CommonSense Blog

My Favorite Books — Holiday Reading

By Bob Pearson | Jan 05, 2015

I always enjoy catching up on reading during holidays.  Thought I would share what I read this winter break.

I focused on “how to think”, “our country”, “litigation” and “music” as the four areas of interest.  Here’s my summary:

How to Think

Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters — this was my favorite book.  Peter Thiel explains what it takes to truly innovate and go from “0 to 1”.  Most innovation as he rightly points out, is simply copying of other ideas.  He talks about what it takes to be innovative and create something new, as well as provide insights on what traits of founders/entrepreneurs are most relevant.  The book was created based on notes from a class Peter teaches at Stanford, meticulously kept by Blake.

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner — this book makes you realize what it takes to truly think outside the box. We have many blocks in our brains that prevent us from truly innovating.  These guys show how to avoid the most common pitfalls.  I guarantee you will recognize ones that you have.  We all do.

Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer — one of my favorite columnists, he shares his columns from the 1980s’ through present day.  He started writing as a democrat and ended up as a republican, yet his viewpoints remain similar, in my view.  One of the clearest thinkers out there, regardless of how you view his current political leanings.

Our Country

Duty by Robert M. Gates — a rather ponderous, but interesting memoir of a person who worked for eight presidents and has worked for both Republican and Democratic presidents as Secretary of Defense.  A revealing book of how things work inside Washington, without being catty.  That in itself is a nice change of pace.

No Hero by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer — this is about Mark’s career as a Navy Seal.  I am forever impressed by all of the men and women who are willing to represent their country with pride and determination.  What the Seals do is amazing.

Litigation

Law of the Jungle by Paul M. Barrett — this is about a legal case waged against Texaco and then Chevron (after Chevron bought Texaco) by a lawyer named Stephen Donziger, who had never tried a previous case, even in traffic court.  It’s a great example of how the legal system can be abused, in this case, by Donziger.  The book is centered on the rain forest area of Ecuador and the court case played out in Ecuador and the U.S.  I’m shocked we have a legal system that allows people like Donziger to recklessly pursue cases for what was nearly 20 years.

Music

Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh — Phil was the bassist for The Grateful Dead.  He does a great job explaining how the Dead formed, what kept them together and what it was really like for one of the world’s best bands ever to evolve year to year.  The Dead’s songs have even more meaning to me after reading this book.  No, I was not a Deadhead.  Yes, I love the Dead.

Hope you enjoy some of these books in 2015.  Let me know what you have read that is worth sharing in the comments section.

Best, Bob