5 Book Recommendations: Books you can read in one sitting

Here are 5 books that I read in one sitting because they are that hard to put down.

1. The Fault in Our StarsThe_Fault_in_Our_StarsI don’t usually read fiction, let alone young adult novels, but this book was something else. It’s a timeless book for anyone of any age. It was appropriately named Time’s #1 fiction book of 2012.

The Fault in Our Stars shares the beautiful story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen year-old with cancer, and her crush, Augustus Walters. It’s a love story that makes you laugh, cry, cheer, and everything in between. You follow the unveiling of Hazel and Augustus’ relationship from the first time they meet in the basement of a church to their adventure in Amsterdam. They approach their situation of being sick with such honesty and heartbreaking acceptance. For anyone who has had anyone close die from cancer, this is a story that will certainly be relatable and cathartic.

2. How to Sweet-Talk a Shark

71306UQVDLLMilken Institute hosted an intimate event of about 100 people to attend a fireside chat with Governor Bill Richardson that I attended back in October. I didn’t know that a big part of the event was Governor Richardson talking about his new book. Out of guilt of not having a copy of the book, I bought a copy at the event. And it was a good choice.

The book is co-written with Kevin Bleyer, who is an Emmy award-winning writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart so you know the book will be funny. The book covers the tough and entertaining negotiations that Governor Richardson had with Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and North Korea’s Kims. Sure, the book is a bit self-promoting, but it’s interesting to hear for example about how Richardson upset Hussein because the former had the bottom of his shoe’s sole turned towards Hussein when he was sitting down. I also enjoyed the story about how Governor Richardson’s relationship with former President Bill Clinton became icy after Governor Richardson chose to endorse President Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton. Admittedly, Richardson says that saying, “No,” to Bill Clinton is pretty hard.

3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things

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This is the best business book that I have ever read. So much so that I encouraged all my teammates at Enplug to read it and made copies available to everyone.

The author, Ben Horowitz, is best known for being the second part of top-tier venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. What’s lesser known is that Ben was CEO of Opsware, an enterprise software company sold to HP for $1.6 billion in 2007. The entertaining and advice-filled book details Horowitz’s struggle building Opsware. He shares how he was able to keep his teammates at his company through times of long and strenuous struggles, where there was no clear financial exit in sight. Unlike the glorious stories of overnight successes into billion-dollar company, The Hard Thing About Hard Thing is a much more grounded and honest narative of the ups and downs of building a tech company. It’s a book that anyone that is part of a team that is building a startup will find useful. Ben reminds us that building a successful company is a marathon, not a sprint.

4. #GIRLBOSS

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The author, Sophia Amoruso, is the CEO of Nasty Gal, a $100 million+ revenue e-commerce female clothing company based in Los Angeles. From being part of the LA startup ecosystem, I had heard her name countless times. Finally, I got to learn about her story from #GirlBoss.

Sophia has the most unexpected story to tell: she went from community college drop-out who was caught shoplifting to successful CEO all before she was 30. From her stories about hitchhiking from truck drivers to sitting with the CEO of Michael Kors and remembering how she used to steal Michael Kors products, Sophia tells the story with complete and refreshing bluntness. This is a women who grew selling clothes on eBay to a top e-commerce clothing company and shares her journey in intimate detail. I love her if-you-want-it-then-go-get-off-your-ass-and-do-it attitude. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to pursue entrepreneurship, but are holding back for whatever reason.

 5. A Thousand Splendid Suns

91m8-2IW6FLFrom the author of Kite Runner, A Thousand Slendid Suns is one emotionally draining book, in a good way. The part of the book that talks about the two main female protagonists plotting against their abusive husband got my heart of pounding so hard that I had to put the book down for a second and catch my breath.

The story follows two Afghan women from their birth, one in 1959 and one in 1978, and how their very different upbringings somehow led them to eventually live under the same roof and share a husband. Laila is raised in an intellectual, middle class family. Mariam is raised by a single-mother who had her out of wedlock, a disgrace that would come to define Mariam’s future. After the Taliban rises to power in Afghanistan, we learn about how women’s rights are virtually eliminated: women cannot walk unaccompanied by a male relative; they cannot go to school; they cannot work outside the home; whipping and other punishment of women in public for disobeying any rules. We share Laila’s disbelief when she realizes that she went from a girl that all her friends said would become someone great to having all her dreams taken away because of the misogynist rules.

