Stories Been Told

by Misha Berveno

Skim through stories told and books read.
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12 Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson approaches life advice from a traditional and, at the same time, unexpected angle — finding meaning in religious narratives. 12 Rules for Life takes you on a journey of building life’s foundational values tested by time; values that might not be that right, but also not that wrong. “Happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill.” – October 2021

Kissa by Kissa

What if you could go back in time and walk all the way between two major cities on foot? Wait, you can. At least that’s what Craig Mod is doing in Kissa by Kissa — documenting the phenomenon of kissa cafés across Japan via beautiful photography and writing. “Tokyo to Kyoto entirely by falling forward in a controlled way, a few million times.” – September 2021


According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his seminal book Flow, if you want to enjoy your work, you need to immerse yourself deeper within it. Happiness, it seems, is an aftermath of absolute concentration and intense exertion of your mental or physical abilities. “It’s by being fully involved with every detail of our lives that we find happiness.” – September 2021

To Have or to Be?

To Have or to Be? lays out two primary ways of living — having and being — and argues that a society focused on ownership will eventually hit a dead end, while treating life as an enjoyable process and an experience might be our only chance for a reformed society. “Overcome the fear of dying by not experiencing life as a possession.” – August 2021

The Denial of Death

Reading Becker is not easy and actually took me three tries. But there are some profound nuggets of understanding of heroism, depression and death in his wall of academicism. In The Denial of Death, Becker dares you to experience life without prejudice. “The question of human life: on what level of illusion does one live?” – July 2021

Principles and Paradoxes

Art. Lebedev Studio is the largest design agency in Russia, operating since 1995. Principles and Paradoxes tracks their unique approach, explains all the hard-won wisdom and presents the most innovative ideas discovered over the past 25 years in business. – July 2021


Sum is one of the most unique short books I’ve read in a while. Written by neuroscientist David Eagleman, it describes 40 different ways your afterlife can go, from having all life events grouped by categories to being judged against your potential. “The third death is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” – June 2021

Speak, Memory

Nabokov’s memoire reads like fiction, meaning it’s both beautifully written and covers personal stories that go back to the earliest childhood with unbelievable clarity. Speak, Memory transports you to the world of intelligentsia in the pre-revolution Russian Empire — the kind of life he had to leave behind and that is now forever lost. “Our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” – May 2021

Le Petit Nicolas

Seeing the childhood in France during 1950s through the eyes of Le Petit Nicolas and his friends is both funny and refreshing. Nicolas can talk about all kinds of everyday issues with charming humour and naiveté. As a bonus, the book keeps the language simple enough even for intermediate French learners to keep up. – May 2021

The Tao of Charlie Munger

Every time you come across the chance to read more about Charlie Munger, you should take it. The Tao of Charlie Munger is a succinct distillation of everything one can learn in a long life if one never stops learning. “Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.” – April 2021

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

At first glance, Mark Manson and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck don’t really strike you as something worth reading. But you can easily fly through the book in one sitting, and there are indeed quite a few noteworthy insights to ponder. “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.” – March 2021

Atomic Habits

Everybody knows that developing good habits is the key to superior long-term performance. Yet the habit-forming process often eludes us. Atomic Habits puts everything you need to know in a clear framework, so you can automate the first step to building your habits today. “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” – February 2021

Hell’s Angels

When you think about things distinctly American, you don’t think about motorcycle outlaws. Yet Hell’s Angels are endemic to American culture. Hunter S. Thompson spent two years with the gang and wrote about it all in his signature Gonzo style. “A man who has blown all his options can’t afford the luxury of changing his ways.” – February 2021

Letters to a Young Poet

Among the books that talk about the essence of life, Letters to a Young Poet is perhaps one of the most cited. An accomplished poet at 27, Rilke writes about solitude, sadness and the artistic path with deep clarity and wisdom. ‘You’re looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. Go into yourself.’ – February 2021

A Random Walk Down Wall Street

If there’s a truly iconic book in personal finance, it’s probably A Random Walk Down Wall Street , first published in 1973, which advocated against stock picking and for index investing before ETFs were even around. ‘The consistent losers in the market are those who are unable to resist being swept up in some kind of tulip-bulb craze.’ – January 2021

