By Hector's Reading List

The books I've read in 2021 + some thoughts.

Napoleon the Great

Andrew Roberts

£18.98 £18.03

Gripping. Quite the story! Napoleon was a remarkable character; flawed (aren’t we all) but remarkable.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose

Tony Hsieh

£7.99 £7.59

Lots of great lessons: It all comes down to happiness. It’s easy to get caught in the weeds when building a startup culture but Tony teaches that whether dealing with customers or employees, it’s simply about spreading happiness. Lovely.

A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner

Chris Atkins

£8.99 £8.54

The diaries from the author’s stint in HMP Wandsworth. Fascinating. A useful reminder that in prison, like life, it’s the disadvantaged who get hit the hardest.

The Making Of The Atomic Bomb

Richard Rhodes

£16.98 £16.13

A story of incredible depth. The breathless discoveries of the early 20th century, to the immense efforts of the Manhatten project, and ultimately the harrowing accounts of Hiroshima and Nagaski. A lot to ponder. Not a light read- slogging through science is hard work- but well worth it.

The Order of Time

Carlo Rovelli

£10.99 £10.44

Much to grapple with: There’s no such thing as the present state of the Universe. Present to who? It’s all relative. In fact time is just our blurred perception of reality. The universal passing of time does not exist. I could do with some time to digest.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

William Zinsser


The advantage of books on writing is that they tend to be well written. I’ll miss Zinsser’s soothing tones. A pleasure.

The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

Noam Wasserman


“Control or wealth?”; that’s what it comes down to. It reminds me of Seth Godin’s fantastic (and short) blog post on trade-offs:

My Experiments with Truth

Mohandas K. Gandhi


A wonderfully revealing book. Gandhi was simply a fantastic person; selfless to the extreme. It’s fascinating to see the similarities with Mandela’s story. Both lawyers who made their name fighting for equality in South Africa and went on to be amongst the twentieth century’s loftiest icons. It’s an interesting lesson that it’s the darkest times that produce the brightest lights.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life

Jordan Ellenberg

£12.99 £12.34

F**king loved it. So much good stuff in there. The numbers around us a far more complex than we appreciate. Combine that with human’s lack of natural aptitude for statistics and you get trouble. One to miss if numbers aren’t your thing!

The Life-Changing Magic of Numbers

Bobby Seagull

£12.99 £12.34

I love numbers- always have. This book was, therefore, a delight. It’s an immensely uplifting read and he comes across as a good person- if a little cheesy at times!

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

£12.99 £12.34

Not the lightest read. It gets easier as you go and the content is profound. One review puts DK in the same league as Copernicus and Darwin for impact on humanity. I agree. Until he came along we were assumed to be rational. How wrong that was.

Business for Punks: Break All the Rules - the BrewDog Way

James Watt

£10.99 £10.44

The Brewdog story. These guys smashed it. There’s such a lack of authenticity in the business world and yet they have it in bucket loads. Lots of wonderful takeaways.

A Book About Innocent: Our story and some things we've learned


£18.98 £18.03

The best of the British brands along with Brewdog. Both are overflowing with personality. Innocent’s gems include knitting wooly hats for their bottles and covering their vans in grass. Simple but brilliant.

Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

£9.99 £9.49

A wonderful case for working less. It covers everything from the power of naps to taking a sabbatical. A timely reminder to drink my own medicine. I spend a remarkable amount of time online for someone running a digital detox startup.

The Way Home: Tales from a life without technology

Mark Boyle

£9.99 £9.49

Beautiful. A memoir of Boyle’s year offline in 2018. He moved to a cabin in rural Ireland and cut off from the digital world. And the world didn’t end- who’d have thought it? Hats off to him, I can see the appeal…

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist

Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

£37.99 £36.09

Very technical- probably one to skip if you don’t plan on raising money any time soon. Although I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Who Owns England?: How We Lost Our Land and How to Take it Back

Guy Shrubsole

£9.99 £9.49

I thought I’d get the lay of the land so to speak. Interesting but not a must read.

