Book A Month: Philosophy and Google

The Consolations of Philosophy

Since I was able to finish up the Elon Musk biography halfway through January, I ended up starting and finishing The Consolations of Philosophy by Alan de Botton earlier than I thought I would. My experience with philosophy has been limited to hearing bits and pieces here and there throughout my life with no formal learning. Those bits and pieces are how I look at the world and how others’ points of view has influenced that. With that foundation in place, this book is the perfect next baby step into the scary world of philosophy.

In high school I had the option of taking philosophy but I opted for psychology mainly because I was worried with how hard it sounded. What de Botton does in his book is he takes six general concerns of life (unpopularity, not having enough money, etc.) and provides a helpful perspective by exploring how a famous philosopher tackled the concern. He does this by giving a back story on say Seneca and walks you through his knowledge until you get to the topic at hand. In doing it this way, it is easier to understand the lines of thinking, making it less intimidating.

If you are in the same boat I was in with having a limited exposure to philosophy, I would recommend you check out this book. It’s not perfect and there may be another book out there that would have connected with me better but that’s the hard thing about philosophy. For the first four sections, I didn’t particularly need consolation for them but as the book began to end I connected with a couple topics. So depending on where you are with your life you might connect with all of them or none of them. Regardless, the book is written well and I’m glad I read it. Last thing, while it was nice to have pictures on every other page, more than half of them were completely unnecessary.

How Google Works

With the entire month of February ahead of me, I picked up How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg.

This book offers an interesting look into (you guessed it) how Google works and more specifically, how it became such a successful company. The way that Eric, Jonathan, Larry and Sergey lead the company and approached obstacles and projects differently is the main driver of this business book. I say business book because it is not what I thought it was, a biography of how Google came to be. That isn’t to say it’s a dense, textbook read but it wasn’t like the Elon Musk book. Once I got past that disappointing realization, it was an interesting and thought provoking read. Don’t worry if you aren’t technically minded, they do a good job of teaching you what, say an API is and how it relates to the story and lesson.

Two things left me with a bad taste in my mouth after finishing it, however. The first being, there are a couple callouts (one using the employee’s name and the others not) that physically made me cringe while painfully reading through it. I was too busy trying to get past the section that I don’t remember what the callout was exactly but I think what happened is they were trying to make a joke (this book is full of them) but instead of being funny it comes off as very awkward. The other part that didn’t sit well with me was I would read a section on how unique and innovative their approach is and then on the next page there would be an extremely typical corporate-based approach. There’s nothing wrong with that tactic per se but it’s uncharacteristic and I’m surprised they hadn’t rethought the approach. It’s also made worse for me since I don’t plan on working at a typical corporation for any long period of time.

Excluding those two items, if you are an entrepreneur/business/technically minded person, give this book a go.

For March I am reading When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I watched Freakonomics on Netflix and knew I had to read this, which is a collection of blog posts from their Freakonomics blog.

Talk to you when April rolls around,



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