Ali's favorite books in 2023

In 2023, a year full of surprises, I still got to read 21 books. Picking these books took a lot of looking around, but not all of them turned out great. The following are my favorite books and I hope you at least take time to read one of them. 

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman: Kaufman offers a pragmatic and cost-effective alternative to traditional business education. This book simplifies complex business theories and principles, making them accessible to aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals seeking practical business knowledge. He walks the reader through what you need to know and he has put a great amount of effort into writing this book. I have learned a lot from reading this book. It is in small actions and one can spend 20 mins a day and walk away with a nice lesson.

The Unspoken Truths for Career Success: Navigating Pay, Promotions, and Power at Work by Tessa White: Tessa did a lot of HR work and she offers insight into what goes behind the scenes in companies. This guide serves as an insightful mentor, providing candid and actionable advice on navigating the complexities of career advancement. Tessa covers crucial topics such as salary negotiations, climbing the corporate ladder, and mastering office dynamics. I highly recommend reading it as it resolves the ambiguity around many topics 

-The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes by David Robson: Robson, presents a compelling case, illustrating how high intelligence doesn't necessarily safeguard against erroneous thinking. The book starts with an example of Kary Banks Mullis, a biochemist who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. Mullis's scientific achievements are undeniably significant, yet his later views in other areas sparked controversy and illustrate Robson's thesis. Mullis, in his 1998 autobiography, expressed skepticism about well-established scientific phenomena like climate change and ozone depletion. These stances, particularly coming from a Nobel laureate, exemplify the kind of irrational thinking that Robson explores. Mullis's assertions, which seemed to stem from a deep mistrust of the scientific establishment, (which gave him all the fame!) suggest that success in one scientific area does not necessarily translate to rationality in others. In "The Intelligence Trap," Robson's exploration of Mullis's life and beliefs serves as a powerful reminder of the complexities of human intelligence. It underscores the message that high intellectual ability does not immunize one against flawed reasoning and highlights the importance of critical thinking, regardless of one's intellectual achievements. The book is a fascinating study of how intellectual success in one domain does not necessarily equate to rational thinking across the board, making it a thought-provoking read for those interested in the psychology of intelligence and decision-making.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer: This book offers an immersive look into the unique and groundbreaking workplace culture of Netflix. This book stands as a comprehensive guide, dissecting the innovative principles and practices that have driven Netflix's astounding success in the entertainment industry. At the heart of the book is Hastings' philosophy of fostering a culture of freedom and responsibility, a mantra that has become synonymous with Netflix's corporate ethos. The authors delve into how this approach has led to a work environment that encourages creativity, autonomy, and radical candor among employees. This culture, as the book vividly describes, is not just about providing perks and benefits; it's about creating a space where innovation is not just welcomed but actively cultivated. Hastings and Meyer skillfully narrate the evolution of Netflix, from a DVD rental service to a global streaming giant and a prominent player in content production. They highlight key decisions and policy shifts that reflect the company's adaptive and often unconventional management strategies. Particularly intriguing is the discussion on Netflix's approach to hiring and compensation, which prioritizes talent density and competitive salaries, and how this has contributed to the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent.

The book also addresses the challenges and pitfalls of implementing such a distinctive culture, offering balanced insights into the successes and setbacks Netflix has encountered. The authors present case studies and anecdotes from various Netflix employees, adding depth and a personal touch to the narrative. "No Rules Rules" is not just a chronicle of Netflix's journey; it is an exploration of what it means to reinvent corporate culture in pursuit of excellence. It challenges conventional wisdom about workplace norms and offers valuable lessons for leaders and organizations aspiring to innovate and thrive in today’s fast-paced business world. The book is a compelling read for anyone interested in organizational behavior, leadership, and the dynamics of a successful, modern workplace.

The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business by Erin Meyer: This book is an invaluable resource for professionals navigating the complexities of international business. In this insightful book, Meyer provides a detailed guide to understanding and managing the subtle and often overlooked cultural differences that can impact global business interactions and operations. Erin, an expert in the field of cross-cultural management, presents a comprehensive framework for decoding how cultural differences affect international business. She explores eight key areas where cultures can diverge, including communicating, evaluating, persuading, leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, and scheduling. By examining these dimensions, Meyer offers readers a lens through which to understand and predict how cultural differences can play out in a business context. The book is replete with practical strategies and real-life examples drawn from Erin’s extensive experience working with international companies. She shares anecdotes and case studies that bring to life the challenges and opportunities presented by cross-cultural interactions. These stories not only illustrate the theoretical concepts but also provide tangible examples of how to apply these ideas in real-world business scenarios. The book is an eye-opener for anyone looking to expand their business internationally, offering guidance on how to navigate different business environments and build a culturally diverse team. Meyer’s approach encourages readers to not only recognize and respect cultural differences but to leverage these differences as a source of strength and innovation.

