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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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A Book A Day Keeps The Sun Away

Comments (20)

While Amy assures me there is no correlation between "books" and "sun appearance", I have been reading a book each day and there has been no sun since we arrived in Homer 12 days ago.  I was just using the same argument that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster uses to explain global warming.

As is typical of my time in Homer, I’ve covered a lot of ground.  This time I’m reading exclusively on my Kindle which I love; I haven’t cracked open a physical book yet.  That said, some of the books have been great and a few have been clunkers.

Inside Steve’s Brain: In preparation for the launch of the iPhone 3G, I decided to try to get into Inside Steve’s Brain.  This recently became one of the trendy technology books, presumably due to everyone’s desire to be as innovative as Steve Jobs (or at least learn some of his special tricks.)  I had low expectations for the book (I generally dislike books like this); it surprised me by being pretty good.  There were plenty of instructive Steve Jobs stories and interesting Apple history that I hadn’t read in other places.  The summaries / lessons at the end of the chapters were tedious and there were a few "extra" chapters that could have been edited out if the book industry could handle a business book less than 200 pages.  But – overall – it’s good, especially if you are an Apple fanboy.

The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company: In my "read all about Steve Jobs" theme, I consumed The Pixar Touch.  If you are choosing between Inside Steve’s Brain and The Pixar Touch, choose this one.  It’s an excellent history of Pixar.  The first half is extraordinarily interesting as it details all the early people and research that formed the computer animation industry.  This book also felt more balanced (e.g. "less sensational") in its coverage of all the twists and turns that Pixar went through along the way to success.

Halting State: Excellent "slightly in the future" science fiction incorporating all kinds of funky technology, a complex plot around virtual worlds virtual money, plenty of good guys, bad guys, a male nerd / female cop protagonist romantic plot twist, some irrational bad guys, and a few things you had to go back and read a second time to make sure you understood what had just happened.  All of it is set in Scotland resulting in some entertaining dialog for this American boy.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies: Boring, but then I had already knew of many of the examples in the book.  If you are a corporate dude looking for examples of the use of "social technologies" in the enterprise, there are lots of useful stories here.  If you like to read Forrester Research stuff, you are the target audience.  Probably in the same category as Scoble and Israel’s Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers – a skimmer if you are in the tech business but important and useful if you are in a large corporation and are trying to figure out what all this social networking stuff means.

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life: Perfect.  I love Steve Martin.  I was in junior high school when he reached the pinnacle of his stand up fame.  I remember being a wild and crazy guy, strutting around while singing King Tut, and shouting out EXCUSE ME at the top of my lungs, much to my mother’s annoyance.  This is a great autobiography – I even learned that he was born in Waco, Texas.

American Nerd: The Story of My People: So so.  I had high expectations for this book since it’s about me.  About 25% of it was great, 25% of it was boring, and 50% was filler.  I think I’m going to start a book imprint called "Books in Under 100 pages", hire a few merciless editors, and make good books great by getting rid of 25% to 75% of them.  While I didn’t get any new and exciting insights into nerds (although you might, especially if you are not a nerd), I learned some interesting things about ethnicity and racism that hadn’t previously cro
ssed my mind.  I’m glad I read this book and think it provides some useful insights into our culture, but damnit it didn’t need to be over 200 pages.

Final Theory: A Novel: Loved it.  A+ mental floss.  I can’t remember who recommended it to me, but thank you.  Physics, murder, sexy smart women, a professor hero, explosions, fast cards, evil mad scientists disguised as pacifists, evil people, complex scientific theories that actually almost work, gratuitous almost sex, a really scary mean bad guy, and some hillbillies.  What more could you want?

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time: Boring.  This could have been called "the biography of Keith Ferrazzi" with a bunch of anecdotes tossed in about how to treat people.  I think I would have liked it better if it was called "the biography of Keith Ferrazzi" and I was interested in reading the biography of Keith Ferrazzi.  Note to self – don’t write an autobiography and position it as a self-help business book.

Wall Street Stories: Awesome.  Clever, entertaining short stories about Wall Street.  Written in 1901.  All equally relevant today.  While fiction, these could have easily been true stories (and I imagine they were based on real events.)  I don’t play the market and this book clearly explains the reason why.

If you are feeling depressed about your public stock portfolio, pick up a copy of Wall Street Stories – it’ll at least make you laugh.  If you need a real laugh, grab a copy of Born Standing Up.  If you want to understand why you love your new iPhone so much, try out Inside Steve’s Brain.  If you get tired of reading, you can always watch the latest installment of David Cohen and I explaining TechStars on ColoradoBizTV

Oh – and please send some sun to Homer, Alaska.

  • http://www.jessica-thoughts.blogspot.com Jessica Schallock

    Hey, I don't know about you, but I got sunburned today despite my SPF 80. I saw a little blue sky for about half an hour…does that count?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Nope – didn’t see it.  Doesn’t count.

