In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

I listened to this audiobook from Audible while commuting and working out.

I love me some Google. I use Gmail as my only email, I use Google Voice as my main phone number, I use Google search exclusively, I love Google Maps and use it almost daily, I use Google Earth to geotag my photographs, and I watch videos on YouTube almost every day.

I think this book does a great job teaching us about how Google thinks as a company and how its founders see the purpose and direction of the company. I also think the book is a very honest look into Google, it exposes many of the rough spots the company has experienced in more detail than many of us know.

I do not like the way the book was written, it does not follow a single timeline but instead chooses to devote each chapter to a different topic and restarting the timeline at the beginning of the topic covered. And because the topics do not begin an end within the same time period I felt confused about when things were happening in relation to each other throughout most of the book.

On the other hand, Steven Levy is an amazing writer with a great voice, each chapter can stand on its own and maybe should have.

From the publisher:
Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters – the Googleplex – to explain how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google’s earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow (until Google’s IPO, nobody other than Google management had any idea how lucrative the company’s ad business was), Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google’s success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After it’s unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers with free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? It stumbled badly in China. And now, with its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be “evil” still compete?

No other book has turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.

This edition of In the Plex includes an exclusive interview with Google’s Marissa Mayer, one of the company’s earliest hires and most visible executives, as well as the youngest woman to ever make Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” list. She provides a high-level insider’s perspective on the company’s life story, its unique hiring practices, its new social networking initiative, and more.

©2011 Steven Levy (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

I rate this book a 6 out 10 and recommend it to any techie that is interested in Google and its leaders.

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