If not to walk into the shoes of a woman living in a very different society, this book serves as a powerful reminder of how there is still so much progress that needs to be made in our world.

 

2013 in Review

I definitely think I’m getting old(er) when time flies by so quickly and suddenly, I’m in my mid-twenties (23 now!!). 2013 is going to be one of those years I look back on and say, “that was certainly a year to remember.” The best parts of 2013 were the new friendships I made and the stronger connections I built with old friends. Life is made beautiful by sharing it with people you care about. In addition, here were some of my other highlights:

1. Enplug: My tech startup in LA grew to 30 full time people a year after starting the company. We moved from working and living out of a house to leasing an entire floor of an office building. Our social billboards, AURA, expanded from LA to 30 more cities. Our team had an exciting time doing photoshoots and interviews with Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Inc., Fast Co., LA Business Journal.

2. Nanoly Bioscience: My biotech company in Boulder, Colorado, also added additional teammates on board who in a few short months, generated some awesome results. In September, we won a grant from the Colorado Technology Association.

3. Europe for the first time: I was invited to speak at Monaco’s first major tech conference and had the pleasure of having dinner at the Prime Minister’s house and meeting Prince Albert. I spent a few days in Monaco and then went to Nice, France for another few days.

4. Europe for the 2nd and 3rd time: In June, I was selected as 1 of 100 entrepreneurs/innovators to be part of British Airways’ UnGrounded 11-hour flight event from San Francisco to London. On the flight, teams of 4-6 entrepreneurs competed against each other to come up with ideas to get more young people involved with technology and science. Our team, InIt, was 1 of 3 winners. When we landed in London, we got to attend the G8 Innovation Summit where our team’s proposal was presented to the United Nations. At the summit, we got to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Sir. Richard Branson. In October, I was a speaker at the Milken Institute London Summit. It was my first time being involved with the Milken Institute and I have to say that it was one of the best experiences that I was fortunate enough to have in 2013. Michael Milken has done an excellent job in establishing Milken Institute as a premier think tank. Following London, I was invited by the CEO of Relativity Media, who is someone I really look up to, to travel with his team to Geneva, Switzerland, and then Cannes, France. It was my first time in both cities!

5. Japan for the first time: From Tokyo to Osaka, I am so thankful for being able to explore Japan for a week. One of the most interesting things was getting to see sumo wrestling practice at a temple.

6. Singapore for the first time: I had the honor of being a speaker at the World Entrepreneurship Forum in Singapore. It was fantastic meeting entrepreneurs from around the world and getting to see some of my entrepreneur friends from the US there too. Singapore is such a stunning city: I visited their Botanical Gardens, went to the top of Marina Bay Hotel to hang out by the huge infinity pool, explored/stayed at 4 different hotels, visited old family friends, and went to Universal Studios.

7.  Viva Las Vegas: I went to Las Vegas in what felt like every other month. Whether it was for industry forums or CES, it was great to see a thriving new tech city. I went on the very fun Zappos HQ tour and of course, (legally) gambled for the first time. One of the cool experiences in Las Vegas is also trying lots of different hotels. I’ve stayed at Circus Circus, Stratosphere, Mandarin Oriental, Rio, Wynn, Palms, and Cosmopolitan.

8. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation: Being on the Youth Advisory Board for the Born This Way Foundation allowed me the opportunity to work with at-risk youth. One of my favorite activities we organizing donations for the LA Youth Network, which gives housing and support to homeless youth.

9. UNICEF’s Chinese Children’s Initiative: As a Board Member for UNICEF CCI, we organized our first annual fundraiser, which raised over $60,000 in a single night! We are using the funds to build safe housing for children.

10. Infobitt: I’m proud to be an advisory of Infobitt, a crowd-sourced news site founded by Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia). The site had a very successful beta launch and I know 2014 will bring continued growth to the innovative internet company.

11. Reading: I enjoyed a number of entertaining and thoughtful books in 2013. I hope to continue going through my long reading list in 2014.

  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: Read it!
  • Blink: I was hoping it would be better.
  • Bossypants: I really wanted this book to be funny, but I fell short.
  • 50 Shades of Grey: It makes for a fun, light reading.
  • Lean In: I highly recommend this book to all women.
  • The Fault in Our Stars: I don’t usually read fiction, but I heard so many good reviews of it that I gave it a shot. It was beautiful and heartbreaking, especially for those who had someone close fight cancer.
  • How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Written by former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, this was so surprisingly funny and informative. Two thumbs up.

