Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World

My personal challenge this year was A Year of Books -- to read a new book every other week.
Reading has given me more perspective on a number of topics -- from science to religion, from poverty to prosperity, from health to energy to social justice, from political philosophy to foreign policy, and from history to futuristic fiction.
This challenge has been intellectually fulfilling, and I come away with a greater sense of hope and optimism that our society can make greater progress in all of these areas.
It's fitting to end the year with The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch, about how the way we explain things unlocks greater possibilities.
To the many thousands of people who followed along with my A Year of Books, thank you! I've had more great discussions about these books than I'd imagined. I'm interested to hear what you all learned along the way, and what books resonated with you most.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

World Order by Henry Kissinger

Just kidding. It's actually World Order by Henry Kissinger -- about foreign relations and how we can build peaceful relationships throughout the world. This is important for creating the world we all want for our children, and that's what I'm thinking about these days.
I am loving reading to Max. Next year looks like it's going to be A Year of Children's Books!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Idea Factory

I'm very interested in what causes innovation -- what kinds of people, questions and environments. This book explores that question by looking at Bell Labs, which was one of the most innovative labs in history.
As an aside, I loved The Three-Body Problem and highly recommend it. If you're interested in Chinese history, virtual reality and science fiction -- I'm three for three! -- then you'll enjoy this book. I'm going to try to fit in the sequel before the end of the year as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Three Body Problem

My next book for A Year of Books is The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin.
It's a Chinese science fiction book that has gotten so popular there's now a Hollywood movie being made based on it.
This will also be a fun break from all the economics and social science books I've read recently.
And for those book club members reading along with me -- I apologize for the week delay in sharing this next book. I've been busy with travel and fell a bit behind on reading. We'll catch up by reading a bit faster towards the end of the year!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rational Optimist

It's good to be back home after a busy week traveling!

My next book for A Year of Books is The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley.
Two of the books I've read this year -- The Better Angels of Our Nature: and Why Nations Fail -- have explored how social and economic progress work together to make the world better. The Better Angels argues for that the two feed off each other, whereas Why Nations Fail argues that social and political progress ultimately controls the economic progress a society makes. This next book argues the opposite -- that economic progress is the greater force is pushing society forward. I'm interested to see which idea resonates more after exploring both frameworks.
This is also the second one of Ridley's books I've read this year. Here's a photo from a few weeks back of me reading his book Genome with my dog Beast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why Nations Fail

My next book for A Year of Books is is Why Nations Fail.
It's mind-blowing that almost half the world -- almost 3 billion people -- live on $2.50 a day or less. More than one billion people live on $1 a day or less.
This book explains how these families invest their money to best support themselves.
I hope reading this provides some insight into ways we can all work to support them better as well.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day

My next book for A Year of Books is is Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day.
It's mind-blowing that almost half the world -- almost 3 billion people -- live on $2.50 a day or less. More than one billion people live on $1 a day or less.
This book explains how these families invest their money to best support themselves.
I hope reading this provides some insight into ways we can all work to support them better as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

My next book for A Year of Books is The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.
When I read Sapiens:, I found the chapter on the evolution of the role of religion in human life most interesting and something I wanted to go deeper on.
William James was a philosopher in the 1800s who shaped much of modern psychology.
I'm on vacation this week with Cilla and this seemed like some light vacation reading! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Genome by Matt Ridley

My next book for A Year of Books  is Genome by Matt Ridley.
This book aims to tell a history of humanity from the perspective of genetics rather than sociology. This should complement the other broad histories I've read this year, as well as follow Energy well in focusing on science.
I've wanted to read Matt Ridley's books for a while. His recent book The Rational Optimist about how progress and the economy evolve is also near the top of my ever-growing pile of books to read. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Energy by Vaclav Smil

My next book for A Year of Books is Energy by Vaclav Smil.

This book is about physical rather than social sciences. It explores important topics around how energy works, how our production and use might evolve, and how this affects climate change.

