Review: “The Everything Store,” Brad Stone

I have more to write about books generally, but I wanted to check in and write some notes on Brad Stone’s chronicle of Amazon’s rise.

The book’s a solid contender to be the history on Amazon’s early days. It’s deeply sourced, well written (I read it in two four-hour sittings), and gives a good view-from-30,000-feet of Amazon’s first decade and change in existence.

There’s just one major problem.

If you’re looking for a history of Amazon’s development, it’s a solid read. If you’re trying to get a sense of the man in the eye of the hurricane, you’re going to be disappointed.

Two main reasons why this is bad:

  1. The book can capture the when, where, and how, but not the why. Jeff Bezos is central to Amazon, and many of his staff and family were interviewed, but not the man himself. We never get a look inside his head. Compare this book unfavorably to Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson.
  2. Jeff Bezos is so much more —and, in many ways, more interesting— than Amazon. He’s in Blue Origin, he’s in the Washington Post, he’s giving “$33 million” to dreamers. If you’ll excuse the space pun, he’s escaped Amazon’s orbit in a big way:

“He’s getting thanked at the Golden Globes and targeted by presidential tweet tantrums — not even Steve Jobs had that kind of pop-culture currency.”
—Margaret O’Hara, professor of history at the University of Washington, in a January 2018 profile of Jeff Bezos.

I read this book as part of Niall Harbison’s business book club. I’m excited to see what’s next, and I’ll have some more book-related news coming soon.

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