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  • Varun Sharma

The Best Books I Read in 2020

One sign of a good book is how often you’re left pondering long after you’ve put it down, and the below books did just that repeatedly. The 5 books have been a profound impact on me this year and I want to share a brief review and my recommendations on books to read during the holidays:

Post Corona – Scott Galloway

Scott is one of my favorite professors of all time. Trying to keep my bias aside while listening to this book on Audible, I found it to be full of astute observations on the economy and the growth of monopolies during and post the pandemic. As a business consultant, professor, venture capitalist, and stock market guru, Scott shares his out-of-the-box thoughts, insider perspectives and makes bold predictions, which can sometimes be right and sometimes wrong, but they cohesively give a big picture view of the Global business landscape with a focus on Big-Tech. As an author, he calls out businesses, leaders, politicians, and higher education bureaucrats on where they are wrong and the problems they cause. Along with the problems, he also highlights the solutions to them.

Post Corona is an excellent source of information and inspiration, especially for young entrepreneurs, business students, and investors. However, if you are an entrepreneur or corporate manager looking for practical guidance on how to steer your business Post Corona, this book is not ideal. Think of it more as a framework for thinking about a post-COVID world, and at worst you will be entertained, at best, it may provoke some fresh thinking.

The Hype Machine – Sinan Aral

MIT Professor, Sinan Aral, isn’t just a leading expert on social media. He’s an entrepreneur and investor as well, which aids him in giving a 360-degree view of the technology landscape, its great promise, and the outsize capacity to damage politics, the economy, and personal health. Drawing on over two decades of his own research and experience, Aral goes under the hood of the biggest social networks and tackles the critical question of just how much social media affects our choices, for both better and worse. The book shows the tech behind social media offers the same set of behaviorinfluencing levers to both Russian hackers and brand marketersto everyone who hopes to change the way we think and actwhich is why its consequence affects everything from the election to business, dating to health. Along the way, he covers an array of topics, including how network effects fuel Twitter’s and Facebook’s massive growth to the neuroscience of how social media affects our brains, the real consequences of fake news, the power of social ratings, and the impact of social media on our kids.

The book isn’t a light read and is a heavily researched, measured, and comprehensive look at social media - past, present, and future. If this interest you, there is a lot to learn in this book. I highly recommend it for tech enthusiasts and anyone who wants to read a substantive study on social media. The Hype Machine offers a clear definitive guide to understanding and harnessing for good the technology that has redefined our world over the years.

No Rules Rules – Reed Hastings

The first-hand message, culture-focused, very straightforward - even for values/principles that are controversial and unobvious is the best way to summarize No Rules Rules. Reed has written a book that teaches you how Netflix operates and the values that have evolved for the company from inception to today. It shows you how the key stakeholders took key decisions, what they learned, and how they improved. Holistically, the book does a great job of giving you a high awareness of how Netflix became the firm it is today. It outlines on which principles and ideas Netflix grew the company to their now around 7000 multi-national employees, without sacrificing their baseline culture.

The key aspects covered in the book are increasing talent density, candor and feedback, and control & autonomy. These have been the focal topics for Netflix’s culture and the crux of the book. No Rules Rules is definitely worth reading. More on the lighter side and with great advice for young managers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

High Growth Handbook – Elad Gill

As I am building Laumière, I am realizing that it's rather complicated. We haven’t scaled up to a large enough degree, but this book is a great insight into what I should be prepared for in the future. The book prepares early-stage entrepreneurs for what comes next. The book is a series of interviews Elad has had with some most respected people across multiple the industry.

The book could be useful for founders, CEO, and employees who are facing hyper-growth and scaling for the first time. It is packed with key frameworks for building and scaling a company. The author packs a lot of useful lessons on building and scaling companies in a single, digestible book. Elad delivers on the promise of unpacking fundamental factors for enabling company growth and is a handbook for ongoing reference.

The Practice – Seth Godin

The book is a road map of sorts that makes you think. The book is a series of short posts which Seth shares. These posts are crisp, insightful, and contemporary. The book has a lot of powerful affirmations and it tries to get the best out of you. Inspiring, no-nonsense thoughts around trusting yourself to create and the importance of the doing, not the end-product is what the book focuses on.

“There’s a practice available to each of us—the practice of embracing the process of creation in service of better. The practice is not the means to the output, the practice is the output because the practice is all we can control.”

Who do I think you should read this book? If your work is lagging, especially if you are a creative person. If you are waiting for the next big inspiration. If you are struggling with finding the time for your passion. If you are experiencing any of those things, this book will pick you up out of the dust that has surrounded you and turned you around to a more satisfying outlook on your own practice.

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