Stories Been Told

by Misha Berveno

Skim through stories told and books read.
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What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars

With a lot of financial books talking about success, What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars talks about failures and how to prepare and handle them in a way that doesn't succumb to psychological pressures. "Market losses are external, objective losses. It's only when you internalize the loss that it becomes subjective." – December 2017

Without love, it’s easier to live

Seemingly, the most talked about chapter of Tolstoy's life was his turn to faith during late 1870s. Without love, it’s easier to live is a collection of memoirs, beginning with Confession, a powerful examination of the meaning of life. “… that something that threw me in despair — the meaninglessness of life — was the only knowledge available to a human being." – November 2017

Antifragile

A thought-provoking sequel to Black Swan, Antifragile takes the original concept and tests its applicability in everyday life. More, I don't remember another book that I wanted to discuss with other people to such an extent. 'A state of normalcy requires a certain degree of volatility, randomness, the continuous swapping of information, stress.' – September 2017

How to

For me, Michael Bierut is an astute strategist first, designer second. His collection of works in How to proves it, full of conceptual, unpredictable and sometimes obvious (but not clear-cut) design solutions. Pointing out something I have been conveying to clients for years, he says, "In a brand, sameness is static and lifeless, consistency is responsive and vibrant." – September 2017

Effective Executive

For years, I regarded Drucker as outdated without ever reading him. But Effective Executive is accessible and conveys timeless principles for decision-making and effectiveness, or doing the right things well. "Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time." – August 2017

Black Swan

Perhaps the most important and accessible book on probabilities you can pick up, Black Swan deserves to be read and re-read. Key takeaway, "we are too brainwashed by notions of causality and we think that it is smarter to say 'because' than to accept randomness." – August 2017

Stoppers

Best known for its genre-defying photo shoots, the work of Phyllis Posnick for Vogue amazes in its detailed approach to rather avant-garde photography. Accompanied by behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Stoppers gives a unique insight into the world's most important fashion magazine. – July 2017

Business Model Generation

Although, for the most part, Business Model Generation doesn't provide groundbreaking insights, it puts everything you knew about business models in one accessible framework — no easy feat — and walks you through methodical business model thinking. Used right, this book has the potential to deliver hundreds of times the value of what it costs. – July 2017

The Key Muscles of Yoga

When you want to move beyond blindly following the instructor and really understand the why of certain movements, pick up The Key Muscles of Yoga — the most detailed and engaging guide to yoga anatomy. As Patanjali said, "The body is the canvas and the Asanas are the art we create." – June 2017

Small is Beautiful

If it seems that the world is changing fast, our mentality is certainly not catching up. In Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher argues for a humanist approach to economics with which, on the one hand, every person would agree but, on the other, nothing has changed in over 40 years. "Modern man talks of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if he won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side." – June 2017

The Americans

Photographs are perhaps the next best thing after living the experience. Not as sure about video, for its too literal. Photographs though allow you to form a unique perception just by skimming through. Robert Frank’s The Americans is just that kind of a photo book, giving you a feel for U.S. in the ‘50s like no other. – May 2017

A Little History of the World

By far the most captivating and accessible overview of history I can remember reading, A Little History of the World is indeed what it says it is. Originally written for kids, in merely 300 pages the book covers the world’s history from antiquity to the fall of the Berlin Wall. You’ll know why Middle Ages are called so, what exactly did Confucius preach and be reminded that Louis XIV was the guy who built Versailles. – May 2017

Doctor Zhivago

For me Doctor Zhivago is about heroism. Heroic people, heroic lives, heroic love — things that are seemingly so absent nowadays. Like no other, this book guides you through raw, unfiltered, pure, sincere emotions and relationships. You can’t have it all, so what are you willing to sacrifice? – April 2017

The Bed of Procrustes

Nassim Taleb is loud and relentless. You see his ego peering through every page. But his words are not empty. He embodies his own philosophy and explains it well to others in his book of aphorisms. ‘You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative.’ – March 2017

Vignelli Canon

Massimo Vignelli was unquestionably one of the most respected graphic designers. His book Vignelli Canon is a short graphic design manual, reasserting the fact that design is not so much about knowledge as deliberate practice. ‘There are no hierarchies when it comes to quality. Quality is there or is not there, and if is not there we have lost our time’. – March 2017

When Breath Becomes Air

Without a doubt, When Breath Becomes Air is the book I would recommend to everyone. Dealing with notions of entropy and the meaning of life, this memoir reads in one breath and stays with you for many more. ‘The word hope appeared in english about a 1000 years ago, denoting some combination of confidence and desire. But what I desired — life — was not what I was confident about — death.’ – February 2017

E-Myth Revisited

Too many small businesses fail because of a false assumption that if the business is small it must be easy. In his somewhat lofty but instructional book E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber takes you through the process of setting up a business, from your customer’s profile to ‘the true product of a business, which is the business itself.’ – February 2017

