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2023 Year in Review

Ranking the 47 books I read this year plus some reflections on TikTok and Blockchain.
2023 Year in Review

In 2023 I read 47 books, despite it being one of the busiest years of my life. While this doesnt come close to last year’s high water mark of 60, it’s still almost a book a week. This year I juggled a promotion to Professional Staff Member, my MBA program at full throttle, and my personal life which included things like ByteLeg, reading, and my family.

Instead of pushing myself to finish every book I started, I dropped a lot of books part of the way through. I also focused on quality over quantity, taking on longer reads like the 1,344 page Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York instead of churning through forgettable 200-page business books.

What's Next:

  • Book Awards
  • Tier List ranking everything I read this year
  • Highlights from work, especially the TikTok CEO hearing and my work on blockchain

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Book Awards

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Best of 2023 - The Power Broker

While the Power Broker wins my book of the year, it’s not a book I recommend. This 1,200+ page behemoth is famously difficult to complete. Those who manage to slog their way through it often display the iconic white and red book prominently on their bookshelves as a sign of triumph.

The Power Broker is a biography about Robert Moses, a New York bureaucrat and politico who accumulated an incredible amount of power despite not being elected by the voters. Moses was the shadow-mayor of NYC for decades, and Robert Caro covers every chapter of his life in painstaking detail.

This book is a classic ‘just wait until you get to the good part.’ After more than 800 pages of build up, the book has some of the craziest abuses of power, corruption, and political drama I have ever read. For me, the first 800 pages were a slog, while the last 500 were page turners. I cant find anything confirming this, but the plot of the 2022's ‘The Batman’ is basically the final third of this book plus a superhero.

This book took months to finish because there is so much detail. One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read, I’m proud to be able to display it on my bookshelf.

Most Applicable - Smart Brevity

Smart Brevity is a must read - it’s short, to the point, and can be immediately applied. Writing for the internet is different than writing for print, and few people adjust their style accordingly. This will be a book I re-read every few years to ensure my writing doesnt get lazy.

Best Tech Book - The Metaverse

In the Metaverse, Matthew Ball’s analyzes the past, synthesizes trends we observe today, and predicts the future. Today, when people use the term ‘the metaverse’ no one really knows what they mean.

The Metaverse is a category defining book and roadmap of the future. As the internet becomes increasingly intertwined with our lives, the digital realm will become more and more important. Ball helps us understand where the digital realm is going, so that we can better understand the trends we see around us today.

Biggest Surprise - Burn Rate

I didnt know anything about Burn Rate when I started it - I was in for a wild ride. Written in the first-perspective by Andy Dunn, the co-founder of menswear brand Bonobos, this book is a roller-coaster that gives the read insight into what living with bipolar disorder is like. While the parts of the book which focused on how they built the business were interesting, the parts where Dunn gives first-hand accounts of slipping into mania are gripping.

I highly recommend the audiobook version of Burn Rate.

Worst Book - Going Infinite

For those who have kept up with ByteLeg this year, this shouldnt be a surprise. Michael Lewis’ most recent book is one of the worst books I have read in a long time. Not because Lewis is a bad writer, but because he is an excellent writer who decided to become a propagandist. This book made me mad enough to read it twice, dissect each page, and publish a review highlighting all of the inaccuracies, misleading statements, or omitted facts.

Read the full article below:

SBF Propaganda: A ‘Going Infinite’ Book Review
I read ‘Going Infinite’ by Michael Lewis so you don’t have to.

Tier List

47 Books, Ranked

S - Must Reads

  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York - Robert A. Caro
  • The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything - Matthew Ball
  • Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More with Less - Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz
  • The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley - Jimmy Soni
  • The Cold Start Problem: How to Start and Scale Network Effects - Andrew Chen
  • Path Lit By Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe - David Maraniss

A - Great insights throughout

  • What's Our Problem? a self-help book for societies - Tim Urban
  • The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power - Max Chafkin
  • Ethereum for Business: A Plain-English Guide to the Use Cases that Generate Returns from Asset Management to Payments to Supply Chains - Paul Brody
  • Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow
  • Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind - Andy Dunn
  • Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology - Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro
  • The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Time of James A. Baker III - Peter Baker and Susan Classer

B - Great books with one or two flaws/missing pieces

  • The Fourth Turning is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us About How and When This Crisis Will End - Neil Howe
  • The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution is Transforming Currencies and Finance - Eswar S. Prasad
  • Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles - William Quinn and John R. Turner
  • The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations - Daniel Yergin
  • The Perfect Police State: An Undercover Odyssey into China's Terrifying Surveillance Dystopia of the Future - Geoff Cain
  • The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power - Daniel Yergin
  • Two and Twenty: How the Masters of Private Equity Always Win - Sachin Khajuria
  • The Digital Silk Road: China's Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future - Jonathan E. Hillman
  • G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century - Beverly Gage

