Had a chance to take a look at the Twitter feed of Bill Gates of late? If you have, you no doubt noticed Gates himself photographed by a Christmas Tree with a stack of bestsellers at his side.
As you enjoy some downtime this holiday season, why not pore over some good reading by the fire, beach or nightstand. Let’s start with Gates’ own reading list, which is worthy if for no other reason than he says he still reads a book a week. His stack of books includes, “String Theory” by David Foster Wallace, “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight, “The Gene” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, “The Myth of the Strong Leader” by Archie Brown, and “The Grid” by Gretchen Bakke.
Which would I recommend? While I am drawn to Brown’s book as I’ve grown weary of decision-making by the “highest-paid person onsite” or HIPPO, entrepreneurs will relate to Knight’s book, which Gates recommends because it reveals what “the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes.”
What are other people reading? CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux has been poring over profiles of entrepreneurs who rose to prominence during his favorite period of history.
“I'm trying to read all the guys from is 1880 to 1920,” Thibodeaux says. “During that time people got running water, electricity, the telephone, the telegraph, radio, cars, airplanes, steam travel and more. The post-Civil War era was probably the most transformative ever. People who that lived during that 40-year period saw more massively impactful innovations probably than any other people in history.”
The parallels today are rich—literally. For every Zuckerberg, Brin, Gates and Ellison, there once was a Mellon, Carnegie, Morgan and more. Of all the innovators from the period, he recommends reading the biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, America’s first tycoon.
The Wall Street Journal has a great list of “The 20 Books That Defined Our Year.” Some fiction, some non-fiction, but one stands out to me: “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” by Robert J. Gordon. It picks up from Thibodeaux’s thinking by pointing out, according the Journal’s review, “The American economy has accomplished marvels over the past 140 years, from running water and electricity to smartphones and mass-produced food… If [Gordon] suggests the days of rapid growth are behind us, his stories are reminders that policies can get better and technology will march on.”
Nicole Henderson, editor-in-chief at The Whir and Talkin’ Cloud, turned me on to something unsettling: “The Content Trap: A Strategist's Guide to Digital Change.” Written by Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand, the book, according to Random House, “presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content.” If you help customers develop, publish or manage content, it’s worth a read.
If you’re too busy for a book, here are some longreads from magazines worth noting.MIT’s Sloan School of Management recently published “How To Win In A Winner-Take-All World.” It sums up some of the latest thinking of Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang, whom I met at an Acumatica partner event a few years ago. Ray’s one of the smartest guys you can follow on Twitter. MIT’s article zeros in on his observation that “[l]eading digital companies are taking 70 percent of market share and 77 percent of profits in their industries,” and what the implications of digital transformation will be.
If you manage people, you surely will get a kick out of this story from The Harvard Business Review from November 2016: “Let Your Workers Rebel.” The title says it all.
Lastly, there’s this gem from an unlikely source, ESPN: "Gosh, It's Beautiful." It’s the story of how “a boring Nintendo game from 1987 become the most coveted cartridge ever.” When you need a break from the new “Super Mario Run,” give it a read. Great stuff for geeks of all ages.
Oh, why no mention of the book I wrote this year? I plugged it in The Doyle Report on Tuesday. Twice in a single week? That would be tacky.