Book Reviews

Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000 by Jason Calacanis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very quick read with honest advice on becoming an Angel investor. Great arguments on why being in Silicone Valley is crucial to being an Angel investor. Many actionable long term ideas are shared in this book.

The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town AmericaThe Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent book by Bill as always. I love how he longs for towns with a thriving main street, large movie theater and lack of cars. This book is thirty years old and our country has continued on with it’s car culture and isolation in building new towns. I was very interested in visiting Charleston, South Carolina and Oxford, Mississippi as I think both of these towns have more of a community I’ve been craving. Also, although he pokes fun at Des Moines, it does sound charming to visit as well. Thank you Bill for being such a great tour guide!

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My LifeHow to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is incredible. I’m going to give this to anyone graduating college, or just starting out. It gives you a feel for how the business world really works and how to succeed. I’m a big fan of Scott’s saying “Goals are for losers, systems are for winners.” It is much easier to follow and preserves your willpower. I was able to get some nutrition tips as well, he has some excellent ideas. Definitely check this book out.

Neither Here nor There: Travels in EuropeNeither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing detail of his travels through Europe. Hilarious at times and extremely informative should you ever want to do a longer Europe trip. I’ll read any Bill Bryson book, he’s that good.

The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive AdvantageThe Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely pick this book up. Daymond is a great storyteller and has some excellent examples of the power of broke. I think the most important and interesting is his own story. I won’t give it away, but his childhood is very inspiring. Also one of the biggest pieces of advice I learned is to never take venture money. If Daymond took venture money early on for FUBU the 10,000 from the investor would have been worth 600 million dollars today.

The RevenantThe Revenant by Michael Punke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you think you are having a bad day, read part one of this book. Incredibly written, goes over the agonizing plight of Hugh Glass who gets attacked by a bear and has to survive the harshest conditions imaginable. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to watch the movie. The best part of this book is the author went into details of what was true and what was fictionalized. I’m keeping the review light as it gives away a lot of the book and I’m curious how the movie adapts the book. Looking forward to reading Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917 by Michael Punk(same author).

Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent MoneyDigital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book review: Digital Gold Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money by Nathaniel Popper

This book was so good I read it in two days. Very interesting history of Bitcoin from Satoshi Nakamoto who is the creator and still hasn’t surfaced in the non-digital world to Silk Road and all the illegal transactions happening through Bitcoin. Definitely read this book as it will open your eyes about the future of currency:

Things I learned:

Bitcoin probably won’t take off in the United States. Our currency is stable, credit cards and our cash are very efficient at transactions and our adoption of Google’s and Apple’s payment systems hasn’t been that great.
The biggest use of Bitcoin is a store of value for people who live in countries with an unstable currency.
The next big use of Bitcoins is countries who have antiquated payment systems and government rules and restrictions for bank accounts.
A great explanation of Bitcoin is here.
What is really interesting is what is happening right now. Mike Hearn’s article discusses the failure of bitcoin. The blockchain is full and a number of transactions aren’t being filled. Also, Fred Wilson has another take on Bitcoin in his blog post and has invested in a number of Bitcoin companies. It will be an interesting year for Bitcoin and I’ll definitely be watching the price on Preev. The CEO of Xapo, Wences Casares was just named to the board of Paypal which means Paypal will be starting to embrace Bitcoin more in the future. This book has awakened a big interest in Bitcoin in me personally as I’m going to continue to follow it and the people involved.

Elon Musk: Inventing the FutureElon Musk: Inventing the Future by Ashlee Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an incredibly well written insight into Elon Musk’s life. When you realize that Elon wants to colonize Mars and isn’t joking he is far from normal. From his early days he would talk to girls and mention rockets and electric cars. What really struck me was how he is able to endure such pressure and pain. When he was growing up, he was teased and picked on relentlessly and his father would play mind games and although it wasn’t in the book you can deduce his father was abusive (at least emotionally). I enjoyed the structure of this book, as it mirrors how much time Elon spends at each of his companies. SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity in that order. It’s incredible how Elon will find an industry, make most of the parts in house, and do it for much less cost than any other method. Examples of this are using consumer electronics in the rockets rather than the old out of date “space grade”, the 17” screen in the Tesla that controls everything is essentially a laptop screen, and SolarCity recently announced they will be producing their own solar panels from New York. Elon is one of the most important people for our planet and through his non-stop efforts he is able to stay hyper-focused to keep his companies growing and thriving. As Peter Thiel put it “I would never bet against Elon”.

Things I learned:

Even a billionaire has to fund raise. Tesla was days away from not being able to meet payroll when a last minute venture investment kept them afloat. Also, the typical budget for incumbent car company is 1 billion for research and development and Tesla did the Modes S for 135 million. If you haven’t driven a Model S definitely do as it is light years better than every other car produced.
Getting the public excited again about space is critical for our species survival. The only way to do this is through exciting private companies and less government involvement.
Elon is a mixture of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. He has the coding chops of Gates (almost) but insists on design perfection and can be quite demanding to work for like Steve Jobs. I think Elon has a grander vision than either of them and the next twenty years will show us proof.
Hyperloop started as a joke and now is going to be a real company. I look forward to the next science fiction ideas Elon has floating around in his head and hope they will build them. I liked the idea of Tesla building an amphibious car, and can’t wait to see the innovations from SpaceX.
Elon loves to read and would read for hours as a kid. Often he would be missing from the grocery store and sneak into the book store to read. When the book store ran out of books, Elon devoured the encyclopedia and with his photographic memory was quite annoying to the other children with his I told you so personality.
I thank Ashee Vance for working so hard on this biography as I learned a ton from it. I will be trying to score a tour of SpaceX in Hawthorne, CA and look forward to watching some of the rockets launch in Vandenberg.

The Magic of Thinking BigThe Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz is simply put, amazing. Glancing at the title I thought, this is going to be a “set giant goals and you’ll be good” book, but it is much more. I love the stories he tells to illustrate his points. Also, end of chapter summary of key points will be great to refer to later. Here are some of the key points I picked up I think are extremely valuable:

1. Everyone is important. Treat every person no matter race, occupation, attitude with importance. A great quote was “I’m sure he is a nice guy underneath it all.”
2. Ask yourself, is this really important enough to argue about? Most of the time the answer is no. And you only lose something when you argue.
3. Don’t allow negative thoughts into your mind, simply thinking them will change the way you act and think.
4. You are only as “too old” or “too young” as you think you are. Believe in yourself as it really doesn’t matter your age, health, class in making it to the top.
5. When you are attending a meeting, sit in the front row and speak up! If you have listened to the meeting at all, most of the time people will like what you have to say, the presentation will be livelier and you will have the opportunity of getting noticed.
6. Go first class. Take the time to buy quality items. Over time they will actually cost less, because they will last longer, or give you bigger opportunities for advancement.

And finally my favorite quote from the entire book….

“There’s a tremendously important lesson here: if you don’t produce, you don’t get where you want to go. Learn this lesson, and five years from now you’ll regard it as one of the most profitable lessons you learned in all the time you invested here.”

The context of this is Dr. Schwartz had to fail one of his students for not putting enough effort in his class. Long story short, the student re-enrolled, graduated later and went on to be extremely successful.

Definitely glad I bought this book as I will be referring to it a lot in my lifetime.