C - At least one good insight plus a lot of retread ideas

  • Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Drives America and How to Fight Back - Chris Stirewalt
  • Masters of Scale: Surprising Truths from the World's Most Successful Entrepreneurs - Reid Hoffman
  • Web3: Charting the Internet's Next Economic and Cultural Frontier - Alex Tapscott
  • America Against America - Wang Huning
  • Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future - Dorie Clark
  • The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream - Steve Case
  • America. A Redemption Story: Choosing Hope, Creating Unity - Senator Tim Scott
  • Seeing like a State: How certain Schemes to Improve the Human Confition have Failed - James C. Scott
  • Principles of Corporate Finance - Brealey, Meyers, Allen

D - Forgettable

  • American Business History: A Very Short Introduction - Walter A. Friedman
  • The Art of Business Wars: Battle Tested Lessons for Leaders and Entrepreneurs From History's Greatest Rivalries - David Brown
  • Please, Sorry, Thanks: Three Words that Change Everything - Mark Batterson
  • Automate your busywork: do less, achieve more, and save your brain for the big stuff - aytekin tank
  • Harvard Business Review: The Year in Tech 2022 - Various Authors
  • HBR's 10 Must Reads 2023 - Harvard Business Review
  • HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2020 – Harvard Business Review
  • Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology and Turmoil - Cukier, Mayer-Schoenerger, de Vericourt
  • The Moment of Clarity: Using Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Problems - Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen
  • The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google - Scott Galloway

F - Do not read

  • Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America - Joan Donovan, Emily Dreyfuss, Brian Friedberg
  • Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon - Michael Lewis

Work Highlights

TikTok and Blockchain

While I worked on 12 hearings and 3 markups this year, my highlights this year are the TikTok CEO hearing and my work advancing pro-Blockchain legislation.

TikTok: How Congress Can Safeguard American Data Privacy and Protect Children from Online Harms

While lots can be said about the TikTok hearing, my objective was to demonstrate that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew isn’t in control of his company, and cant deliver on the promises that he made to Congress. I think we firmly established that, especially to people who get their news from anywhere other than TikTok.

It was cool, and exhausting, to be at the center of “the main thing” online for a day. Dana Perino said that “You rarely see members of Congress so prepared. You can't say that about this hearing. These members know what they're talking about.” Video below:


Some of my favorite highlights of the day:

One thing I learned was how quickly you lose control of the narrative once something goes mainstream.

For example, on the All-In podcast, the week of the hearing they highlighted how great of a job we did. Sacks said “I think his goose was cooked as soon as they asked him if ‘in preparation for this hearing did you consult with any member of the CCP’ and he couldn't outright say no.The next week, the All-In pod focused on the RESTRICT Act (a Senate bill) and conflated the two efforts, calling it a classic bait-and-switch.

While disappointing, the confusion on All-In was a learning moment for me - people need to understand what you’re doing if you’re going to be successful. Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Building Blockchains: Exploring Web3 and Other Applications for Distributed Ledger Technologies

This hearing was definitely an educational hearing. Members were asking basic questions but got well articulated answers on the importance of blockchain and web3 in the US. This hearing also highlighted all of the ways that blockchain can be used beyond crypto and other financial use cases.

The Deploying American Blockchains Act

The Deploying American Blockchains Act is focused on hitting the gas pedal while other bills are focused on preventing people from hitting the brakes. The Department of Commerce already "serves as the voice of business in the Federal Government" and is tasked with "[Accelerating] the development, commercialization, and deployment of critical and emerging technologies" like blockchain. By requiring the Department of Commerce to put the pedal to the metal on blockchains, we can counteract the overaggressive braking of other federal agencies.

On December 5, 2023, the Deploying American Blockchains Act passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee 46-0. After weeks of intense negotiations, we managed to find an agreement to ensure the US will be a leader in blockchain. I've been working on this bill for more than two years and am excited to see it move to the floor and hopefully be signed into law.

Solana Breakpoint 2023

On November 1st, I travelled to Amsterdam to speak on a panel at Solana Breakpoint 2023.

Breakpoint is Solana’s annual community conference and was a great opportunity for me to learn more about blockchain from founders building at the frontier. My panel focused on encouraging the Solana community to engage policymakers. We tried to peel back the curtain on DC, bust common myths, and show that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.


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