My top 5 Books of 2019

As 2019 has come to an end, I thought I’d share the books I most enjoyed reading.

5. American Kingpin – Nick Bilton

This book reads like a thriller. It details the genesis of the black market of the internet – The Silk Road and it’s creator, Ross Ulbricht.

The narritive follows his journey from starting The Silk Road in 2011 to his arrest in 2013, along with his transformation from an idealistic College Student to the Dread Pirate Roberts (his internet alter ego) – one of the most wanted people on the planet.

American Kingpin for me is a fascinating example of the power of leverage that the internet has allowed. The Silk Road grew exponentially after its launch and was a truly massive enterprise.

From 2011 to 2013 Silk Road had revenues equivalent to $1.2 billion and profits of $79.8 million, all this created by a small group of developers led by Ross who never set foot in the same room.

It also a lesson in ethics – your morals erode slowly and one piece at a time. It is disturbing to see Ross’s transformation from a kid from the suburbs to the Dread Pirate Roberts who ended up ordering multiple murders.

Honourable mention here goes to John Careyou’s Bad Blood, a similar title that was also an excellent read.

4. The Gifts of Imperfection – Brene Brown

Brene Brown is pretty much a household name and I was a little late to the party on her writing.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed reading this book about getting to know yourself, shame and venerability.

It puts the science behind the message of books like The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, one of my favourites.

I found this book was incredibly insightful and is one of the reasons why I’ve found the courage to start writing and sharing more.

I’m looking forward to reading her other titles this year.

3. Range – David Epstein

Range is a title that explores the power of the generalist in a world that encourages specialisation.

As someone who has been looking closely at complexity, this book was just what the doctor ordered. I’ll need to discuss this work with others to make sure I’m not suffering from confirmation bias as I was nodding in agreement all the way through this one.

Epstein explains in a clear way concepts such as the power of the generalist to deal with change, the risk of silos in our professions, cross domain thinking to solve problems and mental networks.

This book’s message is contrary to much of what we are taught in our current culture around knowledge acquisition. I found it a clear and refreshing look at learning and the type of thinking that will help you deal with the world in which we now live.

2. Atomic Habits – James Clear

This is not the most beautifully written book but what it teaches packs a punch. In this book James Clear pulls together ideas of his own and borrows from those that have come before him to teach you how to build good habits and break bad ones.⁠

I have found that in particular his approach of breaking down each habit into small segments and building from there has been a game changer. One of his other key messages is to be kind to yourself and don’t expect to change everything drastically in one week, just chip away at it piece by piece.⁠

Another insight that I have benefited from is how he advises to incorporate whatever habit you are building into part of your identity. Don’t try to become someone who journals everyday, tell yourself you are someone that journals. It is subtle and a little intangible but it has worked for me.⁠

This system has helped me keep on a regular healthy diet and exercising three times a week for 4 months, which is huge for me and something I’ve struggled with most of my working life.⁠

Highly recommended.⁠

1. Let my People Go Surfing – Yvon Choinard

I loved this book. As soon as I finished it, I consumed everything I could find on the internet about Chouinard and read it again. I also purchased 3 copies for FSC and recommended it to many.

Yvon’s story in itself is quite a unique one, however the business he built with his wife Malinda is truly extrodinary.

The reason I connected so strongly to this title is that Chouinard’s approach to business is so refreshing. He knows what he believes in and makes all decisions through that lens. He also cares deeply about quality and making durable utilitarian products.

Patagonia have a high quality product and a strong consistent message, which means they attract people like them to buy their equipment. They take part in initiatives and activities that align with their values but don’t necessarily make financial sense in the short term, or the returns aren’t easily calculable.

This type of decision making sends a strong signal to the people that Patagonia resonates with, driving strong loyalty, which leads to excellent financial performance over the longer term.

It teaches that doing what’s right by your values while making great products is also great for business, it just takes a while to see the returns.

Thanks for reading – if you would like to chat about books please leave me a comment.

You can also connect with me on Goodreads, I’m under Lachlan Smith.

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