Originally posted on Mike Goodrich’s LinkedIn page

Ever since reading James B. Stewart’s Den of Thieves, I have enjoyed books with good business narratives. Arguably, reading about real-life greed, boardroom antics, corporate in-fighting, executive arrogance and the like on full display provides lessons that are useful in your particular business career. In reality, I find them good and intriguing tales. Companies flush with investor capital creates epically disastrous narratives, so maybe these provide poignant lessons, applicable in the day-to-day life of an average business person. Or maybe I just like tales of palace intrigue and love the fact that truth is often better than fiction.

These three books in particular were fun reads last year:

small dog lounging on patio.

The Good:

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

Everyone is fascinated with Steve Jobs, the prickly business person who was able to build a colossal empire at Apple. One of the questions that Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs continually comes back to is, essentially: did Jobs have to be such a jerk?

The correlating question – and do you have to be a jerk to get ahead? – is a theme that runs through these narratives more often than not. Robert Iger, however, is not that type of person. Though I’m sure his memoir is written from a biased perspective, he comes across as a good guy who works hard. If you look at all that Disney has accomplished since Michael Eisner left in the 1990s, you can see Iger’s hard work pay off. He had to make tough decisions, but he always tried to do so with respect. And he also has some good Steve Jobs stories.

Note: Gidget (pictured above) is a good girl. Unlike other Goodrich animals, she likes her human family and tries to do good. Accordingly, we show her favoritism, inconsistent rule enforcement, and other parental behaviors that work great for dogs and terribly for children.

dog wearing a santa hat that says "naughty"

The Bad:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Elizabeth Holmes is a psychopath. At least, that was my impression of her after reading this book. Not only is she a psychopath, the fact that she was able to pull people into her orbit and use them to her advantage is phenomenally frightening. Both the building-up and the unraveling of Holmes’ company, Theranos, as told by John Carreyrou is a fascinating tale and an interesting read …about a psychopath.

Note: Amos (pictured above) is a bad dog. He likes to eat food off the counter, cookies for Santa off the mantle, and other destructive behavior. Worse, when called on his behavior he, ignores his human owners. He is more horse than dog. He and Elizabeth Holmes are bad.

black cat with a white spot on its mouth.

The Ugly:

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac

Five years ago in New York City, you took a taxi. In Birmingham, you just drove, regardless of your condition. Today, you Uber. The rapid rise of Uber is quite a sight to behold. I cannot think of another industry like the taxi industry that was so quickly disrupted. But behind the rise was the fraternity-like culture that Travis Kalanick created.

Super Pumped is a great story about the rise and fall of Travis Kalanick and how it left the shareholders, employees, drivers, and an industry in the lurch. Wild parties, dubious ethics, and flat out crossing the line of legality both propelled but ultimately destroyed Uber. 

Note: This is my family’s cat, Mojo. I do not like cats; I was overruled. Mojo may or may not be ugly, but the only thing I can do about a family cat is be super passive-aggressive.

Note: 2019 refers to year when I read these books, not the year of publication.