12. Music: My friend Ben and I finally reunited again and produced our 2nd song together. This time, it was a fun classical music + electronic music mix: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCSEspQhmN0

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Motherby Amy Chua is probably the most entertaining book I’ve read this year. I give this book a A+. It’s a very fast and easy read (I read it in one sitting). Perhaps it’s because I can empathize with both Chua and her older daughter. There were certainly a huge amount of criticism for her book when you took quotes out of context:

“… I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have ‘The Little White Donkey’ perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, ‘I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?’ I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.”

The fact is, anyone who reads the book will realize the book is a self-deprecating memoir. Much of the time, Chua is making fun of herself and I’m laughing along with her. Many of the Chinese mother traits and habits she addressed were spot on:

  • The immigrant mentality: My parents, like Chua’s, came here as immigrants. It was hammered into my head from a young age that my parents came to the US so I could have a better future. Aka, I better not let them down after their years of hard work. For the better part of my childhood, my parents and I lived in a tiny apartment, surviving off of their $1,000/month income. I loved the smell of stale Chinese food because around 10pm every night, my mom would come home after waitressing at a local Chinese restaurant and give me a kiss goodnight. Caught on her outfit would be a hint of hot-and-sour soup. My mom had a master’s degree in systems engineering, but when she came to the US, she had to start over. From the age of 6, my parents constantly reminded me that they placed the stepping stones and now I had to make use of it to get to pot of gold.
  • The “you owe me” mentality: I completely agree with Chua’s statement about how Chinese parents feel like their kids owe them everything. It was absolutely expected from me from a young age that I would work hard so that I could one day provide for my parents. My parents laughed at the thought of allowances when I suggested it to them because my friends from school received them from their parents for doing chores. “We make you food, put a roof over your head, and provide you with clothing. You should be paying us!”
  • The daily comparisons: Almost every day, my mom would show me an article from a Chinese newspaper talking about an 10-year old piano prodigy. “She’s already playing Beethoven Concertos! Why aren’t you playing that yet?” Like Chua notes, Chinese mothers don’t say this to make their child feel incompetent. Rather, they say this because they believe their kids can be the best. Of course, as a 10 year old, I was furious and sometimes would even cry when my parents compared me to someone who seemed more talented. I look back and I’m actually thankful my parents would tell me about kids my age that were doing incredible things. It expanded my idea of what was possible. I learned to play a Beethoven Concerto two years later at 12.

While I can relate to her daughters in how we were brought up, I also see myself in Chua. I have a 10 year old sister and I treat her like a “tiger mother.” When I visit home in Colorado, my first words are, “Jamie, did you practice piano today? You only practiced 30 minutes?! If you want to get anywhere in piano, you need to practice at least 1 hour. How do you think you’ll pay for college? You need scholarships and if you can’t even get a music scholarship after learning piano all your life, how can you get any other scholarship? Do you know how lucky you are to be playing on the piano you have right now? I learned on an old broken piano and you have a beautiful, new piano. Go practice piano right now.” Yes, in a Chinese family, drilling college plans into a 10 year old is not a moment too soon.

Anyway, Battle Hymn is a delightful read. Even if you don’t believe in the methodology of Chinese parenting, it doesn’t hurt to have some extra ideas on hand for disciplining your kid.

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

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I had to experience what all the hype was about for myself so I bought it. The summary of the story is basically this: an average, innocent (aka virgin), college student named Ana meets a billionaire hottie named Christian. They fall for each other. Then, Ana discovers that Christian has a fetish for S&M. He also doesn’t want to have a girlfriend so she is torn on whether she is ok with being one of his playthings. Christian showers Ana with gifts like a new car and takes her on private jet rides. Suddenly, he realizes that he is actually starting to be emotionally into her, unlike how he felt about his previous friends-with-benefit girls (like we didn’t see that one coming). The rest of the book goes into explicit detail of their behind-closed-doors rendezvous. The author spares us no minute literally illustrations of the taboo sex scenes so much so that this novel can be easily categorized in the “erotic literature” genre.

I imagine the book is appealing to many woman because we want to live vicariously through a young woman who is the love interest of a billionaire hottie who has “problems.” We think we can be the one to fix him. The author smartly fulfills our desire for helping Christian by indulging us details on how Ana is changing Christian’s perspective on relationships.

