Book recommendations by Adam

Part I

Over the past years, my friend Adam has had a great life and literary influence over me. Thank you Adam! I was lucky to work on the same team as him, and then even luckier to become his friend.

Adam was also an indirect inspiration for starting this newsletter. I recommend you check out his blog and his amazing music recommendations newsletter. You can sign up to both.

This post is dedicated to him.


Adam’s recommendations - Part I

→ Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein 

  • Type: Non-fiction

  • What’s it about? Tiger Woods started training to become the star he became when he was two years old. Roger Federer played all kinds of different sports, and only started gravitating towards tennis as a teenager. For him, the sport didn’t matter so much, as long as there was a ball involved. Range is a fascinating book proposing a different way to think about specialisation vs. generalisation in the professional world. The author discusses how diverse backgrounds and non-traditional paths can be a strength and lead to success. A book about how not specialising early on, and having a range of different experiences, can open many doors later in life. A book about the true value of transferable skills and most importantly, transferable knowledge. 

  • Why should you read it? If you think that everyone else has life figured out, and you’re the only one that doesn’t know what you’re doing, this will be an enlightening read. Out of the three books I’m writing about today, this is the one I enjoyed the most. 

“Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example. Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

→ Deep work by Cal Newport

  • Type: Non-fiction 

  • What’s it about: Have you ever wondered how much you could get done if you weren’t constantly distracted? Are you ever worried about your productivity? This book is about the role that deep focus and concentration can play in our lives in a world where constant distractions and interruptions are the norm. The book provides thought-provoking examples of what we can achieve with deliberate hours of concentration in our lives, as well as some recommendations to achieve this. 

  • Why should you read it? If you’re constantly distracted and unable to get any type of good work done, this might help you rethink how you approach your productivity and working day. 

“What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore—plays in defining the quality of our life.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

→ Principles by Ray Dalio

  • Type: Non-fiction (business-ish)

  • What’s it about? A thought-provoking read. Ray Dalio is a very famous and successful investor who decided to write down the recipes (or principles) that have worked for him over the course of his life. 

  • Why should you read it? Even though it’s quite long, I found it an interesting reflection. It’s written in a very organised format, which I enjoyed. Ever since I read it, I’ve been trying to figure out which are my own principles, and which things have consistently worked for me over the years.

“Over the course of our lives, we make millions and millions of decisions that are essentially bets, some large and some small. It pays to think about how we make them because they are what ultimately determine the quality of our lives.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

Links to buy the books

Amazon UK

Amazon MX

Amazon US

//As an Amazon Associate I earn a commission from qualifying purchases via the above links.//


Favourite quotes

//The purpose of this section is to share some of my favourite book bits, so you can come back to them when you finish a book, if you wish to do so. I’ve put in bold my favourite ones, in case you want to read a few (or all) ahead of the book.//

“Modern work demands knowledge transfer: the ability to apply knowledge to new situations and different domains.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“Whether chemists, physicists, or political scientists, the most successful problem solvers spend mental energy figuring out what type of problem they are facing before matching a strategy to it, rather than jumping in with memorized procedures.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“Our work preferences and our life preferences do not stay the same, because we do not stay the same.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“The precise person you are now is fleeting, just like all the other people you’ve been. That feels like the most unexpected result, but it is also the most well documented.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“The more confident a learner is of their wrong answer, the better the information sticks when they subsequently learn the right answer. Tolerating big mistakes can create the best learning opportunities.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“Learning deeply means learning slowly. The cult of the head start fails the learners it seeks to serve. Knowledge with enduring utility must be flexible, composed of mental schemes that can be matched to new problems.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“For a given amount of material, learning is most efficient in the long run, when it is really inefficient in the short run. If you’re doing too well when you test yourself, the simple antidote is to wait longer before practising the same material again, so that the test will be more difficult when you do. Frustration is not a sign you are not learning, but ease is.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

“Switchers are winners.”

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)

Seth Godin, author of some of the most popular career writing in the world, wrote a book disparaging the idea that “quitters never win.” Godin argued that “winners”—he generally meant individuals who reach the apex of their domain—quit fast and often when they detect that a plan is not the best fit, and do not feel bad about it. “We fail,” he wrote, when we stick with “tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.” 

― David Epstein (Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World)


“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

“Who you are, what you think, feel, and do, what you love—is the sum of what you focus on.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

“To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

“If you keep interrupting your evening to check and respond to e-mail, or put aside a few hours after dinner to catch up on an approaching deadline, you’re robbing your directed attention centres of the uninterrupted rest they need for restoration. Even if these work dashes consume only a small amount of time, they prevent you from reaching the levels of deeper relaxation in which attention restoration can occur. Only the confidence that you’re done with work until the next day can convince your brain to downshift to the level where it can begin to recharge for the next day to follow. Put another way, trying to squeeze a little more work out of your evenings might reduce your effectiveness the next day enough that you end up getting less done than if you had instead respected a shutdown.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

“Less mental clutter means more mental resources available for deep thinking.”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)

“Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward—even”

― Cal Newport (Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World)


“Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Experience taught me how invaluable it is to reflect on and write down my decision-making criteria whenever I made a decision.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“The most painful lesson that was repeatedly hammered home is that you can never be sure of anything: There are always risks out there that can hurt you badly, even in the seemingly safer bets so it’s always best to assume you’re missing something.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“I came to see that people’s greatest weaknesses are the flip sides of their greatest strengths.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Because most people are more emotional than logical, they tend to overreact to short-term results.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“...bad times coupled with good reflections provide some of the best lessons, and not just in business but also in relationships.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“...the Olympic athlete finds his sport to be every bit as challenging as the novice does.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“There is nothing to prompt learning like pain and necessity.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Those that do best both see a wide range themselves while triangulating well with other brilliant people who see things in different, complementary ways.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“The same types of people in the same types of circumstances are going to produce the same types of results.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“What I have seen is that the happiest people discover their own nature and match their life to it.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“If I can reconcile my emotions with my logic and only act when they are aligned, I make better decisions.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Learning is the product of a continuous real-time feedback loop in which we make decisions, see their outcomes, and improve our understanding of reality as a result.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“The more open-minded you are, the less likely you are to deceive yourself--and the more likely it is that others will give you honest feedback.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“I now realise that nature optimizes for the whole, not for the individual, but most people judge good and bad based only on how it affects them.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Tolerating a problem has the same consequences as failing to identify it.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Humility can be even more valuable than having good mental maps if it leads you to seek out better answers than you could come up with on your own.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Most people are reluctant to take in information that is inconsistent with what they have already concluded.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“...most disagreements aren’t threats as much as opportunities for learning. People who change their minds because they learned something are the winners…”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“Regularly use pain as your guide toward quality reflection.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

“You can get an idea of people’s preferences by observing what they focus on.”

― Ray Dalio (Principles)

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