The Books I Read in 2010

This year’s reading list includes fiction, psychology and decision making, online marketing and usability, business and investing and ‘life’. Following on from 2009’s reading list, take a look below for more and please post comments or recommendations. I’d also add that I probably read 6 of the books below on my Australian Kindle 3 which i’m really liking.

Fiction

The Alchemist by Paul Coehlo – This is an even quicker read and one I struggled to put down. Whilst it is a bit overly religous, it is a very well written and engaging story that leaves you wanting to do chase your dreams and believe in yourself. A good book for those considering quitting the corporate world and starting a nursery.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau – This is an extremely interesting though hard to read book. Written in the 19th century by a now famous American contrarian thinker, Walden is a story about a man’s trip away from the beaten path. Thoreau gave up his regular life, saved just enough to go squat in a farm and make it his own and set about documenting his experience. With strikingly similar recurrent themes throughout the book to those I think most about today, it is interesting to see that our biggest dilemnas may not have changed that much in the past 200 years. Read it.

Psychology / Decision Making

The Black Swan by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – This book added a new dimension to the way I think about things. In parts articulating thoughts i’ve never been able to put together clearly, Taleb discusses the way extremely low possibility (and hence ‘unexpected’) events have shaped history and will continue to do so in the future. With a particular focus on stock markets, he outlines the importance of understanding that any attempt to model the world is likely to fall short of the unpredictable nature of the future. People should stop trying to find perfect models to fit the world and instead get used to living in a world that is inherently unpredictable.

Outliers by Malcomn Gladwell – I gave this book a go somewhere near Iguazu Falls in Argentina based on two of his other books. A good read that explained a few interesting concepts well. Becoming an expert at something takes time (10,000 hours he discussed) and those that we believe are brilliant in a particular area have often, if not always spent this time. Though simiplified, if you want to do something, devote time to it and you can do it. Another interesting topic he discusses is the effect of streaming children in high schools, the self fulfilling prophecies it creates and the long ranging effects it can have.

Predictably Irrational – by Dan Ariely – A painful to read book but very interesting nonetheless. Dan is a pioneer int he field fo behavioural economics and in this book and the next one below, he describes a number of experiments that outline some of the many irrational decisions that humans are wired to make in their lives. Compelling read and it changes the way you look at the world. You’ll start noticing yourself doing stupid things more often.

The upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely – This is Dan’s second book and is not as good a read as the first but is still interesting.

Priceless by William Poundstone – Again, I think this book could have been written better and in many less words but it is a good read. A great look at pricing theory, why things are priced the way they are, how people make decisions and how businesses and consumers can benefit from it. Another book designed to help you get to know your rational shortcomings a bit better. A must for marketing / business people in my opinion.

Fooled by Randomness by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – Written before The Black Swan, this was Taleb’s first book on his theories of randomness, fat tails and the occurence of low probability events. Filled with interesting examples and again thought provoking ideas, i found it easier to read than the Black Swan.

Online Marketing and Usability

Landing page optimisation by Tim Ash – A good introductory book for those interested in online marketing through landing page optimisation.

Don’t make me think by Steve Krug – A great but again introductory book on web usability. If you want a quick run through on web standards (many of which have not changed since it was written), this is a good book.

Business and Investing

Rework by Fried and Hansson – A quick read about the business strategies and tips (especially for start ups) written by the people at 37 Signals. Simple, interesting and worthwhile.

The new buffettology by Mary Buffett – A slightly annoying read but one that nonetheless gave a range of insights into Warren Buffett’s different investments over the years.

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Phil Fisher – Fantasic read. Need to reread it. All about business quality, the importance of management and competitive advantage (+what leads to it). Really enjoyed this one.

The Zeroes by Randall Lane – A story about a high flying Wall Street Magazine creator and owner during the zeroes and the GFC. Written very well and like a novel, it gives a good insight into Wall street, excess and how not to run a small business. Or how to run one that is ready to fail in a crash.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis – A book about those who bet against the continual rise in the Us housing market and made a small fortune. Focusing on Michael Burry, the man credited as the first to bet against the market, this book is well written, easy to read and hard to put down.

Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin – Excellent book. The best i’ve read about the financial crisis. Whilst long, it is easy to read and gives a play by play account fo the fall of bear sterns, Lehman Brothers, the fed bailout of the banks and their conversion to bank holding companies. Highly recommended.

Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis – Didn’t love this book to be honest but I can see how it would have been great in its time.

Life

Superfreakonomics by Steven Levit and Stephen Dubner – Again, didn’t love this but it had some interesting arguments about contrarian climate change theories. Also it was quick so not too harmful.

Voltaires bastards by John raulston Saul – A great recommendaiton from my trusty second hand bookshop owner. Suggested after enjoying An Intimate History of Humanity, this book is about reason in the West. Specifically, about how reason was initially used as a method to avoid tyranny and has since been used as a reason to wield power. Very hard to read but rewarding.

Marching Powder by Rusty Young – I read this one early in the year before a trip to Brazil and Argentina. It is a quick read about an Australian spending time with an convicted cocaine smuggler in a prison in Bolivia. It is an interesting look into the very different world of Bolivia and its prisons.

The Bed of Procrustes by Nicholas Nassim Taleb – This is a collection of aphorisms that clearly demonstrate Taleb’s views on a number of matters. As he is clearly well read and has had plenty of time to think, I enjoyed a range of the aphorisms in this book. Will read again.

Too Soon Old Too Late Smart by Gordon Livingston – Highly recommended book. Really enjoyed it. Whilst a little fatalistic, this book is written by a psychiartrist with years of experience and who has also lost both of his children. It is written as 30 chapters aimed as little lessons about life. Quick and easy to read, again hard to put down.

And Never Stop Dancing by Gordon Livingston – A follow up on his book above. Again, didn’t enjoy it as much but still worthwhile reading.

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