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A Startup Reading List (simplifilm.com)
137 points by sweetdee 1568 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

This list, compiled by Chris Johnson, includes a book called "Trust Me, I'm Lying", by Ryan Holiday.

One thing to note is that Chris worked with Ryan and has a close relationship with him (Chris actually wrote the trailer for Ryan's book).

And judging from Ryan's usual tactics, Chris wrote this list simply to push Ryan's book, which he cleverly included alongside clear classics like The Lean Startup, In The Plex, and The Innovator's Dilemma.

Edit: Here are some other tactics cleverly used by Chris/Ryan in the post...

1) they mentioned Ryan Holiday in the first couple paragraphs so that the reader would have some familiarity with his name and be even more likely to click through to his book

2) they included Ryan's book early in the list but not as the first, and specifically after at least one book that you probably haven't heard of, but that seems credible

3) they marked The Innovator's Dilemma (arguably the most well known book in the list) as "optional," leading one to perceive that the other books in the list that aren't marked as optional must be even better

Edit: evidence for Chris and Ryan's relationship... https://www.google.com/search?q=chris+johnson+ryan+holiday

And judging from Ryan's usual tactics, Chris wrote this list simply to push Ryan's book, which he cleverly included alongside clear classics like The Lean Startup, In The Plex, and The Innovator's Dilemma.

Trust Me, I'm Lying just might wind up as a classic itself! OK, I know it's controversial, as is the author, and I get why. But there's some solid stuff in that book. I learned a lot from reading it, and I think there's some actionable advice in there, even if you don't want to go quite as "underhanded" as Holiday may have on occasion.

Note: I have no relationship with Ryan Holiday whatsoever, beyond having purchased and read a copy of his book.

Well done, Ryan. Well done.

And I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for you meddling kids...

I didn't read it as implying that you are Ryan Holiday in disguise, but rather that your sticking up for his book is evidence of the success of his clever tricks.

Ryan Holiday is a genious in his own right. He somehow snuck into the personal circle of Robert Greene, Max Tucker, Tim Feriss. According to Neil Strauss (in an email on his personal newsletter), he was "in" with the former 3 just out of college, helping with research and marketing for Greene and Tucker, and being a guest speaker/organizer for a series of talks organized by Ferriss. I've found half a dozen guest posts by him on Ferriss's blog, including some very recent ones.

I guess if there's a thread connecting "hacker-ethos" self improvement authors, it's Ryan Holiday. I have quite some respect for him.

It's perfectly within reason to have respect for him. I have no reason to do otherwise and I actually think he's pretty clever.

I'd just note that being in the personal circles of talented authors is quite different from being a talented author yourself. The book may be good (I haven't read it) - I'm just pointing out that you should be cautious and consider that the hype surrounding the book is artificially inflated.

Hi everyone, I wish I was clever enough to have orchestrated all this, but in fact am not. Very nice of Chris to include me in his list.

Though I will say that this list is missing a few good books:

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

48 Laws of Power


The Fish That Ate the Whale



The Pirate's Dilemma

and I think PG's book of essays is worth reading for any founder as well

I appreciate your modesty Ryan, but one should consider that your book IS about manipulating the media. In fact, in the trailer for your book, you specifically detail how you can create buzz about an article or book (through these very means). Thus, this kind of planning is just par for the course for you.

I was skeptical about Ryan's book. He went after HARO using the stir up waters to catch fish strategy, but I respected him more after since the owner of HARO didn't deal with it well and he made valid criticisms. I ended up buying/reading the book after seeing James Altucher recommend it and I'm happy I did.

I highly recommend reading Trust Me I'm Lying if you're interested in getting any sort of press, especially for blogs. I haven't read a better book on that topic yet.

I also recommend his CreativeLive course which is more thorough.

I sure wish I was this clever.

Perhaps, but unlikely. And regardless, I know Ryan is.

Also, yes, I realize that bad press is good press and that this controversy will probably drive Ryan even more sales, just by virtue of the fact that more people are talking about his book than would have otherwise. And I don't really care either way, I'd just prefer that people be in the know.

So but for you, the folks that read Hacker News would have been fooled by my ruse.

You're being snarky, aren't you? No, wait, everyone here is snarky.

So is this hidden promotion for Holiday, or isn't it? It's not bad if it is, I meant to pick the book up anyways.

I was not really impressed by Ries' book. I don't feel I got much that was actually practical or useful out of it that I hadn't already gleaned from blogs or sites like HN. It seems more like a high level look at what "lean" is.

The book that continues to be the one that has given me the most practical value is "Start Small, Stay Small":


It is not a "classic" - twenty years from now some of it will look really dated, but right now it has got lots of great advice for someone trying to bootstrap a small business.

One bit of advice from someone who is very much a reader is that sometimes, yes, books can give you good advice, but you've got to take the time to go out and do as well. Lots of stuff you read won't completely make sense until you try and put it in practice.