Woe from Wit

As one of the most foundational works of Russian literature, Woe from Wit has coined so many aphorisms still widely used today that people don’t even know the original source they’ve come from anymore. This is a play about the futility of fitting into the society where everyone is righteous about living in a bubble of their own making. – December 2020

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Chabon’s magnum opus, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay , is one of those novels you don’t want to end, even 680 pages later. It’s the story of life and its complexity, identity, hope, failure and big dreams that still can’t avoid reality. “Forget about what you’re escaping from, reserve your anxiety for what you’re escaping to.” – December 2020

Why We Act Like Canadians

Without doubt, Canadians and Americans are different, but their differences are often hard to pin down succinctly. In Why We Act Like Canadians , a Canadian historian Pierre Berton does so eloquently through writing letters to his friend south of the border. ‘Ask an American how he’s feeling and he cries “Great!” Ask a Canadian and he answers “Not bad,” or “Pas mal.”’ – September 2020

Dead Souls

One of the staples of Russian literature, Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol is full of insights and observations regarding the Russian way of life, most of which are still relevant today, 200 years later. This poem (written in prose) satirically describes a variety of human types and surprises you with masterful con artists paving their way to success. – September 2020

Revising Prose

Lanham’s book is all about reworking one sentence at a time as a way to fix our modern bureaucratic reality. To guide us, Revising Prose introduces an eight-step Paramedic Method that turns editing into a well-defined process anyone can follow. ‘Writing, properly pursued, doesn’t make you better. It makes you more alive.’ – September 2020

Hell Yeah or No

What's great about Hell Yeah or No is how Derek Sivers manages to provide a healthy dose of unconventional thinking in every essay. His writing seems novel and obvious at the same time. ‘Our lives are filled with mediocrity because we said yes to things that we felt half-hearted about.’ – July 2020

Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix

Reading comic books in foreign languages is one of the best ways to get to know how people speak in everyday life. And reading Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix by the great René Goscinny in French is pure pleasure. My favourite part? I still have more than 30 volumes to go through. – June 2020

On the Street

What we observe in On the Street is no more no less a saint of street fashion photography, Bill Cunningham, seeing through all the embellishments and noticing the micro details and macro trends alike. – April 2020

The Divide

What differentiates rich countries from poor ones is The Divide — an ever-increasing gap intentionally orchestrated by the West to suck out resources from the global South. Jason Hickel will change your perspective on inequality and unravel the myth of third-world development. ‘Poor countries don’t need our aid; they need us to stop impoverishing them.’ – March 2020

Stories of Your Life and Others

For years I was recommended Ted Chiang as a genius of short-form sci-fi writing. When I finally picked up Stories of Your Life and Others , I could see why. His erudition leads him from the most improbable hypotheses to fully fledged philosophical riddles. ‘What made it possible for me to exercise freedom of choice also made it impossible for me to know the future.’ – March 2020

Understanding Comics

Out of all the media, comics seem to be the most misunderstood, often written off as a step before actual art and literature. Scott McCloud set out to change that with Understanding Comics , an insightful inquiry into how comics have developed as an art form. ‘In a realistic drawing you see others, in a cartoon you see yourself.’ – February 2020

A Hero of Our Time

A literary heir to Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov wrote A Hero of Our Time to portray the inner world of a realistically complex protagonist, who behaves in a way that simultaneously calls for hatred and sympathy. A captivating story of a nihilistic officer, a noble aristocrat, indiferent to his fate and life’s traditional values. – February 2020

Notes from Underground

Dostoevsky’s understanding of human nature and why we do the things we do, to which he comes back to in most of his work, is unparalleled. Notes from Underground is rightfully considered to be one of the first nihilist novels, deciphering the motives behind our worst behaviour and the reasoning against our own desires. – February 2020

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

One of the most horrifying aspects of life in the USSR was the sheer amount of people sentenced to camps, stripped of any purpose but the daily fight for survival. Solzhenitsyn, having been imprisoned for nearly 10 years himself, understood the system better than anyone, and his eloquent novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a grand testament to that. – January 2020

Lost Splendour

None of the books I’ve read before talk about the life and subsequent fate of aristocracy in the Russian Empire with greater insight and clarity than Memoirs of Felix Yusupov , the prince who was one of the richest men in the country, married the niece of Nicholas II and immigrated to Paris after the 1917 revolution. Oh, and killed Rasputin. – January 2020

