The 50 Books I read in 2017

(how I did it and a one line review of each one)

Just 2 fiction books…can you spot them?

In numbers…

> 50 books at 300 pages (approx) = 15,000 pages

> 40 pages a day

> 45 minute / 1 hour of reading per day

> 1 book on average per week

My previous best reading year (2016) was 24 books which I reviewed here. Before that it was something like 4 books a year. Seriously. Things have improved.

I should point out that my reduced social life (we had our 3rd child this year) has played a part as I’ve been ‘grounded’.

Not having my phone by the bed at night has definitely helped too.

As well as Rebel Book Club’s monthly read, I chose the books from frequent recommendations and amazon wishlists. The more you read the more you are recommended. Like anything, as you dive deeper, you discover abundance.

At this pace and with an optimistic reading life-expectancy I could still only manage 2500 books in the next 50 years. I only wish I’d started reading like this years ago!

I’ve scored the books based on how much I enjoyed them combined with the impact they made on me.

The Books

  1. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (Rebel Book Club January): Great way to start the year. His best podcast interviews with some remarkable characters condensed into short chapters covering health, wealth & wisdom (my favourite). 9/10
  2. Stuffocation by James Wallman: We know we live with too much. James helps us simplify our stuff-filled lives. Quietly inspiring. 7/10
  3. Bold by Peter Diamindis: How exponential growth is happening in technology and beyond. The kind of read that forces you to think big.Probably the best guide on crowdfunding an idea I’ve come across. 8/10
  4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: Imagine studying a disease for years and then dying from it. Paul, and his wife, Lucy, have written a beautiful, painful and profound book. Unforgettable. 10/10
  5. Undercover Jihadi Bride by Anna Erelle: Reading like a thriller, an extended skype conversation between a brave French journalist and a terrorist is revealing because of its reality and terrifying. 8/10
  6. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau: Serial traveller and life-adventurer, Chris, introduces us to the people who have carved out their own, happy paths. At the right moment, this book would make a great impact. 6/10
  7. In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park (Rebel Book Club February): A young North Korean girl escapes. Brave is an understatement. Its hard to imagine that this type of existence is a reality still today. 8/10
  8. Think Simple by Ken Segall: In a world of information overload, being able to make things, ideas, products and life simple is a valuable skill. Interesting insights into Steve Jobs. 5/10
  9. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg & Justin Mares: How to market your startup idea in the digital age. Neat framework which we use at The Escape School. 7/10
  10. Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince: One of the most interesting explorations into our current environmental crises. Really enjoyable and educating. 8/10
  11. The Lost City of Z by David Grann: Classic adventure. 7/10
  12. Freedom Seeker by Beth Kempton: For the person looking to re-prirotise their sense of purpose in work and beyond, Beth is a lucid and confidence building guide. 7/10
  13. Remote by David Hansson & Jason Fried: I love the way these guys design the world of work on their terms. Inspiring. 8/10
  14. Reinvent Yourself by James Altucher (Rebel Book Club March): So much wit and wisdom but pretty hard to follow as its literally a stream of consciousness. James was great in our skype chat. 5/10
  15. The Upstarts by Brad Stone: Uber and Airbnb are giants. Really good inside stories on their beginnings, growth and challenges. 7/10
  16. Originals by Adam Grant: Inspiring stories about non-conformists. Counter-intuitive living at its best. 8/10
  17. Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall: Where we’re born determines so much of our lives. Marshall neatly maps the complicated luck of the geographical draw. 7/10
  18. The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett (Rebel Book Club April): A surprisingly engaging journey into the people who live in the online world of crime, porn, and destructive chat-rooms. The chapters on teenage suicide and anorexia were frightening. Jamie is a brilliant guide and journalist. 9/10
  19. Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia: It started out as a contemporary business book and turned into a ridiculous but entertaining adventure about life in silicon valley. 8/10
  20. Little Wins by Paul Linley (Rebel Book Club May): A mission driven entrepreneur who harnessed his toddler’s frank feedback — ‘The Red One’ to build the very successful Ella’s Kitchen. Paul is a great advocate of purposeful business and playfulness. 7/10
  21. No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein: If you want to understand why Brexit and Trump happened read this book. 8/10
  22. Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman (Rebel Book Club June): The most positive political book I’ve read in a while. Bregman makes the seemingly radical ideas of Universal Basic Income, a 15 hour work week and mass open borders, seriously compelling. 8/10
  23. The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau: His best work and the book I had the most turned down pages of the year. Brilliant case studies and gives you confidence that you don’t need much to start something. 9/10
  24. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday: I loved Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy, so had high expectations for Ryan’s new book about making a creative classic. Enjoyable stories about famous artists and their records without being as inspiring as his former work. 7/10
  25. Homo Deus by Yural Harari (Rebel Book Club July): Sapiens was my book of the year for 2016, and Homo Deus — a short history of the future — is a brilliant attempt to match it. Harari is a masterful synthisiser and his glimpses into where we might be going are as exciting as they are frightening. 9/10