Be prepared for a cliff-hanger ending that encourages you to read the next book in the series, Fifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades Trilogy

I read the book on my flight from London to Washington DC. It certainly kept my attention and made the time go by. Would I read it again? No. Am I glad I read it? Yes, because I feel a little more in tune with today’s pop culture now.

Pros: Fast read. Entertaining. Makes for a great bathroom book. You corrupt your mind with kinky fetishes that people have in this world.
Cons: There’s no substance.

Book Review: God Never Blinks

God Never Blinks

Over the Christmas holiday, I went with my sister and dad on a cruise to Mexico. For anyone who has been on a cruise, you will know that there is a lot of downtime. Because I spent about 5 minutes packing, I forgot to bring a book. As a result, I spent my downtime on the cruise reading the Bible since there was one in each cruise cabin. (My goal for 2011 and 2012 was to finish reading the Old and New Testament. I’m still working on it.) On the second day, I noticed that my dad had a book sitting on his bed. Elated, I asked him where he got the book. He told me his boss, Tim, gave him the book as a Christmas gift.

Tim asked my dad what kind of book my dad likes. My dad responded, “Books about life. Books for middle-aged people.” I chuckled when my dad told me his response. I told my dad that I’ve actually heard of God Never Blinks. To confirm my suspicion, the book cover states that it is a New York Times Bestseller. I started reading the book at about 4pm. I spent the next 4 straight hours reading the entire book, cover to cover.

The book is a collection of 50 lessons that the author, Regina Brett, shares from her experiences in life. Each chapter is a life lesson. These lessons include “When in doubt, just take the next right step” (Lesson 2/Chapter 2), “Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple” (Lesson 23), and “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” (Lesson 48).

Regina wrote many of these lessons as part of a newspaper column. She then saw how popular they became for the readers to share with friends. So, she decided to compile all of them, add a few new lessons in, and create the lessons into a book.

God Never Blinks is a book I’d recommend to anyone, young or old. It’s an easy read-you’ll be flipping through the pages quickly. The title is slightly misleading-it’s not a religious book although the author does include many words about faith in the book. It’s simply a book of little lessons of life that the author had learned in her 50+ years.

What I love about Regina is that she’s not someone with a PhD in psychology from Harvard telling us how best to approach life in order to be happy because she’s done 10 years of research on the topic. She’s not someone who became a millionaire at 23 and is telling us how to lead a successful life. She is a woman who was 1 of 11 kids in her family, who became pregnant at 21, who got married at 40, who got cancer at 41, and who survived to be 50+ years old to publish her first book.

Her stories talk about how she struggled to be a single mother at 21 and making only $7,500 per year. She’s honest with the reader and exposes us to the wounds she has from broken relationships, deaths, and failures. Regina shares the intimate details of her life from celebrating her mothers’ 75th birthday to her first dates with her husband, Bruce.

Several of the chapters are repetitive in what they are trying to teach us, but the anecdotes are unique and keep us interested. The resounding theme of the book is to appreciate what life gives you, even if it is very little. It made me reflect on many of my attitudes towards certain aspects of life including friendships and work. There is one chapter where the author asks us to write out the 20 things in life that we’re most appreciative of. I actually stopped reading, got out my laptop, and jotted down things I am thankful for. Maybe I’ll share them in a future blogpost.

My dad told me that he actually read the book out of order. He browsed through the Table of Contents and picked out the chapters/lessons he wanted to read about. I thought that was really cool since I have a very “must get things done” mentality. If I start something, I have to finish it. There are many pros and cons to that habit.

The book was a great way for me to pause and reflect. That sounds cheesy, but now that I am at the wrinkly old age of 22, it’s time for me to add some wisdom. So, here are some things I am going to change/add in my life because of the book:

  1. Meditate. In Lesson 47, the author talks about a group of women in a Harvard Medical School professor’s research group who thought they were infertile. After several months of meditating daily, these women were able to get pregnant. I’m not planning to have any kids anytime soon, but I realize that the author is telling us that the mind and our mental state have a large impact on our physical wellbeing.
  2. Spend more time with friends. I’ll be sending out Skype invites!
  3. Do the best-today. One of the lessons in the book talks about how writers sometimes save their “good stuff” for another article or work. Instead, the author asks us to use our best material today because it will force you to come up with even better stuff tomorrow. I love that!

