End of year book recommendations

The shock doctrine

In early October 2014 a family emergency required my presence in Israel, so I dropped everything and flew there for a week.

It turned out to be an important visit. In addition to spending precious time with my dear family and friends, two other events took place that had changed the course of the last quarter of 2014 for me:

  1. I read a book that helped stir me in a more productive direction
  2. Several conversations and the situation in Israel as a whole made me want to read more, so that I could back up my own arguments in support of my core principles.

I’ve been reading pretty much constantly since then, and here are five recommendations (and one non-recommendation), for small business and startup owners and other self-starters and thinkers everywhere.

The Greatness Guide / Robin Sharma

Robin Sharma - the greatness guideI found this book on my sister Carmi’s bookshelf, and took it to bed with me. The punchy style, approximately one or two pages per chapter, makes it very easy to read. I managed to get through the one hundred or so chapters over the course of six short sessions, by assigning myself the goal of consuming 15 chapters before turning off the lights.

I borrowed three ideas from Robin Sharma’s book that have proven completely transformative for me. Highly recommended. For example:

  1. On the flight home I made a mind map of my personal 5 year vision, and listed my personal and professional values. I shared it with my partner and I look at them regularly.
  2. I have been getting up a little earlier to do a one-hour contemplation, which involves listing what went well / not so well yesterday, strategy thoughts and training/reading materials. This daily habit is my ticket in the right direction.
  3. I now usually prepare my to-do-list for tomorrow the night before

The Shock Doctrine – The rise of disaster capitalism / Naomi Klein

The shock doctrineThis book was mentioned in Robin Sharma’s book, and I was intrigued by the cover – being that I’d just been involved in very heated conversations about politics, I thought it were fitting to start with this one.

It changed my life. I wish I read this years ago.

Everyone should read The Shock Doctrine. Not that every word is necessarily true but it really does make one think about the world, what drives it, what drives people and how the few control so many of us.

It was published in 2007 or 2008, just before the credit crunch, and rings true today more than ever. The damage that is being done to our societies because of greed is truly shocking. This is one shocking book.

It has also made me hungry to read more about economics.

Hence the next book on my list:

How To Speak Money / John Lanchester

How to speak moneyI love John Lanchester, he’s my kind of guy. As a British writer Lanchester is in sync with British readers in terms of language and cultural references (of which there are aplenty in this book), so it reads almost like a column in the weekend magazines.

Well-written, witty, a joy to read, and I finally understand the spectrum of causes of the credit crunch. In fact I know a lot about it. But don’t ask me to explain it – it will take at least an hour and I’m very busy.


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less / Greg McKeown

essentialism -  Greg McKeownA friend’s recommendation, I took it with me on holiday to India last month. It’s easy to read, full of good anecdotes and some useful ideas.

My main take away are:

  • Being clear about my boundaries
  • Removing blocks to productivity – distractions are the enemy to getting into a ‘flow’ state
  • Taking the time to plan before starting tasks
  • Decision making technique

Saying that – these are habits, and habits can take time to form. I’m still working on forming these. Greg McKeown mentions several other books, one of which is called The Power of Habit – I read this brilliant book a couple of years ago, so here’s another recommendation for free!


The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life / Uri Gneezy and John List

the why axisNow here’s a book that promises a lot and delivers very little. Despite a resounding applause from Steven D. Levitt in the forward, the book was so disappointing I stopped reading half way through (and skimmed through a lot of what I did read).

I’m no Shakespeare or anything, but I do prefer to enjoy what I read – the writing style was somewhat lacking in literary talent. But never mind about that.

More importantly, for a book that talks about sensitive topics such as racism, the education gap between people from low and high economic backgrounds, and the gender wage gap… the number of times I felt the writers were verging on bigoted points of view themselves, was simply too high to my liking. There’s a section that talks humorously about how scared they were to visit rough neighbourhoods in the States which I felt was rather tasteless.

Another example is the authors’ take on the gender wages gap – women are less competitive than men and therefore fail to compete in today’s world. Weirdly, they acknowledge the notion that the corporate world should encourage real merit, but then go on and on about their research, families, friends, colleagues and other stories, and the point is lost.

Unfortunately the book is full of confusing stories that contribute nothing to the main points. I wish they could just summarise it for me in a couple of pages.

On my list for the new year

  • Black Swan / Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • The innovator’s dilemma / Clayton M. Christensen
  • Focus, Daniel Goleman
  • Who Owns the future / Jaron Lanier
  • The 7 habits of effective people / Stephen R. Covey
  • What Matters Now / Gary Hamel

Off to the library!

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