CZ’s Book Recommendations
It’s been 2 years since I last shared my recommended booklist and in that time a lot has happened in my life, in Binance’s growth and of course, the evolution of the crypto space.
I thought during this holiday season, it would be good for me to take a look at that initial list and update it for 2023 and beyond. These are all books that have contributed to my view of the world and in the shaping of my thinking models. I hope they will have the same positive impact on you.
The Law, by Frédéric Bastiat. This short (only 60+ pages) but timeless book by French essayist Bastiat from 1850 talks about what the law should be and should not be. What areas should be protected: person, property and freedom. And what areas should be left alone. It forms a fundamental view of the world and of what constitutes right and wrong.
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. An easy read. More than 60 years have passed since this book was first published, but there are few books that better encapsulate the inner workings of economics than this one. Again, this book shows how the economy should work, what governments should and should not do and why some of the common concepts we are being brainwashed with are actually fallacies.
2.1. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Is a similar book and a very good read.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. If you don’t understand humans, you are unlikely to be successful in this world. This book gives a unique and deep perspective of our history, how we got here, and why we act the way we do. It is essential for understanding how humans work, and thus essential for success.
The Hacker State: This is an easy-to-read security book. More like stories. Security is the most fundamental layer in our industry. If you don’t have security awareness, you will not be successful, and you should not be in crypto.
The Infinite Game, by Sinek. This book gives a perspective on long-term vision. It will broaden your horizons and views. There is a bigger picture out there that’s more meaningful. Why do some companies last a hundred years, and some struggle from invoice to invoice. Important reading for senior executives.
The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom. This book talks about decentralized organizations vs centralized ones. And why and how regulations won’t stop decentralized organizations. I really wish every regulator on the planet would read this book. Essential reading if you want an idea of how a decentralized organization should operate.
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. Excellent book about concise writing. Must read for everyone. We work remotely. You can only have 20 calls a day, but you write hundreds of messages. We communicate with 10s or 100s of millions of our users, with direct messages or on social media, mostly in writing.
Platform Revolution, by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary. A great book about platforms, how to build them, why they are important and impactful. If you want to be a business unit (BU) leader at Binance, this is a prerequisite.
The Advantage (REQUIRED for leaders) by Patrick Lencioni. Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. In the early days of Binance, we dedicated one offsite meeting to go through the exercises in this book. Many of this book's recommendations are imprinted on our leadership team, so you might want to read it too.
The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time. By: Jim McKelvey. Must read for BU leaders.
Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Rory Sutherland. This book addresses some of the counterintuitive points in life and business. Pretty interesting book. Must read for marketing teams.
Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale by Paul Smith. Learn how powerful a story is, and become a better salesperson, marketer and communicator. Must read for marketing teams.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. Must read for all product designers and marketers.
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath, Dan Heath. Great book on Marketing.
Team Topologies (REQUIRED for any leader) by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais. This book talks about organizing business and technology for fast flow. It also goes into detail about how organizational structures dictate system architectures. How different types of team structures work best for different types of systems or platforms. This book will help you understand some aspects of why Binance is structured the way we are.
Exponential Organizations: New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours (and What to Do About It) by Salim Ismail, Yuri van Geest, Michael S. Malone. A good book on organizations.
Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer. This book is a must-read for Marketing and Customer Service teams. It talks about how we should service our users, interact with them on social media, etc.
The New Rules of Marketing and PR: A must read for Marketing, Social, Content teams, and senior leadership. Why content is king. And why use social over mainstream media, and self-blog over social media.
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle. "At Binance, we promote freedom, but it tends to come with chaos too. This book illustrates how a less structured, seemingly chaotic organization can be highly effective. For this to work, we need high caliber people.
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World Hardcover, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. I believe every modern organization should be run like this. Top-down structures no longer work. Decisions should be made by people who understand the situation. Embed / exchange program. Information sharing to everyone. Eyes on, hands off.
Blitzscaling, by Reid Hoffman. People talk about Binance Blitzscaling, and it is true. We follow Reid Hoffman’s advice, and try to scale quickly. In addition to discussing scaling and growing in great detail, this book goes into detail on how organizations of different sizes work, as well as some of the implications when teams grow to different sizes. This is helpful as we chart our growth as an organization. It’s a fairly up-to-date book, which even talks about recent topics like cryptocurrencies.
Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore. We/cryptocurrencies have not crossed the chasm yet.This book helps you better understand what it takes to cross it.
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. From personal investing to building a long-lasting company, understanding what’s fragile and what’s not is important. We definitely want Binance to be antifragile. This book may explain the way we make some decisions.
Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. The title says it all. After reading this book, you will understand why we tolerate failures in Binance, and more importantly, what types of failures we do or don’t tolerate.