Thinking In Bets

Annie Duke

£13.99 £13.29

Life is poker not chess. Indeed, Annie. Good decisions can lead to bad outcomes, and bad decisions can lead to good outcomes. Learn to spot the difference. A great lens through which to view the world.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Malcolm Gladwell

£10.99 £10.44

A wonderful lens for the world around us.

A World Without Email: Find Focus and Transform the Way You Work Forever (from the NYT bestselling productivity expert)

Cal Newport

£14.99 £14.24

Wouldn’t that be nice. More along the lines of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism but a great read none the lesson. The basic premise is the email / notification centric way we work is a shocker for our happiness and productivity. I agree. I’m also as guilty as the next. One to work on.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Ben Horowitz

£20.00 £19.00

Re-read this- perhaps the greatest book on startups ever written. Horowitz is a genius. So candid and so enlightening. Couldn’t recommend more highly to anyone involved with a startup.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Ten Ways to Find Happiness and Meaning in Life

Jonathan Haidt

£10.99 £10.44

A wonderful book. Remarkable considering it was written in 2006- well before the current crusade for happiness began. Haidt’s ideas have aged well and the book provides a great holistic guide on happiness. Enjoyed it.


Adrian Goldsworthy and Dr Adrian Goldsworthy Ltd

£14.99 £14.24

Thrilling. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. It’s a remarkable insight into the world of the Romans and perhaps history’s most iconic figure. It’s been a while since I’ve read a non-fiction book as difficult to put down.

Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

Bill Carr and Colin Bryar

£20.00 £19.00

Insights from Amazon. Say what you want about them, but they know how to get it done. They’ve built a frighteningly efficient system whilst keeping it simple. Obsession with customers, long term thinking- you’ve heard it all before. However, this book reveals the processes that have come of this single mindedness, and it’s quite something. Well worth a read.

The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World

Amanda Little

£10.99 £10.44

Wonderful. Feeding 7-8 billion in way that doesn’t destroy the planet is just about the biggest challenge of our time. Food supply is a mess. But there are some wonderful rescue mission underway. From vertical farming to desalinating the oceans, this book is as a good holistic look at the future of food as I’ve seen anywhere. Highly recommended.

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Ultimate Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

W Timothy Gallwey

£10.99 £10.44

Not really a book about tennis. Which is a shame because I picked it up after a woeful performance on a tennis court. Really it’s about peak performance in anything, and cultivating a state of non-judgemental awareness. Powerful stuff- I’ll keep you posted on how it translates to my tennis.

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

Adam Grant

£20.00 £19.00

I got the impression he had a great time writing this. The ideas are brilliant and it’s a fun read. Overcoming one’s convictions is such an important yet difficult skill. This book is certainly a step in the right direction towards achieving it.

Genghis Khan: And the Making of the Modern World

Jack Weatherford

£14.99 £14.24

Wild. Such an incredible story. I was a little surprised when Genghis Khan died half way through the book but what came next was just as stunning. The Mongols have gone down as history’s barbarians. But this is unfair on so many levels. Nobody has had anywhere near the impact on today’s global culture as the Mongols and their great Khan. Their empire catalysed everything from modern day China to the European Renaissance. A true pleasure to read. I shall miss it.

The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant f

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne


I have been meaning to read a book on Bayes Theorem for sometime- was not disappointed. It’s more of a philosophy than a Mathematical theorem- the world is uncertain, we must act accordingly.

The Star Principle: How it can make you rich

Richard Koch

£10.99 £10.44

Find a rapidly growing niche and become the leader in it. Nice and simple. A fun read- not dissimilar to Play Bigger both interesting perspectives on category creation.


James Gleick

£10.99 £10.44

The emerging science of chaos. Over my head in parts but a glimpse at just how little me still understand about the world around us. There is order in chaos; a profound idea.

In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating

Michael Pollan

£10.99 £10.44

“Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” simple. Michael Pollan was well ahead of the game with this book. A pleasure to read.