  • Rick Gregory

    Hmm I didn't get a lot of sympathy when Boulder had sun and Seattle didn't.. but hey we've got PLENTY of sun so.. (grabs Fedex shipper…. )… There you go.

    I agree with you about Halting State… if you liked it, try his other books – they're uniformly good though some are more SF-y than Halting State.

    Oh and by the way, a much belated thanks for turning me on to the John Rain books – they've been much fun to read. You know Charles McCarry's work?

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Charles McCarry – I don’t know him.  What should I start with?

      • Rick Gregory

        Hmm… I like most of his stuff and love several of the books. Try the Tears of Autumn and the Miernik Dossier to start. The Last Supper is also quite good. Several of his books contain a recurring character, Paul Christopher and I think those are generally his best. Don't start with Old Boys or Christopher's Ghosts though – they're the last two in the series and, while you could read them as standalones they're better if you've read previous books.

        Oh and if you want to read something eerie, grab The Better Angels. it posits a divided America at the time of a closely contested election, under threat by islamic terrorists using suicide techniques and loaded planes as bombs. The reason it's eerie? He wrote it in 1979.

        • http://www.kidmercuryblog.com kid mercury

          if you want a really eerie book, check out “the final jihad” by martin keating. the book is about a guy named tom mcvey who decides to bomb a federal building in oklahoma city.

          the book was written 4 years before the oklahoma city bombing. the author, martin keating, is the brother of frank keating — the guy who was governor of oklahoma during the okc bombing. the book is dedicated to the knights templars.

  • http://friendfeed.com/robertbanghart Robert Banghart

    Impressive reading schedule and great reviews – Think I'll order “Final Theory: A Novel” for when the sun once again abandons Seattle

  • http://www.burnertrouble.com Martin Edic

    Sorry you found Groundswell boring, given that it was my suggestion! However I should have realized that it would be no new news to you given your investments. For those not sure what social media is all about (about 95% of the western world) it's probably still a required read.
    I once wrote a business plan called '24 page books'. We'd publish 24 page books on various subjects designed to create instant expertise and sell them in airports. A little tongue in cheek but practically any business book out there can be condensed to 24 pages without losing much…

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Ah – well – now I know who the culprit recommender was.  I would have likely read it anyway (I think someone else sent me a free copy of it – I know I have a physical copy at home vs. the Kindle one I read.)  I wish you’d started “24 Page Books” – I would have been a customer.

  • http://qwang.net Q dub

    Funny that you found books too long on several occasions. I'm a ruthless in abridging my own blog posts, and I find traditional books to be sheer culture clash with online writing.

    I see the essential problem in physical books having to look “big enough” on the shelf to prove that you're getting your bang for the buck. Such is the opposite case for free online content–where writers optimizing for reach and fear that long content would be ignored.

  • Steve Bergstein

    I'm a huge fan of The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (I even claim membership in it, though I'd have to admit that I have no idea what is required to become a member “officially”). This is, perhaps, in conflict with the upcoming Bat Mitzvah of my daughter. So be it.

    May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I don’t think it’ll conflict with the Bat Mitzvah as long as you serve spaghetti afterward at the party.  Then, you can convert her into the sect of Atheist Jews that belong to The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • http://barfieldmanagement.com Chase Barfield

    That's Great!!! Quit reading + more pirates = a sunny but cooler earth. Who knew math and science could be so enlightening? You're always thinking.

  • Bob Jenkins

    Arrrrrrrgggggg… Pirates. Did you know that Pirates make great entrepreneurs because they'll do whatever it takes to get to the money? See some of the fundamentals for this here… http://www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Gotta love pirates.

  • Jeff Powers

    Two recommends in three days for The Pixar Touch… must be decent. Will check it out. No shortage of sunshine in Boulder. I'd set up a huge mirror aimed at Alaska, but then we'd end up killing a few pirates in the light's path, exacerbating global warming.

  • http://www.burnertrouble.com Martin Edic

    How does Brad rate a 71p? Do you get brownie points for investing in Intense Debate?
    ;-0

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I think I just comment a lot…

  • Chithra Durgam

    Brad, Did you see the Wired article (April 2008) on Apple? It's by Kahney as well. You may enjoy it if you are trying to read all about Steve Jobs. How about condensing “Inside Steve's Brain” into 6 pages….that beats 24!

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I didn’t.  That probably would have saved me two hours of my life.  But – I liked the book anyway so I’m glad I read it.

  • Chithra Durgam

    Seems Jobs is successful because his ideas are just plain smart and he understands trends. Does the book expand upon how Jobs stays competitive and innovative with his own ideas? Does it also explain how employees buy into the mission?

    He doesn't appear to be collaborative and he is resting everything on what he considers to be right. It appears all ego but he doesn't care about notoriety from what I read. It's about executing the best, most competitive idea.

    Tiger Woods is another person that comes to mind with similar qualities but he is not managing a company, he is managing himself.

