I was surprised to find that according to GoodReads, I’ve read over 30 books this year. Honestly, that’s a higher number than I expected. I’ll call a couple of them “also-rans”, meaning I might have bailed early, or given them the “scanning” rather than “reading” treatment, but even so – that the number of “real reads” is even around 25 is gratifying.
So, if Bill can do it, so can I: here are the top five books I found most valuable this year.
My 2016 Top 5
In reverse order…
Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You’re 80 and Beyond: this was a gift from a close friend, and I was somewhat skeptical about it at first. I’ll turn 60 next year, so the timing was nearly perfect. The book is written in an entertaining, sensible way, without proselytizing. My single biggest take-away from the book is the critical importance of daily exercise. It’s something I’ve taken to heart (no pun intended, but what the heck) since finishing the book in September.
Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success: a fascinating exploration of the characteristics of successful people. As you might expect from the title, the common thread appears to be something called “grit” – even more important, perhaps, than raw talent. Since reading this book (and viewing her TED talk), I’ve seen it referenced in other places as well, including Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, as well as Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, both of which I’m currently reading (see below).
#AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness: the man’s an entrepreneurial animal. He’s over the top compared to where I want to be. However there’s a bucket load to learn here about focus, drive, and commitment. This is a case where I actually recommend the audio book over the original, as a) it’s read by the author, and b) it’s recorded some time after the book was written, and he can’t help but update it a little as he goes along.
The Elon Musk Blog Series: Wait But Why: After putting the deposit down on my Tesla, I decided to read this and the biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, concurrently. Honestly, the blog series was a more valuable and entertaining read for me. You can also read it free on the Wait But Why website. Both are fascinating background on the man, his vision, and the execution on that vision that Tesla, Solar City, and SpaceX all represent. Let’s just say I felt even better about the car after reading ’em both.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life: This is perhaps one of the most approachable books on life philosophy I’ve read in a very long while. As long as you don’t mind profanity, that is. It’s not overdone, it’s just present, as the title should lead you to expect. The title is also slightly click-baity (as book titles have long been) – it’s not so much about not giving a f*ck at all, but rather realizing that you have a limited number of f*cks to give. It’s important to choose wisely how and where to give them. For me, this represents an interesting stop on my own journey, because it blends much of the philosophy of the Stoics and the Buddhists, but in a form that’s contemporary and relevant. Yes, if you were to read only one book from my list, this is the one I’d hand you.
In no particular order…
Ego Is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph (I first ran into Ryan Holiday, the author, in a completely unrelated genre: Trust Me I’m Lying, an eye-opening account of media manipulation that seems even more relevant this year.)
The War of Art and Turning Pro (and Do The Work) and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It: (I re-read the first three periodically, and the fourth came out this year.)
A note on how I read
I’m currently reading six books, simultaneously: Your One Word, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Lift: The Fundamental State of Leadership, Deep Work, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (aka ‘GEB’), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (a re-read). All of these have passed the “bailing” point, so I expect to finish them all over time.
As you might expect, I’m all over Kindle. I’ve been known to purchase books on Kindle that I already own in paper form, so as to give them a chance to actually be read. With the sole exception of GEB (not available on Kindle), everything above is digital. My experience with Kindle’s synchronization across devices has been mixed – I’ll admit I probably stress it more than most – so I’ve settled on a technique where I typically have one or two books in progress per device. For example, I’ll have one on my Kindle phone app, one or two on my Kindle Voyage (kept in the bedroom), one or two on my Kindle Fire (in my office), and one or two that just pop up where convenient. I treat audio books the same, and have one on my Audible app for when I’m driving around. This is probably most responsible for the increased books I’ve read this year.
And finally, I typically have copies of Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living and The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living on my phone or other nearby device for those times I remember to open them up and grab a moment or two of inspiration or reflection.
A note on links
All the links above are Amazon affiliate links. That means if you purchase something from Amazon after clicking on one of those links, I might get a small cut. It doesn’t affect the price you pay. You can see my formal Ask Leo! position on Affiliate links here.