  26. Hooked by Nir Eyal: How we get hooked by online products and apps. Nicely explained and easy to follow, unlike the maze of clicks that it tries to make sense of. 7/10
  27. Jo Cox, More in Common by Brendan Cox: Probably the hardest book to read emotionally this year as Brendan does a brilliant job weaving the remarkable story of his political superstar wife, Jo, and the horrific nature of her death. 9/10
  28. Believe Me by Eddie Izzard: I’ve followed Izzard for 20 years so it was easy to get lost in his story. What surprised me was his resilience and determination to succeed against the odds. 8/10
  29. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight: The best business book I read this year. The scale of the journey and the company that Knight built is epic. I especially enjoyed the early years of scouting for shoes in Japan. The weak defence of Nike’s less positive impact on the world was the only thing stopping this book getting a 10. 9/10
  30. Swing Time by Zadie Smith: First novel of the year and what a great one to read on the beach. I loved the strong characters, the sharp, fast dialogue’s and revelations about race and class in modern London. 8/10
  31. Miss-Adventure by Amy Baker (Rebel Book Club August): Amy’s straight talking and painfully honest tales of her travels in South America were really entertaining, as was her Q&A session with the book club in the park. 7/10
  32. Zero to One by Peter Thiel: A classic startup book I revisited this year to see if it still resonated. It did. 8/10
  33. Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark: AI is clearly one of the most important subjects of our time and this is the best explanation I’ve found as to what’s going on and where we’re going. Fascinating. 9/10
  34. How to Thrive in the Next Economy by John Thackara: Compelling argument about how we must build a more sustainable economy with some good case studies. 6/10
  35. Pivot by Jenny Blake: The best career change book I’ve read in a while. Simple, clear advice with lots of tools. Lean startup approach to upgrading your career. 7/10
  36. The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan (Rebel Book Club September): Probably the most ambitious book we’ve taken on at RBC and the only one this year I didn’t quite finish. Silk Roads re-tells history as if the Middle East, and not Europe, is the centre of the world. Peter kindly spoke to us about how and why he wrote it which made it even more impactful. 8/10
  37. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: A brilliant reminder of the horrors of Apartheid South Africa through the dramatic and hilarious real-life story of township boy to king of late night TV, Trevor Noah. I wish all autobiographies could be as inspiring, moving and funny as his. 10/10
  38. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: Its been on the shelf for over a year and I’m glad I finally read it. Sheryl makes an excellent overdue case for challenging and changing the way women are seen and treated in the workplace. I’m not surprised its sparked a movement. 8/10
  39. Carpe Dium Regained by Roman Kzarnic: I loved this contemporary philisophical journey into the ‘vanishing art of seizing the day’. Anything that makes old ideas fun and relevant to everyday life deserve lots of attention. 9/10
  40. How Not to Be a Boy by Robert Webb (Rebel Book Club October): The most surprising book of the year for me, both in terms of how entertaining I found Robert’s awkward tales of growing up not wanting to the be ‘the boy’ his family and society expected him to be and, also how impactful a discussion it created about masculinity. 9/10
  41. Choose Life by Daniel Prince: A brilliant guide and toolkit for families who want to escape the 9–5, 2.4 life and go on big, long adventures (3 years and counting in their case). Daniel, Clare and their 4 children are inspirational. 7/10
  42. Hunch by Bernadette Jiwa: Great case studies about ideas that turned into successful projects and businesses from the power of intuition. 6/10
  43. Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson (Rebel Book Club November): Like all good life hacks, sleep is a big one. This popular book shows you how to master sleep. Maybe not the ideal read for a Dad of 3 kids under 3! 6/10
  44. The Orange Girl by Jostein Gardener: My second fictional book of the year. I loved Sophie’s World by the same author and enjoyed the moving tale of a young boy’s late fathers romantic letters about the Orange Girl. 7/10
  45. Revolution by Emmanuel Macron: So French. Macron’s rise is remarkable and is worth reading for that alone. His self-belief and patriotism cannot be faulted. 8/10
  46. Women & Power by Mary Beard: A brilliant little essay showing clearly how endemic sexism and worse has been rife in society since the classical times of Medusa & friends. One of the best presented cases for changing the way we see gender today and a strong companion to the #metoo movement. 8/10
  47. The 100 Year Life by Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott (Rebel Book Club December): The one book I read this year that takes a big subject — increased life expectancy- and made it relevant and realistic to my current life and work. Compelling, useful and a little bit scary.10/10
  48. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: Recommended by a few people and I can see why. Looking into the consciousness of nature and this case, trees, is fascinating. But the style (and maybe by this stage a little reading fatigue) meant I couldn’t get that excited about trees talking to each other. 5/10
  49. The Path by Michael Puett: A brilliant little introduction into the powerful ideas in Chinese philosophy. Makes me want to read more. 9/10
  50. What Happened by Hilary Clinton: I spent Christmas with Hilary which was a gamble after a long year of reading but I’m glad I did. Trump was a shock and she explains with real humanity and detailed facts about why she believes it happened. It was a galvanising read as well as frustrating to understand how it might have been avoided. But huge respect for her tenacity and commitment to making the world a better place. 9/10

Phew! That was a lot. Thank you for reading my reviews. Please add any of yours or recommendations for future reads yourself.

Join us at Rebel Book Club in 2018 for 12 (not 50) more remarkable reads.