02 Jan 2020

I decided I’d start tracking what I read so I can become more purposeful. I think I’ve erred on the side of reading “output” based books historically, and this is an attempt to focus on improving my ability to think from first principles instead.


Alexander the Great

Achieves an incredible empire by the time he’s 30. Leaves you simultaneously impressed but very conflicted about the means.

Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products

I learned much more about how Apple’s design team actually works by reading this than Steve Jobs’ bio. Specifically: (i) what it means to be design-led, and (ii) what it meant to Apple to be a product-led company, focussing on that as an input then just growing a ton of revenue “automatically”. Going to read more about executives versus CEOs in future.

Dapper Dan, Daniel Day

Harlem hustler turned the creator of high end street fashion. His shop never closed. Read to learn about hustle and resourcefulness. A vivid insight into his life in NY.

Confessions of an Advertising Man, David Ogilvy

A touch arrogant, but really interesting how it touches on the detail of running a huge advertising agency. The scale of the campaigns (how do we improve Puerto Rico’s economy / advertise the USA / etc), and the day-to-day pain of finding and managing the right team, and how they dealt with clients, is what I enjoyed reading about the most. Made me want to go back through how we do brand.


Design as Art, Bruno Manari

Made me wish I had a Japanese house.

book of branding, Radim Malinic

A good initial overview on how to achieve strong branding in practise, with a lot of case studies. It felt a little too much like paying for a portfolio but was helpful.

The Designer’s Dictionary of Colour, Sean Adams

Rebranding? Worth thinking about palette choice more deeply.

The Design of Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman

A must read for design principles. I’ll never see doors, light sockets or electric cars the same way.

Visual Grammar, Christian Leborg

Clarifies the terms used in visual design, a very quick read but useful if you collaborate with designers regularly.


Gardening with chickens, Lisa Steele

A lot of the fun of this plan (still working on creating an area for chickens in our garden, watch this space), is combining chickens with gardening.

Organic Gardening, Charles Dowding

A really good explanation of the no dig method. Going to try this over the autumn. It has good crop-specific guidance, although it’s a little inconsistent depending on which crop you look at - some have full explanations, others don’t!

Raising chickens for beginners, Max Barnes

A good 101!


Traction, Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Gives a nice framework with tons of practical examples from leading companies. Tactical advice that doesn’t deal in the hypothetical.

Hacking Growth, Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis

Not bad, but a fluffier version of the above. The anecdotes are more generic and ones you’re more likely to already know.

Blitzscaling, Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

Demonstrates what true ambition can look like.


Creativity, Inc, Ed Catmull

The process behind Pixar’s repeated creativity.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Reed Hastings

Didn’t agree with everything - more clarity for repeated decisions would drive more efficiency and less stress, but the way he runs the business like a sports team - distributed decision making, paying top of market and generous severance - and the tactics to build a culture of feedback resonated.

Amp It Up, Slootman

The CEO of Snowflake. Main learnings (i) the importance of being a driver rather than a passenger (you want drivers) (ii) people need to care about their work - ask them if they’re ecstatic about it, if not - revisit (iii) don’t care what your board thinks - push everyone to grow faster (iv) you’re not optimizing for popularity.

The Coaching Habit, Michael Stanier

Wasn’t a fan of this - could have been a list of questions. Don’t buy books that have ads for other stuff in them!

The Great CEO Within, Matt Mochary

Wasn’t particularly useful for me, only because at PostHog, we’re following all the things I considered good ideas. If I were less experienced, this would’ve been very handy though.


The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick

Worth a very quick read for anyone that has any interest in product at all. Makes on fundamental point, but it’s critically important to working out if your idea is a good one.

Hooked, How to build habit forming products, Nir Eyal

Simple concepts, lots of good practical examples.

Inspired, Marty Cagan

A less good version of the above - found it a bit repetitive.

The Cold Start Problem, Andrew Chen

Describes how Uber works. Discusses Network effects in depth. Main learnings (i) Networks go both ways - they can collapse (ii) you need to figure out if demand drives supply or vice versa (iii) start by figuring out what your network MVP is - what’s the easiest way to build a network with value

Raising money

Secrets of Sand Hill Road, Scott Kupor

A good fundamental grounding in how VCs think. Click-baity title, but it worked for me.


Born to Run, Christopher McDougall

A fascinating first-principles approach to running in action.


Blood River, Tim Butcher

A journalist’s solo trip through the Congo. Sad but engrossing.

Sheila in the Wind, Adrian Hayter

The author documents his journey in a 100 year old yacht from the UK to Australia, without a motor. The boat in this story is the sister of my wife’s family’s boat, so it was an interesting personal read.

The Extra Mile

A list of non-chain restaurants within 1 mile of the motorway, across the UK.