Photographs for the Tsar

Not many people know that colour photography didn’t come with colour film. In fact, pioneers like Prokudin-Gorsky were registering all the colours of the Russian Empire over 100 years ago. The places and people immortalized in the Photographs for the Tsar are breathtaking. “He had the Emperor’s personal permission to go any place — whether secret or not.” – November 2019

Pretty Much Everything

No one represents the American down-to-earth design as well as Aaron Draplin. His Pretty Much Everything is a dense review of life’s work. ‘I call my shop a “shop.” Not a “studio.” Not a “space.” Not a fart chamber a couple wheezebag Yale grad students are starting. Anything but that bullshit.’ – November 2019

Fashion Climbing

I was initially reluctant to read Fashion Climbing , which takes us through the years Bill Cunningham used to have his own fashion label, designing hats. How wrong I was — this is one of the most entertaining, dense, and inspirational memoirs I’ve read in years. ‘To this very day my favourite pastime is people watching. It’s one of the great educations of life.’ – November 2019

Notre-Dame de Paris

A tale of beauty and despair, Notre-Dame de Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame ) masterfully intertwines the power of love and architecture. ‘From the beginning of things to the 15th century, architecture was the great book of the human race, man’s principal means of expressing the various stages of his development, physical and mental.’ – October 2019

Stop Stealing Sheep

Universally revered in the typographic world, Erik Spiekermann is the designer behind Fira Sans and FF Meta who doesn’t shy away from bold, opinionated statements. Stop Stealing Sheep is a good primer on choosing typefaces for your work. ‘Most of what we perceive as harmonious and pleasing to the eye follows rules of proportion that are derived from nature.’ – July 2019

The Manual

Born a slave, Epictetus rose to become the freest of all. He viewed philosophy as an inherently practical discipline, hence The Manual to serve everyone as a guiding star. Essential reading when you feel like you’re getting distracted. ‘If it relates to anything which is not in our power, be ready to say that it does not concern you.’ – July 2019

Down and Out in Paris and London

Unlike any other writer of the 20th century, George Orwell is able to express what it’s like to be poor in Down and Out in Paris and London drawing on the years of first-hand experience. The book is witty, scary and nothing short of eye-opening. ‘You discover the boredom which is inseparable from poverty; the times when you have nothing to do and, being underfed, can interest yourself in nothing.’ – April 2019

Creating Short Films for the Web

Written in 2005 by a wonderful Hillman Curtis, Creating Short Films for the Web has aged beautifully, going through the basics of web filmmaking. ‘The idea of possibly making a fool of myself in public for something as fleeting as the light on a beautiful woman’s face is exciting to me.’ – April 2019

The Subject Tonight Is Love

As a Sufi poet, Hafiz often talks about the mystery of love in all its forms. In The Subject Tonight Is Love , he explores the affectionate connection with a lover, friend and god — all of which he uses interchangeably. Sufi love knows no limits indeed. ‘Why ever talk of miracles / when you are destined to become / infinite love.’ – March 2019

This Is Marketing

If you closely follow Seth Godin’s work, then This Is Marketing will seem more like a good summary of how to think about the role of your work in our culture than a book of new concepts. Every little section here is easily accessible but takes years of practice to understand. ‘A lifeguard doesn’t have to spend much time pitching to the drowning person.’ – February 2019

The Essential Rumi

More than just the oeuvre of the most accessible poet of the medieval period, The Essential Rumi gives us a glimpse into the outlook and thoughts of someone who came to represent not only his century but a whole millennia of the Sufi way of life. ‘You’ll be forgiven for forgetting / that what you really want is / love’s confusing joy.’ – February 2019

Human-Centred Design

Since 2011, IDEO have been teaching the world to solve problems like a designer. Human-Centred Design then goes through the toolkit required to understand your customers. ‘Make simple, scrappy prototypes to not only save time, but to focus on testing just the critical elements.’ – December 2018

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 helped grow 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 how-to books that gives actionable advice 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. ‘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 a complementary depiction of the future society described by George Orwell in 1984 , Aldous Huxley fills Brave New World with satire and eternal reflections on the purpose of life. What will make us happy after all? ‘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 first book of poems Milk and Honey is akin to a collection of raw emotions. Rather than narrating her story directly, she lays out her feelings: about love, self-worth, femininity and family, trekking her path with laudable bravery and honesty. ‘You have to stop searching for why at some point, you have to leave it alone.’ – June 2018

