Book Reviews

Non-Fiction Audiobooks For Summer Listening

Summer is in full swing and we’ve been doing a good deal of audiobook listening, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here on the blog! Perfect for work commutes, road trips, or listening by the pool – we hope you enjoy!

Pro tip! When listening on Audible, the speed up settings are your best friend. I usually start with just 1.5x speed, but then by the middle of the book work my way up to 2x and above for way faster listening, once my brain adjusts. When you slow it down to normal speed after listening at the increased speeds it literally feels like you’re listening to a sloth talk.

 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Time: 13 hrs and 23 mins

Summary: 

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and MoneyballElon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs – a real-life Tony Stark – and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’ life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

 

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson

Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins

Summary:

Based on 15 years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson present extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

  • China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
  • Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
  • What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.

 

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

Length: 17 hrs and 48 mins

Summary:

If you’re like me, this topic didn’t seem all that interesting at first. Within 30 minutes, I was astounded at how much the information in this book directly applied to my life in ways I’d never even thought about. It was unbelievably eye-opening and fascinating!

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt”, “sin”, and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.

 

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins

Summary:

Josh Waitzkin knows what it means to be at the top of his game. A public figure since winning his first National Chess Championship at the age of nine, Waitzkin was catapulted into a media whirlwind as a teenager when his father’s book Searching for Bobby Fischer was made into a major motion picture. After dominating the scholastic chess world for ten years, Waitzkin expanded his horizons, taking on the martial art Tai Chi Chuan and ultimately earning the title of World Champion. How was he able to reach the pinnacle of two disciplines that on the surface seem so different? “I’ve come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess,” he says. “What I am best at is the art of learning.”

 

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins

Summary:

Not just for fans of the “The Boss”, this book is a beautiful rags-to-riches story of the other American Dream: becoming a Rock Star.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to this audio the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar-band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

 

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Length: 14 hrs and 54 mins

Summary:

Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but as Harari explains in his trademark style – thorough yet riveting – famine, plague, and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals put together. The average American is 1,000 times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet Earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams, and nightmares that will shape the 21st century – from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

 

The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership by Sir Richard Branson

Length: 11 hrs and 29 mins

Summary: 

While building the Virgin Group over 40 years, Richard Branson has never shied away from seemingly outlandish challenges that others (including his own colleagues on several occasions) considered sheer lunacy. He has taken on giants like British Airways and won, and monsters like Coca-Cola and lost.

Now Branson gives an inside look at his strikingly different swashbuckling style of leadership. Learn how fun, family, passion, and the dying art of listening are key components to what his extended family of employees around the world has always dubbed (with a wink) the “Virgin Way.”

This unique perspective comes from a man who dropped out of school at 16, suffers from dyslexia, and has never worked for anyone but himself. He may be famous for thinking outside the box – an expression he despises – but Branson asserts that “you’ll never have to think outside the box if you refuse to let anyone build one around you.”

 

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Book Review: “Catching the Big Fish” by David Lynch

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If you’re looking for an easy yet eye-opening read, this book is great. It’s a collection of very short essays on Transcendental Meditation, creative inspiration and anecdotes from critically acclaimed filmmaker David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet).

“Negativity is like darkness. So what is darkness? You look at darkness, and you see that it’s really nothing: It’s the absence of something. You turn on the light, and darkness goes.” – David Lynch

Even if you’re not familiar with his work (or if you are familiar with it but don’t love it), the book offers great insight into one of the most creative people alive today. Few could argue that Lynch wouldn’t be invited to a seat at that table. His contemporaries certainly agree–some of his admirers include Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), The Coen Brothers (Fargo), Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska), Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) and JJ Abrams (LOST, Star Trek), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, Memento), and Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas).

Lynch has long been a proponent of Transcendental Meditation, and although I’ve never tried it, he makes a compelling yet not in-your-face argument to give it a try. Of course, practicers of “true” TM will tell you that you must go to a certified TM instructor, but thanks to the internet, you can easily research how to properly meditate at home, reaping all the benefits without the price tag and the hassle of going out.

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You can’t deny the facts that meditation greatly enhances your body’s natural functions, increases circulation and mental clarity, and decreases stress. It seems win-win and it’s no wonder it helps in getting the creative juices flowing. So next time you’re suffering from writer’s block, a creative cramp, stress… whatever it is… give meditation a try. Many of the world’s foremost creatives, thinkers and over-achievers swear by it. You’d be in good company.

Check out the book on Amazon here:

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Edit911 Review of Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start 2.0

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Starting a business? Thinking of starting a business? Started a business but need some or a lot of guidance and advice? Are you an entrepreneur or have a burning desire to become one? Then Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested and Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything is the definitive manual for you.

Waste not another minute in getting and gobbling up this completely rethought and revised edition of Guy’s 2004 bestseller of the same name. You can turn the pages of this guidebook into your roadmap for starting or building your business, and realizing your entrepreneurial dreams, just as Guy has and continues to do.

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Precious few entrepreneurs have Guy’s experience: a pioneer at Apple & Google; a prime mover behind 12 successful startups; an author of 12 brilliant books; a towering presence on the internet–with numerous websites for his services (such as Alltop, a curating gem for news, stories, and topics of all sorts), companies (such as Canva, “the easiest to use design program in the world”), and books (such as APE, the very best book about how to become a published author and entrepreneur); and a force in social media with 1.45M followers on Twitter (@guykawasaki), 289K likes on Facebook, and 6.8M followers on Google+.

The Art of the Start covers everything we need to know about the subject–from the nitty-gritty of picking our partners, to the Harvard Business School rigor of attracting venture capitalists; from the basics of finding our company’s niche, to the advanced strategies of pitching to investors. Throughout the book, Guy gives us the GIST (Great Ideas for Starting Things) of every topic with sharp, bullet point takeaways, such as the following:

  • “It’s much easier to do things right from the start than to fix them later” (p.14).
  • “…the genesis of great companies is answering simple questions that change the world…” (p.15).
  • “…find a viable sweet spot in the market” (p. 16).
  • “If you make meaning, you’ll probably make money” (p.18).
  • “People want more than information….They want faith–faith in you, your product, your success, and in the story you tell” (p.42).
  • “Put the best interests of others at heart” (p.142).
  • “Feature your customers” (p. 146). 

Ultimately, The Art of the Start is a meta-guide to making a product or service and marketing it to the masses. It’s a self-aware, self-starting, endless regress of ideas that mirror themselves the more we replicate them in our own entrepreneurial adventures. 

The main message is that we can, indeed, see ourselves in others, conceive a product or service we would like to have, and then safely assume that others would too. We can empower ourselves by being ourselves, realizing our dreams as we envision filling a gap or lack in the lives of others. That is, as we actualize our visions by doing unto others, the good karma will come back around to us in the shape of success. By doing everything not for money, but despite money, not for ourselves, but for others, we can build businesses, audiences, and circles of customers who are believers in what we do.

 Guy Kawasaki AuthorAs Guy sums it up: “The bottom line is that you should do everything you can to foster an ecosystem around your product. It is a powerful tool to increase the satisfaction of your believers and to attract new believers with greater ease–in short, making your product endure” (p. 210).


The Art of the Start 2.0 transcends other “business” books in the same way great companies transcend their competitors: it is enchanting, magical, fascinating, human, and humane. Both practical and whimsical, logical and serendipitous, if we follow its path, we, too, could become like Guy: “…someone who is ethical, graceful, and admirable.” What a concept for the 21st century business world!

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