Steve Jobs’ Reading List

Toward the end of his life, Steve Jobs was open to the idea of an afterlife. Not long after his untimely death, a Buddhist sect claimed that Jobs had been reincarnated as a “celestial warrior-philosopher living in a mystical glass palace hovering above his old office.”

If that’s true, perhaps in the moments that’s he’s not screaming “No! No! No!” to the awkward way Tim Cook has launched the iWatch, Jobs is wondering why more people aren’t reading the books he loves (or loved, as the case may be).

What strikes me most about Jobs’s list is that, unlike Bill Gates’s list, almost all the books are about a single individual overcoming enormous odds and obstacles in order to transform either the world, himself, or both. Sorta makes sense, eh?

1. 1984, by George Orwell

What it’s about: One man’s desperate struggle against an all-pervasive state that is committed to controlling people’s thoughts as well as their behaviors.

Fun factoid: The book inspired the famous Apple “1984” Super Bowl commercial that preannounced the Macintosh.

Best quote:  “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

2. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

What it’s about: A single individual brings the world to a halt by persuading the world’s innovators to withdraw from it.

Fun factoid: One of the last movies that Steve Jobs saw was the critically panned Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.

Best quote: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists … it is real … it is possible … it’s yours.”

3. Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda

What it’s about: The author, by describing his life experiences, attempts to explain the laws behind both the ordinary events and miracles alike.

Fun factoid: This was the only e-book found on Jobs’s personal iPad 2.

Best quote:

“You may control a mad elephant;
You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
Ride the lion and play with the cobra;
By alchemy you may learn your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito;
Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful;
You may walk in water and live in fire;
But control of the mind is better and more difficult.”

4. Be Here Now, by Baba Ram Dass

What it’s about: Describes the author’s spiritual transformation through yoga.

Fun factoid: Steve Jobs credited this book with getting him to try the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

Best quote: “The cosmic humor is that if you desire to move mountains and you continue to purify yourself, ultimately you will arrive at the place where you are able to move mountains. But in order to arrive at this position of power, you will have had to give up being he-who-wanted-to-move-mountains so that you can be he-who-put-the-mountain-there-in-the-first-place. The humor is that finally when you have the power to move the mountain, you are the person who placed it there–so there the mountain stays.”

5. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa

What it’s about: The book argues against the tendency to see spirituality as a form of self-improvement and that instead that liberation comes from the letting go of the self.

Fun factoid: Trungpa’s beliefs in reincarnation may have sparked the speculation that Jobs himself has been reincarnated.

Best quote: “If you are a warrior, decency means that you are not cheating anybody at all. You are not even about to cheat anybody. There is a sense of straightforwardness and simplicity. With setting-sun vision, or vision based on cowardice, straightforwardness is always a problem. If people have some story or news to tell somebody else, first of all they are either excited or disappointed. Then they begin to figure out how to tell their news. They develop a plan, which leads them completely away from simply telling it. By the time a person hears the news, it is not news at all, but opinion. It becomes a message of some kind, rather than fresh, straightforward news. Decency is the absence of strategy. It is of utmost importance to realize that the warrior’s approach should be simple-minded sometimes, very simple and straightforward. That makes it very beautiful: You having nothing up your sleeve; therefore a sense of genuineness comes through. That is decency.”

6. Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe

What it’s about: Rules for a healthy diet, along with many recipes for protein-rich meals that do not include meat.

Fun factoid: Jobs became a vegetarian after reading this book.

What it’s about: “We’re just a drop in the bucket, and that’s meaningless. But we say, ‘No, wait a minute. If you have a bucket, those raindrops fill it up very fast. Being a drop in the bucket is magnificent.’ The problem is we cannot see the bucket. Our work is helping people see that there is a bucket. There are all these people all over the world who are creating this bucket of hope. And so our drops are incredibly significant.”

7. Inside the Tornado, by Geoffrey A. Moore

What it’s about: This sequel to Moore’s masterwork Crossing the Chasm provides a road map for marketers who want to help innovators reach customers.

Fun factoid: Apple’s product release cycle is closely tied to Geoffrey Moore’s theory of early adopters as key to a technology’s eventual success.

Best quote: “After the better part of a century being content with letters, telegrams, and telephones, we have in the past 30 years adopted touchtone phones, direct-dial long distance, Federal Express, answering machines, fax machines, voice mail, email, and now internet addresses. In every case, until a certain mass was reached, we didn’t really need to convert. But as soon as it was, it became unacceptable not to participate. As members of a market, our behavior is invariable: We move as a herd, we mill and mill and mill around, and then all of a sudden we stampede.”

8. Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

What it’s about: The book describes the monomaniacal quest of Captain Ahab to revenge himself on Moby Dick, the albino sperm whale that had on a previous voyage destroyed Ahab’s ship and bit off his leg.

Fun factoid: In the book, the anti-hero Captain Ahab maniacally pursues his goal of killing the white whale. It’s not hard to draw a comparison between that and Jobs’s determination to out-invent and out-market the entire computer industry.

Best quote: “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

9. Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andrew S. Grove

What it’s about: Probably the best “Here’s how I did and you can too” book from a successful CEO. Unlike most such authors, Grove delves as deeply into his failures as his successes.

Fun factoid: Apple is the only PC company that has successfully migrated an operating system from one CPU architecture to another completely different architecture.

Best quote: “The sad news is, nobody owes you a career. Your career is literally your own business. You own it as a sole proprietor. You have one employee: yourself. You are in competition with millions of similar businesses: millions of other employees all over the world. You need to accept ownership of your career, your skills, and the timing of your moves. It is your responsibility to protect this personal business of yours from harm and to position it to benefit from changes in the environment. Nobody else can do that for you.”

