2016 in Reading
TL;DR — My top 3 recommendations (in no particular order) from among the books mentioned below:
- Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
- A Short History of Nearly Everything
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
I re-started reading for pleasure starting the last quarter of 2015 (turns out adult life gives you a lot more time for that compared to college). I read the following books over this year. I liked the ones marked with an asterisk (*), and am happy to talk about any of them.
- Made to Stick*(Chip Heath and Dan Heath): A good read for understanding how to create and present ideas that make an impression.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain* (@Garth Stein): Good story, definitely recommend for those interested in motor-sport and dogs.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People* (Dale Carnegie): Quick read, has some good insights about how to make a good first impression when you’re the one asking for a favor.
- The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell): Reads more like pop-science but has some interesting examples of how ideas and phenomenons read a point where the balance changes in the other direction. If you have yet to read something by him, I recommend starting with Outliers, I review that below.
- Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (Shunryu Suzuki): Interesting read if you are interested in Zen culture and meditation.
- 1001 Dream Cars You Must Drive Before You Die (Simon Heptinstall): A long read, only if you’re really interested in cars.
- Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google* (Lazlo Block): Very interesting read, by the Head of People Operations in Google. You will get a good understanding of how Google uses data in their everyday operations, how they create and perpetuate their work culture, and more.
- No God but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam (Reza Aslan): A good read that goes into the details of Islamic history and the origin of the religion. However, a huge caveat, the entire book feels like it’s written from the perspective of the author’s personal views but the author makes it seem like it was all historical fact, resulting in a sense of confusion in the end— and hence, not the biggest fan.
- Supercars: Behind the Wheels of the Greatest Cars of All Time (Evo): This is one of those books that will grow outdated over time (it is a little outdated already). It’s a quick read though and has some great photography. Don’t need to be a car-nerd in order to read this, it’s quite accessible to everyone.
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Malcolm Gladwell): As always, Gladwell uses good examples throughout his narration to keep his work interesting to read. Again, start with Outliers if you have yet to read something by him.
- Car Emblems: The Ultimate Guide to Automotive Logos Worldwide (Giles Chapman): Long read, very factual; don’t recommend this to non car-nerds. For those curious about the history of the automotive world however, this has some very interesting facts.
- The Art of War* (Sun Tzu): Considered a timeless classic, this two thousand year old manuscript is still a good read on strategy. The metaphors around war can be applied to every day life.
- The Emperor of All Maladies* (Siddhartha Mukherjee): Quite a long read, but this is a very well-written factual book. If you’re interested in medical science, cancer or just science history in general, make some time to go through this.
- The Code Book* (Simon Singh): This is a book on encryption and goes through all well-known encryption and decryption protocols, straight from the age-old Caesar cipher to the modern RSA standard. Written in a very accessible manner, you don’t need to be a math/comp-sci nerd to read this.
- Moneyball (Michael Lewis): Haven’t seen the movie yet, but the book is quite good. I have never watched a baseball game (I prefer Cricket) but the tale in the book will be interesting to anyone interested in data science and sports strategy.
- How to Drive: Real World Instruction and Advice from Hollywood’s Top Driver (Ben Collins): I actually wanted to get the other book by Collins titled Man in the White Suit but mistakenly got this one off Amazon. Although most of the book goes over basic driving skills, the latter half has some good insights on driving well and if you’re interested in driving, you will like this regardless.
- Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives* (Gretchen Rubin): Cannot recommend this book enough, reading this a quarter way through the year made me revisit the way I was creating and working on my yearly resolutions, how I thought about my goals etc. Just like the power of compound interest, the power of habits is immense. I recommend this to everyone who is interested in self-improvement, habit forming and working towards goals.
- Interpreter of Maladies* (Jhumpa Lahiri): Some heart-breaking tales of fiction that will stick with you for a long time after you have read this book. Lahiri is one of the best writers in modern times.
- Will it Fly* (Pat Flynn): One of the better books I have read on how to evaluate business ideas. The book will make you work through some great strategies for testing your idea cheaply and thoroughly, a good read for entrepreneurship and/or product development.
- Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World (Peter H. Diamandis): I have seen Diamandis deliver a talk in real life and he does a good job at delivering his point, which is mainly about how we are living in the generation of utmost abundance and how we should use that to deliver world-changing impact. This book is mainly talks about why try moonshot ideas, how to start, and then deliver.
- Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom* (Ken Ilgunas): A very good book on tackling student debt, a growing phenomenon in the US. I was fortunate to not have any after graduating and this book made me more empathetic towards those who do.
- The Richest Man in Babylon (George S. Clason): Instead of modern techniques, it goes over fundamental principles, which are very much still applicable, of how to save and make your money work for you.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers* (Ben Horowitz): Horowitz doesn’t beat around the bush and comes clean about all the really hard decisions you will have to make throughout the lifetime of your company. It goes from breaking the news of having absolutely no remaining cash to your employees, to firing your friends. Also explores his relationship with Mark Andreessen, which is quite interesting.
- No Excuses! The Power or Self-Discipline (Brian Tracy): Tracy goes over principles that makes salesmen better. Can be abstracted and applied to other disciplines. It’s fairly generic, so you won’t miss much if you skip this one.
- Quidditch Through the Ages* (J. K. Rowling): A good read for every Harry Potter fan — can’t imagine I somehow waited this long to read it! Goes over the origin, history and detailed rules of quidditch.
- Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics* (Richard H. Thaler): I haven’t read a lot of econ books but this is definitely one of the best I have read so far! Thaler does a fantastic job introducing the notion of behavioral economics and then walks through the origin to modern day, citing very relevant examples.
- A Short History of Nearly Everything* (Bill Bryson): I have never read a more entertaining history book! Bryson’s narration is exemplary, his humor is subtle but catchy. Although this is a long read, it is very entertaining while also being full of factual information.
- The ONE Thing (Gary Keller): Keller’s main point throughout the book is on how to ask one important focusing question, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” It promotes the notion that focus should be used to determine what things you shouldn’t do. Interesting read, could be more concise.
- Shark Tank Jump Start Your Business: How to Launch and Grow a Business from Concept to Cash (Michael Parrish DuDell): I think some manuals are more interesting to read than this book! The major takeaways in this book from the actual sharks on the show “Shark Tank”, the information is referred to as “shark bites”. Other than that, the book reads like a really long and boring manual. There is a lot of tell and no show. Wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re trying to start a business and need a handy manual, in which case this is a good one.
- The Intelligent Investor* (Benjamin Graham): If you’re interested in investing or financial markets at all, this is kind of the Holy Grail among the books you can read. Graham provides timeless fundamental principles that have remained applicable since the mid 20th century.
- The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible (Brian Tracy): This book is good for full-time sales people. I don’t recommend it unless you’re at least mildly curious about sales.
That’s about it!
Below are some of the books I read in the last quarter of 2015, a few of which I was a huge fan of:
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance* (Robert M. Pirsig): This is definitely one of my favorite books of all time. Pirsig is a great story-teller and his story of the ghost Phaedrus explores some very fundamental philosophical principles. His relationship with his son is also a major part of the tale.
- A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (Eckhart Tolle): This book explores the issue of ego and the alter-ego. Although a good read overall, could have been more concise.
- Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Reza Aslan): Similar to Aslan’s other books, it’s hard to tell what is fact and what is the author’s perspective. I’d like Aslan’s writing so much better if he was clearer about what is his own interpretation of history and what is a known fact!
- Outliers: The Story of Success* (Malcolm Gladwell): This is one of Gladwell’s better works. This is what got me hooked to his writing. Through all his books however, what Gladwell does extremely well (and he is possibly among the best at it) is provide extremely relevant examples to the topic at hand. A major reason why his books are so entertaining to read is because he has perfected the strategy of show-and-tell. If you’re looking to read one of his books, I would recommend starting with this.
- The Metamorphosis* (Franz Kafka): Another classic, this book gets weird in places but that’s also its charm. The story is sad but it’s really well told. Among short works of fiction, this is definitely one of the really good ones.
- Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future* (Peter Thiel): Thiel’s book, similar to his personality, is polarizing in parts. You might not agree with all of it, but there is some really sound advice in there. On top of that, it is well written, and unlike the Sharktank book, it doesn’t read like a manual!
If you’re interested in what I am thinking of reading in 2017, I have started making a list here.