Books

One of my pleasures in life is sitting down with a book and a cup of coffee. I'm going to try and write very short reviews of the books I absolutely love and would recommend on this page.

You can see which books I've recently finished by following me on Goodreads. My most recent 5 reads are shown here too.

You can also see my progress towards my yearly reading challenge here...

Shoe Dog

by Phil Knight

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

Wow. What an inspirational, gripping read. Phil Knight takes you on his journey of creating Nike, starting off at 24 with his travels to Japan to negotiate a deal with a shoe producer for his yet-to-be company Blue Ribbon. He tells of the near-unbelievable challenges he faced along the way, fought by pure hard work, determination and amazing people he had around him.

It encapsulates this feeling you have when you're building something, that you don't really know what you're doing and you have to "fake it 'till you make it" and take things as they come. 

 

This is why people should follow their dreams, and pursue what matters to them. Don't get stuck in some corporate building someone else's dream. Creating something is a beautiful thing. If you have any desire to build your own company, this book could well be the flame you need to light your fire. 

Hacking Growth

by Sean Ellis & Morgan Brown

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

If you're a marketer, or have any interest in marketing I'd urge you to pick this book up. I'd be confident in saying it will shape your approach to marketing for the better. At my company Growth Division our core business is focused on designing and executing on growth experiments in a rigorous manner, and this book has helped shape the approach we take.

 

The insights into building growth teams is interesting, as it's not just put a load of marketers in the room, but also bringing in engineers, a project leader, product managers and data analysts. The approach of identifying metrics that matter to define what growth means, then finding aha moments and getting people to those as quickly as possible is core to what growth hacking is.

 

The final third of the book goes through a Growth Hacking Playbook, which details how you should go about hacking growth and what you need to consider. A top read for anyone building a company (esp B2C).
 

Enlightenment Now

by Steven Pinker

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

The world is falling apart, right? Climate change is destroying the earth, wars are being waged, diseases are prevalent, poverty still torments millions and inequality persists. Watching the news day in day out you could believe all these things are getting worse, and we're not progressing towards a better world. But you'd be wrong, very wrong...

In Enlightenment Now, Pinker invites us to look into the facts and figures of some of the most important trends regarding human progress. He proves how looking at trends over the long run, rather than events (as done by the mass media), humanity is in the best place we have ever been in. It's uplifting and eye-opening to read about the progress humankind has made (especially very recent progress). 

Pinker looks into how we can take the 18th Century Enlightenment ideals and apply them to a 21st Century world. He describes how science, reason and humanism are still applicable, and how a continued adherence to them can progress humankind toward a more considerate, equal, healthy and just society and planet.

 

Note: it's also worth reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling (a slightly easier read)
 

The Descent of Man

by Grayson Perry

My Rating: **** (4/5)

A fascinating read on a concept that, as a man, I have considered, that I have experienced, that I have observed, but never really dived into in detail - masculinity. Something I've seen in everyday life: the inability of men to open up, to be emotional, to lose at something, to not know something, to be weak, or just having this overdeveloped sense of entitlement.

He talks of the concept of "Default Man", a reference point to which all other values and cultures are judged, something so ingrained into society it's often difficult to decipher. Everyone else belongs to a 'community', the gay community, the working-class community, but never a white, middle-class male community. 

Understandably women have lead the conversation on gender (as they are the ones most oppressed by it), but it wouldn't be a bad thing for men to become conscious of their own gender identity and update their own approach to masculinity.


 

The Chimp Paradox

by Steve Peters

My Rating: ** (2/5)

I've been recommended this book many times, so I eventually go round to picking it up. The core concept and the way it is explained is brilliant. But, it can pretty much be summed up in the first couple of chapters and in my opinion. However, the purpose was to explain to a lay audience in a fun, engaging and memorable way, and it certainly has achieved that.

The essence of the Chimp Paradox, is there are 2 independent areas of your brain competing for control in all situations. The part you can control, the Human, which is logical rational and evidence-based. The part you cannot control, the Chimp (the limbic system), which is emotional and focused on self-survival. 

When processing information your Chimp receives information first, which can lead to emotional reactions and subsequent fights or anxiety. Later chapters explain different methods for managing your Chimp, and how you can build healthy relationships, look after yourself and achieve the goals you set out for.

Chasing the Sun

by Linda Geddes

My Rating: **** (4/5)

I loved this book, and it's one that has made a positive change in my life (which always makes me rate a book highly). It's just really a pleasant, informative read. Geddes takes you through a journey of humanity's relationship with the sun and explains the benefits of being outdoors, and getting exposure to sunlight.