Why the Germans Do it Better: Notes from a Grown-Up Country

John (Editor) Kampfner

£16.98 £16.13

I have always wondered. What really stands out is how they own their mistakes of the past like no one else. The horrors of the Second World War are drilled into their school children so nothing similar could ever happen again. I don’t remember learning about any of the British’s shortcomings at school.

Backable: The surprising truth behind what makes people take a chance on you

Carlye Adler and Suneel Gupta

£14.99 £14.24

A book about what makes someone backable- a trait I could do with cultivating. Lots of good insight and Gupta also comes across as humble which improves the reading experience in my opinion. A fun read.

The Science of Self-Discipline: The Willpower, Mental Toughness, and Self-Control to Resist Temptation and Achieve Your Goals

Peter Hollins


I had written off discipline as a waste of time (don’t ask) but of course there is a place for it. This book gives a thorough run through how to think about it.

Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Fall of WeWork: A Sunday Times Book of the Year

Reeves Wiedeman

£20.00 £19.00

The WeWork story- wild. Such a thrill to read. Also, a super interesting case study (and cautionary tale) for us at Unplugged. Thoroughly enjoyed.

The Five Temptations of a CEO - A Leadership Fable 10th Anniversary Edition

PM Lencioni

£20.00 £19.00

Recommended to me by a been there and done it entrepreneur. A very easy, read. It’s all about being vulnerable.I shall turn to this again as we grow.

Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors

Adrian Goldsworthy

£12.00 £11.40

The story of Alexander the Great and his father Philip. I find it fascinating why we’re still talking about people over two thousand years later. (more intellectual curiosity than egotistical drive to reciprocate. I hope.) It’s a wild story. A wonderful lesson in human nature. More was never enough for Alexander, and it drove him to early grave. Yet, just this week my sister, Freya, recommended a Greek restaurant called “Alexander the Great” to me, and here we are talking to him today. Perhaps, to him, the early grave was worth it.

Rewriting the Rules: An Anti Self-Help Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships

Meg John Barker


How imagination can solve the world’s problem. A lovely book. I agree with much of what Hopkins says. Imagination is stifled today. Between chronic stress, phone addiction, and a rigid education system, there’s little room for magic. I’ll certainly be pondering how to leave room for imagination in my own day to day.

From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want

Rob Hopkins

£10.99 £10.44

A book on sex and relationships, an area that historically hasn’t been straightforward for me. Certainly not a must read but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Flow: The Psychology of Happiness

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

£14.99 £14.24

Such a joy to read. I’m familiar with the concept of flow and so thought this book had nothing for me. I was wrong. A wonderful view on happiness and living a life meaningful.

Amazon Unbound

Brad Stone

£20.00 £19.00

Wild. The sequel to The Everything Store- the Amazon story up to 2015. This is what came next. I find Amazon and Bezos deeply fascinating. Controversial, sure. But fascinating nonetheless.

But You Did Not Come Back

Marceline Loridan-Ivens

£8.99 £8.54

Incredibly humbling. Loridan-Ivens survived Auschwitz and wrote this book 70 years later, to her father that didn’t. “Haunting and Beautiful” it says on the cover. I don’t have anything to add to that. Highly recommended.

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel

£9.99 £9.49

Wonderful. It’s been a while since I’ve read fiction- you forget just how gripping a good novel can be. Struggled to put it down. Written in 2014 it’s a story about a global pandemic and what happened next. My twin sister recommended it. She spent the pandemic on an island off the coast of Mozambique. This book was in the library with a note inside: “If there ever is a global pandemic, this is where I’d want to spend it.” Funny old world we live in! Apart from the deeply improbable premise it’s a fantastic book. Very clever.

The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life's Perfection

Michael A. Singer

£10.99 £10.44

Wild. Michael Singer went deep with meditation as a young man and move to a cabin in woods. He lived there for the next 40 years and accidentally built a Billion dollar software company along the way. Magical things happen when you surrender to the flow of life. A crazy story. He makes a compelling case.

