Best books (I read) in 2019

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many can get through to you.” ~ Mortimer J Adler

This year, I read mostly non-fiction books. A quick roundup of the best I came across in 2019.

It doesn’t have to be Crazy at Work, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
I have been a fan of Jason Fried and DHH, the founders of Basecamp (an IT product company) since a long time, and have been following their blog Signal vs. Noise. This is their 3rd work I have read (Rework, Getting Real), and I continue liking what they say. In this book with crisp chapters, they rally against all that is wrong with work these days – unrealistic deadlines, long working hours and working weekends, continuous meetings, non-stop email and chat inflow, the hustle culture of VC-funded over-valued startups with no clear path to profitability but looking for quick exits. You might not agree with everything, but you will agree that all the points do make some sense.

The Making of a Manager, Julie Zhuo
This was a surprise great read for me, by the VP of product design at Facebook. (I encountered her work through her Medium articles.) I feel such a book should be given to all employees involved in any kind of team management. Along with sharing her personal experience of growing from a management novice to excelling in it, she covers all important areas – defining and setting expectations, giving feedback, mentoring and monitoring performance.

The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J Stanley and William D Danko
A very interesting book based on research done by the authors on wealth distribution and accumulation in US households in early 1990s. Most of the truly rich people (i.e. in terms of assets and not salaries) are disproportionately spread across mostly middle-class communities. This is because they live within their incomes, save and invest significantly; whereas those with high salaries tend to buy luxury items to show status, and don’t focus on building wealth.

Lean Thinking, James P Womack and Daniel T Jones
This one is like a business textbook, covering actual case studies on lean methodology implementation in manufacturing companies in the USA, Germany and Japan during the 1990s. An important point they put is that – lean isn’t just finding waste and eliminating in a small segment, but optimizing across the entire value chain. Slightly heavy and slow, it is still filled with a lot of eye-opening information, and definitely worth reading.

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” ~ C S Lewis

As they say, old is gold. This year, I re-read 2 of my favorite books:

Maverick, Ricardo Semler
This 25-year old book is the true story of a complete revamp in the culture of a Brazilian manufacturing company Semco, through the eyes of its CEO and owner, Ricardo Semler (one of the people I admire). Semler joins his father’s company and brings in some radical changes – flexible work timings and locations, employee-decided work profiles and salaries, critical decisions being made by the employees (and not the managers). Completely unimaginable, especially in a manufacturing company. But he implements these changes and has managed to keep Semco profitable even in the fickle Brazilian economy.

Down Under, Bill Bryson
Once a fan, always a fan of Bill Bryson. I wish he writes more books like these. This one is about his visits to Australia during 1997-98 and his adventures there. As usual, you will fall down laughing at his writings. Along with humour, there is a lot to learn, including interesting bits of trivia – did you know that the majority of the most poisonous living beings on earth are in Australia (including 6 of 10 most poisonous snakes)? Did you know that the Aborigines people have the oldest continuous culture in the world? Australia is among the most sparsely populated countries in the world with ~80% occupying the southern parts. And the longest earthworm is found in Australia and is 8 metres long!

Wish you a very Happy 2020. 🙂