The 11 Most Interesting Books I Read in 2019

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Hey again! Welcome to another digest of Just The Good Parts.

Every week I unpack the best things I’m learning in this newsletter and a podcast to help you level-up as a maker, marketer, and leader. 📚

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This Week’s Podcast: The 11 Most Interesting Books I Read in 2019

In this episode, I looked back over my past year of reading to pluck out 11 books that stand apart from the rest.

You're practically guaranteed to find at least one book from this digest that deserves a spot toward the top of your reading wish list.

What I’m Reading

Always Hungry? by David Ludwig, MD

Annoyed with pseudo-science fueled crash diet books? Same here. If you’re like me, You’ll appreciate this rational, research-backed explanation for sustainable weight loss by an endocrinologist. It’s a great counter-punch to anyone who argues people should “just be more disciplined” to lose weight because a crucial point is missed.

Eating less isn’t a silver bullet to weight loss. You have to eat the right kind of food. Yeah. I know it seems obvious, but it’s a distinction that’s more important than most people think. And this explores the implications in detail.

Here’s the skinny: Simply cutting calories doesn’t work if you’re trying to lose weight permanently because your body plays defense by lowering your metabolism.

Traditional wisdom suggests all calories are created equal, but that’s actually not true. Eating sugary and carb-heavy processed foods like white bread catapults your blood sugar on a roller coaster journey that ends with you feeling hungrier than you would on less processed foods.

One memorable study compared 3 subjects who ate the same amount of calories in two meals of oatmeal, but each received a different kind: Instant oatmeal (highly processed), Rolled oats (somewhat processed), and steel-cut oats (less processed). Then the participants were allowed to eat whatever they like from a buffet. Participants who ate the highly processed Instant oatmeal experienced more dramatic blood sugar spikes and hunger cravings which lead to them eating dramatically more — more than twice as much —than eaters of the steel-cut oats who experienced slow-and-steady digestion.

The book advocates points you to some practical diet guidelines. Increase the quality of your diet by eating more unprocessed foods. Avoid carbs in favor of fats and proteins.

The Best Things I Found Last Week

📚Must-Read Books From Drift’s Leadership Team

I’ve read about half of these book picks and they’re fantastic. Other titles I hadn’t considered like The Last Lion and The Principles of Product Development Flow went straight onto my Amazon wish list.

🔥 How a Janitor at Frito-Lay Invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

You’ve gotta love this guy. His hustle, hard work and courage prove that you don’t need to wait for the “perfect” opportunity. Your next iconic move is probably staring you in the face already (if you’re brave enough and resilient enough to chase it down.)

Montañez was 26 years old. In his words, he couldn’t read or write very well and had no knowledge about how to formulate a business proposal.

But he wasn’t about to give up.

Accompanied by his wife, he went to the library, found a book on marketing strategies, and copied the first 5 paragraphs word for word onto transparencies. At home, he filled 100 plastic baggies with his homemade treats, sealed them with a clothing iron, and manually drew a logo and design on each package.

On the day of the presentation, he bought a $3 tie — black with blue and red stripes — and had his neighbor knot it for him. As he gathered the bags, his wife stopped him near the door: “Don’t forget who you are.”

🤑 The Price Is Right (When You Kill Sacred Cows)

Most marketers and product people aren’t thinking enough about optimizing their pricing strategy. This piece deftly nails the context for the urgency behind optimizing your monetization strategy when the cost to acquire customers has jumped 60% over the past 5 years.

💼 How To Get Into Product Management (And Thrive)

One of Airbnb’s former Product Leads boils down his best lessons to help you determine:

  1. Do I want to be a product manager?

  2. How can I land my first PM role & skill-up to be successful?

Without a doubt, the best overview on the topic I’ve read for inexperienced newcomers considering a PM position. I wish I would’ve found it during my first week working in product for sure.


That’s it for this week! If you found this valuable, check out the podcast at and consider subscribing to this newsletter if you haven’t yet:

I’d love your feedback to make this better next time around. Just give me a shout.

Cheering for you!

3 Uncommon Ways to Discover Incredible Book Recommendations

Hint: Goodreads is NOT on this list. 😉

New podcast: 3 Uncommon Ways to Discover Incredible Book Recommendations

I took a few minutes in this podcast to share a few of my best sources for finding the most relevant books I actually enjoy reading (and find useful.)

What I’m Reading

The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga

A delightfully short and accessible introduction to Adlerian Psychology. It reads as a long, back-and-forth conversation between a wise teacher of philosophy and young, contrarian student. A few key ideas that stood out:

  • Unlike Freud’s theories, this view rejects the idea that past events must dictate your future.

  • All problems are interpersonal relationship problems at their root.

  • Deny the need to seek recognition from others. Choose to be happy by living in the current moment and contributing to others.

The Best Things I Found Last Week

💌 Hey, a love letter to email

Basecamp just pre-announced their new email product, Hey. And yeah, they snagged the domain name too. I'm also digging their approach to early invites: Email them a story about email to get on the list.

