“Always be reading.” These are the words of Praxis business partner and entrepreneur Adam Witty, who exhorts participants to always keep an active reading list. Keeping an active reading list can be one of the best ways to broaden one’s mind and the ways in which one thinks. Our team is constantly working through several books that not only help us as founders, but also as people in general.
These are four books that I have recently finished and encourage you to pick up this fall.
Nonfiction — Education
Gray, an MIT professor of psychology, makes the case for a radical transformation of K-12 education by moving away from the teacher-student mentality and towards a play mentality. He gives a fair and nuanced history of the modern American educational system, tracing its roots back to Church schools and then 18th Century Prussian schools. Using anthropological research focusing on different hunter-gatherer societies, he argues that Americans would be better off moving towards a Sudbury School model.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Nonfiction — Philosophy/Social Science
Taleb makes the convincing case that some systems in the world aren’t just robust — meaning they can take a beating — but are actually the opposite of fragile: antifragile. These systems, like biological systems, tech entrepreneurship, and real-life learning, actually become better the more disruption happens within them. The implication for education is that we need options that are more willing to push high-achievers towards antifragile systems, rather than towards traditional routes like finance and management consulting.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Nonfiction — Business
I generally hate business books. They’re usually written by consultants who have very rarely had to do something truly, really hard and new. That was not the case with Horowitz’s book. Part memoir, part business book, Horowitz recounts his war stories of building some of the most successful tech businesses out there before going off to co-found the famous VC-firm, Andreassen Horowitz. To summarize: the hard thing about hard things is that they are hard and there are very few really good answers to them. Horowitz covers everything from how you fire a good friend, to how to bring in a senior executive to a young firm.
Peter Thiel, with Blake Masters
Nonfiction — Business
By far the best book I have read this year, I almost feel bad calling it a “business book.” It has a little bit of everything — philosophy, social science, history, business, and even a little bit of really good self-help. Thiel makes several poignant observations about how to run a successful tech startup, how to run a successful cleantech startup, how to run a successful business generally, and how to run your life successfully. He decries the social pressure we place on high-achieving students to go to elite universities and then follow traditional paths, saying that this can only make our leaders worse for the future. He defines different mindsets that societies and individuals can operate with, and how we need to move towards an optimistic, definite mindset as individuals and as a society. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to almost any person.