I publish my own reviews here, although I just mix everything up, so they are not startup specific:


The Fremont one was fascinating - that guy really got around and happened to be in a number of right places at the right times.

And FYI - this was a list made for AEs to be able to talk to engineers more quickly and fluently.

Cool- I'll get those books.

YC maintains a pretty solid list: http://ycombinator.com/lib.html

It's a pretty large reading list though, would be nice to have a list of the top three to five.

Most of these are essays, which together would make up perhaps one of two books. Together with the 4 books listed in the books section of that page, I'd say you have a decent short list.

Good point:

IT depends on what you do. I made it for salespeople initially, based on books I'd become familiar with.

That is solid.

I look forward to giving some of these a crack! One I wanted to recommend though, which isn't on the list, is Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson. It had a big impact on me in the early days and had me thinking about minimal viable products (and businesses) before that was a thing of its own.

Thanks. It seems we will need to do a second post.

Just got this: http://www.builttosell.com/ by John Warrillow.

How did I hear of him? My copreneur and I were discussing the idea of giving shares to our sole employee as performance incentive. She didn't like the idea from the beginning and googled for "real" reasons. :-) She found John Warrillow. This podcast sobered me up a bit:


That's a pretty good book, although in some ways it recapitulates a lot of this one:


Here's my summary of Built to Sell, fwiw:


I liked Guy Kawasaki's "The Art of the Start" (http://www.amazon.com/Art-Start-Time-Tested-Battle-Hardened-...) because every time I picked it up, it motivated me to put it down and get back to work.

I am kind of surprised to see Steve Blank's "The Four Steps to the Epiphany" (http://www.amazon.com/Four-Steps-Epiphany-Steve-Blank/dp/098...) omitted. Is that one that everyone mentions, but nobody reads?

Steve's new book The Startup Owner's Manual being left off this list is criminal.

Haven't read it - but I bought it, thanks.

I would definitely, definitely recommend both The Four Steps To The Epiphany and The Art Of The Start to any founder. In fact, if I were making a list like this, those two would top the list.

Yeah, I liked a lot of books, I made this list based on what I was familiar with.

Personally I've also found that I like to mix a little psychology books into my business readings, here are a couple that I personally liked: Influence - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BD2UUC/ref=kinw_myk_ro_... and What every BODY is saying - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0010SKSTO/ref=docs-os-doi_...

> Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: Sarah Lacy |Link | The lessons are hidden. Between the lines, it’ it’s THE example of how the Valley press thinks. Read it as an observer, don’t take it at face value, but rather try and learn what Sarah is about.

This is a great recommendation not just for entrepreneurs, but for anyone wanting to learn what Sarah is about.

That's a overall very good list. My only problem with it, it's that, apart from ocasional ones, only has books that were published since 2011. Where are the classics? I don't think entrepreunership or leadership is something new and you can just learn from the new books.

I mostly agree, I was trying to keep it contemporary.

There is this weird catch 22 where I always hear this book or that book or this or that article is a "must read" for a startup founder. But on the flip side, I also have no time to read it.

I never really understood this mentality. I haven't met anywhere, whether it's a funded startup founder or the CEO of a Fortune 1k company, or a single parent with a full-time job, who doesn't have 20 minutes somewhere they can spend reading.

I can understand if the argument is that it's so far down the list of priorities that by the time you get to it you'd rather just go to sleep. I get that. But don't say you're too busy to do it, say it isn't enough of a priority.

As a matter of semantics, everyone has time.

But, as someone who sometimes reads the types of books recommended on this blog post, I've found they have usually been a worse use of my time than writing code.

So, "I don't have time for ___" could be rephrased as "there are better uses of my time than ___." And I think that's a reasonable point of view in this case.

OK, it isn't enough of a priority then. My main point was that if I were to read through the entire list provided, I am doing so at the opportunity cost of reading a book on Heterogeneous Computing or ZeroMQ or something.

I'm an avid reader... but for some people, reading non-fiction is not very good for relaxation. For entrepreneurs, time (especially relaxation time) is at a premium.

Try audiobooks. I use Audible.com, only $14 a month for 1 audiobook per month. The cost to buy the audiobook is almost always greater than $14 and unused credits roll over. I find audiobooks a great option for walking, the car, gym, subway, etc.

Reading 24 books seems like an awful lot of time committed to doing something other than actually making a product.

One of the books was marked optional, though, so there's that.

zing. (and yeah, you don't read the damn things cover to cover. Except for my bondage and my freedom.)

We homeschool and that was the one off the list I bought immediately for my kids.

the links seems to be down ... you can view the cached version here http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:6Msq9KS...

I was just looking for a good list like this. Thanks.

Transparent top bar is very annoying :(

@beambot Thanks for the list.

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