Books I Read On My Q214 Vacation

Wow. I needed a vacation. Amy reminds me that I say that on day three of each of our quarterly weeks off the grid. It doesn’t seem to matter how I try to pace myself or how recent my previous week off the grid was. On day three, when I’m not looking at email, anything on the web, or checking my phone, I just breathe deeply and say “wow I needed this vacation.”

Oh – and I decided to get over my fear of horses. I’ve been afraid of horses since I was a teenager. As a kid growing up in Dallas I rode a lot, but my brother had a nasty fall when we were riding together and that was that for me. Amy loves horses and has started riding regularly now that we live in horse country outside of Boulder so I decided it was silly for me to continue to be afraid of horses. So we spent a week at Miraval where I could ride every other day and do a few of their horse specific activities.

For example, here’s me painting a horse. Bonus points if you figure out what I painted on him (his name is HeartWind). Hint – count the vertical lines carefully.

As with most of my vacations, I read about a book a day. Here’s the list, in order, with short commentary.

Red Bang: I wanted to love this book. From the review it felt like a current day version of Microserfs: A Novel or JPod, two tech culture masterpieces by Douglas Coupland. While some of that came through, “The Company” (a thinly designed version of Microsoft) was too over the top ridiculous and many of the satirical moments fell flat for me. It was ok, but not great.

Sting of the Drone: I’ve devoured all of Richard Clarke’s fiction and they are all well written, incredibly relevant, and better than what a modern day Clancy treatment of the topic would be. The only issue I had with this one was the ending – it was too contrived, too many good guys died while the bad guys got shut down, and the neat tidy bow that wrapped everything up consisted of almost all of the protagonists dying in a fireball ending. Boo – more reflection after the climax needed, but otherwise outstanding.

The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph: I don’t know Ryan Holiday, but I heard of this book from Tim Ferriss and was intrigued by the description so I decided to dose myself in some stoicism. Dynamite book – I’m glad I put the time in. Holiday covers the topic well in a very accessible way.

Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising (APenguin Special from Portfolio): I figured I’d read the cannon on Holiday so this was next. If you don’t know what “growth hacking” means, this is a good intro. But if you do, this is a waste of time.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises: This was the heavy one of the trip – it took three days. Geithner has always been a cipher to me so I figured his autobiography and memoir on the financial crisis would help me understand him better. He did an amazing job with this book, both explaining what happened while explaining himself. The depth of his own introspection and understanding of his own being came through in the midst of incredible pressure and crisis. Once you realize he’s a deep introvert in a context that begs for extrovert energy, a lot of the puzzle pieces about him slide into place. After reading this book, I’m glad he was at the head of the NY Fed and the Treasury for the past decade. Regardless of your position on what went down during this time, this is a book worth reading for a clear perspective from Geithner’s point of view.

Sleep Your Way to the TOP: *and other myths about business success: I finished my trip by reading the final version of the second book from FG Press, our new publishing company. I’ve probably read the book a half dozen times during the edit cycle, but I hadn’t yet read the final version on a Kindle. More soon, but I love this book and Jane Miller is an absolutely star.

  • Guest

    @fastcompany-250444:disqus What do you use to embed the flickr images in that way?

    • Flickr has an embed option easily available in the webapp.

  • jbumbulsky

    @bfeld:disqus What do you use to embed the flickr photos that way?

  • rjmartino

    I’m always amazed at how fast you can read books. How fast do you actually read?

    • 50 to 100 pages an hour.

  • Storewars News

    Nice read! Very informative. Did you know that? Trent mulls
    mid-sized stores for Star Bazaar chain. Full story here:

  • I too really enjoyed “The Obstable Is The Way.” I thought Ryan Holiday had a clear, approachable manner for describing Stoicism that worked well for me. A good reminder to take care of the difficult stuff and stop dodging it.

    If you haven’t checked it out yet, “Think Like a Freak” by Stephen Dubner of “Freakonomics” is a great read as well. And by the way, thanks for recommending “The Circle” awhile back. Although it makes me question any and all social media…

  • Hi Brad

    Judging by your taste, I think you will love “Moonwalking with Einstein” ( for key takeaways check )

  • Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises is an amazing book. Geithner lays it all out. Us vs. him and the “men” of Wall St. He doesn’t realize how revealing he is. Born on home plate Tiny Tim brags about his own ill preparedness for all his jobs. He has no shame. Millions will pay for his policies for a generations. He will dine out on his 200K speaking fees. Frankly better the SOB had never been born. Good book though. It is important to know what the enemy thinks. Even better when they are so stupid they tell you.

  • Bob_Mex

    Sting of the Drone is written from an American perspective. Compare this to the novel “Bullets and Train” written by Adeerus Ghayan ( ). This novel is written from a Pakistani’s perspective. Although this novel also discusses terrorism in the wake of drone attacks, it is better steeped in ground realities. Drones have become a matter of national issue in Pakistan and their impacts are far more reaching than imagined, something which is the central theme of this novel. Both of these novels need to be read side by side to provide the views of two very different worlds on the issue of “Drones”.

    • Just grabbed Bullets and Trains – thanks for the recommendation.