The Best Reads of 2011/12
Yeah, I didn’t get around to putting a list together last year, so I’ll jump the gun this year by a month or so. I spent a good chunk of 2012 reading books on building an online media buying department, but I won’t subject you to (m)any of those, so have no fear. In no particular order:
Sexy Little Numbers by Dimitri Maex. Even with years of analytics/data experience, I wouldn’t call myself a Quant by any means. But this book was a great way to introduce anyone into the value of data, even if they can barely add. I loved the examples and the process by which Dimitri made the data tell a story that lead to not only insight, but action.
Lords of Strategy by Walter Kiechel III. An overview/symposium on the history and processes of the business consultants who seem to run the world.
Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute. This has got to be the worst-titled book i’ve read in a very long time. A parable of how how we look at the world determines what we see, how we feel, and how we act.
Hostage at the Table by George Kohlrieser. Most books that try to deal with the emotional life of leaders and teamwork usually sound like they were written by a kindergarden teacher or junior HR staffer. This book is far more powerful for having been written by someone who was once an actual hostage negotiator.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Chances are you read the article on the New York Times Magazine about how Target has so much data about our buying habits, it can predict if you’re pregnant (and what trimester you’re in). That story is the tiniest part of this book, which is about how to achieve personal change.
Beyond the Obvious by Phil McKinney. I got to see Phil speak at the tail-end of a pharma conference. This is usually when most people are getting up to grab a decent late lunch on the way to their flight back home. Phil killed. The message was powerful: Yes, you are smart, and thus you can quickly find an answer. But are you so smart that you jump to that answer before you consider all the possible answers?
The Information by James Gleick. This is a big big book. What is data? What is information? How has it been transmitted historically and what does it all mean. From “talking drums” to the internet, these are the underlying ideas the 21st century is based on.
Fiction: (Wait, what?)
On vacation, I read Angelmaker and The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. Somewhere between thriller, steampunk, scifi, and spy novel (oh wait, is his dad John LeCarre?), these books, while wildly different, were riveting. Highly recommended. Also: The Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. Total pulp, but in a good way.