Book Review: Hit Refresh – Satya Nadella

When I first heard that Satya Nadella had a book out, I was somewhat surprised as at the time, he had just taken over running Microsoft. Usually you don't see books from CEOs until they've been in the role for quite a while and have become philosophical about things.

But given the impact I could see he would have, I was fascinated to read his book Hit Refresh.

It was actually quite a bit more than I expected. I really enjoyed the tales of his life and how it led up to his current role.

He shared a great deal about his family situation, and you can see that he's really been through some hard times, and you can also see a love of his family shining through.

On any measure, Microsoft is a far superior company today than when we took the reins. I think people forget just how grim many things were looking at the time.

It's really interesting now to see Microsoft being seen as such an innovator, compared to say Apple. The jokes about Apple's biggest contributions lately being about removing headphone sockets off phones are only partially in jest. By comparison, they seem to have lost their mojo.

If you ever wonder if some of these CEOs are worth what they get paid, you only need to compare Microsoft today with Apple to get a idea of the impact that the right one can have.

What can I say? I really enjoyed the book.

Greg's rating: 9 out of 10

Book Review: Blockchain – by Samuel Rees

Another book I've read recently while sitting on a few planes is Blockchain – by Samuel Rees.

I've seen some big claims in the titles of books but this one had me intrigued:

The Ultimate Beginner Through Advanced Guide on Everything You Need to Know About Investing in Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Ethereum and the Future of Finance

That's quite a claim. I was really hoping this book would provide a great amount of detail given it's 'beginner through advanced' guide claim.

That's not what I found though. While it might be a useful book if you'd never learned anything at all about Blockchain, I thought the overall discussion was pretty shallow and there was a whole lot of "gee whiz how amazing is this" types of messaging that I really didn't enjoy.

I did persevere to the end though, as I was hoping there was more coming. What I did find was a bunch of info on the author's views on investing in cryptocurrencies. While he's careful to avoid straight-out telling you to invest, the tone is certainly that you should do so.

While Blockchain as a technology is still a strong option, when I read the book, I'd have to say I wasn't in love with the idea of investing in cryptocurrencies. Given how the majority have now tumbled and/or become extinct, and the way that even Bitcoin and Ethereum have plummeted lately, I'm glad I thought that way.

Greg's rating: 4 out of 10

Book Review: Now I Know – Dan Lewis

One book that a number of my friends suggested that I read is:

Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World's Most Interesting Facts – by Dan Lewis

I wasn't sure what to make of this book as it just seemed to be a large collection of facts that Dan thought were interesting. Given I love trivia, I thought I'd try it.

Dan started an email list called "Now I know" back in 2010 with a handful of subscribers and grew that to over a hundred thousand. These are basically the topics that ended up being some of the most interesting.

I actually quite enjoyed the book. Some of the early topics captured my attention immediately. For example:

  • Where did the ampersand get its name from?
  • What actually happened to the flags on the moon?
  • Did Germany actually take over a Canadian city during the second world war?
  • Why did the UK intentionally plant a body to wash up on the shores of Spain in the second world war?

Anyone who loves a bit of trivia will get a kick out of something in this book. After each fact is discussed, Dan then has a bonus fact that's associated with the main fact. Some of those were quite fascinating.

The only downside I found with this book, as with many US books, is that there is a heavy US balance to the history and facts included. I'm not sure that the rest of the world has quite the fascination with the US Civil War, etc. that those in the US do.

I'd recommend this book but my rating depends upon where you live.

Greg's rating (if you live in the USA): 7 out of 10

Greg's rating (if you live outside the USA): 6 out of 10

Book Review: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, so I was really looking forward to reading or listening (via Audible) to his book Astrophysics for People in  Hurry.

It's always a bit of a tall order to try to cover something like Astrophysics in a short book. The title reminded of silly book titles like "Applied Multivariate Analysis and Calculus for non-Mathematicians".

But I loved this book.

Neil has very carefully chosen many interesting aspects of the world and how we come to be here, and what we do and don't know but the thing I enjoy most is his unbridled enthusiasm for his subject. You can just tell how much he loves this material and how keen he is to share it with you.

I've read a number of books on these topics in the past but still found many aspects that I either hadn't encountered before or where Neil provided a different view of the topic.

The book covers some tough territory but I think he's done a great job of keeping the treatment of it light enough to avoid losing the majority of his audience.

Recommended !

Greg's rating: 8 out of 10

Book Review: Essentialism – Greg McKeown

Another book that I've been listing to lately on Audible is Greg McKeown's Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

This was a very timely book for me. I find it very easy to get endlessly bogged down in minutia, rather than just always focusing on the big picture of what I'm doing. It's really easy to do that if you have a great desire to get things perfect or close to perfect. But that's not what you should be aiming for.

What I particularly liked about this book is that Greg didn't just talk about the problem. He had a large number of examples of situations and just how you should deal with them.

In particular, I loved the section on how to say No.

I found the book to be practical and useful, and now I just need to take a long hard look at everything I do, to see how they fit into what I really need to get done.

If you find yourself super-busy with trivia, or just don't know how to politely say no to endless requests without offending people, you might find this book pretty useful.

Greg's rating: 8 out of 10

Book Review: Building a Story Brand – Donald Miller

I've been reading and/or listening to a lot of books again lately and one that I didn't have high expectations for, but ended up really liking was Donald Miller's Building a Story Brand.

If you are a business owner, I'd suggest listening to it or reading it. It takes a really refreshing approach of what he calls using a story brand framework.

When you need to tell someone what your business does, how do you describe that?

Donald points out that good movies that hold people's interest pretty much all follow a tried and true pattern. He's distilled that pattern and gives you a number of steps to building a memorable story for your business.

This book gets you to reassess almost every part of your marketing messages, and makes you think through how you would present your company almost as the hero of a story. It really drills into how to clarify your message.

He clearly describes what you need to consider for each part of creating that story. If you want to use them, he's got online resources that you can use to provide the structure that you might need to work through the framework.

As I listened to him describing common mistakes, I could immediately think of where I had made them or where others that I deal with have made them.

I have to say I was surprised how much I liked this, and now realize just how much work I need to do to implement it, yet I'm excited to try.

Greg's rating: 8 out of 10