The Brothers Karamazov

Throughout his life, 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 during his time. By no means The Brothers Karamazov is an easy read, but it feels like it's worth dozens of ordinary ones. – June 2018

Remote: Office Not Required

With a distributed workforce becoming more and more of a trend nowadays, 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 philosophical titbits about what constitutes a life well lived. ‘The philosophy asserts that virtue is happiness, and it’s our perceptions of things — rather than the things themselves — that cause most of our trouble.’ – 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 awaits you here indeed. ‘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 be learning. So having a guide you can pick up while preparing a text for a client will make sure your work is as perfect 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

A worthy guide to any entrepreneur, the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin shows how you can start with nothing, hop on every opportunity, build an audience and win. His ethics is something to strive for. ‘Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears … 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 and guidebook on digital nomadism, Anywhere by covers everything from choosing a place to go to handling your taxes when you get there. Good to use as a checklist before any prolonged departure. ‘Pile and purge; if you don't love it, lose it; let go of nostalgia; respect your stuff; learn the art of the fold.’ – February 2018

Essays: George 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, 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.’ – January 2018

Poor Charlie’s Almanack

Named after Ben Franklin’s publication, Poor Charlie’s Almanack is a rare gem exploring Munger’s principles. “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.” – January 2018

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

If you read enough Tolstoy, you’d think that exploring universal feelings of fear, regret, redemption and hatred is his pastime. In The Death of Ivan Ilyich , he takes on the ever-present 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

The Shape of Design

Frank Chimero talks about design as a play between the creator, the creation and the audience. His The Shape of Design is a definite inquiry into the why of 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.’ – 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 our own senses. ‘All I want to say is that the wonder is still there.’ – December 2017

The Obstacle Is the Way

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 at length 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 conceptual and unpredictable ideas in How to are a proof. ‘In a brand, sameness is static and lifeless, consistency is responsive and vibrant.’ – September 2017

The Effective Executive

For years, I regarded Drucker as an outdated requirement for MBAs without ever reading him. But The Effective Executive is both 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

The Black Swan

Perhaps the most important and accessible book you can pick up about how probabilities affect your everyday life, The Black Swan deserves to be read and re-read many times. One of the key takeaways: “We are too brainwashed by notions of causality and we think that it is smarter to say ‘because’ than to accept randomness.” – August 2017


The genre-defying work of Phyllis Posnick for Vogue amazes in its detailed approach to rather avant-garde photography. Stoppers gives a unique insight into the world's most important fashion magazine. – July 2017

Business Model Generation

For the most part, Business Model Generation doesn't provide groundbreaking insights, but puts everything you knew about business models in one accessible framework and walks you through its methodical thinking. Used right, this book has the potential to deliver 100x the value its 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

In the fast-changing world, our mentality is certainly not catching up. Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher argues for a humanist approach to economics, with which nearly every person would agree, but which had no effect over the last 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. 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 the US in the ‘50s like no other. – May 2017

A Little History of the World

By far the most captivating overview of history I can remember reading, A Little History of the World is just what it says it is. Originally written for kids, 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 did Confucius preach and be reminded that Louis XIV was the guy who built Versailles. – May 2017

Doctor Zhivago

For me, inexplicably, Doctor Zhivago is mainly about heroism. Heroic people, heroic lives, heroic love — things that are seemingly so absent nowadays. Like no other, this novel guides you through raw, unfiltered, pure, sincere emotions and relationships. When you know you can’t have it all, 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 The Bed of Procrustes . “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

The Vignelli Canon

Massimo Vignelli was unquestionably one of the most respected graphic designers ever. His book The 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 recommend to all. Dealing with notions of entropy and the meaning of life, this memoir reads in a single breath and stays with you for many more. ‘The word hope appeared in English about 1,000 years ago, denoting … confidence and desire. But what I desired, life, was not what I was confident about, death.’ – February 2017

