Daryl Starr’s Top 5 Books of 2018

I missed my goal for total books in 2018 but I did widen my latticework of applicable knowledge. Check out my reading plan for more context. Below is the top five new-to-me books of 2018. Visit Top 5 Books of 2017 for previous list.

  1. Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
    1. Michael Mauboussin recommended this book. It is not about business or investing. I thought it would be. However, while reading it, I regularly said “wow” out loud. I am a fan of biomimicry, fractal thinking and generally trying to apply my observations through iterative processes in my work and leadership. The author does a fantastic job teaching and revealing the amazing and undiscovered world that is right under our nose through a close examination of honeybees. I am a better person for having read this book.
  2. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
    1. This was another non-business book that I learned a ton from this year. It will likely effect my thinking for many years. Vance shares his story of growing up in SW Ohio as a “hillbilly.” My high school in Connersville, IN is about 30 minutes from Vance’s hometown. My youth was loaded with families with Appalachian roots that moved into the area in the 1970’s and 80’s for auto factory jobs. Although we both enjoyed life together for a time our lives have gone different directions and the “rich farmer” context I grew up in was quite different. I always understood their system of honor and duty, but struggled to understand why rising above the group was frowned upon. I still don’t quite get it, but at least I now have a reference to help.
  3. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    1. I was pleasantly surprised by how approachable this giant tome was. Published in 1776 this is an absolute classic that outlines why “the Americas” will always be the greatest country in the world. I look at the landscape and am grateful for the rainfall. I see navigable waterways that serve vast agricultural and manufacturing regions. We have great coasts and loads of fresh water. We also have a heritage of boldness and entrepreneurial spirit who have tasted a republic freedom. I almost sold all my personal “developing nations” ETF’s. But I didn’t. Instead, I was amplified my resolve to win and own high margin businesses in rural areas until I become resource constrained. I also confessed a need to go to great cities on occasion for resources. So many straight forward observations that are still at work today.
  4. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
    1. This is a business book that we immediately installed at LEV. During a lull midsummer I went a bit operational and started tuning cashflow and applying some operational practices. The use of Objectives and Key Results (OKR’s) was something that transformed the one weekly recurring meeting I have… and also cut it’s time from two hours to an average of 16 minutes. I’ve also seen our managers mimmic this practice. I’m a fan of stretch goals and acceptable outcomes. This process put some basic context to the operational algorithms of our endeavor. I figure if it helped Google scale, it ought to work for us, too. So far, so good.
  5. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes
    1. I finally read this classic from 1936. It blends in my mind with Wealth of Nations because of the style and timeless principles that seem so obvious only after coherently written. 160 years separate them and 82 years separate my reading from this book’s publication. Did I say “classics” yet? Anyways, Chapter 12 is the most famous as it really introduces the idea of exceeding the cost of capital during investment analysis. Many people lack an understanding of this basic notion. My experience is that entrepreneurs get it but may have the figures loosely defined. Why do something unless the expectation and return is worth the risk and cost of that risk? Forgetting this is the way to lose money. At LEV, I’m okay losing money on tax basis or accounting terms for a short period. However, I NEVER want to lose intrinsic value… and I most certainly do not want to engage in something willingly below our cost of capital. There is a lot more to this book that sets up these ideas and I probably will re-read it. So, that’s a good sign. I recommend listening as an audiobook first. Then skimming physical (or digital) copies. And, then, work front to back like a text book again.

Visit the LEV Library virtually, or in person. We’re adding books almost every week.

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