My favourite books of 2017

I managed to read 19 books this year. Only half of what I managed last year but I knew that would be the case as releasing a project like Better Web Type and my new personal website would consume a lot of my free time. Last year I challenged myself to read 40 books, this year, I skipped that challenge. Reading has become such an integral part of my life that I don’t need to trick myself into doing it anymore (challenging myself to read that many books was a way to build a strong routine). Before that, I had to force myself to start reading a new book. Now, I can’t wait to dig into the next one.

Anyway, here’s a list of books that I read this year and really liked. They’re not sorted in any particular order and none of them is directly design-related. I would categorise most of them as books about productivity, entrepreneurship, business and life in general.

The $100 Startup

The first book that I read immediately after the new year. I received a Kindle Paperwhite as a Christmas gift and this was the first book that I bought with it. I loved the book so much, that I read it in just a few days.

Chris Guillebeau (the author) is a guy in his early thirties and never had a “real job”. He wrote the book as he travelled around the world on his quest to visit every country. I believe that by the time he wrote the book, he managed to visit 175 nations.

What’s so good about it?
Chris is an inspiration. He manages to live a lifestyle he wants and be completely free. He tells stories of other ordinary people that managed to break free. Free of “real jobs”, free of office desks an cubicles, free of all the bullshit. It was this book that inspired me to finally make one of my ideas happen—Better Web Type. You don’t need a lot of money to start your business. You just need to get shit done. And if what you’re selling is helpful to people, they will buy. And you can prove that what you’re saying is valuable by giving away stuff for free. We’ll get back to this concept later in the post.

Key takeaway: That idea that has been on your mind for the past few years? Go on and do it. “What if it fails?” is probably lurking somewhere in your mind. But what if it doesn’t? There’s nothing to lose.

$100 Startup on Goodreads →

Good to Great

“Good is the enemy of great”—is the first sentence in this book. What a great start. I got this book for a couple of pounds on Amazon (used copy). It was a great investment in my understanding of business organisations and what makes the best ones stand out.

What’s so good about it?
Jim Collins and his team of researchers spent 5 years researching American companies that stood out in their fields. After 6,000 articles and 2,000 pages of interviews transcript they came up with a list of a dozen of truly great companies. But the really important part was that they had a theory about what made these companies great and wrote down 7 key contributing factors and explored them. Definitely recommend this one but I have to warn you: reading it, you might realise that you work for a shit company (which most of them are).

Key takeaway: Any company can become a great company but most don’t know how but even if they do, they’re afraid to face the inevitable.

Good to great on Goodreads →

The Startup Owner’s Manual

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while but kinda dreaded it because it’s a huge, 600+ pages book. I worked for an early-stage startup at the time I added this book to my to-read list but I’m glad I kept putting it off. A few years later it helped me improve my process of validating what to do next with my personal projects.

What’s so good about it?
This is the book that needs to be on your desk if you work in product design & development. Especially if you’re in a small team or maybe even by yourself. It will help you find out if there’s a market for the thing that you’re building. The process is basically split into two steps: customer discovery and customer validation. What I really liked about the edition of the book that I read was that it had sections dedicated to building digital products. I walked away with a much better understanding of how to approach building a product (or even a company), and many ideas I could put to test straight away.

Key takeaway: You can find answers to pretty much anything by experimenting early and often.

The Startup Owner’s Manual on Goodreads →

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

I read this book because I got it for £1 through a Kindle promotion and because I liked the cover (yes, I judge books by their covers). I wasn’t expecting much from it but was pleasantly surprised. I was afraid it would fall into the category of self-help books which I generally dislike. Instead, it was a story that I could closely relate to.

What’s so good about it?
For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “Fuck positivity,” Mark Manson says. There’s a lot of shit in the world and the more fucks we give about everything, the more miserable we’ll be. Mark’s point is: there only so many things we can give a fuck about and we need to choose wisely what those things will be. Are your colleagues (schoolmates, whatever…) a bunch of morons who keep finding ways to pick on you? Fuck them. Are your parents selfish idiots to the point where they managed to ruin your childhood? Fuck them. Is the mainstream media trying to persuade you into believing that you’re in constant danger and the only thing that can help is buying (even) more stuff? Fuck them. Is your partner abusive, has a sense of entitlement of controlling your life and doesn’t let you live as you want? Fuck him too.

Mark draws inspiration from minimalism, stoicism (which is something I’ve been reading about a lot lately) and his personal life stories. By the end, I really felt like I knew him personally. A very interesting, inspiring read.

Key takeaway: You need to choose what’s important in your life and eliminate everything else. It’s hard to bring down a man who doesn’t give a flying fuck.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck on Goodreads

The Curve

I literally stumbled upon this book while browsing on my Kindle. Amazon suggested this book to me and their suggestion was spot on. Better Web Type had been released for a couple of months already when I read this book. Reading it, I realised that I built exactly what was described in it—unawarely of course.

What’s so good about it?
Nicholas Lovell wrote this book based on his experience from building F2P (free-to-play) video games. But he manages to expand the book into other areas and does it well. His premises: build valuable things and give them away for free. Build a relationship with your customers based on trust and they’ll be ready to spend a lot of money on things that matter to them. The concept is simple: get in a lot of users by giving away stuff for free. Most of them will never buy from you, the majority of those that will buy, will spend an average amount on things you sell. But there will be a small amount of diehard fans that will be willing to spend lots of cash on things that really matter to them—that’s where the name—“The Curve”—comes from.

Key takeaway: Build your customer relationship on trust and you’ll never have trouble selling your product.

The Curve on Goodreads →

That’s it. These are my favourite 5 books of the 19 that I read this year. I hope that I gave you a few ideas on what to read next.

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