Favorite Books of 2017

A few thoughts on reading:

  • One of my goals for 2017 was to weave reading deeper into my daily life. I installed an app called Moment, and was shocked about how much time I was spending on my phone without realizing it. (Around an hour a day). I knew that if I spent even half that much time reading, it would be extremely beneficial to everything I do. One evening when I was immersed in a book I found myself thinking, “wow! I haven’t checked my phone in so long because I’ve been so busy reading.” That’s my goal.
  • I mostly read paper books so that I can write in them. I write all over them, scribble ideas, make connections, etc. Marginalia helps retention. I wrote more about my commonplace book here, and this post from Ryan Holiday is what inspired it if you want to dive deeper.
  • I listen to audiobooks while on long drives, but not while I’m home. I don’t find that they stick as well because I’m usually doing other things while listening, but they’re great for traveling. I use the Kindle app on my phone when in transit.
  • In this age of mass distraction, reading is an act of protest. It helps me direct my attention instead where I intend, instead of having it stolen from me.
  • What are your favorite books of the year? Let me know. Word of mouth recommendations are the best.

Yuval Harari—Sapiens + Homo Deus

Both of these books changed the way I interact with the world, and come up in conversation all the time. I love the way he thinks and weaves together massive ideas through the lens of history. If you were going to only do one, I’d say start with Sapiens.

William Richards—Sacred Knowledge

This book blew my mind. The most impactful and practical book on psychedelics, written by Dr. William Richards from Johns Hopkins. He uses psilocybin to help people with terminal illness cope with their mortality. He treats these substances with deep reverence and respect. It’s a manual for mindful psychedelic use. He comfortably sits at the intersection of science, spirituality, medicine, and ancient wisdom. I can’t recommend it enough.

Stephen Kotlar—Stealing Fire

I couldn’t put Stealing Fire down. It’s an exhaustively researched, bleeding edge masterclass in creative flow states. I have put this to use in many areas of life.

Mary Oliver — Upstream

I’ve been reading more poetry this year, and this one is my favorite. Mary Oliver’s words take you on a walk through a forest. Absolutely beautiful.

Stephen Pressfield—War of Art

This is one of those books I can revisit once a year. If you are looking for a fire to be lit under your ass to start a new project, this is the one.

Ethan Nichtern—Dharma of The Princess Bride

I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you grew up with The Princess Bride. There’s nothing else quite like it. It’s packed full of practical life and relationship advice through the lens of Buddhism.

Leonard Koren—Wabi-Sabi

I read this book once a year or so since I found it. It is a meditation on the Japanese aesthetic ethos of wabi-sabi, “beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

Jaron Lanier—Dawn of the New Everything

I could not put this book down. It’s a look into the history and current state of VR, but way more than that. Incisive commentary on social media and technology in general from a visionary in the field. It’s quite a ride to spend time in his imagination.

Ram Dass — Journey of Awakening

Ram Dass is like that band that has one big song you know but when you discover their back catalog you are blown away by what they’ve accomplished. Radiohead was like this for me, and now they’re my favorite band. (Anyhow). If you’re interested in meditation at all, this is incredible. He’s part of the first wave of people that brought meditation to the west. It goes way beyond mindfulness.

Tim Ferriss—Tribe of Mentors

This is one of those books I’ll come back to for years to come. So much good useful information it’s hard to digest all at once.

Carlo Rovelli—Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

This book by an astrophysicist looks at the poetic mystery of the cosmos. Quick, beautiful read.

Oliver Sacks—The River of Consciousness

This final work from one of my all time favorite writers. Took my time reading to savor. Truly beautiful, insightful and touching.

Alan Lightman—Einstein’s Dreams

I read this book over a decade ago, and randomly came across it again. I love thought experiments, and this is full of them. Somehow he manages to make the theory of relativity romantic.

Becoming Wise — Krista Tippett

I love the On Being podcast and have listened to almost every episode. This is a beautiful collection of the wisdom she’s amassed over the years.

Josh Korda—Unsubscribe

Another fascinating book on how to live in 2017 from a Buddhist teacher. (I did a meditation retreat with him and was hooked.) There is nothing mystical about the teachings here; it’s practical and backed up by psychology.

Neil Gaiman—Norse Mythology

Neil Gaiman re-writing norse myths. This was the most fun read of the year. His imagination is astounding, and these myths reach into our lives even today.

Walter Isaacscon—Leonardo Da Vinci

At the time of writing, I’m about halfway through this but I had to include it. The audiobook is great. I’ve been wanting to read more biographies, and this one is why. It’s a beast, and it’s truly awe-inspiring. Staggering.

Ryan Holiday—Perennial Seller

Ryan Holiday examines why some works stand the test of time and others do not, and gives you a recipe to use. Highly recommended, especially if you’re launching a new project.

Jane Mayer—Dark Money

This one is not light reading, but I think it’s very important to understand the Koch empire, and how they engineered our current political climate.

Daniel Goleman—Altered Traits

Definitely one of the best books on mediation out there. Packed full of cutting edge research and useful insight from leaders in the field. Their interview with Sam Harris is a great place to start.

John Ratey, MD—Spark

This book revolutionized my life and changed the way I think about exercise. It gets to the root of why it’s good for you and how to make it stick. Especially if you’re trying to start a new exercise habit, this is useful.