My relaxing holiday break also afforded me the opportunity to catch up on my reading, and I was fortunate to read three excellent books that I can highly recommend. Two of them have relevance to those with interest in economic development and entrepreneurship; the third has no direct connection but is a tremendous read that is well worth your time.
My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe: My Korean Deli came out last year, but I finally got to it last month. Howe is a former Paris Review editor and might be the least well-prepared business owner you’ve ever seen. The book depicts his experiences as the co-owner of deli, along with his wife and Korean-American in-laws, in rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. It’s a great and often hilarious read, but it also contains lots of insights about what it really takes to succeed as a small business owner. It’s also a testament to the determination of many Korean-Americans who have used store ownership as a strategy to better themselves and their families.
Start-up Communities by Brad Feld: This book, by one of the founder of TechStars, is getting a lot of attention in policy wonk circles. While I did not find any blazing new revelations in this book, it was a good user-friendly review of what it takes to build an “entrepreneurial ecosystem.” I particularly liked the chapter on “the principles of a start-up community” which counsels a focus on long-term outcomes, a culture of inclusiveness, and the most important principle of all: that local efforts must be led and run “by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs.”
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain: A National Book Award finalist, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk takes place over the course of one day as Billy Lynn’s Bravo company prepares to be lauded for heroism at halftime of a Dallas Cowboys’ football game. While the book nevers leaves Dallas, it is chock full of insights about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are affecting servicemembers and their families while the rest of our society remains oblivious to its impacts. I expect this book will be one that future readers turn to for insights into American society in the early 2000s. This is one of the most affecting books that I’ve read in years.