10. The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen

What it’s about: The book presents the classic argument that technology no longer develops incrementally and instead is subject to regular “disruptions” that favor small, nimble companies and organizations.

Fun factoid: In 2014, Christensen believed that Jobs’s iconic products, the iPad and the iPhone, were ripe for disruption.

Best quote: “When faced with a disruptive technology, people and processes in a mainstream organization cannot be expected to allocate freely the critical financial and human resources needed to carve out a strong position in the small, emerging market. It is very difficult for a company whose cost structure is tailored to compete in high-end markets to be profitable in low-end markets as well. Creating an independent organization, with a cost structure honed to achieve profitability at the low margins characteristic of most disruptive technologies, is the only viable way for established firms to harness this principle.”

11. The Tao of Programming, by Geoffrey James

What it’s about: A collection of parables about computer programming based on the classics of Taoism.

Fun factoid: I put this on the list because Steve Jobs personally told me that he liked it. (Just so you know, I don’t make any money on this out-of-print book.)

Best quote:

“A manager went to the master programmer and showed him the requirements document for a new application. The manager asked the master: “How long will it take to design this system if I assign five programmers to it?”

“It will take one year,” said the master promptly.

“But we need this system immediately or even sooner! How long will it take if I assign 10 programmers to it?”

The master programmer frowned. “In that case, it will take two years.”

“And what if I assign a hundred programmers to it?”

The master programmer shrugged. “Then the design will never be completed.”

12. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki

What it’s about: It provides the basics of Zen and Zen meditation, including the method that Jobs himself used to center himself during difficult moments in his career.

Fun factoid: Prior to the publication of this book in 1970, Zen Buddhism was virtually unknown in the United States. As an early cultural icon who endorsed it, Steve Jobs definitely helped to popularize it.

Best quote: “Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: First let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”

— courtesy of

A smart truck feature

Safety Truck’: Back screens on trucks may pave way for safer overtaking (VIDEO)

Published time: June 16, 2015 20:07

Still from Youtube video by Leo Burnett

Still from Youtube video by Leo Burnett

The Korean tech-giant Samsung has created a ‘Safety Truck’ which aims to reduce crashes when drivers attempt to overtake long vehicles on one-way roads. The solution is quite straight-forward using cameras, wireless video feeds, and huge display screens.

The technology was inspired by the high incidence of traffic accidents in Argentina, where almost one person dies in a traffic accident every hour. Almost 80% of fatalities happen on roads and the majority involve attempts to overtake on one-way roads, according to Samsung’s estimates.

The Safety Truck is a bit different from its fellow gigantic vehicles – instead of obscuring most of the view, it actually shows the driver what’s going on ahead of the wheeled leviathan.

Cameras installed in the front of the long haul vehicle capture real time video of the road ahead and transmit it in real time via wireless feeds to four big screens on the back. The cameras also have a night vision setting to make drivers aware of their immediate surroundings.

The technology was developed in partnership with advertising company Leo Burnett and Argentinian tech group Ingematica.



Here’s one way to experience it from home—a 3D-rendered fly-through showing how the structure is put together. In this video, animator Cristóbal Vila shows us how Fallingwater emerges from the landscape and builds up, plus how cantilevering allows the house to rest on a very unusual foundation. Have a look (and skip to 0:40 if you don’t care for opening credits):

Fallingwater from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.


More options in the beginning stages of SmartGrid

Mercedes' home battery

Guess what, Tesla: you’re not the only car maker getting into the home battery game. Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a personal energy cell that, like Tesla’s Powerwall, uses giant batteries to store surplus power from your home’s solar panels and keep you off the conventional energy grid. The German firm is taking a more modular approach than its American counterpart, though. Each pack only holds 2.5kWh of electricity, but you can combine up to eight of them to hold 20kWh, or twice as much as a Powerwall. That potentially suits it to certain businesses, not just your own abode. Whatever you think of Mercedes’ pack, it may be your best hope of getting some clean energy storage in the near future. With Tesla’s unit already sold out through mid-2016, you may have little choice but to register for the Mercedes equivalent and wait until it ships in September.


Someone I Admire, and Why

There are parallels between what a person experiences in life, and what a society or civilization goes through. Many young people come to realize this as they experience “personal fable”, wherein they place major emphasis on their own personal life events, sometimes to the extent where personal issues carry the same (or more) weight as the macro issues covered in the world news media. About a decade ago, I wrote and self-published a novel that employed this concept of personal fable in an effort to engage the reader.

Researching and writing, I came to believe that a primary factor in the improvement of our circumstances will likely (I hope) be an intelligent re-engineering of the way our civilization is physically powered: to widespread, direct collection of the power of our Sun rather than the indirect collection of its energy from fossil fuels; and to a de-centralization of our power distribution system for increased reliability. I learned that author, speaker and Professor Jeremy Rifkin is actively involved in making this happen.

I applaud Jeremy Rifkin’s efforts to bring the world into what he calls the “Third Industrial Revolution”, in which electricity will be created in solar panels mounted on virtually all man-made structures, stored and exchanged in a “smart-grid” of power-transmission: an “internet of energy”, possibly using house and electric-car batteries as means to store surpluses. The de-centralization of a smart grid of energy producer-consumers will not only make society more robust, but will actually facilitate the return of sovereignty to individual people.

Jeremy Rifkin has been effective in influencing the policies of such nations as Germany (the most powerful economic force in Europe) and the People’s Republic of China (which is pretty big too). Both those countries are actively developing smart-grid technology with an eye to the near future when fossil fuels will no longer be an option.

I admire Jeremy Rifkin for the positive impact his personal effort is having on human civilization. Maybe what he is doing, now, is a constructive long-term transmutation of “personal fable”.

— Mark Frankenberg, May 2015