Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S ThompsonAfter enjoying the Rum Diary so much I figured lets go crazy and read the more well known Hunter classic – Fear and Loathing. Again this has been made into a film which I have seen a bunch of times, again starring Jonny Depp. This film is pretty cool, but is is kinda hard to follow without paying a lot of attention. This is a story that is fast paced and intense. Hunter’s writing makes it like that and sometimes it helps to re read a paragraph or two. The book is much better than the film. Details and descriptions are more vivid in words than on screen in the Hollywood adaptation. It is a pretty short book (read in a couple of days) so well worth a read.

It was nice to be reading on the Kindle again too – it really does improve the experience.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

steve jobs biography by walter-isaacsonThis book does not really need much introduction. It is the official biography that Steve Jobs commissioned himself. He figured quite rightly a tonne of people would write about him without ever having a clue so it was in his interest to get the story out accurately. It is a hefty book – one of my Xmas presents. Having only read books on my Kindle for the last year, going back to turning pages was kind of nice but ultimately awkward and reminded me how much better the reading experience is on a device like the Kindle (or ipad for the apple fanboys).

Most people know a bit about Steve, or certainly about the mega brand Apple has become. This year it managed to reach the highest market cap in the world, and in an era of economic uncertainty, hit record profits and sales. This continued despite the company’s founder and figurehead suffering with pancreatic cancer and eventually succumbing. The book is big as already mentioned, because it has so much detail in there. It is all fascinating stuff and really drills down into the personality of such an iconic figure – half genius, half arrogant dickhead. His determination and keen focus on minimalism have to be admired. There is no denying he has had a massive influence on our World today. This guy made Pixar a success too. There is pretty much no film studio in the World that has had the same run of success with big blockbuster movies. When you consider the level of influence on the movie industry through Pixar, personal computing with the iMac, then portable music devices with the iPod, the smart phones with the iPhone, and tablet computers with the iPad. Not to mention the retail stores which are some of the most profitable shop floors in the world.

For techies there is some interesting thoughts regarding the different schools of thought where hardware and software should all be open, hackable and shared, vs closed and tightly integrated. It comes down to personal preference.

Even after reading the book, and genuinely liking many of the apple products (the macbook air and macbook pro especially) I’m not sure I agree enough to go all Apple.

The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson

The Rum Diary by Hunter S ThompsonMost people will know the general gist of the story seeing as it has just been on in the cinema and had trailers blasted all over the interwebs. The film stars Johnny Depp (who I generally like) in another Hunter S Thompson book to film adaptation. The first one (feat and loathing in las vegas) went pretty well so I figured this one cant be too bad either. The reviews I have heard so far do not agree however and I have yet to verify that myself.

On recommendation though I bought the kindle edition (under a fiver) for a little pre Xmas reading. I did not have a whole lot of time but luckily its a pretty short book. Knowing what to expect from Hunter S Thompson books (debauchery) and the title, I was pretty into this within a few paragraphs. The writing is descriptive, fast paced and funny. I couldnt put it down and ended up finishing it in a couple of days.

I am actually looking forward to watching the film, though I know it will inevitably be disappointing as there is no way it can live up to the book. This would be a cool holiday read.

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

the thank you economy by gary vaynerchukAnother pretty short but interesting read that appealed to my inner economist. It is easy to relate this kind of thing to my day to day life too which is always nice. Gary is a very charismatic, outspoken guy with some cool ideas. He is all about hard work and hustle. He made it big in the wine world by going big into e commerce early then being big into the whole social media/blogging movement. He would produce a daily video where he would taste wine and cheese and give people his thoughts. His style was brash and modern which was distinctly different to the somewhat pretentious and stuffy way the wine world is normally seen as. The theory was very much along the lines of do what you love and do it with passion and do it well. Engage with people and provide value and communicate your passion and knowledge and build brand equity. Something that you can relate to when selling wine (or kites/boards) but is probably hard for many (accountants/photocopy salesmen). Since he has moved more into the business/speaking/writing/consulting side of things.