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle: This is a profound tribute to the legendary Silicon Valley coach Bill Campbell. Known for his instrumental role in shaping the leadership styles of some of the most successful figures in Silicon Valley, Campbell's impact on the tech industry was monumental. This book compiles the invaluable lessons and insights he imparted throughout his career. The authors, who were among Campbell’s mentees, share personal anecdotes and experiences of working with him. They reveal how Campbell’s unique coaching style and principles helped mold the cultures of iconic companies like Google, Apple, and Intuit. The book emphasizes Campbell’s focus on building trust, fostering personal growth, and creating an environment where people feel safe to speak their minds and take risks. What sets this book apart is its human-centric approach to leadership. Campbell believed in the power of relationships and emotional intelligence in the workplace, advocating for empathy, humility, and teamwork. These lessons are timeless and universally applicable, whether you're leading a small team or a large corporation.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle offers an insider’s perspective on the business strategies and innovative practices that have driven Google’s unparalleled success. Written by top executives from Google, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the management principles and cultural philosophies at the heart of the tech giant. The authors explore various aspects of Google’s operation, from talent recruitment and decision-making processes to product development and corporate strategy. They shed light on the company's unique approach to hiring — focusing on smart creatives who are not just technically skilled but also possess a blend of business savvy and creative flair. A key theme in the book is Google’s emphasis on a culture of openness and innovation. The authors discuss how Google encourages a workplace where ideas are freely shared, where employees are empowered to take risks, and where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. This approach, as the book illustrates, has been pivotal in fostering the kind of innovative thinking that has led to the development of groundbreaking products like Google Search, Maps, and Gmail.

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig is a comprehensive and deeply researched biography of Martin Luther King Jr., offering new insights into the life and legacy of this iconic civil rights leader. This biography is notable for being the first major one in decades to include recently declassified FBI files, adding a fresh perspective to King's story. The book portrays King as a revolutionary figure who not only reshaped the South with his integrationist ideals but also became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. This opposition cost him political support and drew the ire of the FBI, yet he remained steadfast in his beliefs. Eig also delves into King's deep critique of systemic racism and economic inequality, exploring his advocacy for reparations for slavery and a guaranteed minimum income. This aspect of the book highlights King's broader vision for social justice beyond the immediate goals of the Civil Rights Movement.  Eig presents an intimate portrait of King, not just as a preacher and activist, but as a human being with his own complexities and struggles. He was a man who championed peaceful protest but was often not at peace with himself, wrestling with emotional turmoil and personal challenges. The book reveals King's vulnerabilities and human frailties, offering a more nuanced understanding of his character.

Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson: This is an authorized biography of Elon Musk. Published in 2023, this work by Isaacson, known for his biographies of notable figures like Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, offers an in-depth exploration of Musk's life and career. Isaacson spent two years closely following Musk, including visits to SpaceX and Tesla, attending board meetings, and conducting extensive interviews with Musk, his family, friends, colleagues, and adversaries. This extensive research provides a unique insight into Musk's complex character and his business ventures. Isaacson was present during key moments such as Musk's decision to buy Twitter and to start a new AI company, providing a firsthand account of these developments. The biography portrays Musk as someone "addicted to drama," highlighting his dynamic and often unpredictable nature. Among its revelations, the book discusses an incident where Musk allegedly ordered Starlink to disable access to Ukrainian drones during the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, a claim Musk later denied​​​​​​. This comprehensive biography presents a detailed and nuanced portrait of one of today's most influential and controversial entrepreneurs, offering readers an intimate look at the man behind significant technological advancements and ambitious projects that have the potential to shape the future.

Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis is a captivating book that chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX. The book, published in 2023, coincides with Bankman-Fried's trial on charges of fraud and money laundering. Lewis provides an intimate account of Bankman-Fried's character and relationships, based on hundreds of interviews and unparalleled access, even after FTX's collapse in 2022. Lewis's engagement with Bankman-Fried began in 2021 when he was introduced to him by Brad Katsuyama, head of the IEX stock exchange. The book offers a detailed exploration of Bankman-Fried's personality, portraying him as ambitious yet not grandiose, easily distracted, and eccentric, with a unique ability for calculating probabilities. It also touches on his practice of effective altruism and his alleged attempt to bribe Donald Trump not to run again for president. The book has been subject to criticism for its seemingly credulous tone and perceived sympathy towards Sam Bankman-Fried, despite Michael Lewis's extensive access to him. Critics have pointed out that the book might not fully capture the complexities of Bankman-Fried's operations and the broader cryptocurrency world. Lewis, who closely followed Bankman-Fried, expresses surprise at FTX's bankruptcy, suggesting a belief in Bankman-Fried's integrity and intentions. In the book, Bankman-Fried maintains that he acted honestly, while Lewis questions the management of FTX's finances after its collapse and the issue of missing funds. In my view, the book strikes a balanced tone, portraying Bankman-Fried not as a villain but as a multifaceted individual.