Blue Ocean Strategy

After a while, most business books seem boring, chewing over the same ideas. I reluctantly picked up a copy of Blue Ocean Strategy, solely on the basis of it coming up in multiple conversations. While not the best book on business, it didn’t disappoint and actually provided some new approaches to value creation, “align the whole system of a firm's activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost.” – January 2017

Invisible Cities

Travelling, we see and perceive cities differently. But perhaps none of us have the ability to express them in such imaginative, eloquent and engaging way as Italo Calvino. In his masterpiece, Invisible Cities, he writes “divide cities into those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it.” – January 2017

Philanthropy Heirs & Values

Picked up doing research for a client, Philanthropy Heirs & Values is a glimpse into the inner workings of the process of transitioning wealth in affluent families. Not easy, as up to 70% fail to maintain their vision during the transition. The book then dives into exploring philanthropy as a guiding vehicle for sustaining family values. – January 2017

Homage to Catalonia

Besides 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote a wonderfully sentimental account of the Spanish Civil War, something I knew little about until I picked up a copy of Homage to Catalonia. Reading this book, you can’t help but think how different people were back then, ‘I learned now you can always run when you think you have 50 or 100 armed men after you.’ – December 2016

Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit

Picking up Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit, my expectations were low. But the book turned out to be an excellent manual on writing and structuring a story which I devoured in a day. Many ideas were dutifully noted down. One of them: ‘don't tackle anything until you know the concept’. And, of course, keeping in mind that nobody really wants to read your shit. – November 2016

The World Beyond Your Head

Attention is peculiar. ‘The question of what to attend to is the questions of what to value,’ says Matthew Crawford in his new book The World Beyond Your Head. Exploring how advertising intrudes on our ability to focus, leading to the loss of public space, he suggest that ‘just as clean air makes respiration possible, silence, in the broader sense, is what makes it possible to think’. Unplug. – November 2016

Naming for Power

Inquisitive about naming strategies I can use in my work, I picked up Naming for Power by Naseem Javed, somewhat of a leader in the naming world, recognized by giving birth to, for example, Telus. Not devoid of anecdotes that would expand one’s knowledge of many world-defining companies, the book gives surprisingly little advice on how to actually think about naming. – November 2016

The Sound and the Fury

Reading Faulkner is an adventure, good and bad. Sometimes, his creativity is admirable. Sometimes, you feel completely lost. The Sound and the Fury is the story about relationships — the real, complex, emotional ones. Said that, I’m not sure if I’m reading Faulkner again anytime soon. – October 2016

Modern Century

Slightly ashamed it took me so long to dive into the work of the most renowned street photographer, I picked up Modern Century, which corresponds to the Henri Cartier–Bresson’s posthumous exhibition at MOMA and follows his extensive travels throughout the world. Needless to say, these are the photographs worth knowing. – August 2016

Mile End

Turned out the first book I’d read in French cover-to-cover would be a comic book… from Quebec. The story of Mile End is the story of the hippest neighbourhood in Canada through the eyes of an illustrator. Not devoid of humour and bizarre Quebecois slang, the book urges to buy a ticket and experience the turf with your own body. – August 2016

The Stranger

L'Étranger, or The Stranger (I favour this translation over ‘The Outsider’), is written in short, simple sentences yet beautifully denotes Camus’s nihilistic assertion that ’in a world devoid of meaning no action has any more significance than any other action’. A book I wish I had written. – July 2016

The Art of Travel

What I like about Alain de Botton is his consistency in teaching philosophy applicable to everyday life. The Art of Travel is no different, ‘if it's true that love is a pursuit in others of qualities we lack in ourselves, then in our love of someone from another country, one ambition may be to weld ourselves more closely to values missing from our own culture.’ – July 2016

Influence

Influence was on my to-read shelf for years. And I truly regret for not having read it earlier. Cialdini examines well researched techniques people, or society, use to convince you to subconsciously sway your decision in their favour. All of them are based on shortcuts we evolved to apply to make our lives easier; until they work against us. – July 2016

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X wasn’t afraid to live, act, make and admit mistakes. His harsh judgement is hard to agree with, but his life and struggle are in themselves a lesson worth knowing, for ‘one day, we may all meet together in the light of understanding’. – June 2016

Damn Good Advice

George Lois is a legend of the ad world, responsible for campaigns that shook, shocked and shaped the industry. Damn Good Advice, summarized by ‘do everything as well as can be done’, is a collection of guidelines George came up with throughout his carrier to maximize his creative output. Worth a read. – May 2016

Letters from a Stoic

Perhaps the most actionable of all major schools of philosophy, Stoicism urges us to live in accordance with nature and ‘resign oneself uncomplainingly to whatever fate may bring them’. In the 1st century AD, Seneca wrote over a hundred letters to his friend Lucilius, sharing his wisdom. Now we can get a taste of it as well. – May 2016

Open City

Open City is not a subject to swift reading. Open, get lost, put back, reflect. Repeat. This book is an intermittently immersive experience urging to be prolonged, which is why I mapped all of the Julius’s walks, to be felt with my own body next time I’m in New York. And guess which book I’m taking along. – April 2016

