Amazon is now the largest Internet retailer in the world, and Jeff Bezos recently became the wealthiest person in the world. Amazon increasingly penetrates our everyday life, from being the first stop for our online shopping to interfacing with our physical world through Echo and Alexa.
But over 20 years ago, Amazon was just an online bookstore in the rising tide of the web. In its darkest times, detractors repeatedly predicted it would go bankrupt, that titans like Walmart would easily crush it, and that it would be out-executed by tech darlings like eBay and Google.
As we know now, the dogged determination of Jeff Bezos and Amazon overcame all these objections. In The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone profiles the history of Amazon from its early days to 2014 and describes the values that led to their immense success. In this Everything Store summary, you’ll learn:
the incredible speed at which the web and Amazon developed, launching multiple iconic product lines within the same year
Jeff Bezos’s relentless ambition to beat competitors and take every advantage it can get
the qualities that guided Amazon from its founding to its ubiquitous presence today
Jeff Bezos’s most vicious criticisms of employees from his trademark temper
This book is hailed by famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen as “the single best book to understanding how this [software] industry works.” Tech investor Fred Wilson (behind Twitter, Etsy, Coinbase) based much of his firm’s investment thesis on the concepts in this book.
Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, by Carlota Perez, lays a framework for understanding the boom and bust cycles of disruptive technologies. The model is built on the history of the last five technological revolutions, from the industrial revolution to today’s information age.
Written in 2002 after the dotcom crash, Technological Revolutions was remarkably prescient in predicting how the tech economy would evolve in the following two decades. If you understand this book, you’ll have a better grasp of the 2000 tech bubble, where growth will occur in the next decade, and why explosive industries like cryptocurrency behave the way they do.
Want to increase your personal output, or the output of your team? Do you feel like there’s a bottleneck constraining you? Have you tried brute force effort with little results?
The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu Goldratt, is a classic management book, on Jeff Bezos’s shortlist of books recommended to his senior Amazon managers. This book introduced the Theory of Constraints, which identifies the constraint in a production system and restructures the organization around it. It upended traditional obsessions with cost efficiency to focus on what really matters.
Unique among management books, The Goal is written in the form of a novel, detailing a plant manager’s journey to save his factory from closing. The story itself is entertaining and teaches in a Socratic way, helping you identify and overcome your own constraints.
In this book summary of The Goal, you’ll learn:
Why optimizing activities that seem productive can be pointless
How to identify your personal bottleneck
How to increase capacity at your bottleneck to increase output
How to apply these manufacturing principles to your everyday life
Modern technology has us addicted to its use. While you might be aware that you’re addicted to your phone or favorite apps, you might not know exactly how you got addicted. It just happened without your noticing it.
Before you knew it, you were automatically checking your phone / email / Facebook / Snapchat / Netflix / Reddit / etc without even realizing you were doing it, then realizing later, “well that was pointless – why in the world did I just do that?”
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal provides a wonderfully useful framework on how tech products build lasting habits in their users. If you’re a product designer, you’ll build more persuasive products that change user behavior. If you’re a user, you’ll better understand how tech products manipulate your behavior, giving you a better chance of kicking bad habits.
In this Hooked book summary, learn:
The most effective triggers to get users to voluntarily return to your product
What all humans want to do and feel, at the end of the day
How to stop your product from getting stale by providing infinite variability
When monetary incentives are far less effective than social validation
How to get users to give you permission to trigger their return in the future
Have you ever wondered how the economy works – how millions of individuals can buy and sell goods and services without a master coordinator? Have you wondered why we use money, rather than bartering our services with each other? Why do some nations prosper, while others stay poor despite vast natural resources?
Basic Economics by Stanford economist Thomas Sowell is an incredibly useful, broad introduction to economics. Containing no math, it instead communicates intuitive principles that will help you understand how market transactions work and the effect of policies on the economy.
In this Basic Economics summary, learn why:
Rent control intended to allow affordable housing for the poor can actually make life worse by reducing housing supply and quality
Setting a higher minimum wage leads to more unemployment and disadvantages youth and minorities
Why payday lenders are justified in charging high interest rates and fees
Why raising tax rates may not lead to higher tax revenues
Why brand names exist, and how they reduce variance in quality
Ray Dalio is founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world. In his book Principles: Work and Life, Dalio shares the guiding principles powering his success and Bridgewater’s.
Principles is a master class in rational thinking. The main theme is that finding truth is the best way to make decisions, and that ego, emotion, and blind spots prevent you from discovering the truth. Dalio shares his major strategies to circumvent these weaknesses, including radical open-mindedness, thoughtful disagreement, radical transparency, and believability-weighted decision making.
In this Principles: Work and Life summary, you’ll learn:
How the rational you and the emotional you fight to control your life
How to get past your ego in pursuit of your goals
The 5-step process for getting what you want out of life
Why you need other people to improve your probability of being right
Do you have any bad habits you want to break? Or do you want to start a new habit, like healthier eating, exercise, or reading more?
You’re not alone. People try and fail to change their habits all the time. But they often fail because they believe it’s simply about willpower – stopping the habit brute force – without understanding the nature of the habit and how to most effectively change it.
The Power of Habit gives you an incredibly useful framework for understanding your habits and for changing them. I’ve found it personally useful for adopting new behaviors I’ve struggled with for years. This summary will walk you through the main points and the most important examples so you can finally kick your bad habits.
Close your eyes and picture an illegal drug user. What kind of person are you envisioning?
Imagine you’re at dinner with friends and someone tells you: “we really need to do something about the problem of white crime.” What’s your reaction?
You probably know about the war on drugs. What’s your reaction to the idea that black people are disproportionately targeted for drug crime?
What if you were told that rates of illegal drug use are equal between white and black populations?
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness unpacks these popular conceptions about drug crime. In this New York Times bestseller, Michelle Alexander argues that the war on drugs has created a new racial caste system, disproportionately punishing black people.
A powerfully interlocking system of laws and policies targets black people for drug crime, punishes them more severely than white criminals, and makes life as an ex-felon extremely difficult. The result is effectively racial subjugation and disenfranchisement.
In this New Jim Crow summary, you’ll learn:
how the war on drugs followed a pattern of implementation consistent with slavery and Jim Crow
how financial incentives and legal protection allow selective targeting of black males for drug crimes
why it’s so difficult for drug convicts to reintegrate into society
why remarkable black achievers like President Obama are deceptive indicators of black progress, and may actually perpetuate the New Jim Crow
Advice on pregnancy is often passed down as conventional wisdom without clear evidence (“Don’t take one sip of alcohol! Don’t clean the cat litter!”).
When the Harvard-trained economist Emily Oster got pregnant, she got tired of the low rigor surrounding most pregnancy advice. She dove into the medical literature and published her findings in Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know.
Even if you don’t plan to get pregnant anytime soon, this is still a useful summary to skim through to learn some new angles on pregnancy, like:
When during your period is the best time to get pregnant, and when it’s impossible to get pregnant
Why you can have one drink of alcohol a day and not harm the fetus