    All these questions…I should just read the book too.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Charles McCarry – I don’t know him.  What should I start with?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/qdub qdub

    Funny that you found books too long on several occasions. I'm a ruthless in abridging my own blog posts, and I find traditional books to be sheer culture clash with online writing.

    I see the essential problem in physical books having to look "big enough" on the shelf to prove that you're getting your bang for the buck. Such is the opposite case for free online content–where writers optimizing for reach and fear that long content would be ignored.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Nope – didn’t see it.  Doesn’t count.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I don’t think it’ll conflict with the Bat Mitzvah as long as you serve spaghetti afterward at the party.  Then, you can convert her into the sect of Atheist Jews that belong to The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chase_barf55451 chase_barf55451

    That's Great!!! Quit reading + more pirates = a sunny but cooler earth. Who knew math and science could be so enlightening? You're always thinking.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rickgregory rickgregory

    Hmm… I like most of his stuff and love several of the books. Try the Tears of Autumn and the Miernik Dossier to start. The Last Supper is also quite good. Several of his books contain a recurring character, Paul Christopher and I think those are generally his best. Don't start with Old Boys or Christopher's Ghosts though – they're the last two in the series and, while you could read them as standalones they're better if you've read previous books.

    Oh and if you want to read something eerie, grab The Better Angels. it posits a divided America at the time of a closely contested election, under threat by islamic terrorists using suicide techniques and loaded planes as bombs. The reason it's eerie? He wrote it in 1979.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Gotta love pirates.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Ah – well – now I know who the culprit recommender was.  I would have likely read it anyway (I think someone else sent me a free copy of it – I know I have a physical copy at home vs. the Kindle one I read.)  I wish you’d started “24 Page Books” – I would have been a customer.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I didn’t.  That probably would have saved me two hours of my life.  But – I liked the book anyway so I’m glad I read it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jeffpowers jeffpowers

    Two recommends in three days for The Pixar Touch… must be decent. Will check it out. No shortage of sunshine in Boulder. I'd set up a huge mirror aimed at Alaska, but then we'd end up killing a few pirates in the light's path, exacerbating global warming.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kidmercury kidmercury

    if you want a really eerie book, check out "the final jihad" by martin keating. the book is about a guy named tom mcvey who decides to bomb a federal building in oklahoma city.

    the book was written 4 years before the oklahoma city bombing. the author, martin keating, is the brother of frank keating — the guy who was governor of oklahoma during the okc bombing. the book is dedicated to the knights templars.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I think I just comment a lot…

  • Chithra Durgam

    Seems Jobs is successful because his ideas are just plain smart and he understands trends. Does the book expand upon how Jobs stays competitive and innovative with his own ideas? Does it also explain how employees buy into the mission?

    He doesn't appear to be collaborative and he is resting everything on what he considers to be right. It appears all ego but he doesn't care about notoriety from what I read. It's about executing the best, most competitive idea.

    Tiger Woods is another person that comes to mind with similar qualities but he is not managing a company, he is managing himself.

    All these questions…I should just read the book too.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/rickgregory rickgregory

    Hmm I didn't get a lot of sympathy when Boulder had sun and Seattle didn't.. but hey we've got PLENTY of sun so.. (grabs Fedex shipper…. )… There you go.

    I agree with you about Halting State… if you liked it, try his other books – they're uniformly good though some are more SF-y than Halting State.

    Oh and by the way, a much belated thanks for turning me on to the John Rain books – they've been much fun to read. You know Charles McCarry's work?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/martin_edi18731 martin_edi18731

    Sorry you found Groundswell boring, given that it was my suggestion! However I should have realized that it would be no new news to you given your investments. For those not sure what social media is all about (about 95% of the western world) it's probably still a required read.
    I once wrote a business plan called '24 page books'. We'd publish 24 page books on various subjects designed to create instant expertise and sell them in airports. A little tongue in cheek but practically any business book out there can be condensed to 24 pages without losing much…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/steve_bergs2127 steve_bergs2127

    I'm a huge fan of The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster (I even claim membership in it, though I'd have to admit that I have no idea what is required to become a member "officially"). This is, perhaps, in conflict with the upcoming Bat Mitzvah of my daughter. So be it.

    May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

  • Jessica Schallock

    Hey, I don't know about you, but I got sunburned today despite my SPF 80. I saw a little blue sky for about half an hour…does that count?

  • Bob Jenkins

    Arrrrrrrgggggg… Pirates. Did you know that Pirates make great entrepreneurs because they'll do whatever it takes to get to the money? See some of the fundamentals for this here… http://www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/martin_edi18731 martin_edi18731

    How does Brad rate a 71p? Do you get brownie points for investing in Intense Debate?
    ;-0

  • Chithra Durgam

    Brad, Did you see the Wired article (April 2008) on Apple? It's by Kahney as well. You may enjoy it if you are trying to read all about Steve Jobs. How about condensing "Inside Steve's Brain" into 6 pages….that beats 24!

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