Here’s my submission about my embarrassing childhood email address. 😅

🤠 The marketing genius of Lil Nas X

I'd never actually heard the story about Lil Nax X leveraging Twitter memes to catapult "Old Town Road" to smash through Mariah Carey's record for the most consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the music charts.

This tweetstorm by @goodmarketinghq is worth the read. Takeaway: "Virality is not mystical."

🤔 Killer Netflix interview question for product managers

This former product lead for Twitter, Facebook and Snap posted an A+ interview question to quickly dive into a PM candidate's thought process:

You're the PM at Netflix handling the home screen. How do you determine how shows get promoted editorially vs algorithmically recommended? Walk through metrics/principles/trade-offs and how it impacts various parts of the biz.

🏀 Kobe Bryant's insane work ethic

Not just a legendary player. Kobe's work ethic was truly eyebrow-raising and proves that willpower trumps natural talent over long term.

From the day he read about Michael Jordan getting cut from his High School team, until the time he decided to retire, Kobe was always known as the hardest worker in the NBA.

👩🏻‍🔬 Good experiment, bad experiment

Slack's former director of product, Fareed Mosavat, shared this excellent distillation of what a successful growth team looks like when it embraces rigorous experimentation in the right way. A delightful little read inspired by Ben Horowitz’s classic Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager essay.

Tweet of the Week

Dave Gerhardt tweeted out this actionable handful of copywriting nuggets. Great stuff for anyone who needs their writing to feel less like a robot who's bad at marketing.



That’s it for this week! If you found this valuable, check out the podcast at

I’d love your feedback to make this better next time around. Just give me a shout.

Cheering for you!

Why Start a Podcast About Books I'm Reading?

Introducing Just The Good Parts: Bite-size lessons from battle-tested books to level-up as a maker, marketer and leader.

Obviously there's no secret shortcut to success....

But reading comes dangerously close to a real-life cheat code for solving many, many problems in my journey to teach myself to create and share meaningful work.

Pound-for-pound, reading has done more in less time to grow my confidence to tackle otherwise overwhelming problems than any other activity.

I developed a near-bottomless appetite for reading as a wide-eyed 6 year-old devouring paperback fiction by flashlight.

Honestly, I never really slowed down when it comes to books, but as a 25 year-old I'm more fascinated by deep dives into what it takes to create software that millions of people discover, fall in love with, and rely on daily.

Or how to develop the timeless qualities required to become a fearless, pivotal leader leveraging razor-sharp judgment to steer a massive business through perilous challenges.

So, I've cultivated a habit reading the kinds of books I hope will help push me to become a remarkable maker, marketer and leader.

And now I'm revealing my private notebook of lessons I'm learning to the world.

My hope? Anyone who's hungry enough to learn at a breakneck pace can piggyback off the latest and greatest insights I'm uncovering each week from battle-tested books.

And selfishly, this process should force me to aggressively double-down on the quality of books I'm reading and dig deep to crystallize only the most pivotal lessons so I can share them freely in plainspoken book notes and podcast episodes.

Want to follow along? Each week, I'll round up what I'm learning and sharing in this newsletter with a few helpful notes and fascinating links sprinkled throughout.

Subscribe now to make sure you're getting:

  • Weekly book recommendations and reviews so you're only spending your time diving into the most impactful resources for your personal growth

  • Easy-to-skim summaries of the key lessons and unconventional ideas that will give you an edge as a maker, marketer, and leader

As always, I'm eager for feedback and book recommendations @matopher on Twitter.

P.S. — Listen to this podcast episode to hear me explain why I started this up and subscribe to get future content.

What I'm Reading Lately

Atomic Habits. One of the best books on setting (and maintaining) habits I’ve come across. This is my second year in a row to read it and it’s 100% worth digging into to re-think how you’ll approach starting or stopping habits this year.

Measure What Matters. One of Google’s secret weapons for setting ambitious goals is the OKR system (Objectives and Key Results). For almost two years, I’ve worked alongside a team that’s bought into goal-setting this way — but this is the best resource I’ve come across to clearly understand the nuance and context to deploy this approach to stretch goals in any organization. Read it if your team needs to level-up their goals.

The Boron Letters. A quick, delightful copywriting deep dive from one of the all-time direct marketing greats, Gary Halbert. Every marketer should read this to make their writing irresistibly clear and convincing.

Tweet of the Week

Links Worth Checking Out

Tim Ferriss broke down his power list of the most impactful books he read last year and it's well worth flipping through for your 2020 reading list.

The Basecamp team recently published their Guide to Internal Communication. It's a tightly written manifesto everyone should read to be more conscious and present in their day-to-day work communication.


That’s all for now. If you found this valuable, check out the podcast and more at

I’d love your feedback to make this better next time around. Just give me a shout.

Cheering for you!

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