I’ve known climate change as a political issue ever since I was in middle school (partially because I went to middle school in the very liberal enclave of Boulder, Colorado). But seeing climate change through the lens of technologic and economic opportunity has been a recent discovery. Bill Gates’s book gives a solid and digestible overview of the major problems that need to be solved in the space and some difficult yet doable solutions. The reality of climate change is dreary, but this book gives a lot of possible, positive changes to look towards instead.

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The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest fantasy novels of modern times. I’ve been familiar with Tolkien’s fantasy world for years after watching Peter Jackson’s films and having read The Hobbit in middle school. And while I had this book on my shelf for close to 10 years, I didn’t have the chance to properly read this book until last year. Each of the 1100 pages of this book is so richly detailed and beautifully written, and Tolkien’s ability to communicate geography, culture, adventure, drama, and more through his words is incredible. There were parts where the story was sedate, but ultimately, this was a worthwhile read and engrossing story.

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Brad Stone has become the go-to-author on Amazon and Jeff Bezos. In this book, he provides a nuanced look at the company, its CEO, and Bezos’ other ventures. What makes this story particularly interesting is how it was written in the time after Amazon had become well-established and financially successful. As a result, the book covers the recent period of Amazon’s history that saw it become one of the most valuable and influential companies in the world. One critique I have is that the book often reads like a long news summary. There were places where there was excess minutia details, and it would have been nice for Stone to intrude more of his personal thoughts. Still, this was a very insightful read and solid business book.

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This was the one book from Structured Liberal Education (SLE) (a freshman year academic program) that I had never finished. So I was quite pleased to get through it before my time as an undergrad was over. The book is dense, and frankly, I’m not sure how much of it I could have followed without reading its Wiki summary. Yet I most enjoyed about the book was Woolf’s rich writing style. The descriptor words, the allusions, and the imagery all made for a great read and mental exercise in English writing. The novel is even more impressive given that its robust story relies on very little dialogue. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get a better sense and more practice with Modernist writing. But it may not be the fastest-paced book you encounter.

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Ever the contrarian, the entrepreneur/investor Peter Thiel is a complicated figure even by Silicon Valley’s standards. Regardless, following his successful leadership of PayPal and angel investment in Facebook, Mr. Thiel has a dedicated following of people who pay close attention to his thoughts on entrepreneurship and investing. In this short yet sharp book, Mr. Thiel gives his take on the qualities needed to create a successful business (which at its core must always “create value”) and beliefs on human progress in the 21st Century. The book definitely offers a rosier outlook for humankind’s inventions and developments for the future, but at the same time illustrates notable examples of how our nature can destroy such advancements.

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One of the beautiful qualities of our globalized society today is the ability to see and subscribe to whatever philosophies we as individuals come across and believe make sense. For myself, one of the most influential (and incredible) individuals on my business attitude is the venture capitalist Tim Draper. Tim comes from an era of Silicon Valley many in my generation don’t even know about, when there was a certain grit to entrepreneurs who are now softened by incredible wealth and prestige. In this book, which serves as part guide/part autobiography, Tim gives his advice and insight into the world he knows best of entrepreneurship, innovation and building out crazy ideas. Simultaneously, he harks back to an era of innovation in the world many a young entrepreneur wish to replicate today.

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