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Brandon Watson

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Q12017 Kindle Reading

To prevent a hectic end of year gathering of reviews, I figured I would just share out some interesting books I have read each quarter. There’s been a reasonable mix of sports related (trail running is a new hobby and focus) with business and sci-fi/fantasy.

Best Business Book

Without question, the new book by Brad Stone, “The Upstarts” is one of the best business books I have read in a while. Brad follows up on his book “The Everything Store” about the rise of Amazon with a look inside the founding mythology of Uber and Air BnB. These two companies are much heralded but not living in Silicon Valley made the reporting seem out of alignment with reality. I still remember being at the Seattle launch of Uber and not really getting it. I don’t know if this was because of the quality of the presentation, or I simply lack the ability to have seen the future of what Travis and Garret were building. What I liked about this book was that it (to the extent that this is even possible) humanizes the founders of these two Unicorn companies, and provides a glimpse inside the turbulent waters of navigating start-up success. I liked “The Everything Store” better, but I am guessing that’s because I was at AMZN when it came out and that company will always have a place in my heart. If you like business biographies, I would strongly recommend giving this one a read.

Most Surprising Find

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I stumbled upon “The Stranger in the Woods,” but this is an amazing read. I don’t want to give much away, but I would classify this as a “real life is stranger than fiction” tale about a man who decides to check out of human contact…for 27 years. The tale is amazing to read, and while reading it you will feel as if you are deep in the woods of Maine. What transpires is difficult to fathom, and the outcome is both sad but inevitable. It’s difficult to imagine another happening like this occurring in modern US, though I suppose one could willingly cut themselves off from society in another land mass. However, what made this all the more compelling was that in 27 years this man was completely cut off, but was never more than a stone’s throw from civilization. Stunning work of reporting.

Most Disappointing

Babylon’s Ashes.” I don’t want to subject you to more words on this book, as I feel like I can’t get my time back invested in this series. I would not fault the authors for a slip up, but the overall Expanse universe feels like it got away from what made it interesting and tried to transition to a formulaic whodunit. They forgot this was a sci-fi book, and not a political thriller merely using spaceships. Worse, what was supposed to be a 6 book series has clearly been set up for another three books. I say now that I won’t buy book 7, and I hope I am strong enough not to get lulled back into this series. It’s a bummer of a conclusion to a series that had been on my high alert watch list for so long.

Just Go Read It.

I won’t say much more than “the blueprint is all right there, laid out for you in a 30 year old book.” Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal” is more of a bizarre rantings of a business mogul than it is a business biopic or directional guide on doing business in a particular way. Even the opening of the book caught me off guard as it is literally a reading of his daily schedule. In any event, so much light was shed on things that while I am sad at having paid for the book, I am happy that for the price of a movie and a drink I have a much clearer picture of how one person’s mind thinks.

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Brandon Watson is Director for Windows Phone 7. He specifically focuses on developers and the developer platform. He rejoined Microsoft in 2008 after nearly a decade on Wall Street and running successful start-ups. He has both an engineering degree and an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, and blogs at www.manyniches.com.