Great Week Off the Grid in Keystone with Books

Wow – I needed that vacation.  Sometimes it just catches up with me and I don’t realize how tired I am.  Amy and I were going to go to Paris but both of us just needed to chill out so we went to our house in Keystone and just hid out for a week.  I only had a few things that I had to pay attention to and the goddess of my schedule Kelly made sure I was available when needed. 

In addition to chilling out, I got obsessed with swimming (swam every day) and my back is finally feeling almost better.  I managed to get Amy to watch Ironman 2 (yummy), War Games (held up great), War Games 2 (did not hold up), Living in Public (gave me flashback chills).  And I read – a lot – a dozen books this time.  As is my tradition when I come back on the grid, here are short book reviews with grades of what I read.

Bright Boys: A+: This is how a computer history book should be written.  It’s an amazing history of MIT in the 1940’s and 1950’s around the invention of the computer.  Some other places place an ancillary role (like the Moore School at U Penn and Harvard), but MIT and Cambridge are front and center. 

The Man Who Japed: B: I’m continuing my grind through all of Philip K. Dick’s books.  While not one of his best, it was fun.

Caught: A: Harlan Coban remains at the top of my Mental Floss chart.  Anything he writes, I read immediately.

Start With Why: C: After loving Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on The Power of Why, I was massively disappointed with this book.  The 18 minute talk I blogged about recently was outstanding – no need to read the book unless you want to be bashed over the head with the message over and over again.

Douglas Adams Starship Titanic: F: This wasn’t written by Adams (who I love), but was styled after him.  It sucked.  I bailed 20% of the way in.

Regional Advantage: A+: I’ve read bits of Annalee Saxenian’s seminal book about the differences between the evolution of Silicon Valley and Route 128, spent a tiny bit of time with Annalee at a Silicon Flatiron event, and have thought hard about this, but I had actually never read her book.  It’s awesome – anyone that cares about how entrepreneurial communities work must read this.

Cyberkill: B+: Not as good as Daniel Suarzes’ cyberthrillers, but in the same zip code.  Very enjoyable.

Thoughts from TechStars (RC2): This was a release candidate but didn’t make the cut.  But, it’s very very close – just some formatting and very light editing.  We are also talking to publishers so trying to figure out the best way to get this out there far and wide.

Opening Skinner’s Box: A+: Another dynamite book – this time about the great psychology experiments of the last century.  I knew of a few of them but loved the detail, the story telling, and the things it made me think about.

The Magician of Lhasa: A: It started out a little slow but picked up speed.  It’s published by Trapdoor – the same folks that published Cyberkill, which happens to be based in Lyons, CO.  I need to pay more attention to these guys.

What Would Google Do: B+: Jeff Jarvis wrote a very good book on Google.  The first half is a lot of stuff anyone that knows Google well will know, but Jeff did a nice job of putting all of the pieces together.  The second half was the really interesting part where we “googlized” a bunch of non-tech industries.  It was a little on the long side for me, but I’m sure Jeff’s publisher made him make it longer so it would be over 200 pages.

The Race for Perfect: C-: I was really bummed about this one.  It’s the story of the creation of the Lenovo X300 (which I love) combined with the backstory of the history of portable (and mobile) computing devices.  I read the BusinessWeek excerpt by Steve Hamm when he first published the book.  It turns out the excerpt was one of the most riveting sections.  The book felt like a 200+ page BusinessWeek article, which was just too long.

I’m glad to be back and am excited to go to Google I/O tomorrow.

  • Love the list, Brad. I just finished "Mastering the VC Game" and posted a review you might appreciate.

    Also, curious if you've read Scott Adam's book God's Debris?

    • I haven’t read God’s Debris. Buying it now.

  • hitesh

    Hi Brad –
    No sarcasm meant here, but a dozen books in a week is pretty impressive. How are you able to do that? Any special techniques? or have you just mastered reading fast ?


  • After a few years of subscribing to your blog using Google Reader and following you on Twitter, I now look forward to your scheduled time off the grid. You do excellent work in your book reviews.

    • DaveJ

      Good thing you added the last sentence…

  • Ha. You are right. Was and am typing on my iPhone which usually leaves me in the need of an editor. I was trying to say I appreciate all his writing but especially the musings after time off the grid.

  • So impressed at how many books you plow through in a week (given all the movies thrown in there)! Sounds like a few of these ought to get added to my stack (s).

  • Hi Brad,
    Thanks for "grading" these – I'm a slow reader and have been meaning to read more than just technical / php / ruby+rails stuff, so picking out the A & A+ selections is a great help. PS: liking Charlie's "Blind Spot IT" so far.

  • Brad- next time you are up in Keystone, check out the free Keystone iPhone App we made. Might help you save a buck or two.

  • Thanks for the books recommendations Brad! I'm reading Daemon at the moment because you recommended it and it's great. Can't wait to get to Freedom.

  • Andreas

    Man, thanx for the reviews! How is it possible that you read so many books at once? How long does it take for you to read one book?

    Bytheway I also just ordered the reason why b/c of the talk and was looking forward reading with your review you brought me back to the ground.

  • I read like that. What is you average reading speed, and comprehension? It varies by individual, but i have found that after you learn how to speed read, you can take down a major novel every day or two, and get 90% of it. How did you train yourself? I found that running your index finger down the page, leading, at a constant rate is a 50% boost. And scanning a line at a time, instead of a word at a time, is huge; the comprehension is the same.

    One year i read three bookshelves worth of fiction… it surprised me. I suspect you are well ahead of that curve, though:)

    • I've never taken any formal speed reading courses. I just read fast and read a lot, which seems to be self reinforcing.

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