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Austin’s Reading List

After the 50th person asked me for a booklist, since I’m always reading like 6 books at once, I decided to go ahead and start a list of the books that have profoundly affected my perspective or my actions.

This list changes regularly, and each link take you to where you can learn more, so check back regularly.


Mastery – George Leonard uses martial arts as a metaphor for living our lives in the pursuit of what he calls Mastery.  In martial arts, I practice Tai Chi, we are always practicing, never done.  It’s a slow process that contains a thousand tiny epiphanies, and success comes from the journey, not the destination.   It’s essential that Americans and American entrepreneurs heed the emphasis on the process of living as a long-term game.
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway is one of the best authors to ever walk the planet, and is one of the few people I call a hero.  His statement, “Writing is easy…you simply sit down at the typewriter and bleed,” changed my life in high school.  For Whom the Bell Tolls is the pinnacle of tragedy so exquisite and painfully beautiful.
Poke the Box – Seth Godin’s tome on what the world needs.  Namely more men and women who aren’t afraid to take action and are willing to “poke the box” to see what happens.  One of the most important lessons I learned in 2010 he summed up in this book:  Don’t wait for someone to pick you.  You don’t need permission to do what you want.
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield writes what only an author knows.  You either do your art every day, or you’re not an artist…you just have an expensive hobby.  His advice is for all of us.  “Go Pro.”  Stop being an amateur.  That thing you love to do?  Go pro at it.
Do What You Are – People are too weird to fit into neat corporate boxes.  This book goes into the 16 MBTI Personality Types and explains what motivates those people, what inspires them, what matters to them, and how they should approach “work.”  If you’ve ever hated your job, but didn’t know what else to do, take the MBTI and read this book.
 The Brothers Karamazov – This may be one of the best books of all time.  The ending brought me to tears, and the section on the Spanish Inquisition changed me.  It’s essential that you make the investment in your life and read this book.  Make sure you get the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky.  They have stayed true to Dostoyevsky’s original Russian.
Betterness: Economics for Humans – What if global economies were conceived as high performing engines, always getting a bit better, instead of broken systems of inequality?  Umar Haque, one of my favorite HBR contributors, makes a case for the “positive psychology” of economics, where instead of needing therapy to “fix” problems, economies seek coaches to optimise their output, focusing on human fulfillment and entrepreneurship.

Articles and Blog Posts:
A collection of Articles and Blog posts (what’s the difference anymore?) that have influenced my thinking.

Groupon: Is it the deals or the copy?  – Fantastic discussion about the copywriters who are behind the emails that everyone seems to get every day.  Great example of WHY email sells.
Zero Steps to Copy That Will Make Readers Stick – Brian Massey, AKA The Conversion Scientist, is one of the writers and bloggers that I look to for advice and insight.  I really like the amount of analysis he includes in his posts.
What Website Development is Actually Like for Business Owners – Another  gem from The Conversion Scientist.  This time he goes into the jungle of what it takes to have a decent website built for your company, including getting designers and commercial copywriters to produce work that sells stuff.
 The Jam-Packed Summary of John D. Rockafeller’s Life – Dane Maxwell, founder of, and king of lean startup iteration, took on the billion-dollar task of distilling Rockafeller’s life into a single PDF.  That’s really arrogant, and I absolutely love it.  Download this to your iPhone and read it instead of checking Twitter.
A Conversation with Ryan Holiday – The sort of extensive interview that I love to read.  Ryan Holiday is a writer who found his voice early and continues to produce work that changes people’s lives.
HBR on Identity Crises – This backs up part of my belief that we can all grow from facing our identity crises with courage and faith that we’re embracing change that will improve our lives.
Looking for Simple Solutions to Complex Problems – Do not overload your brain with too many complex problems to solve.  Treat yourself as a human, instead of a factory.  This makes me wonder how we will answer the industrial revolution with a human revolution where we allow our lives and brains to slow back down and be human.
There is no ROI in Social Media Marketing  – Cricial post about how to understand social media marketing as a line item expense – a simple cost of doing business.  It doesn’t have a direct measurement anymore than operations or a bookkeeper does.  But you still have to do it.
Easy to Criticize, Hard to Create – Fantastic post about how successful entrepreneurs push through criticism.  Being wrong and learning is more valuable than needing to be right.  They understand that the next great idea is always around the corner.  If the current idea doesn’t work, they don’t need to die with it.