Book Review: Private Empire by Steve Coll

Before I give a few thoughts on Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, I want to share the merits of the investigative book’s author, Steve Coll. Mr. Coll is a two time Pulitzer-Prize winning author so I had high expectations for his writing. Private Empire certainly fulfilled my initial bias. With experience writing and leading The Washington Post and the New Yorker, Coll’s narrative about ExxonMobil’s obscene power is both entertaining and informative.

The book is coincidentally released in conjunction with Fortune 500’s 2012 list of largest corporations in America. And who was #1? You guessed it: ExxonMobil. It beat out Wal-Mart. The oil giant achieved $452 billion dollars in revenue in 2011, which is a 27.7% increase from 2010. Part of their surging revenue is due to the company’s increase in fracking, the other is contributed by the rising oil prices.

The first chapter opens with a climactic illustration of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Coll sews Exxon’s corporate expansion into the storyline, which follows the ill-fated oil tanker’s captain. When the captain, Joseph Hazelwood, found oil spilling from the tanker that he had left to his third mate, “he knew that ‘the world as i’d known it had come to an end.'” That was certainly an exciting opening to the book.

I love that the author has extensive quotes from people involved in Exxon. It makes the book read much more like a story than an informational piece. Coll’s language helps put you in the position both as an insider of ExxonMobil, which wants you to sympathize with its corporate agenda, and as an outsider who despises the unfair influence the company has on America and the rest of the word. Throughout reading the book, I found myself Googling images and searching for additional details of some of the unbelievable injustices Coll accuses ExxonMobil of conducting.

In a latter chapter, Coll connects the role ExxonMobil played in the 2008 presidential campaign. Coll claims that Obama criticized ExxonMobil in order to appeal to the average American, who looked down upon the money-hoarding company. However, while Obama spoke about American energy independence, Coll notes that Obama didn’t think it was actually possible nor to the best interest of the country. It will be interesting to see how oil plays into the 2012 elections.

Private Empire is a relevant read. It’s dense, but has enough controversy and shocking facts to be keep you turning the pages.

Book Review: The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner

When I first received The Idea Factory in the mail as part of a group of book reviewers who were invited to write about the then not-yet-published non-fiction book, I had no idea what to expect. So, after reading, here’s what I think you can expect:

1. You will be a telephone history expert by the end. Author Jon Gertner certainly has done diligent research in the meticulous development of telephones. I found myself spewing random trivia to my friends about telephones. For example, did you know that in 1915, a three-minute call from New York to California cost the equivalent of $440 dollars today?

2. It’s not easy to read. The author has a background in journalism. Gertner is a contributing author to The New York Times in technology and business. His journalistic style is reflected in The Idea Factory. Each chapter could probably have fit snugly in an informational news article piece found in a section of a business magazine. Because the book is an informational illustration of the development of telephones, there are no suspenseful sequences that one would find in thrillers or even biographies. Therefore, as a reader, you have to push yourself a bit at times turn the page. There are also many esoteric language in the book that are used to describe the intricate technologies that contributed to the evolution of the telecom industry. Wikipedia is your friend when reading this book. The book is also saturated with characters that played a role in the telephone development. At some points, I was confused as to who was who. With that said, you will feel loads smarter after reading the book.

3. This book teaches valuable lessons to aspiring entrepreneurs. The book accounts the endless days of trial and error by thousands of scientists at Bell Labs. Building a successful product at AT&T meant the collision of smart people, timing, hard work, perseverance, and luck. The personal stories of each of the major characters that shaped telephones were some of the most poignant. For example, Mervin Kelly, physicist turned President of Bell Labs, grew up in a small-town that resembled the Wild West.

