Nine Book Reviews for the First Half of 2013

Haven’t done a book review in awhile!

I have plowed through more than a couple of good books (and some meh ones) over the course of the last few months.

Here’s are some quick recommendations:

1. The Icarus Deception, Seth Godin

As a big Seth Godin fan, this was the book I was drooling about in 2012. So much so that one of the first activities I did in 2013 was to read it. (it was released January 1)

I have to say – I was a bit disappointed (something I never would have imagined I would say for an SG book). The book is mainly about not being afraid to pursue your dreams. If I read it in a vacuum, I probably would have enjoyed and gotten more out of it. But coming from reading ALL of SG’s books, I found this one mostly retreads ideas from his other books. Moreover, his other books (namely, Tribes and Linchpin) were more focused than this one.

Recommendation: If you’re a Seth Godin fanatic, then I know you’re going to read this anyway. I think you’ll feel the same way I did. If you’re new to Godin and want to try one of his books out, I’d pass on this and pick up Linchpin, Tribes, or even We Are All Weird.  

2) The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman

The best book I’ve read for 2013 so far.

I have actually seen this in bestseller lists, but I’ve avoided it because of the title (not another “pocket MBA”). An entrepreneur highly recommended it to me though, and I gave it a shot.

I’m really glad I did.

The whole riveting first chapter about why NOT to go get an MBA is alone worth the price of  admission.

What the book does is it breaks business down into very simple parts and explains why you don’t need to look at business in a needlessly complex way. It’s an awesome, refreshing way to teach business.

Recommendation: if you are into business, no matter where you are in the spectrum (new, old, want, still in corporate) this is a MUST read. Buy NOW. 

3) Make Your Idea Matter, Bernadette Jiwa

This isn’t so much as a chaper-for-chapter book as it is some kind of guide / resource book. There are different topics – all on how to make your brand and your story better – arranged in self-contained 1-3 pagers (for example, “20 Ways To Tell a Better Brand Story”). I absolutely love formats like this, where you can just open the book anywhere and pick something up. When I finished the book (not a long read), I found myself yearning for more – a sign of great content.

Recommendation: Don’t let the title mislead you  – it’s not really an entrepreneurial-make your-idea-into-reality book. It is a good read / resource book, though, especially if you are in marketing/sales. 

4) The Lean Entrepreneur, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

Just finished this a few days ago. I think it’s the best of the recent “Lean” books I’ve read (being Eric Ries’s Lean Startup and Ash Maurya’s Running Lean). To be fair though, this new book builds on the precepts established in the earlier books, so rather than saying its better than the previous books, perhaps its better to say they expand the knowledge base the other two books established.

What I think the book does a good job of is explaining the concepts well with real-life examples and analogies – which was a must considering “lean startup” could get to be pretty technical.

Recommendation: A must read especially if you are putting up a tech startup (although still very relevant for non-tech) Might be too technical to be a “first book” for a new entrepreneur. 

5) Warren Buffet’s Management Secrets, Mary Buffet and David Clark

I didn’t really know a lot about the “World’s Greatest Investor” so one day in a bookstore I thought I could remedy that by buying a random Warren Buffet book. Did I pick the wrong one. While the book has some fascinating anecdotes about Buffet, I think the book’s main points are quite unremarkable (pick passions, hire good people, don’t live beyond your means, etc…).

Plus, I still don’t know much about Warren Buffet.

Recommendation: Waste of time, if you’ve read ANY other general business book. Pass.

6) Start: Punching Fear in the Face escape average and do work that matter, Jon Acuff

Having enjoyed his previous book, Quitter. I went to Audible and bought his latest work, Start. (I love audiobooks which are read by the authors themselves).

It was an enjoyable “read” – the author writes with a lot of humor and I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times while I listened to the audio during my morning walks.

What did I learn from it? Unfortunately, nothing much when I think about it. The content becomes familiar if you’ve read Godin or Steven Pressfield (the author of the wondrous War of Art and Do The Work), and I think these alternatives do a better job in presenting the same ideas.

Recommendation: There are inspiring moments and the humor is great, but it isn’t a MUST read. If you’ve spare change, go for it. 

7) Contagious, Jonah Berger

Tipping Point 2.0!

The author builds upon Gladwell’s ideas and goes into fascinating detail as to WHY things go viral (6 factors) and how you can design your own campaigns with a much-increased chances of going viral. Tons of relatable examples and researched evidence. Even if you aren’t in web marketing, there’s a lot of stuff you will find useful and immediately applicable: from pricing, to crafting your marketing headlines, to making videos which will get shared. Well worth the time to read.

Recommendation: A must-read for any entrepreneur in today’s ultra-connected environment. 

8) Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port

I don’t like books which read like an informercial. This is one of them.

“If you use my Book Yourself Solid System you will find yourself having more clients than you can possibly handle.”

I think the author references this “system” in every other sentence.

I’m not so sure there’s a readership who likes reading something like this, but its not for me.

Recommendation: I bought this book because a number of freelancers come to me for advice and I thought I could get some insights on helping them get “booked solid.” There are a number of good insights and tips available, but nothing original. Plus, the infomercial quality was just too much for my preferred reading style. (I already bought your book – there’s no need to sell anymore!)  By the third chapter, I was rueing my purchase, but I forced myself to read in the hopes of gaining…something. By the 7th chapter, I just quit. Avoid this book.

9) How To Deliver a Ted Talk, Jeremey Donovan

I love books which are both quick reads AND where you feel you’re a better person than before you read it. This book is one of those. The book talks a bit about the TED format and gives you tips on selecting a great “TED” topic. I’m not really sure these will be useful for me (unless I go on to give one), but what I did find very very useful were the public speaking tips – all very relevant for ANY public speaking endeavor.

Recommendation: If you ever do ANY form of public speaking, this is well worth it, especially considering the not so big investment in time and price.