1. Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What That Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
Anyone who drives should read this book. Every page contains a fascinating nugget about cars, traffic, traffic culture, public transportation, and more. A year ago I posted some of the nuggets gleaned from a book review. A random new one I learned from the book: People who actively look for the “best” parking place in a parking lot outside a mall, say, inevitably spend more total time than people who just take the first open spot they see.
This is one of the better business books I’ve read in the last few years. The Strategy Paradox is as follows: strategies with the greatest possibility of success also have the greatest possibility of failure. The best-performing firms often have more in common with “humiliated bankrupts than with companies that have managed to merely survive.” The best strategies, in other words, will lead to extreme success or extreme failure. There is other good stuff here on managing uncertainty, probabilistic thinking, and more. Thanks Ryan Holiday for the recommendation.
3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I couldn’t get into it. Usually it’s hard to say this about classics but I know I’m not the only one who finds Dickens inaccessible. I did, though, enjoy this paragraph:
In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter.
This was my favorite fragment:
There was a delicious sense of cleaning-up and making a quiet pause before going on in life afresh, in our village on Saturday nights…
This sentence made me think:
But I loved Joe,—perhaps for no better reason in those early days than because the dear fellow let me love him,—and, as to him, my inner self was not so easily composed.
For an author who wasn’t able to talk with the key players of the Synder family, this is nevertheless a remarkably researched and in-depth look at an extraordinary company. I love In-n-Out not only as a restaurant / burger joint (it’s probably my favorite restaurant in California) but also as a business and brand. Perman explores how the family was able to scale the business while preserving the core values that put In-n-Out in a league of its own among fast-food outlets. She also documents the tragic family battles that nearly destroyed everything Harry Snyder created. I recommend this book for anyone who loves In-n-Out and maintains even a casual interest in business.