Vaclav Smil's works have been highly recommended by Bill Gates and others. I'm also planning to read his book Making The Modern World when I get a chance.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Player of Games (Culture)

My next book for A Year of Books is The Player of Games by Iain Banks.
This is a change of pace from all the recent social science books. Instead, it's a science fiction book about an advanced civilization with AI and a vibrant culture.
In other news, my pile of books to read is growing faster than I can get through it while running a large company.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

My next book for A Year of Books is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari.
This book is a big history narrative of human civilization -- from how we developed from hunter-gatherers early on to how we organize our society and economy today.
Following the Muqaddimah, which was a history from the perspective of an intellectual in the 1300s, Sapiens is a contemporary exploration of many similar questions. I'm looking forward to reading these different perspectives.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


My next book for A Year of Books is Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldun.
It's a history of the world written by an intellectual who lived in the 1300s. It focuses on how society and culture flow, including the creation of cities, politics, commerce and science.
While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it's still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it's all considered together.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The New Jim Crow

This social justice book outlines the many ways the US criminal justice system discriminates against minorities, disadvantages them and prevents everyone from having equal opportunity.
I've been interested in learning about criminal justice reform for a while, and this book was highly recommended by several people I trust

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Orwell's Revenge

My next book for A Year of Books is Orwell's Revenge by Peter Huber.
Many of us are familiar with George Orwell's book 1984. Its ideas of Big Brother, surveillance and doublespeak have become pervasive fears in our culture.
Orwell's Revenge is an alternate version of 1984. After seeing how history has actually played out, Huber's fiction describes how tools like the internet benefit people and change society for the better.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dealing with China

This book is about Paulson's experience working with Chinese leaders over two decades as US Secretary of the Treasury and as head of Goldman Sachs.
Over the last 35 years, China has experienced one of the greatest economic and social transformations in human history. Hundreds of millions of people have moved out of poverty. By many measures, China has done more to lift people out of poverty than the whole rest of the world combined.
I've been personally interested as a student of Chinese culture, history and language. I'm looking forward to reading Paulson's perspective on what China's rise means for the world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rational Ritual

My next book for A Year of Books is Rational Ritual by Michael Chwe.
The book is about the concept of "common knowledge" and how people process the world not only based on what we personally know, but what we know other people know and our shared knowledge as well.
This is an important idea for designing social media, as we often face tradeoffs between creating personalized experiences for each individual and crafting universal experiences for everyone. I'm looking forward to exploring this further.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

It's a history of science book that explores the question of whether science and technology make consistent forward progress or whether progress comes in bursts related to other social forces.
I tend to think that science is a consistent force for good in the world. I think we'd all be better off if we invested more in science and acted on the results of research. I'm excited to explore this theme further.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Creativity Inc.

My next book for A Year of Books is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
This book is written by the founder of Pixar and is about his experience building a culture that fosters creativity.
His theory is that people are fundamentally creative, but many forces stand in the way of people being able to do their best work.
I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity. This should be inspiring to anyone looking to do the same, and hopefully there will be lessons we can apply to connecting the world!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

On Immunity

My next book for A Year of Books is On Immunity by Eula Biss.
Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community.
This book explores the reasons why some people question vaccines, and then logically explains why the doubts are unfounded and vaccines are in fact effective and safe.
This book was recommended to me by scientists and friends who work in public health. It’s also a relatively short book — one that you should be able to read in a few hours. I encourage you to check it out and to join the discussion.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Gang Leader For A Day

I'm still working my way through The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which is an amazing book so far -- about how violence has declined throughout history due to effective governance, the growth of commerce and the spread of ideas.
I see a lot of Facebook's work in these themes. The more we all have a voice to share our perspectives, the more empathy we have for each other and the more we respect each other's rights. Similarly, the more we benefit from global commerce and the services others provide us, the greater our incentive is to keep each other safe as it improves our lives.
Gang Leader for a Day is loosely related to the themes Better Angels in that it explores what life is like for those who don't live under effective governance. I'm looking forward to reading this and finishing up Better Angels.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The End Of Power

Our first book of the year will be The End of Power by Moisés Naím. It's a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations. The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I'm looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.
I appreciated all of your other suggestions for possible challenges as well. Many of you suggested I give money to help people in need -- and Priscilla and I fully intend to keep doing that through our philanthropic work. We'll have more to discuss there soon. Some of you suggested that I meet a new person every day. That was actually my challenge in 2013. Others suggested I teach a class. I've done that too, and I'd love to do it again and get more involved in education in the coming year.
Thanks again for all of your suggestions, and I'm looking forward to a year of books!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Better Angels of Our Nature

My second book of the year is The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker.
It's a timely book about how and why violence has steadily decreased throughout our history, and how we can continue this trend.
Recent events might make it seem like violence and terrorism are more common than ever, so it's worth understanding that all violence -- even terrorism -- is actually decreasing over time. If we understand how we are achieving this, we can continue our path towards peace.
A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they've ever read. It's a long book, so I plan on taking a month to read it rather than two weeks. I'll add a third book in two weeks that will be a shorter read to complement this.
If you want to follow along with the books I'm reading and participate in conversations with the authors, you can like the page A Year of Books.