Some of My Favorite Things To Read and Listen To –Summer 2018

I like to offer these resources every now and then in case you, like me, have an ever restless mind on the prowl for new fodder! Since my last Favorite Things post I have added an interesting array of listening and reading to my inboxes (multiple meaning very much intended). Hopefully some may titillate your sense of curiosity as they do mine!



Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok are both economists and professors at George Mason University. But their posts range far beyond economics, into social science and culture, and even sports. They have done posts on the economics of sleep, 17th century food, economic theory as applied to NIH funding of research and so many other domains that the best I can do is to suggest you visit this link and look at the broad index of categories on which they have posted. It is voluminous and wide-ranging!

Clear is pretty well known in the world of life-hacking a hack-hack-hackneyed term I have come to loathe. But nonetheless, he has done excellent thinking, writing, researching and speaking about creating optimized habits to fulfill your goals. But if that were all he talked about I would have stopped at reading his book on habits. His newsletter is far grander in scope and often tackles questions that range from how people become excellent at anything, the implicit bankruptcy of “motivation”, and developing more grit (today’s post). You get the idea. The stuff that productive and ambitious people of all stripes aim to master!

Farnham Street is essentially an excellently curated compendium of interesting thinking going on elsewhere. It is written by Shane Parrish, whose podcast I also recommend below. Parrish does a great job of exploring work that helps you to improve not just what you’re thinking, but how you’re thinking, to distinguish and fine tune the mental models operating in the background and to explore how other people have thought about their own decision-making and life or work at a depth that is simply lacking most anywhere else. He also is a voracious reader, with eclectic tastes, and usually recommends a book or two in each week’s edition.


Malcolm Gladwell is one of those people who has entered my personal shortlist of people who are grossly over-exposed. But, despite myself, I still read his books, article and listen to this podcast. (I do NOT pay to belong to his “book group”). This podcast looks at episodes of distant or near history that have been interpreted one way, but can stand reexamining in the fullness of time, and with the application of copious quantities of social scientific analysis. His recent episodes have suggested some very counter-intuitive conclusions. For example, based on his extended exploration of the takeover of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) by a Marine Corps General following the Vietnam war, a supposition that better border control leads to higher level of net illegal immigration. Most of the episodes have equally compelling themes. The one in the current season that I most adore (because I agreed with the conclusion before heard it — chalk one up for confirmation bias), is Free Brian Williams.

For those of you not dwelling in the universe of celebrated tech founders, Reid Hoffman is a co-founder of LinkedIn. That alone makes him Silicon Valley royalty. It’s enough to make you want to loathe him, and I would if he would just act like the self-important jerk I keep expecting. But he doesn’t.  This podcast is excellent. He interviews other startup founders, from a massive range of business types, and uncovers each one’s own unique story, thought process, w

ays of coping with crisis, conflict, failure and more. His interviews are genuine and generous to the interviewee. He is curious, poised and gracious as a host. He never does what you expect from a STAR, and import his own story, opinion or other blather into a truly inquisitive interview. It is a MUST-LISTEN for leaders in tech, and I think, for aspiring leaders in general.

I’m sort of cheating here, because I mentioned this podcast above where I recommended Farnham Street’s Brain food. But it is worth subscribing to both. Where the Farnham Street newsletter is short, incisive and curatorial, the Knowledge Project is in-depth, and slow. It is usually a full hour with one guest. And not unlike Reid Hoffman, Shane Parrish plays the role of well-prepared but utterly open and curious interviewer very well. He asks things you want to ask, and things you hadn’t thought of asking. And he always requests recommended books from his guests, who are not run-of-the-mill thinkers. I have been rapt listening to him speak with such remarkable (and under-noticed) people as Amelia Boone (a world class, obstacle course racer), Dacher Keltner (psychologist from UC Berkeley), Kris Voss (a former FBI hostage negotiator turned author, businessman and professor) and many more.

As always, I hope these recommendations brighten up your summer and give you something deeply engaging to while away the lazy days on the beach or enjoying the cool air of the mountains!  Please feel free to give me your feedback on whether you find these of interest, and a heads-up on anything you think I would enjoy but haven’t yet discovered!


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