Fooled by Randomness

Fooled by Randomness was on my list for years. And, oh boy, it didn’t disappoint. Taleb explains how probability applies to everyday life. He writes about a dinner with a friend: “We flipped a coin to see who was going to pay. I lost and paid. He was about to thank me but stopped and said that he paid for his half probabilistically.” – February 2016

So Good They Can't Ignore You

Cal Newport is known for giving actionable advice, and this book is no different. He argues that it’s nearly impossible to be passionate about something you are not good at, and much easier if you start on the other end. “Move focus from finding the right work to working right,” he says, essentially, “and everything else will follow.” – January 2016

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Knowing and applying the basics of cashflow, income and balance sheet statements can have a miraculous impact on our financial indispensability. I still find that I need a reminder from time to time, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad served as such reminder, laying out the time-tested basics once again over the course of an easy 20-minute read. – December 2015

Self-Reliance

Self-Reliance is a book about reflecting, on what constitutes you as a being, on what defines your contribution. Emerson is certain that a great man is he who can resist being swayed in his beliefs among the crowd and instead rely on his “cumulative force of whole life’s cultivation” to express and explain his opinions. – December 2015

Walden

Walden, among the other things, is a profound dive into a life rarely considered, an account of what it takes to leave the grid for nearly two years and return replenished and enlightened. Thoreau critiques the complexities of our society in the way that is still relevant today, noting that “It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.” – December 2015

Blacksad

While not a fan of comic books, Blacksad stands out for me as the one that transcends the animated realm, projecting a full-blown movie-like reality onto your mind. Blacksad is not about animals imitating humans, it's about humans resembling the behaviour of animals. – November 2015

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Perhaps the most peculiar thing about Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is how Robin Sloan, the author, is able to intertwine the world of fantasy with seemingly mundane reality. The narrative is strong but lively, detailed but still focused on advancing the storyline, with just a touch of heartwarming old-school geekiness. – November 2015

Zero to One

A revered business book this year – Zero to One by PayPal cofounder, Peter Thiel. I was wary about reading it – after all, what reading yet another business revelation can do? But the book gave form to an idea I’ve had in the back of my head for a long time: every person has the potential to become a monopoly in something. – November 2015

Chekhov’s Stories

Chekhov is renown for his ability to bring light to the most nuanced aspects of personal relationships. And his stories of 1892–1903 period go even deeper and explore even further in observing what it is that makes us human. One of my favourite quotes: “…before I loved, I myself also perfectly knew what love is.” – November 2015

Anything You Want

"No 'yes.' Either 'hell yeah!' or 'no'" is one of many quotes from Anything You Want that I wrote down. It's a heuristic for evaluating commitments, intended to free up your time. The moment you pick this manifesto up, you realize that Derek Sivers lives by unique rules. And throughout the book he is making it clear – you don't have to live the life you don't want to live. – October 2015

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow wasn’t a quick read. But pages and pages of monotonous descriptions of experiments in behavioural economics contain a wealth of useful conclusions. You will find out why “we are more willing to avoid losses than increase gains,” why “a memory of an experience is worth more than the experience itself” and why “nothing in life is as important as you think when you are thinking about it.” – August 2015

Yoga Body

There is a widespread perception now that yoga is an ancient tradition, that the asanas you practice at your local yoga studio are distilled through thousands of years of Indian wisdom. Mark Singleton, relying on written accounts of various yoga teachers and travellers, discovers how in fact modern yoga was influenced, among other things, by European gymnastics and the emergence of bodybuilding. – August 2015

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

I have a rule of not reading a book unless it was recommended by at least two independent sources I trust, especially if it’s a business book. The Hard Thing About Hard Things came up a dozen times. It walks you through the struggles every CEO has to face in order to build a good company. And “building a good company,” as Ben Horowitz writes, “is an end in itself.” – July 2015

Recollections of the War

So many books written about WWII, so many movies shot, yet it’s rare to find a true perspective of a real soldier. Most of the ones who fought on the front were killed; those who survived not willing to recall. Nikulin was from the latter camp, although he did eventually write down what he went through to ‘get rid of oppressive thoughts.’ After 25 years of gathering dust, that book was published in 2007; a book of no illusions. – July 2015

Design is a Job

Among all the noise in the tech industry, once in a while I find a fresh voice. Mike Monteiro, a co-founder of Mule Design, is definitely one of those. His on-point wit and unconventional views on running an agency are worth writing down: "I’m not trying to make a connection between art and design. The two couldn’t be more different. One is a corporate business tool for manipulating the poor, and the other is design." – June 2015

Restaurant Man

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the intricacies of running a restaurant. Memoirs of Joe Bastianich is by far the best guide on food service management I could find. The book starts with this simple but enlightening restaurant math: 30% food, 30% salaries, 20% expenses including rent, 20% profit; and continues to hold your attention throughout. – June 2015

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance can teach you a lot, if you let it. This book guides you through the journey of life, turning your attention to things you might not have noticed before. Among other things, Robert Pirsig says: "We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world." Words rarely get more beautiful than that. – June 2015