerdy” and statistically heavy underpinnings of baseball. Essentially, this book makes the same connections as classic books on the art of stock-picking – that some baseball players are undervalued because of their lack of aesthetics, though they dominate at least one aspect of the game. Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane discovered this oversight, and was the first (but not the last) to lean on the help of experts for the creation of a winning team.

                  “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Also recommended by Mark Cuban

Ayn Rand is better known for her impressive tome, Atlas Shrugged, but readers may find this shorter novel to be an easier introduction into the author’s controversial blend of individualism and capitalism. This story of Howard Roark the architect, and his battle against the conformist powers of society, could be seen as autobiographical. In the same way that Roark struggles against rejection to maintain his individual outlook on architecture, Rand struggled to publish the book after no less than 12 publisher rejections. In 2010, Business Insider added it to their top 15 reading list for entrepreneurs.

                  “The Halo Effect: … and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers” by Philip M. Rosenzweig

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Since the 1980’s, management theory books have filled business bookshelves. Rosenzweig’s book is a diatribe on all of the management “gurus” who have gutted their readers’ pocketbooks on theories that won’t work. From sample bias to the over-inflation of success stories (short-term expanded into long-term), from bad data to the bad habit of seeking “the” success formula, management delusions abound. Rosenzweig castigates continual favorites on business book lists, such as Good to Great and Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence. Fellow author Daniel Kahneman, an economics winner of the Nobel prize, joins Rosenzweig in his critiques.

                  The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Philip M. Rosenzweig

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Listed as a favorite on the reading list of Twitter founder Evan Williams, this book covers hundreds of health variables in China and Taiwan, and explores Western medicine and diet trends. Like Rosenzweig’s book on the fallacies of management, this non-fiction book questions the real value of nutrition when compared against groups who wish to profit from nutrition. Perhaps because of its controversial nature, or because of the author’s prior business book success, it’s easier to find complimentary comments on the Halo Effect that this book on health.

                  “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance” by N. N. Taleb

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Also recommended by Malcolm Gladwell

The role of luck in life is under-appreciated, and reasons assigned to success are over-simplified, declares Taleb in his new work. Positing that risk and uncertainty are an ignored part of life and business (including not knowing why something works and why it doesn’t), he points to the amount of information in which society drowns, after drawing misguided conclusions. Using historical figures such as the wealthy Croesus, and games of chance such as Russian roulette, Taleb forms a picture of unwelcome reality that must be faced. Recommended as thought-provoking, from Pine River Capital Management trader Steve Kuhn to the Trading Pitt, this book makes an intriguing addition to the reading list.

                  “Hackers & Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age” by Paul Graham

-Evan Williams

Graham has developed the promotion of unpopular, go-against-the-grain habits of nerds to a fine art. A common pitfall for large companies, he says, is simply imitating and improving on someone else’s innovation, like Hollywood blockbusters that use a tried-and-true formula with a few new plot twists. Startup companies can nip around bureaucracy, please customers, and award those who get things done, joining in the true joy of wealth creation. InSITE, a New York City hub, featured his work on a top 10 reading list for 2012, along with startup job promoter GetWakefield.com.

                  “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton M. Christensen

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Also recommended by Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Jobs, Andrew Grove, Guy Kawasaki

Out of Harvard Business School Press has come a ‘must’ on the business book list – Christensen’s explanation of why technology changes can derail established companies. He points out the strengths of the companies who use best management practices (listening, aggressive investment in customer demands) but get side-swiped by the paradigm shifts that inevitably happen when disruptive technologies emerge. The cheaper and simpler technology of disk drives, for example, became increasingly more convenient to customers, who then demanded enough to establish that technology in the marketplace – above its competitors.

                  “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins

-Evan Williams on goodreads

Besides his other blockbuster, Built to Last, this is Jim Collins’ most famous maker of book lists, such as spot 11 on Time magazine’s top 25 books on business management. Collins and a team of researchers pooled their knowledge and hashed out one of the biggest business questions of the 21st century: why do some companies make it, and some fail? Personal humility in leaders, clear-eyed confrontation of unwelcome facts, and the development of self-discipline alongside the use of technology are just a few of the long-term themes running through Collins’ work. It is well worth a read.

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