It's scary how dim indoor lighting is compared to being outdoors. So, it's especially important to venture outdoors in the winter. In Europe, you don't receive any substantive UV in the winter months, so getting your share over the summer is actually really important. 

This book, along with Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, has changed my relationship with different forms of light exposure at different times in the day, and has taught me the importance of healthy sleeping habits.

A Clockwork Orange

by Anthony Burgess

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

Wow! If you haven't read this malenky book, firstly won't understand what malenky means and secondly, you don't know what you're missing out on! Go and buy it NOW. Here, I'll make it easy for you, the link is here.

This is one of my favourite fiction books I've read. It's ingenious. It's horrifying. It's scary. It's fucked up. It's also beautiful. 

You'll read the first chapter thinking "what the hell is going on?". About 1/3 of the way in you'll start to understand all the meanings of the Nadsat language, and get into the beautiful flowing prose that makes this book so fascinating to read. I'll leave it at that, and let you explore the delights of the world Burgess created.

Bad Blood

by John Carreyrou

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

This is an incredible report on the Theranos scandal in Silicon Valley by investigative journalist Jorn Carreyrou, who help uncover the truly UNBELIEVABLE things that were going on inside the organisation.

You could not make half the stuff up that goes on in this book. When reading it I was thinking it might as well be a fiction book. It's gripping.

Having worked in the start-up world, for me, this story epitomises (at a massive extreme, granted) some of the straight-up lies people tell themselves and investors about their idea. Theranos was values at $9 billion(!!!), having raised $400 million by lying to investors, customers, prospective customers, media and politicians. It's a seriously crazy story I'd highly recommend.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

by Bill Bryson

My Rating: **** (4/5)

This is the only Bill Bryson book I've ever picked up (at time of writing), despite him being a prolific author. I was honestly blown away by this book. The premise is great, he wrote it just because he wanted to learn more about basic science, history and human progress. Arguable something we should all be interested in and have a solid understanding of.

It's genius because he explains highly complex subject matter, which was explained to him by experts in their field, but translates it into a very easy to comprehend style and format. He uses lots of anecdotes about the people who made the discovery.

 

It's worth reading just to read some of the astounding stats, facts and figures quoted - especially in the physics section. So if you're even just vaguely interested in science, but put off by the heavy, specific nature of many books out there, this would be a great choice for you.

Agencynomics

by Spencer Gallagher & Peter Hoole

My Rating: **** (4/5)

This got 4 stars as it was so relevant to my thinking process and need to absorb information about this topic at the time I was reading it. As you may know, I run Growth Division, a marketing agency that runs a distributed model, so we outsource the implementation to our community of expert marketers.

This book takes you through the ins and outs of running and growing an agency. The authors both have all the relevant knowledge and experience of running agencies themselves, so are credible and knowledgeable on the subject. 

If you're looking to build an agency, or if you run one and are looking to grow one, there are some seriously great insights from this book that could make an immediate impact on your business.

Competing Against Luck

by Clayton Christensen

 

My Rating: **** (4/5)

Ahhhhh... Jobs To Be Done (JTBD). I love it. I absolutely love it. As a customer research framework, I'm not sure it can be beaten for the soundness of the logic behind it. And Christensen is THE father of JTBD, so this is definitely worth a read.

If you've heard of JTBD you have likely heard of Christensen's example case study of the takeaway milkshake, where he understood when customers were buying it, why they were buying it and where they were taking it. Leading to some interesting insights into how to develop and market the product.

The part I found infuriating was that it explained the framework in such detail, but alluded to no methodology of how to undertake a JTBD analysis. So for understanding the theory, it's a great read, but for understanding the practical side of actually undertaking a JTBD research process you'll need to do more reading!

The Complete Short Stories (1 & 2)

by Roald Dahl

My Rating: ***** (5/5)

Like lots of people, when I was growing up Roald Dahl was an absolute favourite of mine. From The Witches to The BFG, his unique talent for describing his amazing array of characters truly brings his stories to life.

His short stories are similarly laden with weird and wonderful characters, and the storylines are nothing short of genius. Each and every story has a hilarious twist that you never see coming.

The first volume is predominantly filled with wartime stories, due to the chronological nature they were written, Dahl having been in the army in the early stage of his adult life. Personally I was less keen on the war stories, although there are still some great ones.

 

Whether or not you liked his writing growing up, I implore you to go out and read these books, as it's such a pleasure to have as a something to dip in and out of.

© 2019 Tristan Gillen.