The E-Myth

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 The E-Myth , 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 because it came up in many conversations. While not the best business book, it didn’t disappoint, providing 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 perceive cities differently. But 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 while doing research for a client, Philanthropy Heirs & Values is an informative glimpse into the inner workings of the process of passing wealth in affluent families. Not an easy task, as up to 70% fail to maintain their vision during the transition. The book then dives into exploring philanthropy as a guiding vehicle for holding families together and sustaining family values well into the future. – 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 got 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

Getting into 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 … is what makes it possible to think.’ Unplug. – November 2016

Naming for Power

Inquisitive about naming strategies I can use in my work, I perused Naming for Power by Naseem Javed who, among other things, gave birth to such names as 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. Other times, you feel completely lost. The Sound and the Fury is the story about relationships — the real, complex, emotional ones. Not sure if I'd be reading Faulkner again soon though. ‘I've found that when a man gets into a rut the best thing you can do is let him stay there.’ – October 2016

The Modern Century

Slightly ashamed it took me so long to dive into Henri Cartier–Bresson’s work, I equipped myself with The Modern Century that corresponds to the posthumous exhibition at MOMA and follows his extensive travels throughout the world. The photographs worth knowing. – August 2016

Mile End

Turned out the first book I’d read in French cover-to-cover would be a comics… from Quebec. The story of Mile End , the hippest neighbourhood in Canada, through the eyes of an illustrator. Full of bizarre Quebecois slang, the book urges to buy a ticket and experience the turf with your own feet. – August 2016

The Stranger

L'Étranger , or The Stranger (I favour this translation over The Outsider ), is written in short, simple and eloquent sentences yet beautifully denotes Albert Camus’s nihilistic philosophy and assertions such as ’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


Having been on my to-read shelf for years, I truly regret not having read Influence 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 often hard to agree with, but The Autobiography of Malcolm X contains lessons worth knowing: ‘Get up and try again. Most of us adults are so afraid, so cautious, so safe, and therefore so shrinking and rigid … Most middle-aged adults have resigned themselves to failure.’ – 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. Worthwhile and entertaining 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 first century AD, Seneca wrote what came to be Letters from a Stoic to his friend Lucilius, sharing his wisdom. Now we can get a taste of it as well. – May 2016

Open City

Not a subject to swift reading, Open City is meant to be open to get lost, then to put back and reflect. Repeat. This novel is an intermittently immersive experience urging to be prolonged, which is why I mapped out all of the protagonist’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

On my list for years and, oh boy, Fooled by Randomness didn’t disappoint. Taleb explains how probability applies to everyday life. For example, 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 So Good They Can’t Ignore You is no different. He argues that it’s nearly impossible to be passionate about something you’re 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. Rich Dad, Poor Dad served as a good reminder of that, laying out the time-tested basics once again over the course of an easy 20-minute read. – December 2015


A book about reflecting, Self-Reliance talks about what constitutes you as a being, and 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


Among other things, Walden is a profound journey into a life rarely considered, an account of what it takes to not only leave the grid and embrace the wilderness for nearly two years but also return replenished and enlightened. David 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 co-founder, 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

Later Short Stories

Anton Chekhov is renown for his ability to bring light to the most nuanced aspects of personal relationships. And his Later Short Stories from the 1888–1903 period go even deeper and explore even further, 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

Definitely not a quick read, Thinking, Fast and Slow still contains a wealth of knowledge, hidden in all the monotonous descriptions of experiments in behavioural economics. For example, you’ll find out why ‘we are more willing to avoid losses than increase gains’ and why ‘a memory of an experience is worth more than the experience itself.’ – August 2015

Yoga Body

There’s a widespread perception that yoga is an ancient tradition, that asanas are distilled through thousands of years of Indian wisdom. Mark Singleton, relying on written accounts of various yoga teachers and travellers in his Yoga Body 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 much written about WWII, yet it’s rare to find a true perspective of a soldier. Most of the ones who fought were killed; those who survived not willing to recall. Nikulin was the latter, although he did eventually write down what he went through to ‘get rid of oppressive thoughts.’ After 25 years of gathering dust, Recollections of the War was published to share his nightmares. – July 2015

Design Is a Job

Mike Monteiro, a co-founder of Mule Design, definitely reads like a fresh voice in the tech industry. His on-point wit and unconventional views in Design Is a Job 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. Restaurant Man 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

If you let it, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance can teach you a lot. This book guides you through the journey of life, turning your attention to things you might not have noticed before. 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