Do Team: How To Get The Best From Everyone

Charlie Gladstone

£9.99 £9.49

I hadn’t heard of the “Do” books a month ago and now I see them everywhere. An enjoyable read- good for thought. People are indeed everything. ✌️

Augustus: From Revolutionary to Emperor

Adrian Goldsworthy and Dr Adrian Goldsworthy Ltd

£10.99 £10.44

Wonderful. The first emperor of Rome. Not a must read but if you’ve read Caesar then I’d highly recommend. This is what happened next. Augustus learnt from Julius Caesar’s mistakes. The result is an impressive 40 years ruling the Roman Empire, and death by natural causes- a rare thing for the time. Then again he didn’t get a Shakespeare play named after him. So who’s to say who’d be happier. It all depends what you’re optimising for.


Andy Warhol

£2.00 £1.90

Warhol on love, beauty, and fame. A quick and amusing read. I find genuine humility so endearing in writing and AW has it in spades. Bravo.

Good To Great

Jim Collins

£22.99 £21.84

A classic. First time I’ve read it. TLDR- be humble and ferocious at the same time. He makes a compelling case. Hubris really is a company killer.

The Secret History: From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt

£9.99 £9.49

What a book. Wonderful characters, beautiful written, and utterly gripping. I could barely put it down. I don’t read much fiction but get so much joy when I do. Truly a modern classic.

Tiger Woods: Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2018

Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

£10.99 £10.44

Thrilling. Such a crazy story. It’s a good reminder that everything in life is a tradeoff. Wood’s achieved dizzying success but at what cost?

Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Legendary CEO

£18.98 £18.03

Wisdom from Nintendo’s former CEO. A humble and amusing character.

A User's Manual for the Human Body: How Traditional Chinese Medicine helps the body to heal itself

Alex Wu

£13.99 £13.29

A primer on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Very interesting. I’m sold.

Time Off: A Practical Guide to Building Your Rest Ethic and Finding Success Without the Stress

John Fitch, Max Frenzel, et al.


A wonderfully researched book. I thought I’d get some last minute revision in before my time off next week. Did not regret it. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Beautifully put together and the subject matter is bang on.

Girl, Woman, Other: WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019

Bernardine Evaristo

£9.99 £9.49

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Evaristo has a very unique style of writing that appeals greatly to a recovering dyslexic such as myself. I read this after my mother pointed out the lack of diversity in my selection of authors (thanks Ma!) Eye opening.

Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food (Revised Edition)

Jan Chozen Bays

£13.99 £13.29

For years I’ve eaten too fast. So fast that as to draw comment from my dining companions. At 27 it’s time to solve that. This book is a great first step. If we happen to eat together in the future please remind me to properly chew my food. Thanks in advance!

Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched Spacex

Eric Berger

£20.00 £19.00

Yes. What a book. A story of the early days of Space X, Elon Musk’s rocket company. Thrilling. Love or hate Elon (big fan personally) you can’t deny he can make things happen. This is quite the startup story.

The Salt Path: The 85-Week Sunday Times Bestseller from the Million-Copy Bestselling Author

Raynor Winn

£9.99 £9.49

Inspired to read this after my Cornwall trip. A true story. Ray & Moth lose their house with Moth terminally ill. They decide to walk the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path. The experience transforms them. Inspiring stuff.

Hit Refresh: A Memoir by Microsoft's CEO

Satya Nadella

£9.99 £9.49

The memoir of Microsoft’s CEO. Not an easy task but he seems to be doing a great job. Super humble guy. He comes across well.


Hermann Hesse


A wonderful story. I get the impression one might come to a different conclusion each time they read it. The narrative is a rolling examination of what is meaningful: why we strive. The conclusion I took is that we have everything we need. All the joy and wisdom in the world is around us right now. The difficulty is stopping to see it.

Courage Is Calling: Fortune Favours the Brave

Ryan Holiday

£14.99 £14.24

Such a fantastic book. I’m a big fan of RH’s writing. Virtue is a bit of an unfashionable word nowadays but there’s a reason it has been so revered over the centuries. A virtuous life is a life well lived. It is also available to us all.

