Daryl Starr’s Top 5 Books of 2017

The end of the year is drawing near and I wanted to capture and share the best of what I’ve read in the last twelve months. I will try to sustain my three book a week rhythm in 2018. There are so many I could suggest, but these are tops. For a mostly complete list of books consumed since starting Little Engine Ventures, please visit The LEV Library

Top 5 Books of 2017 by Daryl Starr
  1. Algorithms to Live By – by Brian Christian & Tom Griffith
    1. This dense little book delivered on many subjects that I find fascinating. Although I’m not a software engineer, I’ve employed many and been a key source of design thinking for numerous algorithms… a large portion of which used phycological principles to engage the user.  I read a lot about decision making, logical flaws, intuition and more. I also love a good metaphor. This book combines all of that in an easy to read, and re-read manner.
    2. Key topics from my notes include:
      1. Optimal Stopping – Look then leap, 37% of the way through
        Explore or Exploit – How much time is left? Return to known if time is short.
        Sorting – Balance against time searching. Google is a sorting algorithm.
        Caching – Practice the art of forgetting. What’d you say?
        Scheduling – Match to priorities
        Predicting (Bayes Rule) – Simple statistics are most impacted by data type
        Over-fitting – Prefer simplicity
        Relaxation – Don’t quit on intractable, instead reduce constraints
        Recursion – You cannot simulate something as complex as itself
  2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, translated by Samuel Griffith, 1963 (I cannot find an exact replica on Amazon to link to.)
    1. I believe the best books stand the test of time. So many readers have combed, discarded and forgotten publications through the years that any book written before 400 B.C. that has survived so well is worth serious consideration. Prior to reading this, I always figured this was one of those cliched books that business people quote to sound smart but don’t really understand. I tend to steer away from that kind of hollow chest beating. But, steering completely away from this text is choosing ignorance, and what good has come from that? I am not a proponent of war, but neither is the author. The best way to win is to avoid the fight altogether. So much strategy is packed into this text. I also found the commentary of the generals nearly over-whelming and required reading and re-reading each passage numerous times to comprehend strategies they applied to the given principle.
    2. Key concept from my notes:
      1. Water moves a boulder down a stream relentlessly with a constant and direct force. A falcon peacefully surveys the landscape, and then strikes its prey with precision. Know which and how to use both methods to have dominion.
  3. The Six Month Fix by Gary Sutton
    1. I love CEO’s that speak frankly and get stuff done. Sometimes management courses and  business books proport techniques that are rarely applicable and aimed at a broad market of self-help book buyers.  Mr. Sutton punches hard. You can almost hear his gravely, scotch-hardened throat bark out the words from the page. He wrote the book because he hated sales and wanted to attract desperate shareholders to call him so he could perform his battle hardened trade… the turn-around. I have met just a few of these rare breeds and they are special forces, only to be unleashed in the worst of times. He owns every ounce of their DNA.
      1. Simplify the business,
      2. Do what needs done,
      3. Reward performance,
      4. Move on (don’t overstay your welcome.)
  4. The Story Brand by Donald Miller
    1. After several individuals repeatedly suggested this book, I had to taste it for myself. It is good. Besides business, I also have an English degree, so when I can intersect the study of the human condition with business I feel my vocation bolstered. The author is probably pushing too hard to sell consulting, but his outline and application are spot on. All great people have lived amazing stories. We are not the hero, but the guide. Be helpful!
      1. A character wants something grand,
      2. and faces a villain who challenges their internal confidence.
      3. They meet a guide that helps them transform
      4. with a few simple steps.
      5. They are called to action and struggle, facing failure,
      6. but end with success, being made whole.
  5. Scale by Geoffrey West
    1. This tome will barely fit in a briefcase. However, if you are at all interested in observing fractals in everyday life, and using them to create worlds in which other people will participate, I highly recommend it’s study. An ode to Mandelbrot (which is also worth reading,) this book takes a somewhat obvious concept and explains natural processes and limitations that few confess. My favorite concept is below:
        1. Space filling (branches extend everywhere)
        2. Invariance of terminal units (capillaries or electrical outlets are the same)
        3. Optimization (energy is minimized to maximize output; E=M^(3/4) )
          Like a tree, capillary system, or electrical grid, networks scale under simple rules:


Again, this list is far from exhaustive. It is tops, a story of special forces exploiting a power-law fractal maneuver. (read all the books and laugh at that sentence.) Cheers!

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