Friends’ books

I was so busy researching and writing Public Parts that I didn’t have time to give attention to some wonderful books written by friends. That’s such a sin because it’s such a privilege to have friends who write books, smart people who are so generous with their knowledge. So now that I’ve come up for air — just a gulp — from mine, here are books from folks I admire, some of which I’ve read, some I’ve dipped into, and some I’ll finally have the time to read.

* Micah Sifry’s WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency was invaluable for my writing of Public Parts. It is a brief but comprehensive survey of the importance of Wikileaks and the state of openness and transparency in government and society. Micah — with Andrew Rasiej, a leader of the Personal Democracy Forum — is tough on the current administration and its promises and delivery regarding openness. Highly readable, very authoritative, highly recommended.

* I love that Brooke Gladstone chose to tell the story of media’s influence as a work of graphic nonfiction. Figures she’s blaze trails. The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media is a creative, clever, clear, and concise (the alliteration is accidental, I assure you) guide to how media reached its place in society. She told me after finishing it that it was terribly hard work and she hopes not to do it again. But I hope she lies.

* Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy is his best so far because I think it captures his voice and is authenticity. I’m reminded of him at South by Southwest when he stood on stage and did nothing but converse with his public. That’s what he does here, giving his best and most direct and honest advice.

* I treasure arguing — not fighting, arguing — with some people. Siva Vaidhyanathan is atop that list. He challenges me and his book The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) is indeed a challenge to the ideas in my last book. We look at Google and the consequences of its size and success through different ends of the telescope. I wish we’d had the chance to debate the topic more often and I can’t wait to see what he turns to next.

* I wish I could be Steven Johnson when I grow up. He’s my idea of the great New York author even if — fink — he deserted Brooklyn for California. I love hearing him talk about his books almost as much as I love reading them. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (just coming out in paperback) is a wonderful account of creativity. I particularly enjoyed his contribution to the discussion of serendipity and its modern fate.

* It’s a crime of publishing that Heather Brooke’s The Revolution Will Be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War is not yet released in the U.S. Pssst–editors: go buy it. Heather is the brillliant journalist in the U.K. who caused the MP’s expense scandals to come out and who was on the forefront of the Wikileaks story. She is my patron saint of transparency. I’ve just begin to dig in — terribly regretful that it wasn’t out before I had to finish my book — after having it shipped over from London. I can’t wait to dig in.

* At a talk in Ottawa, I got to meet Canadian journalist Andrew Potter and then got a copy of his book, The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves. He examines an interesting angle on our current debates on real names and real identities: when are we authentic?

* While I was working on my book, Seth Godin didn’t just write a book, he started a new publishing imprint that is disrupting the publishing model: The Domino Project. They’re putting out a bunch of neat, small books — two by Seth already — and rethinking what drives books. More on this later.

* It would be impossibly brash of me to call Elizabeth Eisenstein a friend by including her in this list of friends’ books, but I’ll use this moment to recommend her latest, Divine Art, Infernal Machine. Eiseinstein is the premier Gutenberg scholar, author of The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Volumes 1 and 2 in One), which was utterly invaluable in my research and in shaping my thinking about the parallels between Gutenberg’s disruption and the internet’s. I wish I’d received her new book earlier but even as I edited the final drafts of my book, I was devouring her latest and inserting bits I learned. If you’re a Gutenberg geek, as I now am, you must read it.

* It would also be flip of me to call Richard Florida a friend, as we’ve met only on Twitter. But his latest, The Great Reset: How the Post-Crash Economy Will Change the Way We Live and Work, is right up the alley of the next project I want to work on and so I’m about to dive in.

* The brilliant Yochai Benkler taught so many of us about the disruptive economics of networks in The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Now he has a new (and thinner) book, The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest, which I downloaded to my Kindle just today. Eager to dive into this, too.

* I don’t know Marc Levinson, author of The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, but since I’m recommending books and since I just finished and was wowed by this one, I might as well throw a recommendation his way. As we look at the Senate going after Google for the nebulous sin of being too big, it’s so terribly instructive to look back at the demonization of success and size that hit A&P as America’s first chain store. Fascinating book.

* Finally, friend David Weinberg is still working on his next, Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room. It’s not out of galleys yet but I’ve been privileged to start tasting it and it’s — as I would expect — wonderful. More on that later.

To all these literary and literate friends, I apologize for the delay in linking to your good works and great generosity.

: Oops. Went to the bookstore today and found two more:

* Paulo Coelho’s Name Your Link is his latest novel. Paulo is amazingly generous with his readers — as he was with me, allowing him to interview him for my last book. A delightful gentleman.

* Sales guru and god Jeffrey Gitomer has Social BOOM!: How to Master Business Social Media to Brand Yourself, Sell Yourself, Sell Your Product, Dominate Your Industry Market, Save Your Butt, … and Grind Your Competition into the Dirt. We bonded over social media and its opportunities for business. He had me down to visit his staff and I included that in the new afterword for What Would Google Do?.