| "You with a book propped on your knees, a breeze seen in your coffee steam" |
Given my job and and education, I have read a lot of non-fiction books over years. The following three books are the ones that helped me, as an entrepreneurs and citizen, the most at understanding the world around us, so I figured I might as well share them. All three of them are well written and easy to read, so don't worry about them being too dry. I'm not going to summarize them for you because I want to encourage you to read (or listen to) them, but I will share some quotes from or about the books.
1. "Why Nations Fail" by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2012)
Why Nations Fail is about the pig picture. It will likely give you more insight into why some nations fail and why some prosper, as well as into why some political systems are better than others, than anything you have ever read before. It might be the most important book you can read, and it should pretty much be compulsory reading at every school.
Here are some quotes about the book:
"Why Nations Fail is a truly awesome book. Acemoglu and Robinson tackle one of the most important problems in the social sciences - a question that has bedeviled leading thinkers for centuries - and offer an answer that is brilliant in its simplicity and power. A wonderfully readable mix of history, political science, and economics, this book will change the way we think about economic development. Why Nations Fail is a must-read book." ~ Steven Levitt, coauthor of "Freakonomics"
"Acemoglu and Robinson have made an important contribution to the debate as to why similar-looking nations differ so greatly in their economic and political development. Through a broad multiplicity of historical examples, they show how institutional developments, sometimes based on very accidental circumstances, have had enormous consequences. The openness of a society, its willingness to permit creative destruction, and the rule of law appear to be decisive for economic development." ~ Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel laureate in economics
2. "The World Is Flat - The Globalized World In The Twenty-First Century" by Thomas L. Friedman (2005, 2006)
"The World Is Flat", by Thomas L. Friedman, is a hugely insightful read about globalization. Unlike many other books about the subject, it is based on facts rather than fears, and although Friedman acknowledges that not all is well, "The World Is Flat" is ultimately a optimistic and hopeful book that describes "the flattening of the world [as] a force for good - for business, the environment and people everywhere". If you are one of the people that is skeptic regarding globalization or even anti-globalization, this book might just change your mind. Whatever your current opinion is, this book will teach you a lot and it'll help you understand what globalization really is. Again, I believe it is one of the most important books you can read.
Here is an outtake that continues to inspire me, from the very end of the book:
"I can't tell any other society or culture what to say to its own children, but I can tell you what I say to my own: The world is being flattened. I didn't start it and you can't stop it, except at a great cost of human development and your own future. But we can tilt it, and shape it, for better or for worse. If it is to be for better, not for worse, then you and your generation must not live in fear or either the terrorists or tomorrow, of ether alQaeda or Infosys. You can flourish in this flat world, but it does take the right imagination and the right motivation. While your lives have been powerfully shaped by 9/11, the world needs you to be forever the generation of 11/9 - the generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that imagination every day." ~ Thomas Friedman (2005, 2006)
3. "The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created A Culture That Rewrote The Rules Of The New Economy" by Steve Stoute (2011)
Although "The Tanning Of America" by Steve Stoute, branding wizard, is theoretically a business book, it also changes your perspectives on the world at large. At its core, the book is about how Hip Hop culture, with its focus on authenticity and aspiration, shaped the millennial generation, weather they know it or not, and about how that generation is now the most important group on the planet, both for branding purposes and in general. It is therefore an essential read if you want to understand the present and the future a little more. Also, if your are a marketer or business person, once you have internalized the basics of marketing, for example by reading the works of Philip Kotler (which many of you will have read in business school), “The Tanning Of America” might just be the best book you can read if you want to get better at your job. Its main lesson for marketers is one that we also like to highlight continuously: authenticity is everything.
Although the book is an easy read, it's also quite dense, which means there are a lot of excerpts I could share. Here are two that I like:
"One of the coolest things I see about this tan generation and the scene they’re cultivating now is that there is no uniformity and that’s a style unto itself. The unapologetic attitude of today draws from that permission to lead and to be different. That’s in the DNA." ~ Steve Stoute, 2011
"The key to trend survival, no surprise, is all about adaptation. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging a trend as part of the perception of nuance. There is nothing wrong with playing into a trend. But a word of warning to marketers: If you don’t have control and you’re not at the forefront of seeing the trend, you’re in the back getting killed. Trend really can be a Ponzi scheme. When everyone moves on and you as the brand are the last guy to get the memo, you’ll be chasing the last dollar and there won’t be anything left. As the Translation [Steve Stoute's company] motto puts it, “Trends are perishable, cool is forever.” Let that be the clarification of the rule that urban culture has bequeathed to the new economy." ~ Steve Stoute, 2011
So there it is. Have fun reading.
M | 1520