The Thank You Economy is his second book. The key here is that the world is going full circle. Many years ago, local was important. Opinions and reviews from friends and experts were important. If you wanted to know how what the best cut of meat for a certain dish was, you asked your butcher. Then we all went into the globalisation era where we wanted everything to be easy and 24/7. Marketers loved that – it was an easy sell. Now however the circle is coming back round to local. We are no longer happy with globalisation and faceless corporations. We want our local bank manager who we trust back, we dont want to speak to someone different in Bangalore everytime we call. We care about where our food comes from – locally sourced is important. We care about food miles and paying a fair price. Cost effective is no longer number one.

Relationships are now the most important thing out there and word of mouth is better than any other form of publicity. Social media is therefore a tool to help us scale relationships and have all these conversations.

We are all weird by Seth Godin

We are all weird by Seth GodinThis is a pretty short read but pretty interesting all the same. Seth Godin is a famous marketer, blogger, author who writes mostly about marketing and how things are changing. His other books are pretty interesting too (Tribes, Purple Cow). In We are all weird, Godin explains how the market has always focused on mass. Mass marketing, mass production, mass media etc. Everything was catered to the normal. By making something the norm, you were covering your bases. Upon closer inspection though, there is no such thing as normal. As we get richer and have more choice, we keep moving further from the norm and maker ever weirder choices.

It appealed to my inner economist. I did after all dedicate 3 years of my life to studying economics. The book essentially looks at bell curves, and explains how the traditional bell curve is becoming increasingly flat meaning it is much harder to target a large portion of it. In the 60s and 70s for example, there were a handful of TV channels. You just put a tonne of ads up and hey presto – you have a super brand. In the 80s and early 90s this got trickier as there were a lot more channels, and magazines etc but it was still about big media buys. Now though, with 1000s of TV channels, and of course the big one – the internet, it is impossible to target the masses easily.

The lesson however is not that you need to just cater to a niche market. It is more than you have you target your message to those you are speaking to. A product can appeal to the masses but the way it is communicated needs to be sensitive to the channel which is being used. I guess it is like when your firing off job applications. The response rate is always better when you write individual cover letters as opposed to the one size fits all approach.

In the Plex by Steven Levy

In the plex by steven levyAs mentioned earlier this year I have a Kindle which has reignited a desire to read. Not that I have been reading non stop, or even close to that, but considering my book a year for the last couple of years, I am doing a hell of a lot better. This book was ranked pretty well in the Amazon bestsellers and it’s author Steven Levy is a pretty well known tech writer (Wired, Newsweek, NY Times, New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic). Levy actually spent a serious amount of time over two years interviewing Google employees and as such goes into a lot of detail about the company, its history, ethics, morals, values, methodology and almost religious belief in data. The way Google employees are recruited, treated, looked after and empowered is fascinating. The idea that engineers know best, not product managers is also interesting.

The book covers how Google moved from being a PHD project at Stanford to a startup in desperate need of venture capital, to a great search engine needing huge amounts of venture capital to figuring out how to make money on a massive scale and turning over millions then billions. A lot of the focus is on the areas of the company which did well, the people involved in creating the products and the areas which caused scandal or even bombed.

I am pretty into Google products on the whole myself. Gmail, calendar and reader are essential daily visits. Documents and Youtube are the other two big ones for me. As of late I have been getting into G+ too. Android is great too – I had a HTC Hero until I fell in love with BB, and going forward it will be very exciting. I love my Blackberry but unless RIM really pull their finger out and get back in the game, I can see myself moving back to Android. At the moment however I just do not really like their handsets and they need to create something with a battery that lasts a day.

The book is a great read for anyone who finds Google interesting, enjoys company biographies and success stories. If that isnt enough – Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google and current CEO, is a kitesurfer.