Published: Nov 27, 2020
Online book sales have, unsurprisingly, soared during lockdown as people have been required to spend more time at home. For many that has simply been the rediscovered pleasure of reading offering an escape or break in routine, but for others it is providing new perspectives, the opportunity to learn or even awakening the passion to start up their own business. Gavin Bell, Senior Investment Manager at Maven, selects the seven business-related books you should consider reading this winter.
As billions of people across the world are having their normal routines disrupted by the pandemic, and publishers and online book retailers have been among the big winners during the current crisis as people seek new activities and have increasingly taken to reading. Demand for popular titles has skyrocketed, notably non-fiction titles.
With winter and Christmas almost upon us, and in the face of far-reaching government restrictions designed to contain the spread of COVID-19, some of the usual daily distractions of life have reduced and the current crisis perhaps presents a valuable opportunity for personal development. What better way to educate yourself or be inspired than with a book, and I have selected my top titles that I think would be a worthwhile read for managers, business owners or entrepreneurs, covering a range of interesting areas such as tech start-ups, venture capital, hedge funds, angel investing, philosophy and risk.
1/ Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight
This is already a very well-known business autobiography, and well worth some time if you haven’t yet read it. A fascinating account of the rollercoaster ride experienced by Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike, as he took the business from start-up to one of the biggest and most iconic global sports brands. I found this to be a book you can lose yourself in for a few weeks, and it was certainly a good antidote to my daily commute a couple of winters ago.
2/ Antifragile, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Taleb is best known for “Black Swan”, which rose to prominence at the time of the 2008 financial crisis (having predicted it!). A modern-day philosopher with a “no-BS” approach, Taleb is a skilled articulator of ideas. His books cover a very broad spectrum of “real life” risk, philosophy, business, entrepreneurialism, society, and even ancient Greek. The basic premise of Antifragile is that things (people, institutions, businesses, economies, etc.) are set up to be too fragile and he explains how some things (that survive uncertainty) actually gain from disorder and become stronger, not just more robust but “Antifragile”. Whilst it is unstructured and chaotic (purposely I think!), and not always an easy read it is certainly thought provoking and addresses a myriad of things that resonate given the current COVID pandemic, as Taleb tries to provide a blueprint to survive and prosper in an uncertain world. Warning: you’ll probably either love or hate Taleb’s books but try and dig in as you may be rewarded!
3/ The Hard Thing about Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
Horowitz is co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most successful and well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firms. Prior to that he was a tech founder, selling his business Opsware (previously Loudcloud) to Hewlett Packard for $1.6 billion. Horowitz offers a ‘warts and all’ insight into the highs and lows of being a founder/CEO.
4/ Principles, by Ray Dalio
Dalio founded and built up Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest and most successful hedge funds in the world. He shares insights via hundreds of bite size ‘principles’ based on lessons he learnt along the way, not just in business but also in life. Some of the ideas can seem a bit wacky and it’s not one to read in one sitting (just dip in and out). However, there is some real wisdom in there from building your people culture to approaching problems systematically.
5/ Hedge Fund Market Wizards: How Winning Traders Win, by Jack Schwager
A behind the scenes look at the world of hedge funds through intimate interviews with some of the greatest traders and investors who consistently outperformed the markets. The 15 interviews are with a range of contrasting personalities with different investment techniques, but who have all found a way to win. Trust me, if you’re interested in financial markets you won’t be able to put Schwager’s books down - the accounts are pretty accessible and they’re not too bogged down in technical detail.
6/ Zero to One, by Peter Theil
Theil not only founded big tech businesses, such as PayPal and Palantir Technologies, but was also an early investor into Facebook, so his ideas are well worth some attention. He’s a contrarian thinker who sets out some observations and thoughts on innovation and how to build the big companies of tomorrow. It’s also a reasonably short, concise read!
7/ Angel: How to Invest in Technology Start-Ups, by Jason Calacanis
Calacanis is a very successful angel investor into tech start-ups including Uber. This is a really absorbing read (I listened via audiobook in a few evenings), and a great primer if you’re an angel investor or thinking of becoming one. However, it’s still valuable for institutional VC investors or entrepreneurs alike. A little Silicon Valley-centric perhaps, but highly recommended.