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Move to DC and Books

For the past month, I have slowly moved my nomadic life into routine and order. It’s been a steep learning curve adjusting back into a 9-5 schedule. Coming from the past three years where I more or less set my own hours, I’m not sure how long it will take me to get used to this new rigidity. New life, new rules. It does feel good to work in environmental policy again, though. Plenty of time to catch up on some reading.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

I enjoyed this book so much I recommended it anyone who feels like they have the drive to change the world. It explores the dark side of this wish with an author who was an insider to an industrial complex of those who want to do good by doing well. He is skeptical that the best way to drive change is through private philanthropy rather than democratic institutions that are accountable to the people. “To take on a problem is to make it your own, and to gain the right to decide what it is not and how it doesn’t need to be solved.”

I also recommend reading his interview in the Baffler where he goes into anecdotes that he didn’t cover in the book.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

Now that Facebook is facing greater scrutiny about its business ethics, there is a greater negative focus on the actions Sheryl Sandberg took to grow Facebook. Does that color her advice to young women climbing the corporate ladder (or in some cases Asian men)? I think on some level you need to have a personality that drives you to be ruthless if you want to end up at the top in corporate America. This book is not a recipe to become an asshole but rather the advice she gives is catered to someone who is ambitious but does not disagree fundamentally with the way corporate America is set up.

Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is a very good writer. The cast of characters, from Hulk Hogan to Nick Denton to Peter Thiel, could have been from a Shakespearean tragedy. From the downfall of Hulk Hogan to the bankruptcy of Gawker, and the outing of Thiel you get to see first hand the hubris that happens when a lot money and access drive people to do stupid things.

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Thanks to my friend, Katharine Glanbock, for recommending this. This is the first Murakami book I have finished and I was not disappointed.  Some of the lines that stuck out to me:

“”May I help you, please,” he said, sending a midrange smile my way with a polite bow of the head. When he noted my attire, however, the smile was quickly adjusted down three notches…No fault of mine, only a difference in life-style.”

“Gazing at the rain, I consider what it means to belong, to become part of something, To h ave someone cry for me. From someplace distant, so very distant. From, ultimately, a dream. No matter how far I reach out, no matter how fast I run, I’ll never make it. Why would anyone want to cry for me?”

“We never argued, not once. We knew exactly what we wanted in each other. And even so, it ended. One day it stopped, as if the film simply slipped off the reel.”

My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley by Ben Casnocha

I was surprised how long it took me to read this book. I have been regularly following Ben’s blog since high school and he has influenced me from the way I approach personal finance to how I launched my first start-up. I think the wow factor is that Ben started his own successful software company at the age of 14, building it into one of the most influential products used by city managers in the country. This book chronicles his experiences navigating high school while working as the founder of a company with clients that stretched throughout California. No matter what age you are, you can learn a lot about the struggles one goes through when starting something new that is very high risk and where the outcome is uncertain.

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