The Midnight Library: The No.1 Sunday Times bestseller and worldwide phenomenon

Matt Haig

£8.99 £8.54

A wonderful book. What would happen if we could go back and address our regrets? if we could make a different choice. The grass is always greener. This book highlights that brilliantly and is a beautiful lesson in appreciating what we have.

Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

Howard Schultz

£14.99 £14.24

The Starbucks story. Quite the ride. Today Starbucks seems synonymous with consumerism but behind the scenes they are rather remarkable. They’re pioneers in many areas. Much to be admired.

Heart of Darkness: And Youth

Joseph Conrad

£5.99 £5.69

Dark indeed. Fiction but loosely based on Conrad’s own experiences in colonial Africa. Harrowing in parts but a masterfully written book.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King

Stephen King

£10.99 £10.44

Books on writing are really books on life. This one is no different. King comes across wonderfully. A highly amusing character. A fantastic read.

The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data

David Spiegelhalter

£10.99 £10.44

A thorough guide on statistics & probability. I could have saved myself a few resits if I’d read this during my Maths & Stats degree. Then again, who am I kidding, I wouldn’t have read it. Surprisingly digestible. Certainly not a must read. Especially if you’re not a numbers fan.

Do Disrupt: Change The Status Quo. Or Become It.

Mark Shayler

£8.99 £8.54

Do things differently. I certainly feel the pull towards uniformity running a business. Pro-active effort must be made in the other direction.

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Michael A. Singer

£14.99 £14.24

Life is hard but it doesn’t have to be. There is a lot to be said for caring less and going with the flow. Lots to ponder.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Michael Lewis


So good. Conventional wisdom is not so wise. Loved the film and the book is even better. Highly recommended.

Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader's Guide to the Real World

Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall


An astute view of the working world. Lots of counter intuitive ideas. They make a compelling case.

Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture

Sudhir Hazareesingh


Thrilling. Toussaint was a genius. Every bit as impressive as Europe’s giants: Napoleon and Caesar, and fighting for a far nobler cause. Inspiring stuff.

Leadership in Turbulent Times: Lessons from the Presidents

Doris Kearns Goodwin

£10.99 £10.44

So good. Following the life of Abe Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, and Lyndon Johnson. Four remarkable, and very different characters. Between them they suffered terrible setbacks. But they persevered. Timely.

Liar's Poker: From the author of the Big Short

Michael Lewis

£10.99 £10.44

So good. Lewis wrote this off the back of 5 years as a graduate investment banker at Salomon Brothers in the 80s. It’s a hilarious exposé about the reckless culture. It all came crashing down. Or so he thought…

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis

£10.99 £10.44

The crash Lewis predicted in 1989 did not come. Instead the bad behaviour compound for another 18 years. In 2007 the house of cards came tumbling down. This book follows the people who saw it coming. Completely brilliant. He wrote this 21 years after Liar’s Poker.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Patrick Radden Keefe

£20.00 £19.00

Crazy. The true story behind the Sackler family and their greed spawning the opiod crisis that has ravaged the US for the last three decades. Such a great book. A glimpse behind the curtain of how society functions.

Power Play: Elon Musk, Tesla, and the Bet of the Century

Tim Higgins

£20.00 £19.00

The Tesla story. What a story it is. Musk at his best and worst. The guy is a genius. It’ll be fascinating to see what happens next.

Do Purpose: Why Brands with A Purpose Do Better and Matter More

David Hieatt

£9.99 £9.49

Short and great. Hieatt is wonderful writer. It, of course, is all about people.

The Eighth Life: (for Brilka) The International Bestseller

Nino Haratischvili

£9.99 £9.49

Incredible. A story of a family in 20th century Georgia. Six generations across two World Wars and the Cold War. Fiction but a beautiful insight into life in the Soviet Union. Such a wonderful book. Although be warned: it’s very long. Even so, I couldn’t recommend more highly.

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