 

Book Review: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

I recommend Outliers particularly for parents or soon-to-be parents. It describes the combination of opportunities, timing, hard work, and background that forms an extraordinarily successful person, an outlier. What made Bill Gates the tech tycoon he is today? Was it his genius mind or upbringing? Gladwell uses interesting anecdotes and research to prove his point. The book is incredibly easy to read (can be read in one day) and you will be quickly flipping through the pages. There are flaws in the author’s grand generalizations, and he notes this, but the overall concepts are definitely thought provoking. A few of my key takeaways from the book:

Birth Date Matters In sports such as hockey, the date of your birth plays a huge part in determining your ability to become a successful athlete. The idea goes something like this: A few months’ difference in age between children can demonstrate huge variances in knowledge and abilities. Let’s say the cutoff date for first grade is October 1st. Jill was born on October 2nd and enrolls as the youngest kid in her grade. Jack was born on January 2nd, 9 months before Jill. 9 months of additional “life” for a 6 year old is enough to make Jack slightly better at reading or other academic subjects than Jill. Because Jack is ahead of many of his classmates, he is placed in a program for gifted students. The additional attention he receives helps him learn even faster. This creates a snowball effect, a type of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you deem a kid “talented” at a young age, they are more likely to receive additional attention that will help them become even more “talented.” After reading this, I would rather enroll my child in a lower grade level than a higher grade level if the child was on the cutoff date.

Practice Matters Gladwell proposes a 10,000 hours rule: Do anything for 10,000 hours and you will be an expert. Bill Gates received access to a computer years before most people. He became interested in programming at a young age so that by the time he got to college, he was far ahead of anyone else. For musicians and athletes alike, 10,000 hours of practice will set you apart from others in the field.

Cultural Background Matters In one of the most intriguing chapters in the book, Gladwell explains the reason behind the series of Korean Air airplane crashes in the 1990s. The airline became so infamous during that time because of its continuous run of tragedies that some airports wanted to ban them. It wasn’t after they hired an American to run their flight training programs that the airline took a turn for the better. During this section, Gladwell references Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. This theory is often taught in organizational behavioral courses and highlights cultural background as the guide for a person’s decision making. Korea has a high power distance. This means that society is very hierarchical. Subordinates are expected to clearly show respect for superiors. Planes are flown with a captain, second officer, and flight engineer. In the Korean Air plane crashes, the black box recorded conversations where the second officer and flight engineer expressed something was wrong to the captain. However, because of the culture’s emphasis on respecting superiors, they hinted to the captain that something might be wrong rather than directly telling the captain “hey…the runway is in the opposite direction.”

Book Review: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I received The Fountainhead as a Christmas gift several years ago from a close friend who thought I would enjoy the philosophical analyses of life illustrated by Ayn Rand. The book is written in 1943 and is 752 pages. As a disclaimer, I had some serious initial negative biases towards the book. I typically do not like books that are not set in the present or future. I attempted to read the book when I first received it two years ago and quickly gave up after one chapter of dense descriptions and a slow-paced plot. With that said, The Fountainhead became one of my favorite novels after I finished.

The story revolves around Howard Roark, a rebellious, but visionary architect who is ahead of his time in architectural ingenuity. He doesn’t care about school or prestige. He doesn’t care about money or status. All that he cares about is building his designs. Even when he is living in near poverty, Howard refuses to build a house that even slightly deviated from his original blueprints. Howard may have been spit out and dismissed by society, but he probably was the happiest character in the novel. Nothing could tear him down because he lived for himself, for his work. The story motivates readers to obliterate our material desires. We want to frame our approach to life like Howard and extinguish our infinite cravings for social acceptance.

The Fountainhead ignited a number of my emotions as I followed Howard through his accomplishments and conflicts. I was outraged every time Howard’s antagonist, a fame-seeking former classmate named Peter Keating, claimed Howard’s designs as his own. However, my anger subsided when I realized that Howard couldn’t have cared less whether someone stole his designs or not, as long as the buildings were constructed with his intended elegance. Howard might be initially characterized as stubborn, but his true nature is one of self-confidence. He knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t ever question it or let others manipulate his creativity.

The romantic sub-plot embedded in the novel is one of the most animated and at the same time, most excruciatingly annoying story lines. Dominique, an independent and spontaneous woman, is Howard’s love interest. I’m so used to today’s audience-pleasing plots that author Ayn Rand’s continuous denial for Dominique and Howard to have a “happy ending” led me in aggravated anticipation all the way to the very last page.

I wanted to study architecture after reading the novel. I was obsessed with designs of anything from clothing to buildings that amplified the beauty of efficient simplicity. I felt that the book was teaching us that life is more beautiful when we simplify it down to two things: doing what we love and being with the person we love. For Howard, that was designing buildings and being with Dominique. Nothing else like fame or money smeared the picture of his life.

When you read this novel, take your time. Indulge in Rand’s abundant details. Figure out which character you are most like and decide which character you’d rather be.