Stories Been Told

by Misha Berveno

Skim through stories told and books read.
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Do Open

In the overwhelming world of never-ending notifications, some newsletters still reach us with their signal. Do Open is the book by David Hieatt who shares insights about how his newsletter grew Hiut Denim into a prosperous business. ‘A great newsletter works by you sharing how you think about the world.’ – December 2018

Run Studio Run

One of the few books about running a creative agency, Run Studio Run covers the basics of organizing work, finding clients and managing operations. ‘If you’re working on projects you’re excited about, everything you spend your time on will be simultaneously building a portfolio, client base and referral base.’ – December 2018

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

In many ways an updated version of their previous book Rework, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is a manifesto by DHH and Jason Fried about creating a calm company, where deadlines and packed schedules don’t stand in the way of making a great product for people who want to use it. ‘Sustained exhaustion is not a badge of honour, it’s a mark of stupidity.’ – December 2018

Value Proposition Design

As a follow-up to Business Model Generation, Value Proposition Design tackles an essential issue of creating value, presenting a framework on how to think about your customer and their needs. “You don’t have a business model fit until you can generate more revenues with your value proposition than incur costs creating and delivering it to customers.” – November 2018

Dark Avenues

Even though he lived half of his life in France, it's hard to find a more eloquent master of Russian language than Bunin. Dark Avenues is a collection of short stories about love — that was audacious at the time, and honestly still seems so. He tells stories about people, their fallacies, and how actions can affect the lives of others, sometimes permanently. – October 2018

Deep Work

Working with intense focus is certainly a luxury in our continuously distracted world. It takes deliberate organization to be able to ponder a single task even for a few hours. In Deep Work, Cal Newport provides detailed guides on how exactly you can reclaim your wandering attention. ‘Great creative minds think like artists but work like accountants.’ – September 2018

Brave New World

In many ways the opposite and in many complementary depiction of the future society compared to 1984, Brave New World is filled with satire and eternal reflections on the purpose of life. How can we be happy? ‘In a world in which everything is available, nothing has any meaning.’ – August 2018

Direct mail copy that sells!

Herschell Gordon Lewis wrote a practical guide to the most no-bullshit type of ads. Direct mail copy that sells! offers plenty of time-tested rules and critique examples to re-read in the future. ‘I spend most of my time banging the keys of my word processor. I don’t dare get stale, and that’s what happens if you pontificate without getting your own hands dirty.’ – July 2018

Milk and Honey

Rupi Kaur’s collection of poems Milk and Honey is a collection of raw emotions. Rather than narrating her story, she lays out how she feels, about love, self-worth, femininity and family. ‘you have to stop searching for why at some point you have to leave it alone.’ – June 2018

The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky wrote about love, life, family, friends, justice and human nature — all with such complexity, thoughtfulness and grandeur that you can't even fathom how it was possible. The Brothers Karamazov is not an easy book, but it's worth dozens of ordinary ones. – June 2018

Remote: Office Not Required

With a distributed workforce becoming more and more popular, Remote is a handy how not to screw it up guide, giving you a primer on everything from winning trust to staying motivated. ‘There is nothing more arrogant than taking up someone else’s time with a question you don’t need an answer to right now.’ – June 2018

The Daily Stoic

The kind of thinking that keeps our minds reflecting for days to come is in short supply. In The Daily Stoic, Ryan Holiday manages to combine centuries-worth of titbits about what constitutes a life well lived. ‘Life is long if you know how to use it.’ – May 2018

Autobiography of a Yogi

In his Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda undertakes an arduous task of uniting East–West values by outlining the essence of the spiritual path of yoga in India. But proceed with caution: lots of spirituality ahead. ‘I don’t expect anything from others, so their actions can’t be in opposition to the wishes of mine.’ – May 2018

Type Matters!

One of the reference books always on my desk is Type Matters. Typography is a world you can study for decades and still keep learning. So having a guide you can pick up while preparing a text for a client will make sure your work is as presentable as it can be. ‘Typefaces are like clothes for language.’ – March 2018

Skin in the Game

A logical continuation of Antifragile, Skin in the Game explores the heuristics for leading an honourable life, without transferring your risks onto others. “Skin in the game is about bullshit detection; fairness, justice, responsibility and reciprocity; information sharing in transactions; rationality in complex systems and in the real world.” – March 2018

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The early life of Ben Franklin is a worthy guide to any entrepreneur. He started with nothing, hopped on every opportunity, built an audience and won. His ethics and wisdom are something to strive for. “Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright, as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” – February 2018


A very basic primer on digital nomadism, Anywhere covers everything from choosing a place to go to handling your taxes when you are there. Good to use as a checklist before departure. ‘Make the most of your work hours to make the most of your leisure time.’ – February 2018

Essays by G. Orwell

Orwell is the writer who did. He did work in Burma, did live in poverty in London and Paris, did go to fight in a civil war in Spain, and did write beautiful essays about it all. “In a cold but stuffy bed-sitting room littered with cigarette ends and half-empty cups of tea, a man in a moth-eaten dressing-gown sits at a rickety table, trying to find room for his typewriter among the piles of dusty papers that surround it.” – January 2018

Poor Charlie's Almanack

Named after Ben Franklin's publication, Poor Charlie's Almanack is a rare gem exploring Munger’s multitude of basic principles to make better decisions. An essential learning material for modern-day businessmen. “You've got to learn 100 models and a few mental tricks and keep doing it all of your life. It's not that hard. And the beauty of it is that most people won't do it.” – January 2018

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy explores the universal feelings of fear, regret, redemption, hatred, and takes on the ever-lasting question of the meaning of life. Witty, in spots even mind-reading novella urges everyone to stop and reflect on their path, whether young or old or nearing deathbed. – January 2018

Shape of Design

Frank Chimero talks about design as a play between the creator, the creation and the audience. His inquiry in Shape of Design is definitely not into the what, not so much into the how but certainly into the why of your creativity. “If an artist or designer understands the objective, he can move in the right direction, even if there are missteps along the way. But if those objectives are left unaddressed, he may find himself chasing his own tail, even if the craft of the final work is extraordinary.” – January 2018

Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

Even more philosopher than an artist, Robert Irwin has been exploring the limits of human perception since the 50s. Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees is a deep and dense dive into the role of an artist as a guide into your own senses. ‘All I want to say is that the wonder is still there.’ – December 2017

The Obstacle is the Way

As a rule of thumb, stoic writings are most beneficial when revisited every now and then. In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday summarizes a good deal of stoicism to give you that much needed kick in the butt. ‘When the cause of our problem lies outside of us, we are better for accepting it and moving on.’ – December 2017

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


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


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 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 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, 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


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