Noah Pepper

A Syllabus of Ambition

This is the reading list I wish I’d had as I began my journey into the tech industry, both for my own edification and as a resource to share with my compatriots.

I’ll acknowledge that this is, on the surface, an odd way to frame what the reader will find to be an eclectic series of book recommendations that hardly deal with startups.

I’m always hunting for books that will teach me something, and I often get asked for book recommendations. This annotated syllabus chronicles the ongoing education I’m giving myself in that hope it is of some value to someone else.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life and career surrounded by folks with engineering degrees. I started writing software around eight years old. When I was about nine I hit my head and had to go to the hospital. The triage nurse asked me for my religion to which I replied “technologist” - after a resigned shrug from my mother I guess the nurse wrote that down. I’ve always loved technology.

Yet, much to the puzzlement of some friends, when I chose a college to attend I picked one that, at the time, didn’t even have a computer science program. I wanted to learn how the world worked rather than simply how to engineer someone else’s design. I saw a liberal arts education as a path towards that. I studied Economics most enthusiastically, and also enjoyed philosophy, political science, and math. I wrote software while in school as a side hustle.

For me technical knowhow has always been developed towards a purpose.

Developing a deep appreciation for how human societies function, the history of innovation and human living standards, how one creates value, organizes people and resources for great goals - these are non-trivial topics that, if well understood, can yield substantial returns in one’s work and life.

In the current era we’re long on short summaries and clever Tweetstorms and short on time invested in deeply understanding complex interwoven topics. My goal with this project is to share resources that can be consumed thoughtfully and with substantial consideration to generate one’s own deeper insight.

I love reading things that make me feel optimistic and ambitious. Not necessarily ambitious in a narrow or selfish sense, rather cultivating a desire to elevate my ambition for what I can contribute to society. How can I be part of a society that is, broadly, more forward looking and ambitious?

My hope is that some of the books here either help elevate your ambitions and/or give you tools to reify your dreams.

If you have suggestions for future sections or book recommendations please email me.