Work Rules!, by Laszlo Bock. This book talks about work-related insights derived from the author’s time at Google. There are lessons in this book that are good to know, especially at Binance as we also release product after product at a fast pace.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. While many books talk about specialization in an ultra-competitive world, 10,000 hours, etc, this book gives a different view to balance that argument. And how many great inventions happen at the intersection of disciplines.
The Sovereign Individual: Mastering the Transition to the Information Age. By: James Dale Davidson, Peter Thiel - preface, William Rees-Mogg. A book written 20 years ahead of its time, and fully accurate in its predictions.
The 5 Levels of Leadership (10th Anniversary Edition): Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential. By: John C. Maxwell. If you want to be a leader, this title should definitely be in in your library
High Output Management, by Andrew S. Grove. Classic management and leadership book.
The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations by Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, Jez Humble. This book explains how modern technology departments work. How to do continuous deployment of code and build high quality platforms. A must read for tech teams at Binance.
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier. If you are leading a team, or mentoring someone, you should read this book.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. Focus on the things that matter and schedule management.
Bet on Yourself: Recognize, Own, and Implement Breakthrough Opportunities, by Ann Hiatt. This book offers a view into how Amazon and Google operate from an executive assistant perspective. Also motivational for most people to do the best they can.
Culture Wins, by William Vanderbloemen. Excellent book about building culture. Must read for all Binancians.
The Leadership Pipeline 2E: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. By: Ram Charan, James Noel, Stephen Drotter. How to build leaders in a company.
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. By: Richard Rumelt. Learn what strategy means.
The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide To Influencing, Attracting And Winning People Over Paperback By: Jack Schafer. From a former FBI Special Agent specializing in behavior analysis and recruiting spies comes a handbook filled with his proven strategies on how to instantly read people and influence how they perceive you, so you can easily turn on the like switch.
The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business. Very applicable to us because we run a global team.
The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness. By: Morgan Housel. How to think about money and be happy.
Signals: How Everyday Signs Can Help Us Navigate the World's Turbulent Economy, by Dr Pippa Malmgren. Excellent book about the world in general.
Tracers in the Dark: The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency, by Andy Greenberg. Another title that features the work of our Head of Financial Crime Compliance, Tigran. This book reads like a Hollywood movie with a globe-spanning story of dirty cops, drug bazaars, trafficking rings, and the biggest takedown of an online narcotics market in the history of the Internet.
Biographies, Stories of Others
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. While we don’t want to follow everything in this book, Uber did face similar challenges in terms of unclear regulations, fast growth, etc. They took a far more aggressive approach to it, well, depending on your view. Regardless, this book is a great read.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose By : Tony Hsieh. Tony Hsieh - the widely admired CEO of Zappos, the online shoe retailer - explains how he created a unique culture and commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of employees, customers, vendors, and backers. Using anecdotes and stories from his own life experiences, and from other companies, Hsieh provides concrete ways that companies can achieve unprecedented success. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand-in-hand.
No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings, Erin Meyer. Key points: Talent Density, Candor, Give feedback.
Amazon Unbound, by Brad Stone. Detailed story of how Jeff went through some of the issues on his way to revolutionizing the world.
American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road. By: Nick Bilton. The story of the Silk Road. Fascinating read given the industry. Tigran from our investigations team played a role in this story.
Red Roulette: An Insider's Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption and Vengeance in Today's China. By: Desmond Shum. A first person narrative on how Chinese business environments work. This book is banned in China, I believe.
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State. By: Glenn Greenwald. The story about Edward Snowden.
The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America. By: James Bamford. Not sure how true this book is, but talks about the eavesdropping abilities of the government.
Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra F. Vogel. In depth history of the shaping of China.
Neither Civil nor Servant: The Philip Yeo Story. By: Peh Shing Huei. How Singapore was Built.
Warren Buffett: Inside the Ultimate Money Mind, by Robert G. Hagstrom. A story about Warren Buffett. Even though he doesn’t like crypto, there are many lessons to learn.
The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve. By: G. Edward Griffin.
Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America. By: Weijian Shan.
Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power. By: Bradley Hope, Justin Scheck.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram: Some interesting insights on the level of disclosure they had to go through to get the deal done, for antitrust reasons. All conversations had to be handed over. Their internal lawyers used to review them. Any mentioning of market share, competition, dominance, etc were reviewed. Also deep on the values and choices made. And some clashes in post M&A integration etc.
Fallen Dragon, by Peter Hamilton. This last one is a science fiction novel. It is about someone who sought out a treasure and ended up finding something more significant, as well as a variety of characters with compelling quests as well. I wouldn’t divulge too much, as I want you to enjoy the journey yourself. But I really like the suit and all the tech stuff in there. This is an old novel, but one of my all-time favorites.